The Mystery of the Log and Its Lady

Written by Eden H. Roquelaire for Twin Peaks Freaks.

Warning: Contains spoilers for Twin Peaks seasons 1 and 2, and the film Fire Walk With Me.

Dedicated to the memory of Catherine E. Coulson, who lent her brilliance and uniqueness to Twin Peaks, which has effected and inspired all of us fans for decades. Rest in peace.

“Welcome to Twin Peaks. My name is Margaret Lanterman. I live in Twin Peaks. I am known as the Log Lady. There is a story behind that. There are many stories in Twin Peaks – some of them are sad, some funny. Some of them are stories of madness, of violence. Some are ordinary. Yet they all have about them a sense of mystery – the mystery of life. Sometimes, the mystery of death. The mystery of the woods. The woods surrounding Twin Peaks. To introduce this story, let me just say it encompasses the all – it is beyond the “fire”, though few would know that meaning. It is a story of many, but begins with one…”

CATHERINE E. COULSON

TWIN PEAKS – ‘Log Lady’ Gallery – Shoot Date: July 26, 1990. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) CATHERINE E. COULSON

Margaret Lanterman, a.k.a. the Log Lady, is one of the most iconic characters from the series, along with Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer. She was the distributor of abstract wisdom, and had a strange connection to powerful forces. Her character is of a great importance that was never fully understood. David Lynch chose her to serve as a sort of guide to take us through Twin Peaks: Why is that? How did she obtain so much knowledge about the town and the woods? In this article, we will pay tribute to the wonderful Catherine Coulson by analyzing the character she so perfectly brought to life.

I carry a log – yes. Is it funny to you? It is not to me. Behind all things are reasons. Reasons can even explain the absurd. Do we have the time to learn the reasons behind the human being’s varied behavior? I think not. Some take the time. Are they called detectives? Watch – and see what life teaches.

When we are first introduced to the Log Lady in Twin Peaks, she is presented almost as a gimmick; something to laugh at. We learn rather quickly, as Cooper does, that this is a mistake. Margaret is a keeper of knowledge, and gives the protagonists essential clues in their mission. Her primary purpose is to serve as a link between the developed town and the spirits of untouched nature. The character is played by Catherine Coulson, who, you may know, has been a close personal friend of David Lynch’s since his film school days in the 1970s. You might not know, however, that at the time Twin Peaks was first written, the concept of the Log Lady was not a new one to Lynch: As early as the 70s, he had planned to make a series called I’ll Test My Log with Every Branch of Knowledge. The character was written for Coulson, who Lynch met while working on Eraserhead.

“I had this idea during Eraserhead that I described to her and Jack (Nance) and and whoever would listen. And it was called I’ll Test My Log with Every Branch of Knowledge! It’s a half-hour television show starring Catherine as the lady with the log. Her husband has been killed in a forest fire and his ashes are on the mantelpiece, with his pipes and his sock hat. He was a woodsman. But the fireplace is completely boarded up. Because she now is very afraid of fire. And she has a small child, but she doesn’t drive, so she takes cabs. And each show would start with her making a phone call to some expert in one of the many fields of knowledge. Maybe on this particular day she calls a dentist, but she makes the appointment for her log. And the log goes in the dental chair and gets a little bib and chain and the dentist X-rays the log for cavities, goes through the whole thing, and the son is also there. Because she is teaching her son through his observations of what the log is going through. And then sometimes they go to a diner and they never get to where they’re going.”

-David Lynch (Source: Lynch On Lynch)

Right away, from this synopsis, we can see the connection between the Log Lady and obscure knowledge, told in strange ways. But what is the truth behind the Log Lady? Why does she carry a log in the first place? Why does the log seem to communicate with her? And how? And what is the point of her transmitting these obscure clues to people?

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So, let’s begin taking our closer look into Margaret, a.k.a. the Log Lady. She clearly knows more than we know:

I grew up in the woods. I understand many things because of the woods.

So right away, we get the idea that she has lived in Twin Peaks for all of her life, at least since she was a little girl. Through her extensive experience with it, she formed a sort of intimacy with the woods, and learned some of its secrets. However, she also says that there are many things she “mustn’t say,” and then directs the viewers’ attention to the fact that her fire place is boarded up, so there will never be a fire in there. Of course, fire, in Twin Peaks, is virtually synonymous with BOB. So just what did she learn from the woods? Perhaps she was privy to the comings and goings of Dugpas? Did she maybe meet BOB? We aren’t given any real evidence that she did, but her husband most likely has.

