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The Twin Peaks Character Backstories We Learn From Mark Frost’s New Novel

Spoilers ahead for Mark Frost’s new novel, The Secret History of Twin Peaks.

Throughout the course of Twin Peaks’s 30 episodes, David Lynch and Mark Frost crafted a series that was known equally for its anomalous plot and its damn fine coffee and cherry pie. What began with the seemingly normal murder case of homecoming queen Laura Palmer soon transformed into a narrative of a far more otherworldly, sinister nature. Along the way, we were able to get to know a bit about the various residents of the eccentric Northwestern town, although some of their backstories were never fully explored. In Frost’s new novel, The Secret History of Twin Peaks, out today, the series’ co-creator expands on the layered history of the town, going as far back as Lewis and Clark’s famous expedition to explain all of the mysteries that encompassed Peaks’s populace. Below, we’ve compiled 11 backstories about characters in the Twin Peaks universe that we now know more about.

Dr. Jacoby
Our favorite red-and-blue-glasses-wearing psychiatrist grew up in Hawaii with his family, opting to stay with his Army-serving father on the island after his parents divorced. (His mother and older brother moved to Twin Peaks, where his brother, Robert, became the long-serving star reporter of the town’s newspaper.) Dr. Jacoby himself moved to Twin Peaks many years later, in 1981, after the death of his mother, Leilani, and established a private practice and consulting residency at the local hospital; he also was interested in studying the Native American tribes in the region. In the 1970s and ‘80s, he published a series of highly controversial research articles and a book called The Eye of God: Sacred Psychology in the Aboriginal Mind, which “proposed a theory for the evolution of spirituality in early native people through the ritualistic use of psychotropic plant life by shamans or tribal healers,” after over a decade of conducting anthropological fieldwork. The book obtained quite a cult status — Timothy Leary and Jerry Garcia praised it — despite being fiercely attacked by American medical boards for lacking scientific rigor.

The Log Lady
Born Margaret Coulson — a nice homage to the actress who portrayed her, the late Catherine Coulson — and later referred to as Margaret Lanterman, the Log Lady experienced an otherworldly occurrence in Twin Peaks when she was a third-grader. On a nature walk with her fellow classmates, chaperones, and teacher, she and two male students wandered off and disappeared into the town’s vast woods. Discovered 24 hours later by a group of Eagle Scouts, the three of them had no recollection of what happened and thought only a few minutes had gone by. Examined by a physician for a checkup, she had no complaints aside from thirst and hunger, although a mark of three thin symmetrical triangles was discovered on the back of her right knee. (Both boys had similar markings.) At the end of the checkup, she asked the physician whether “the owl was coming back.” As a youngster, she was described as fiercely intelligent, a little reserved, and an “early feminist,” and studied forestry at Washington State University.

When she was in her 30s, the Log Lady worked in the town library while spending most of her time raising money for the Sierra Club. What happened next is briefly mentioned in the show, but the novel expounds on it quite a bit — she met her husband, Sam Lanterman, at a local lumber yard. He was a burly man, a legendary lumberjack, and an all-around affable guy. A yearlong courtship “right out of the 19th century” ensued. He proposed to her, coincidentally, near the spot where she experienced the perplexing overnight encounter of her youth, and a wedding date was set for a year later. But as we know, tragedy struck. Following their nuptials, a thunderstorm swept through the area and a lightning strike up the mountain started a large fire that engulfed the woods. As the volunteer fire chief, Sam rushed out with other volunteers to attempt to stop the fire from spreading, but in a devastating end, he was the sole casualty of the fire. She never spoke of his death, and buried him two days later in a plot behind the house they’d been building together up the mountain. In a final, poignant anecdote, we’re given the story about how she discovered her precious log:

They say she went up to visit the Heart of the Forest again the next day. Although dozens of acres had burned around it, the small grove of sycamores there was still standing. Nearby, a magnificent old-growth Douglas fir had fallen during the conflagration. When Margaret came back down she carried a piece of that great tree with her, cradling it like a newborn babe. She knew exactly which part of the great creature to take — it told her as much, she said — and from that day on Margaret and her log were inseparable.

