‘The X-Files’ Spinoff Predicted 9/11 Six Months Before Tragedy

The X-Files, being a wildly popular and relatively groundbreaking show for its time, wound up spawning a spinoff — The Lone Gunmen. The spinoff received favorable reviews, which may come as no surprise given the creative abilities of both Chris Carter and Vince Gilligan. However, the show’s pilot episode wound up being a little spooky given the events that followed its airing. The Lone Gunmen effectively predicted the general thrust of the 9/11 terror attack on the World Trade Center. 

What was ‘The X-Files’ spinoff ‘The Lone Gunmen’ about?

Agent Scully (Gillian Anderson, C) is saved from a fall by The Lone Gunmen (L-R: Tom Braidwood as Frohike, Bruce Harwood as Byers, and Dean Haglund as Langley) in The X-Files
Agent Scully (Gillian Anderson, C) is saved from a fall by The Lone Gunmen (L-R: Tom Braidwood as Frohike, Bruce Harwood as Byers, and Dean Haglund as Langley) in The X-Files | FOX Image Collection via Getty Images

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Throughout The X-Files, Fox Mulder periodically reads a publication entitled “The Lone Gunman.” The newsletter is published by three conspiracy theorists who took the name from the Warren Commission and the JFK assassination. 

These three, who star in The Lone Gunmen, are John Fitzgerald Byers, Melvin Frohike, and Richard Langly. Periodically throughout The X-Files, Mulder seeks their assistance and input on topics typically related to conspiracy theories and government plots. 

The show itself had a similar flavor to The X-Files, but where the former covered paranormal events and extraterrestrials, The Lone Gunmen typically involved other types of conspiracy theories. 

These usually had more to do with government subterfuge, the surveillance state, government sponsored terrorism, and similar topics. The show ran for 13 episodes in its first season before eventually being canceled.

How ‘The Lone Gunmen’ predicted 9/11

The Lone Gunmen cast: Tom Braidwood (Frohike), Bruce Harwood (Byers), and Dean Haglund (Langley)
The Lone Gunmen cast: Tom Braidwood (Frohike), Bruce Harwood (Byers), and Dean Haglund (Langley) | Evan Agostini/ImageDirect

Interestingly, The Lone Gunmen pilot episode featured a plotline eerily similar to the events of 9/11, 2001. The episode aired on March 4, 2001, roughly six months before the events of September 11. 

In the episode, entitled “Pilot,” a computer hacker took control of a Boeing 727 airplane with the intention of crashing the vehicle into the World Trade Center. Byers, Frohike, and Langley are able to counter hack the antagonist, preventing the disaster at the last moment as the airplane pulls up. 

The three learn that the entire event was created by a group buried deep within the workings of the U.S. government, with the intention of placing blame on foreign dictators in order to start a profitable war for the United States. 

For some, this may sound far too close to reality, given that the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center led to a horrific, costly, and deeply traumatising war for the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Middle Eastern countries, as well as the United States. 

The writers were concerned and surprised

Vince Gilligan worked on The Lone Gunmen
Vince Gilligan worked on The Lone Gunmen | Adam Berry/Getty Images

Suffice it to say, the individuals who worked on the first episode of The Lone Gunmen were horrified after the events of 9/11 occurred. 

“I woke up on September 11 and saw it on TV and the first thing I thought of was The Lone Gunmen. But then in the weeks and months that followed, almost no one noticed the connection,” executive producer Frank Spotnitz told Mysterious Universe. 

“What’s disturbing about it to me is, you think as a fiction writer that if you can imagine this scenario, then the people in power in the government who are there to imagine disaster scenarios can imagine it, too.”

The episode was rarely discussed following the events of 9/11 — in fact it was barely brought up at all, something the surprised Robert McLachlan, director of photography. 

“It was odd that nobody referenced it. In the ensuing press nobody mentioned that [9-11] echoed something that had been seen before,” he said.