The Log Lady explains, in bits and pieces, how her husband, a logger, was killed in a fire in the woods the day after their wedding. It was “not a friendly fire.” Because of this, she has a deep fear of fire. She says that “fire is the devil, hiding like a coward in the smoke.” One night, before his death, her husband brought a jar of scorched engine oil, and told her it was “an opening to a gateway.” He may have gotten this from the woods, or he may have been taking it to the woods, instead. Either way, whatever he was doing with the oil must have been what triggered his meeting with “the devil.” Most likely, he was trying to open the gateway to the Black Lodge, for whatever reason, and seems to have succeeded. From the Lodge came BOB, who killed the logger with fire.

It may be that after his death, the Log Lady’s husband became trapped in the Black Lodge, or otherwise entered this realm in spirit form. A popular theory says that he is one of the lumberjacks seen above the convenience store in Fire Walk With Me.

LumberjackFWWM

The lumberjack (played by Jurgen Prochnow) seen above the convenience store with BOB, Mrs. Chalfont, and the Man from Another Place. Is this the Log Lady’s husband?

If this is the Log Lady’s husband, it suggests some intriguing things: Firstly, it implies that he plays a larger role than we might suspect. Rather than being a hapless logger who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, he could be a wise man or even an occultist with great knowledge of the woods and the goings on therein. Most likely, his meeting with BOB was intentional. Could he have been attempting to make a pact with the Lodge beings, similar to what Windom Earle was attempting? Only, perhaps he wasn’t planning on making this pact for evil, as Earle was planning on doing. Perhaps he wanted to deal with the Lodge beings in order to learn more about them, and use that information positively.

Another common theory is that the Log Lady’s husband is inside the log that she carries. When you consider the fate Josie met at the hands of BOB, this makes a lot of sense. It seems that in Twin Peaks, wood can be used as a receptacle for spirits. Notice the name of an important patch of woods in town: Ghostwood. That about sums it up, doesn’t it? If we know that Josie was trapped in the wood of the Great Northern Hotel after being murdered by BOB, it only seems reasonable to conclude that the Log Lady’s husband could have become trapped in the wood of a nearby tree. Likely, BOB came upon him in the forest, while he was chopping wood, killed him, and perhaps trapped his spirit in one of the logs that was left behind. The Log Lady, having a deep connection to the woods, was able to sense this, and took the log with her. Through it, he is able to psychically communicate with her, providing her with crucial information, which she passes on to the appropriate source.

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Another interesting connection is between Margaret and Major Briggs. Both seem to have been abducted by aliens/angels/beings from the White Lodge, and left with interlocking symbols on their skin. This implies that Margaret, her husband (through the log), and Major Briggs are being used as agents by the White Lodge: The log (Margaret’s husband) tells Margaret to tell Briggs to deliver the message he received from the deep space monitors, which is a warning to Agent Cooper (“The owls are not what they seem”). This would make all of them agents of good, influenced and aided by the White Lodge.

As for the markings or “tattoos” left on the Log Lady and the Major, it would seem that they, too, are meant as clues, to help lead Cooper (or another agent of good) to the map within Owl Cave, and in turn give them the location of the opening to the Lodges.

An interesting point of note is Margaret’s surname: Lanterman. It sounds similar to “lantern,” implying illumination; someone who lights the way.

Margaret’s dwelling place in her cabin in the woods made her an excellent person to keep watch over anything taking place there: The actions of the Dugpas, the movements of the owls, and other strange phenomena. Perhaps she had experiences similar to Leland’s as a child, and this began her lifelong connection to the nature spirits around her. Through this, she was able to achieve her own kind of zen, and learn many secrets. However, she could not pass on all of these secrets, as not all knowledge is meant to be passed on at once. After all, a path is formed by laying one stone at a time.

log-lady

Notice the little cabin built from tooth picks by Margaret’s right hand.

Margaret seems to have been chosen by the White Lodge, through her close relationship with the woods. Both she and her husband developed a deep connection and understanding of the woods and the spirits that dwell there, and, in turn, the woods and the spirits became familiar with the two of them. Perhaps the White Lodge spirits sensed a purity of heart in Margaret and her husband, and that is why they were “chosen” to help act against BOB. Margaret understands the dangers of the owls, the power of nature, and the terror BOB’s fire. This made her a powerful agent of good for the White Lodge, and a valuable ally of Cooper’s. Her participation will be sorely missed in the new season, but her presence will continue to be felt in Twin Peaks.

“There is a sadness in this world, for we are ignorant of many things. Yes, we are ignorant of many beautiful things – things like the truth. So sadness, in our ignorance, is very real. The tears are real. What is this thing called a tear? There are even tiny ducts – tear ducts – to produce these tears should the sadness occur. Then the day when the sadness comes – then we ask: ‘Will this sadness which makes me cry – will this sadness that makes my heart cry out – will it ever end? The answer, of course, is yes. One day the sadness will end.”

