Scully is attracted to a man whose tattoo tells him that all women hate him.
"NEVER AGAIN" is the phrase Ed Jerse has tattooed on his arm.
In this episode, Scully investigates a lead for Mulder while he's on
vacation. She tails a possible UFO informant into a tattoo parlor in a
supposed Russian ghetto in Philadelphia. While in the shop, she overhears
the tattoo artist arguing with a man who wants to get rid of the tattoo on
his arm that he got in a drunken stupor the night before. The tattoo artist,
proud of his work, won't help the man out, and begins to peddle his tattoo
designs to Scully. The artist claims that the quality workmanship of the
designs has its roots in Soviet prison tattoos, which, although not
scientific per se, have historic significance. In the
former Soviet Union, prisons had a whole rank and privilege structure that
was denoted by the tattoos the prisoners wore. Some tattoos were given
forcibly, as warnings to others of the vices of the wearer, while others
sported popular political messages.
All right, all right...this isn't science (anthropology?), but it was too
educational to pass up! For more information on the artistry and symbology
of Soviet prison tattoos, read about them at
One thing leads to another, and Scully ends up on a date with Eddie, the guy
in the tattoo parlor who wanted to get rid of his tattoo. He somehow convinces
her to get a tattoo of her own. Now here's the challenge: what's so
scientific about getting a tattoo? Well, for starters, the tattoo gun is an
interesting electrical device. It is able to draw ink from a chamber and
inject it through two layers of skin (the scaly layer and the epidermis) and
into but not through a third layer (the dermis). Its swift poking
action is driven by an electrical circuit much like that of a common household
doorbell. The kind of tattoo guns used in Soviet prisons were even made out
of tape recorder motors. Interested yet?
To find out how a tattoo gun actually works, check out
this page from the USENET Tattoo FAQ.
Unfortunately, for Scully and Eddie, somebody spiked the ink in their tattoos...
with a fungus. When some officers come to question Eddie while he's out of
his apartment, Scully learns that both of their tattoos were possibly laced
with ergot alkaloids. The tattoo artist had prided himself on the rich red
coloring he used in his tattoos, a dye which came from Soviet rye grains.
Unfortunately, the rye used to make the dye had been plagued by a fungal
parasite, called ergot, which is a potent chemical cocktail. As the source
of such substances as the drug LSD, ergot can cause convulsive, gangrenous,
and hallucinogenic ergotisms.
To find out more about ergot and ergotism, read
http://vet.purdue.edu/depts/addl/toxic/plant14.htm, which talks about
the clinical effects of ergot and its dangers in livestock feed,
or check out the more detailed information at
Eddie is relieved to find that there's a rational explanation for the voices
he's been hearing from his tattoo, but before he can do anything about it,
his tattoo convinces him that Scully should die. Luckily for Scully, Eddie
gathers his wits for a moment before he can toss Scully into the basement's
furnace. Ed's so shocked by what he was about to do, he decides to remove
his tattoo in a very painful and...permanent manner. He should have realized
that there are easier ways to remove a tattoo!!
To learn about the various methods of medical tattoo removal, check out an
online pamphlet on the subject at
Mulder says at the end of the episode that the doctors found traces of ergot
poisoning in both Eddie's and Scully's blood, but not enough to cause homicidal
delusions. In my opinion, this case isn't an X-File; my theory is that Eddie
was just starting to manifest schizophrenic hallucinations and the ergot
amplified them. (That's just my theory; I'm not a doctor, and I wouldn't know
enough about schizophrenia to make a diagnosis....)
For more information about schizophrenia and the similarities between its
symptoms and those of ergot poisoning, check out
This page was last updated: 07/19/98
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