Josie Packard
Peaks’s resident femme fatale gets an even more bonkers backstory. She was born Li Chun Fung, and her father was a high-ranking “Red Pole” officer in a well-known drug triad, while her mother was a legendarily beautiful prostitute who died from a heroin overdose a few days after Josie was born. Raised and trained by her father to one day take over the family business, she studied criminality at an exclusive boarding school and started running her own drug and prostitution ring at 16. (She even went so far as to entrap and extort members of the school’s administration and faculty.) After graduating she founded her own fashion label in Hong Kong, which served as a convenient cover for her expansive cocaine sale-and-distribution system in the 1970s; in a few years, her ruthless empire covered every corner of the film, music, and entertainment industry in the territory. However, in 1980, Josie’s father was unexpectedly gunned down in his Guangzhou nightclub, and it was made to look like (presumably by a rival triad) that she carried out the killing. She was forced to flee and vanished without a trace, before popping up shortly thereafter under a new alias at a Hong Kong Trade Center event, where she met Andrew. She was working as a hostess and claimed to be an orphaned art and design student at a local university. He immediately fell in love with her, but when he impulsively proposed a few days later, she turned him down.

During this time, Josie bought protection from and enlisted the help of import-export specialist Thomas Eckhardt to escape to another country; also during this time, Thomas and Andrew met and became business acquaintances. Thomas thought Josie would be staying with him in a Hong Kong safe house until her official arrangements were settled, but he discovered she had run off to Twin Peaks to be with (and marry) Andrew. When Josie arrived in the town, she promptly accepted his second marriage proposal.

Catherine Martell (née Packard) and Pete Martell
Pete — winner of six straight Lumberjack of the Year awards at the Packard Mill — and Catherine — who was frequently described as a “Packard by name, a Medici by inclination” by the townspeople — attended school in Twin Peaks together but never socialized. They became reacquainted in 1958 at the town’s annual square dance during Lumberjack Days. Catherine had just returned home from completing her senior year at Sarah Lawrence College, and Pete, who had just won another Lumberjack of the Year title, asked Catherine for a celebratory waltz. (He apparently had had his eye on her romantically for quite some time, but had never acted on his feelings.) Sparks quickly flew, and Catherine ended up forgoing her plans to study in Europe to get engaged and married to Pete. Their romance faded sharply after the wedding, and as we know, a loveless arrangement ensued that included Catherine partaking of an enduring dalliance with Ben Horne.

Hank Jennings
Hank was an exemplary student-athlete growing up. He developed a keen interest in American literature, especially Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain. He and Sheriff Truman were good friends, and the best players on Twin Peaks’s varsity football team, where they were the fullback and quarterback, respectively. He was thought to have a bright future ahead of him, but his first brush with the criminal underworld changed it all — when Peaks’s football team made it to the state finals and were moments away from scoring a game-winning touchdown, Hank unexpectedly lost grip of the football and dropped it. It was revealed that Jean Renault had paid him handsomely to fumble on purpose, and he continued to work for the Renault family in illegal capacities for the rest of his life. (It was during this time that he and Sheriff Truman severed their friendship.)

When not working for the Renaults, he also worked at the Double R Diner, where he was close to Norma. He courted her for many months before she accepted his proposal, and they married in an intimate ceremony before honeymooning elaborately in San Francisco and Los Angeles for a couple weeks. They settled in Twin Peaks, and Hank would make frequent, long trips abroad for “business” purposes, which quickly spurred a distant and loveless marriage between the two.

Norma Jennings (née Lindstrom)
Norma, described as a dazzling beauty in her youth, was head of the cheerleading squad and homecoming queen at Twin Peaks’s high school. She came from a modest family who lived on the shabbier side of town; her father, Marty, worked as a railroad employee for many years before changing course and opening the Double R Diner. She and Ed Hurley dated in high school, though their romance ended upon graduation. (More on that below.) She worked as a waitress at the Double R while attending a local community college, and, as outlined above, accepted Hank’s proposal and married him. As a newly married woman, she threw herself into finishing her college degree with the intention of becoming a nurse, but when her father was diagnosed with heart disease, she took over managing the Double R all on her own. She soon transformed the greasy spoon into a must-eat-at establishment that became famous for its coffee and cherry pie, even opening a small bakery next door that produced her mother’s pie recipes as a side business.