-Margaret Lanterman, the Log Lady

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Did You Know? Twin Peaks Edition

David Lynch and Michael Anderson, a.k.a. the Man From Another Place. Photo by Richard Beymer.

David Lynch and Michael Anderson, a.k.a. the Man From Another Place. Photo by Richard Beymer.

Written by Eden H. Roquelaire for Twin Peaks Freaks.

Warning: Contains spoilers for Twin Peaks (and also The Simpsons Season 7. Don’t ask why, these things just happen.)

So, it looks like Lynch and Frost have hit another snag in their most anticipated project, and the new season of Twin Peaks has been postponed until 2017. We Peakers have to put up with a lot sometimes, don’t we? But we’re patient people when it comes to our favorite series, and we’ve already waited 25 years, so what’s the harm in one more? To help you kill time and make it to 2017, I’ve compiled some fun facts that even you may not know about our beloved Twin Peaks.

Laura and her Doppelganger, Marilyn Monroe.

Laura and her Doppelganger, Marilyn Monroe.

Did you know? Before they began developing Twin Peaks, David Lynch and Mark Frost were attempting to do an adaptation of the Marilyn Monroe biography, which would have been titled Goddess. However, they could not acquire the rights, so some of the elements of their screenplay found their way into Twin Peaks, helping to form Laura’s character especially: She’s a blonde beauty queen, idolized by everyone but with many dark secrets including drug addiction and sexual abuse, who had an affair with a rich and powerful man, and it is suspected that she was killed because she possessed some sensitive information regarding him.

Did you know? Mark Frost comes from a talented family: The role of Doc Hayward is played by Warren Frost, his father, who also worked in theater as an actor and stage director. Mark’s sister Lindsay is an actress, and his brother Scott is a writer.

 

Did you know? Twin Peaks was partly inspired by the 1944 film noir Laura. Elements lifted from the film are, of course, the name Laura, the use of a murdered woman’s diary to solve a crime, the names Waldo and Lydecker, and a detective seeing a murdered woman in person after her death.

 

Did you know? David Lynch’s daughter, Jennifer Lynch, is a director in her own right. Her filmography includes Boxing Helena (1993), Surveillance (2008), and even an episode of The Walking Dead! Jennifer Lynch was also the one given the task of writing The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, and as such, she was one of three people who were told the identity of the killer.

 

Did you know? Three Twin Peaks actors appeared in the 1987 movie RoboCop: Ray Wise (Leland Palmer) played Leon Nash, Miguel Ferrer (Albert Rosenfield) played Bob Morton, and Dan O’Herlihy (Andrew Packard) played the unforgettable character known as “the Old Man.”

Ray Wise with his buddies in RoboCop.

Ray Wise with his buddies in RoboCop.

Did you know? Sheryl Lee, who played Laura Palmer and Maddy Ferguson, makes a cameo appearance in the 2007 film Winter’s Bone. When she is first shown, a song is playing in the background, with lyrics that say, “I wonder if you still remember me, or has time erased your memory? As I listen to the breeze whisper gently through the threes, I wonder if you still remember me.” These lyrics are greatly reminiscent of the song Lynch and Badalamenti wrote for the final episode of Twin Peaks, “Sycamore Trees,” which features the lyrics, “and I’ll see you and you’ll see me, and I’ll see you in the branches that blow, in the trees.” Perhaps the director of Winter’s Bone is a Twin Peaks fan?

 

Did you know? The actress who plays Sandy’s mother in Blue Velvet is Hope Lange, who starred in the movie Peyton Place, which is credited as a source of inspiration for Twin Peaks: It’s about a small town that looks on the surface to be the American Dream, but in truth, it harbors many dark secrets.

Hope Lange in Peyton Place (1957)

Hope Lange in Peyton Place (1957)

Did you know? Pretty much every David Lynch film has featured a night club, usually with its own unique singer. Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me have the Roadhouse, where Julee Cruise’s band performs, and the Bang Bang Bar. Blue Velvet has the Slow Club where Dororthy Valens sings. Wild At Heart shows Sailor at a club singing Elvis Presley’s “Love Me.” In Lost Highway, Fred plays saxophone with a band at an unnamed club. Mulholland Drive features the infamous Club Silencio, where Rebekah Del Rio sings a Spanish version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying.” And in Inland Empire, Nikki/Sue runs into a night club where a burlesque dancer is performing.

