Monster of the Week: Flukeman

Porta pottie horror. x-files.wikia

Ah yes, the flukeman: a rare human/trematode hybrid born in a slurry of radioactive sewage.

As you'll remember from Mulder and Scully's investigation, the creature arrived in the United States back in 1994 after escaping from a Russian freighter full of nasty Chernobyl salvage. It quickly took to New Jersey sewers and porta potties, emerging to feed on humans and infect them with its parasitic young.

The Science

As far as hybrids go, flukeman's a tough nut to crack. From an evolutionary standpoint, nematodes and humans split more than 600 million years ago -- yet we still share a lot of our genetics with our distant parasitic kin. In fact, according to biologist Jagan Srinivasan, the sequencing of nematode genomes will help us better understand our own genetic processes.

Cultural Discussion

As dependent as we are upon modern pluming and sewage treatment, most of us try not to think too long and hard about what goes on down there in the pipes. Flukeman, much like the fatberg, sums up our sewer-related revulsion and fear. And particularly with porta potties, this ghastly mush-mouth amplifies the horror we feel when we gaze down into the poop-choked darkness beneath us. What if there's something down there waiting to attack our nethers?

Closing Thoughts

There's not much scientific evidence for the radioactive monster theory (as discussed in our CHUD episode), but we'll sadly never know for sure where this proud creature came from as Agent Fox Mulder cleaved it in half with a sewer grate nearly a decade ago. Flukeman sightings continued for some time, but the hybrid is largely thought to be extinct now.

Monster of the Week is a - you guessed it - regular look at the denizens of our monster-haunted world. In some of these, we'll look at the possible science behind a creature of myth, movie or legend. Other times, we"ll just wax philosophic about the monster's underlying meaning. After all, the word "monstrosity" originates from the Latin monstrare, which meant to show or illustrate a point.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.