31 years ago, the body of Laura Palmer was discovered in Twin Peaks.

The anniversary of a grisly fictional murder may not be something to celebrate, but the region-defining, television-changing, career-launching (or relaunching), coffee-and-pie-revering series Twin Peaks certainly is. As the Pacific Northwest continues to evolve as a plaid-cloaked post-logging economy, we look back at what exactly happened on February 24, 1989, in a town called Twin Peaks.

The body of a teenage girl, naked and wrapped in plastic, washed up on a lakeshore near the town of Twin Peaks in northeastern Washington State, five miles south of the Canadian border, 12 miles west of the state line. Her name was Laura Palmer, and her body was discovered by Pete Martell as he headed out at dawn to go fishing.

In fact, this was filmed not in Washington’s Pend Oreille County on the Idaho border but more than 250 miles away in the “Viking Village” of Poulsbo, Washington, at the Kiana Lodge. While actor Sheryl Lee, now 52, has had a variety of other roles in film and television (and was briefly Neil Diamond’s daughter-in-law), she remains best-known for playing Laura, both dead and, in flashbacks, dreams, nightmares, visions, lookalike cousin appearances, and alternate futures, very much alive. Jack Nance, who played Pete Martell and appeared in several other works by Twin Peaks co-creator David Lynch, died in 1996 from injuries following a bar fight.

Word spreads at Twin Peaks High School that something has happened to Laura. Her best friend, Donna, weeps. Her boyfriend is shocked. Her other boyfriend breaks a pencil.

It may be 2020, but on any given day in Portland (not just Twin Peaks Day), you might spot this reminder that the owls are not what they seem on a grocery shopper’s ball cap, a barista’s tattoo, or the wall of the bathroom in the East Burn’s basement bar.

 

Lara Flynn Boyle had just played a murder victim herself in the TV film The Preppie Murder and endured having her scenes deleted in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Dead Poets Society. She managed to survive on camera the length of Twin Peaks, though she did not return to play Donna in the 1992 film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me or the 2017 Showtime series Twin Peaks: The Return. Twin Peaks High was actually Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie, Washington, which was recently torn down and rebuilt thanks to a local bond measure.

FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper arrives in Twin Peaks to look into suspected similarities between Laura Palmer’s murder and a previous crime. While today he might be pulled over for using his hands to operate an electrical device (in his case, a dictaphone), no such talking/texting-while-driving laws existed in Washington in 1989. He meets Sheriff Harry S. Truman at the beginning of one of television’s sweetest male friendships.

Yakima-born Kyle MacLachlan played a young innocent of sorts in Lynch’s Dune and Blue Velvet. His Agent Cooper was both strictly by the book and a little bit cuckoo, a combo that’s been part of subsequent TV roles like the pushover Trey on Sex and the City and the super-positive mayor on Portlandia. (Lately, his appearances in Portland haven’t been faux mayor related and instead were promoting his winery, Pursued by Bear—but it’s an election year, so anything goes, really.) Slap Shot star and ’80s rom-com vet Michael Ontkean did not resurrect his role as Sheriff Truman in the 2017 series; his character’s brother was the sheriff instead. Once a Weyerhaeuser office, today the sheriff’s office filming location is part of the Dirtfish Driving School.

The sheriff introduces Cooper to psychiatrist Lawrence Jacoby, whose services Laura had sought out without her parents’ knowledge, and suggests local hotel the Great Northern to Agent Cooper. At a town meeting, that night to quell local fears of a killer on the loose, Cooper spots a woman holding a log and fiddling with the light switch.

Dr. Jacoby returns in The Return, having lost his license but become an internet phenomenon with a shovel obsession in the meantime. (In real life, in the meantime actor Russ Tamblyn also became David Cross’s father-in-law.) The Log Lady makes a brief appearance in The Return before both she and her portrayer, Ashland’s Catherine Coulson, pass on. The Great Northern was also played by the Kiana Lodge for some shots, but the iconic exterior looming over Snoqualmie Falls belongs to the Salish Lodge.

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