 

Did you know? Clarence Williams III, who, in the second season of Twin Peaks, played Roger Hardy from Internal Affairs, appeared in the Mod Squad with Peggy Lipton (Norma Jennings).

Did you know? Alicia Witt, who played Donna’s little sister Gerstin (the pianist) is still acting. She has appeared in recent series such as Justified and House of Lies.

Alicia Witt, a.k.a. Gerstin Hayward, in 2015

Alicia Witt, a.k.a. Gerstin Hayward, in 2015

Did you know? Sheriff Truman has a mounted deer head in his office, beneath which is a plaque declaring “The Buck Stopped Here.” This is a reference to President Harry Truman’s motto, “The Buck Stops Here.”

 

Did you know? Frank Silva (who played Killer BOB) was originally just a set dresser for Twin Peaks. However, his reflection was accidentally filmed in a scene in the pilot, which led to Lynch, who often utilizes accidents creatively, conceiving of the character BOB, and cast Silva in the role.

 

Did you know? Nearly all of Lynch’s films have had at least one actor from Twin Peaks:

  • Eraserhead has Jack Nance (Pete Martell) and Charlotte Stewart (Betty Briggs), and Catherine Coulson (The Log Lady) was behind the scenes. (She was originally going to be in the movie, but her scenes were cut.)
  • Blue Velvet has Kyle MacLachlan (Agent Cooper) and Jack Nance. Lynch also planned to have Isabella Rossellini appear in Twin Peaks, but she turned down the role which afterward went to Joan Chen.
  • Dune has Jack Nance and Kyle MacLachlan.
  • Wild at Heart has cameos from Jack Nance, Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer and Maddy Fergusson) and Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne)
  • Lost Highway has Jack Nance in a brief cameo, which also happens to be his last appearance.
  • The Straight Story features Everett McGill (Ed Hurley).
  • Mulholland Drive briefly features Michael Anderson (The Man from Another Place) as the mysterious Mr Roq.
  • Inland Empire has a cameo from Grace Zabriskie.

The only feature film to not contain an actor from the Twin Peaks series is The Elephant Man, which also happens to be the only Lynch film not to feature Jack Nance prior to his death in 1997.

 

Did you know? Jack Nance and Michael Horse (Deputy Hawk) also appear in David Lynch’s short, The Cowboy and the Frenchman (1987). Nance’s character is also called Pete.

 

Did you know? Jack Nance and Catherine Coulson were married from 1968-1976. Coulson jokingly accredited their divorce to the fact that she was Nance’s hairdresser for Eraserhead.

How many happy relationships must this monstrous coif destroy before it is satisfied?!

How many happy relationships must this monstrous coif destroy before it is satisfied?!

Did you know? Jennifer Lynch was largely given creative control over The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, aside from a few notes given by David Lynch and Mark Frost. Writing on a computer, she completed the first draft of the book in nine days, but, after flying to New York, found that the information was completely missing. This forced her to rewrite the entire thing, this time using a typewriter, to avoid any technical mishaps.

Did you know? Sherilyn Fenn insisted to the writers that it isn’t really possible to tie a cherry stem with with your tongue.

 

Did you know? Angelo Badalamenti has provided music for all of Lynch’s works from Blue Velvet (1986) to Mulholland Drive (2001). Inland Empire was the first film since Blue Velvet not to contain any work by the composer. Instead, Lynch drew mostly from pre-recorded materials by artists such as Nina Simone, Beck, and Ella Fitzgerald. Incidentally, Chrysta Bell, who co-wrote and sang “Polish Poem” for the soundtrack, has done a live cover of Beck’s “Black Tambourine,” which also appears on the soundtrack.

 

Did you know? Twin Peaks has a real-life connection to Marilyn Monroe: Actor Miguel Ferrer (Albert Rosenfield) was held by Marilyn Monroe as a baby, when his mother, actress and singer Rosemary Clooney, attended one of Monroe’s parties.

 

Did you know? Both Kyle MacLachlan and Lara Flynn Boyle actually hate cherry pie.

It kind of ruins the fantasy to realize that, behind that thumbs up, he's revolted.

It kind of ruins the fantasy to realize that, behind that thumbs up, he’s revolted.

Did you know? The character of Maddy Ferguson originally wasn’t part of the plan: Lynch and Frost invented her pretty much at the last minute as a way to keep Sheryl Lee in the show. The character’s name is a blatant reference to one of Lynch’s favorite films, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which stars Jimmy Stewart as Scottie Ferguson and Kim Novak as Madeleine Elster.

 

Did you know? Jack Nance’s real, full name is Marvin John Nance.

