Hell has frozen over: Twin Peaks is coming back to life.
The resurrection of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s influential early-‘90s TV drama was announced this month to the shock and delight of its fans, including me. The series will return to the Showtime network in 2016, 25 years after it last aired on ABC, leaving several unresolved cliffhangers.
The show’s premise was eccentric FBI agent Dale Cooper investigating the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer in the northeastern Washington town of Twin Peaks — a place full of quirky inhabitants and dark secrets. Its leitmotifs included cherry pie, “damn good coffee,” and owls that were not what they seemed.
But what caught my fancy is that it took place just south of us.
The show’s pilot episode was shot in the western part of the state, around Snoqualmie and North Bend, before production moved to a California soundstage, but its setting was explained as “five miles south of the Canadian border, 12 miles west of the [Idaho] state line.” On a real-life map, this would place it in an uninhabited spot in Colville National Forest, northeast of Metaline Falls.
Our area received a shout-out on a second-season episode as the villainous Jean Renault told corrupt businessman Benjamin Horne where to deliver a ransom payment to free his kidnapped daughter Audrey:
“Across the border, five miles east of Grand Forks on the road to Castlegar, is a bar called the Columbian. Behind it is a failed amusement park. Go to the merry-go-round. Leave the briefcase beside the horse with no head.” (In Renault’s French Canadian accent, the S was left off Grand Forks, and the H was absent from horse and head.)
The camera briefly captures the note on which Horne jots down the directions (seen above). Although the show’s writers obviously glanced at a map, the location is fictional: it actually corresponds to a spot around the Advance Nursery and orchards off Highway 3.
We never see the drop-off site in the show because the kidnapping plot is foiled before the payment is made. Agent Cooper rescues Audrey from a rather plush brothel called One-Eyed Jack’s — which it turns out her father owns. It’s in Canada, on the shore of the fictional Black Lake, which straddles the border and appears to be a favoured way of entering the country undetected.
Cooper is suspended for his unauthorized excursion (a fellow agent shows up to deliver the bad news with a Mountie, naturally dressed in Red Serge) but is eventually cleared.
A companion book to the series, the Twin Peaks Access Guide to the Town, included a couple of maps (one is seen below) that confirmed the town’s supposed location as somewhere northeast of Metaline Falls, and showed it bisected by Route 21. That’s a real highway, but it’s actually further to the west, directly south of Grand Forks.
The map shows the highway crossing the border and intersecting with Highway 3B, where it indicates that heading west will reach Castlegar. Traveling south on 21 will reach Spokane, and going west on Route 10 will reach Kettle Falls. A mileage chart shows Castlegar as the closest town, 31 miles (50 km) away, although it misplaces Castlegar in Washington state.
Another surprise is the revelation there is (or was) thrice-daily bus service between Twin Peaks and Kootenay Bay, the eastern terminal of the Kootenay Lake ferry. According to a schedule in the book, the morning and afternoon runs are two hours and 45 minutes while the evening run inexplicably takes almost three and a half hours.
The book also recounts the Twin Peaks high school football team’s undefeated season of 1968 in which it beat Metaline, Northport, Colville, Marcus, Chewelah, and Kettle Falls.
Colville National Forest may have been the inspiration for the show’s Ghostwood National Forest, home to lost souls and the entrance to the mysterious Black Lodge, inhabited by demons including the one who killed Laura Palmer.
While any resemblance to Twin Peaks by real-life Washington state towns is purely coincidental, the only one in Stevens County that is anywhere near the same size is Colville, population 4,668.
The Twin Peaks welcome sign, seen in the show’s opening credits, claims its population is 51,201, although its creators intended for it to be 5,120. ABC, however, reportedly felt a town that size was “too small and unrelatable.” (The Access Guide claimed the town had discovered its population was actually 5,120.1.)
Two local businesses took their name after the show: Twin Peaks Towing in Castlegar and the Twin Peaks car wash in Fruitvale. There’s also a Twin Peaks Lake in the Monashees, west of Upper Arrow Lake, that predates the show.