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The best Twin Peaks fan theories from 1990

Government plots, virgin sacrifices and ancient burial grounds: discover the internet conspiracy theories of fans of the show when it aired

The internet was in its infancy when Twin Peaks first aired on April 8, 1990, but that didn’t stop a dedicated cult of tech-savvy souls from sharing their thoughts about the murder mystery show on an early incarnation of the information superhighway. Amazingly, the Usenet discussion group is still active 25 years on, and dusting off the comments for speculation on who killed Laura Palmer and much more besides makes for lively reading, to say the least. Here’s just a sprinkling of the nuttier theories doing the rounds as America embarked on its unlikely love affair with the show (note: mild spoilers ahead).

THE WHOLE THING IS A REMAKE OF THE WICKER MAN

Was Lynch serving up a sneaky retread of the 1973 British horror classic? Maybe, if you set much store in Rich Rosen’s theory as laid out in a post from May 1990. His evidence? Cooper is a fresh-faced (read: virginal) cop assigned to investigate a murder in an insular rural community, only to be led up the garden path by devious locals who are all secretly part of a weird sacrificial cult, including comely wench Audrey Horne, who presumably doubles in this theory for pub landlord’s daughter played by Britt Ekland. Guess again, Rich Rosen!

THE SECOND SEASON IS AN ALLEGORY FOR THE GULF WAR

Ann Hodgins sounds like a person with far too much time on her hands. Reeling from news of the show’s cancellation due to nosediving audience figures in 1991, this fanciful viewer donned her tinfoil thinking hat to conclude that the US government must have ordered ABC to pull the plug on the programme, because it was undermining public support for the first Gulf War. Or maybe the second season was just rubbish? You didn’t think of that, Ann, did you?

DALE COOPER IS SOME GUY WHO HIJACKED AN AEROPLANE AND DISAPPEARED IN THE 1970s

Actually, this one’s surprisingly on the money. TP fan George Ferguson notes after the fourth episode airs that Agent Dale Cooper shares a near-namesake with an unidentified man, dubbed ‘DB Cooper’ in the press, who hijacked a Boeing 747 in 1971 and successfully extorted $200,000 in ransom money before parachuting somewhere over Washington state, never to be seen again. Ridiculous, right? Well, yeah – except it turns out that Lynch, a Washington native himself, did name Cooper after the man, who bears a passing resemblance to Kyle MacLachlan (No? Oh, all right then). Raising the stakes even further, the New York Times’ Karen Karbo went so far as to suggest Lynch was the mystery parachuting man.

BOB IS LELAND’S NAME FOR HIS PENIS

Every Twin Peaks fan has had nightmares about BOB, a possibly supernatural figure who is somehow connected to Laura Palmer’s death. Usenet was awash with theories as to his true nature in 1990/91, but comfortably the most revolting is the idea, suggested by (that man again) George Ferguson, that BOB may in fact be Leland’s pet name for his wiener: “BOB was just a name for the dark side of Leland (or it could have been a name for his penis... because Bobby calls his ‘pocket rocket’ and Ben calls his ‘little Elvis’. I know that's not exactly what they said on the show, but I think they were just trying to get those names by the censors).”

THE RED ROOM IS LAURA PALMER'S WOMB AND DALE COOPER IS A GIANT WRINKLED BABY 

The mysterious Red Room’s appearance in Twin Peaks’ Lynch-directed third episode was a defining water-cooler moment in US television. But what did it all mean? This reader seems to have struck upon a novel solution: “My interpretation brings Dale Cooper into the womb of Laura Palmer (the soft velvet curtains could very well by associated with the intra-uterine lining of a birth canal... Cooper’s skin was indeed wrinkled somewhat ­– as if he himself were not ready to be born, not ready to leave the uterus until completion (of his dream, perhaps? Of solving the mystery, perhaps?)” Which sounds fairly demented, until you consider that Cooper does indeed emerge ‘reborn’ from his real-world encounter with the Red Room (or the Black Lodge, as it later becomes known).

MADELEINE WAS IMPERSONATING LAURA

The arrival of Laura’s cousin, Madeleine, on to the scene in episode four raised plenty of eyebrows among the gossip folks of Usenet. Why? She was played by the same actress, Sheryl Lee, prompting many to speculate that she was really Laura in disguise, returning to the scene after arranging to have her cousin bumped off. “Laura was in a lot of trouble, a good way out would have been to be killed,” writes Marchi Orion Kelerison. “All she’d have to do is bleach Madeline’s hair and kill her.” And convince her own parents that she was actually her cousin. I mean, how hard can that be?

THE GREAT NORTHERN HOTEL IS BUILT ON AN ANCIENT INDIAN BURIAL GROUND 

Ancient Indian burial grounds are basically the repressed colonial guilt version of ‘It was all just a dream’, aren’t they? All the same, that’s exactly what Usenetter Diarmuid Maguire thinks the Great Northern Hotel is built on (evidence: lots of totem poles, the fact that the owner’s son wears a Native American headdress). More persuasive is his interpretation of BOB as a malevolent Native American spirit (since confirmed by co-writer Mark Frost), and his observation that the ‘Bookhouse Boys’ secret society sounds remarkably like ‘Bookwus’, another forest-dwelling spirit common in northwest Native American folklore.

THE SERIES WOULD RETURN AFTER 25 YEARS (ISH)

After news got out of Twin Peaks’ triumphant return, eagle-eyed fans were quick to point out that Laura Palmer tells Dale Cooper in a Black Lodge scene that she will see him again “in 25 years”. But Usenet sage ‘Max’ had all this sussed out bloody ages ago. “It’s 2014, and David Lynch happens to be at loose ends, so he decides to follow up on the legendary cult TV show he did 2 1/2 decades ago,” he prophesies into his keyboard (2014 being 25 years after the fictional events of the show take place). But what will become of Agent Dale Cooper? He’ll either be a madman, murderer or a full-time resident of the Black/White Lodge, reckons Max, hedging his bets a little this time. Who are we to bet against him?

Gilliamesque is out now via Canongate