Did you know? Mrs Tremond’s grandson was, in the series, played by David Lynch’s son, Austin Jack Lynch. He also showed up seventeen years later, in his father’s feature film Inland Empire (he is sitting on the couch in Devon’s dressing room). Austin Lynch also works as a director, though with a much smaller filmography than his dad: He filmed “The Making of…” documentary for the DVD extras for the film The New World (2005).

Austin Jack Lynch, all grown up.

Austin Jack Lynch, all grown up.

Did you know? Angelo Badalamenti sings on the track “A Real Indication” from the Fire Walk With Me soundtrack. The song was invented on the spot, inspired by Bobby and Laura’s interaction at the school.

Did you know? To keep information from leaking to the public when the identity of Laura’s killer was revealed, different versions of Maddy’s murder were filmed: One with just Leland, one with just BOB, and one with Ben Horne. The Simpsons later parodied this in their episode “The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular,” which shows a alternate outcomes for the episode “Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 2,” wherein Mr. Burns’s assistant Smithers is revealed to be the killer. This was also allegedly created to keep the real killer’s identity from leaking to the public. Also, “Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 2” contains two Twin Peaks parodies: Its title is a play on the tagline “Who killed Laura Palmer,” and there is a scene where the police chief dreams of a Black Lodge-like place, where a “backwards-talking [girl] with flaming cards” gives him obscure clues. He awakes from the dream with his hair stuck in a cowlick, the same way Cooper awakes from his Black Lodge dream.

Did you know? References to Twin Peaks have appeared in countless shows. Psyche had its own Twin Peaks tribute episode which guest-starred many of the cast members. Adult Swim’s The Eric Andre Show parodied the Twin Peaks opening and used the tagline “Who Killed Hannibal?” (Hannibal Buress is the show’s co-host.) The Simpsons have referenced it three times (two are listed above), the third time showing a flashback of Homer watching Twin Peaks in the early 90s. Comedian Eddie Pepitone, in his special In Ruins, Laura Palmer’s murder as a key reference in one of his jokes. Even Buffy the Vampire Slayer has referenced Twin Peaks twice (arguably): One episode takes place in the characters’ dreams, which are being controlled by a supernatural entity, and one dream features the character Willow walking down a hallway of red curtains. In another episode, Buffy references Lynch’s nonlinear film-making with the line, “Is that why time went all David Lynch?”

Buffy Summers has good taste in cinema.

Buffy Summers has good taste in cinema.

Did you know? Twin Peaks was nominated for the 2014 TCA Heritage Award, along with Lost, South Park, Saturday Night Live, and Star Trek. It lost to Saturday Night Live.

Did you know? Speaking of Twin Peaks and Star Trek, many actors from Twin Peaks have also appeared on the various incarnations of Star Trek, including Ray Wise (Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager), Madchen Amick, (Star Trek: The Next Generation) Wendy Robie (Deep Space 9), and Miguel Ferrer (feature film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock).

Wendy Robie in Stark Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Wendy Robie in Stark Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Did you know? Twin Peaks has inspired a number of songs, including “Wrapped in Plastic” by Marilyn Manson, “Spark” by Tori Amos, and “Nadine Hurley” by London punk girl band Skinny Girl Diet.

Did you know? The actors who played Ed and Nadine Hurley, Everett McGill and Wendy Robie respectively, also played a husband and wife in the 1991 horror film The People Under the Stairs.

Did you know? Twin Peaks has inspired many television shows, including Psyche, American Horror Story, Wayward Pines, Lost, True Detective, Louie (which had David Lynch himself guest-star in two episodes) and Hemlock Grove, to name just a few. Feature films inspired by Twin Peaks include Lake Mungo, Requiem for a Dream, and Donnie Darkko.

Did you know? Twin Peaks has also inspired several video games, such as the Silent Hill series, and the supernatural detective game Alan Wake. Even the popular game series The Legend of Zelda has drawn from Twin Peaks: Its 4th installment, Link’s Awakening, takes the protagonist to a dream world full of strange individuals who speak in cryptic phrases. It even includes a mysterious forest and an owl that is not what it seems. Some of these Twin Peaks-inspired elements would go on to recur throughout the series. In one of the games, the mysterious owl serves as a disguise for a wise old man who aids the protagonist. It seems even in video games, the owls are not what they seem.

 

Like BOB, the wise man in the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time disguises himself as an owl.

Like BOB, the wise man in the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time disguises himself as an owl.

That’s all for this edition. I hope you learned some interesting new info. Know any more fun facts about Twin Peaks? Post them in the comments below! I’ll see you again in 25 years. Meanwhile…

LauraScream