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Published 2022-01-05
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How A Popular X-Files Episode Used A Real, Scandalous Case!

While it aired for 11 seasons The X-Files have presented viewers with many mysterious and horrific cases. While they work on cases called the x-files which had been labeled as an unsolvable or minimum priority by the FBI, fans were often met with themes and links to the paranormal, of which Mulder is a firm believer, while his partner Scully a skeptic. But even with some unbelievable cases that they had gone through, could some had been based on real-life events? Who were the Ward brothers, stars of the 1992 documentary Brother's Keeper, and what was the alleged crime that inspired an episode of the hit show? Read until the very end to find out about the story that gained international attention!

The X-Files - The Episode

Many movies often take inspiration from real-life events when it comes to writing the plot of their scripts. And it has been no different. The episode in question premiered on October 11, 1996, and was the 2nd episode of the 4th season. Titled ‘Home’ it was the show’s only episode to carry a TV-MA rating upon broadcast and the first to receive a viewers discretion warning for graphic content. In the episode, Mulder and Scully had set to investigate the death of a baby born with severe physical defects. They traveled to a small isolated town of Home, Pennsylvania, where they met the Peacocks, a family of deformed farmers who have not left their house in a decade. Initially, Mulder had suspected that the brothers had kidnapped and raped a woman to father the child, but the investigation uncovered a long history of incest, involving the Peackocks’ own mother.

The X-Files - The Story Behind The Episode

While it is true that the story that we are about to tell you inspired the episode it wasn’t as drastic as the one depicted on the show. The men behind the story were the Ward brothers who lived in a rural farming community near Utica, New York. There were four of them Roscoe who was born in 1919, Lyman George in 1923, William Jay in 1926, and Adelbert Daniel, known as Delbert in 1930. The brothers were all bachelors who lived in a 90-acre dairy farm southeast of Syracuse that had been in their family for generations. Their home was a rough, unpainted four-room house that had running water and electricity but no phone.

The Ward Brothers - Simple Men

The men were barely literate. They had no formal education and because of their notably low IQ, many had called them hermits and others even went as far as to call them inbred. Though people in their community had been quick to defend them with a friend of theirs, Emilie Stilwell, speaking to the press about the brothers in 1990 where she said that they do live off by themselves but they are not hermits or recluses. She had called them a “throwback to pioneer days” and added that if you need help building a barn they’d be the first to arrive to help and the last to leave. Read on to find out what happened that these brothers had gained international fame.

The Ward Brothers - Change To Quiet Life

The quiet life of the brothers changed when at the age of 64, William died in June 1990. Delbert, who had been the closest to him, was accused of smothering his brother. At first, authorities had believed that he did it as a mercy killing, putting his brother out of misery. As it was reported at the time, William was suffering from complications due to an accident with a chainsaw, often experienced intense headaches, and may have also had stomach ulcers. It was believed that on the night of his passing, Delbert smothered him in his sleep while the two shared a bed.

The Ward Brothers - Brother’s Keeper

The case of the Ward Brothers had caught the attention of Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky who decided to make a documentary about them as well as Delbert’s trial. It was titled Brother’s Keeper and released in 1992 and was recognized as the best documentary at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival and by the New York Film Critics Circle. The documentary makers and their crew had full access to the brothers’ home as well as permission to film the entire trial. Make sure to stay until the end to find out what exactly happened to the brothers.

Delbert Ward’s Confession

Shortly after William’s death was reported, the brothers were brought to Oneida, NY, for questioning by the state police. While there, two detectives interrogated them without a lawyer present and allegedly coerced a four-page confession out of Delbert. At the time he signed the confession but later claimed that he actually had no idea what he was signing because he could barely read and only did it because he was told by the detectives that it would be easier. Later during his trial when he took the witness stand he said: “I was nervous and shook up. I hadn't eaten all day. I was tired. My brother had just passed away... I don't know why I said it. I thought if I said yes, they would let me go home. But they didn't.”

William Ward - More Theories

Around the time there had been many other wild theories going around about the death and some of them even from the authorities themselves but as some had stated they had come from a bias against the brothers because they lived on a rural farm and rarely ventured into nearby cities. It was never explicitly stated but it was implied that some members of law enforcement believed that William was either molesting Delbert or that the two brothers were involved in an incestuous relationship that ended in an accidental death. This rumor that was going around the time of the trial might have been also been one of the things in the case that inspired the creators of the X-Files.

Delbert Ward - Community Support

Despite his arrest and being put on trial for the murder of his brother, Delbert had maintained that William had died naturally and their town rallied around the youngest Ward brother. Supporters had collected nearly 900 signatures on a petition calling on the county prosecutor to review the autopsy results. And when a judge had set bail for Delbert at $10,000 the supportive community raised the entire amount in a few minutes. At his 1991 trial, Wards lawyer had argued that the brother had learning disabilities and he was isolated from the modern world, adding that when he confessed to the killing he was confused. Later when the brother was acquitted, supporters chanted “Delbert, Delbert!” and tearfully kissed him.

Ward Brothers - After The Trial

While it was never clear if Delbert was the one to have taken his brother’s life or simply found his body in the morning as we mentioned the brother was found as not guilty by the jury. Though here it is also not clear if the jury was simply sympathetic to the unlikelihood of his survival in prison, or if they actually thought he was innocent. When the brother had come out of the court and was asked by reporters what his plans for the future were he simply replied with “Sleep in”. And so it seemed that after the ordeal the life for the Ward brothers had gone back to the way it was before all this. However, it was rumored that Delbert couldn’t bear to sleep in the room he shared with William and that he took to sleeping in a cow barn. The three remaining brothers had also passed away since Delbert dying in 1998 at the age of 67, and the final two brothers within two months of each other in 2007. All four of them were buried at the Stockbridge Cemetery in Munnsville, NY, under a headstone that reads "The Ward Boys."

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