From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
Not until he made paranoia and paranormal creepiness prime-time staples did fair-haired surfer dude and The X-Files creator Chris Carter reveal the dark side lurking beneath his shimmery mane. His cult show achieves out-of-this-world ratings, but the former editor of Surfing magazine admits that when he began dealing more with gloom than good vibrations, "a lot of people looked at me and didn't know where it came from."

Perhaps from beyond? No, from the Los Angeles suburb of Bellflower, where Carter, 41, was voted Mr. Smile and Mr. Flirt by his senior high school class (allowed only one superlative, he had to abdicate Mr. Smile). A surfer since the age of 12, Carter, who is married to screenwriter Dori Pierson, can still be found most mornings at 6 in the ocean near his home in Pacific Palisades, catching waves, paddleboarding or swimming to keep his 5'11" frame in alien-fighting trim. And the force is with him. "I think I've been asked a lot more than most TV producers to go on-camera," Carter says. "But I just do what I do and don't think about the package."

That hasn't stopped rabid Files fans from making Carter a pinup alongside series stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. "He grew up in Southern California and looked like such a surfer boy that people wrote him off," says his longtime friend, writer/producer Robin Schiff. Despite his "junk-jewelry blue" eyes, she adds, the somber "Fox Mulder character is a good alter ego for him because both men are good-looking and are very passionate about what they're doing."

Because "skin really takes a beating" out on the briny, Carter slathers on sunscreen every morning. "I have to be careful with surfing," he says. "It's still an addiction to me. It's all I want to do, and that's the big dilemma I have with it."

That's nothing compared with what Duchovny and Anderson face each Sunday night—as well as in next month's X-Files movie. Still, Anderson deems her boss yet another unexplained phenomenon. "Chris is a wonderful storyteller," she says. "But he never reveals too much. I feel like I know him, and at the same time I know absolutely nothing about him." Hmmmm, eerie.