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LightboxApril 8, 2016

One woman’s life-long journey to the twin peaks of Twin Peaks


David Lynch’s iconic television series Twin Peaks first aired 26 years ago on network television. Ruth Spencer relives her enduring relationship with the cult classic.

A photo on Facebook of VHS tapes in a skip, an entire series sprawled against some hedge clippings. Did anyone want these Twin Peaks tapes before they went to the tip?


Did anyone want them? Did their owner not remember the struggle? This was like asking if anyone still wanted this Arc of the Covenant thing or if they should just dump it in some warehouse.  

For me to see Twin Peaks in the mid 90s meant a trek across central Christchurch to Alice in Videoland. We were tentatively inventing binge watching but the technology wasn’t making it easy. There were two episodes per videotape; Alice had a single copy of each tape and the one you were up to was always out. You were allowed to rent six tapes at a time and keep them for a week, and if you were a disgusting human being you might even do that. The last episode had been so relentlessly watched that the tape was worn out and the denizens of Twin Peaks had to strut and fret their final hour through an orange snowstorm.

Pretty sure it was uphill both ways to the video store too.

Precious treasures these then, to be languishing in a dumpster. The Facebook comments bellowed in protest but the howls were not what they seemed: no one rescued the tapes. Not even me. I already own the pilot on VHS and two versions of the box set on DVD, a subscription to Lightbox where it’s currently streaming, all the soundtracks in all formats except vinyl, a dozen books, some stickers, two t-shirts and an audio cassette of Cooper’s Diane tapes in its original box. If I’d put my hand up for the videotapes I’d have to admit I had a problem. And a VHS player.


Twin Peaks is a thing, as my fictional boyfriend Dale Cooper says, both wonderful and strange. Sublimely comic moments juxtaposed with deep pathos. Moments that evoke a haunting nostalgia for something you’ve never had. Terrifying moments that are the reason I will have to get rid of my daughter’s new puppet.

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There are also doppelgangers, which have always been a fascination of mine; if I had a doppelganger I’d make it try on sunglasses until I found ones that really suited me.

Or it could just wear my Twin Peaks character costumes, which I also have. When I say character I mean an Audrey costume and when I say costume I mean the Henderson Salvation Army Family Store has never yet let me down.


I have dressed as Audrey for costume parties. I have dressed as Audrey not for costume parties. I also have a Log Lady costume which I make other people wear because I’m dressing as Audrey again.  


I was once at a party where someone dressed as dead Laura, in quite a lot of glad wrap. I was dressed as Fox Mulder that time, but only because I hadn’t seen Twin Peaks yet.


I like Audrey. I’d like to be Audrey. A beautiful coquette with a heart of balls, she fancies the aforementioned FBI Special Agent Cooper. While that might be enough for your average love-interest, she wonders if she could be an agent too and assigns herself a dangerous special ops mission. When things don’t work out nearly as well as she might like, she buys a suit and takes over her father’s business. Damn fine moxie. And hot!


Summoning my own Audrey moxie I took myself on a pilgrimage to Twin Peaks. Not in my costume though because apparently there are limits to my fandom. Words to live by: if it doesn’t say cosplay on the invite, you’re scaring people.

The filming locations of North Bend and Snoqualmie, Washington, are still Twin Peaks, for real, in situ. The woods are lovely, dark and deep and elk roam the rivers edge at sunset, or at least the two I saw did. Mount Si is a constant looming presence, black as midnight on a moonless night. In a rare example of a range displaying range, it portrays both of Twin Peaks’ twin peaks.

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Just as in the show, everything in town is folksy wholesomeness teetering on the cusp of Lynchian weirdness. I stayed at Salish Lodge, which plays the exterior of the Great Northern Hotel, jutting over the incredible Snoqualmie Falls just as it does on TV. The waitress was late because there was a bear in her front yard.

Twede’s Diner – known as the Double R in the show – was until recently full of stuffed Tweety bird dolls, an inadvertent synthetic version of the show’s taxidermy fetish. The souvenir coffee cups say Twin Peaks but the menu says 50 Kinds of Burger, which sounds like the American idea of luxury but inevitably the idea devolves as it goes on. Pork and potato chip. Corned beef and cabbage. Strange things, but not wonderful.


The Sheriff’s Department building now houses the offices of a rally school, where rally car drivers hoon their craft around an abandoned forestry enterprise.  

The rally school guys were super proud of a car in their lobby formerly owned by someone called Colin McRae, and I nearly broke my neck pretending to look at it while trying to glimpse police receptionist Lucy’s desk.

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I later took a ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island to visit the giant log where Laura Palmer is found dead, wrapped in plastic. It was chained up, a prisoner of its fame – a storm once dragged it into the foggy waters of Puget Sound and, like Laura, washed it up alone on an unfamiliar beach. It was towed back home to its commemorative plaque in front of Kiana Lodge, which played the interiors of the Great Northern and the exteriors of the Martell house.  


The owners let me roam the Lodge unsupervised, lying sans plastic on the rocky beach and telling stuffed moose heads the Norwegians were leaving. Twin Peaks viewers may like to know the Lodge was neither Black nor White, but predominantly Timbacryl brown with window boxes.

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A new Twin Peaks series is being made to coincide with the “25 Years Later” narrative from the original. They’re talking about showing it in movie theatres. There probably won’t be a VHS release, and in other ways it won’t be the same. Some of the crucial actors have since died: Frank Silva’s irreplaceable Killer BOB, Jack Nance’s Pete Martell, Major Briggs, the Log Lady. Sheriff Truman isn’t coming back by actor Michael Ontkean’s own choice, but tantalizingly, after a nationwide search, his jacket is. I’ve heard nothing about Heather Graham, and if I could apply those words to the rest of my life I would die happy.  

They’ve just auctioned off an extra role, the proceeds going to David Lynch’s Transcendental Meditation-based charity. It went for $12,500 which sounds like a lot, but how much is too much to become an official citizen of somewhere I’ve lived for 20 years? I would have bid except that pilgrimages to Twin Peaks are on hold for a while, as I have a new baby. Her name is Audrey but she’ll have to wear the Log Lady costume like everyone else.

Click below to relive every glorious episode of Twin Peaks.


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