Ed Hurley
As a teenager, Ed was obsessed with cars, trucks, engines, and motorcycles, and was also deeply in love with Norma. Displaying a tendency to hesitate at crucial personal moments in his life, though, he never told her his feelings, and upon graduation he enlisted in the Army and headed out of town for basic training. Norma was also in love with him, but didn’t share her feelings either, and in the fall Ed left the States to begin a two-year hitch in Saigon. Hank — who had very briefly dated Norma in high school — took advantage of this, and went so far as to throw out every daily letter Ed sent Norma during his stint in Vietnam to make it seem like he didn’t care about her anymore.

When he returned home from the war to help raise his nephew James, he knew Norma was married, but he was still hopelessly in love. He took over running his father’s Gas Farm, where one day he met Nadine Goetz, who brought in her father’s large John Deere lawn mower for repairs. (Nadine attended high school with Ed, Norma, and Hank, but was a few years younger and a star gymnast; as a sophomore, she had had an “actual, honest-to-gosh nervous breakdown” and had to take a semester off to check into a mental hospital. At the time of meeting Ed, she was working as a seamstress in a nearby town.) They soon married, but shortly after their marriage ceremony, Ed accidentally shot Nadine in the left eye while on a bird-hunting trip with Sheriff Truman. This made her permanently lose vision in that eye, which gave her an “epiphany”: to create a completely silent set of drape runners.

Andrew Packard
Andrew wasn’t always the hard-boiled businessman we know him to be. As an eager Boy Scout, “Andy” experienced a harrowing, terrifying few moments in the Ghostwood National Forest with his young troop and scoutmaster — Dwayne Milford, who became Twin Peaks’s long-term mayor — that made him question “the unknown.” Following a hike that damaged his and his fellow scouts’ compasses, a sudden thunderstorm and torrential rainstorm struck the forest, which required everyone to remain in their large tent. Volunteering to run and get water from the lake, he encountered an extremely tall man in the distance staring at him, like he was “lit from within.” When the troop awoke the next morning, a fresh set of footprints of immense proportions surrounded the campsite.

Later in life, Andrew served for many successful decades as the president of the Packard family business, and also held important roles in the local community, including the Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce, the Optimists Club, the Elk Lodge, and the Masonic Lodge. He managed to anticipate his wife Josie’s attempt to kill him in a “boating accident”; he created a new identity — Anton Walbrook — and moved to Hong Kong to discover the truth about her, where he remained for three years, plotting the perfect time for his revenge.

Carl Rodd
Carl appeared in the prequel film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, as the owner of the Fat Trout Trailer Park, from which agent Chester Desmond mysteriously disappeared. He was one of the three elementary-school students — including the Log Lady — who vanished from their class’s nature walk, only to turn up unharmed 24 hours later. He, too, got a mark of three thin symmetrical triangles on the back of his right knee from the experience. After graduating from high school, he served in the Coast Guard as a boatswain’s mate during the early years of the Vietnam War. He went on to live an itinerant life, staying with the Native Aleut people in Alaska, serving as a tracker for hunting expeditions, and writing poetry and songs. He toyed with the idea of being a folksinger, and even performed stunts in a few mid-budget movies before returning to his hometown of Twin Peaks permanently, in the early 1980s. That’s when he became the co-owner and manager of the brand-new Fat Trout — he quickly became a favorite of the townspeople after he moved in. (So much so that the newspaper dedicated a frequent column to him, titled “Carl Said It.”)

Douglas Milford
Perhaps most interestingly, the novel reveals that Douglas was one of the most important figures in 20th-century otherworldly American history. (“Dougie” only appears in a few episodes of the series, where he dies in his bed of a heart attack the day after marrying Lana Budding.) As a scoutmaster in his youth, he encountered a “walking owl as tall as a man” and a “giant” in the Ghostwood National Forest, in nearly the same exact spot as Andrew did a few months later. This prompted him to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. He went on to have a long career — over 50 years — in the Air Force and military, which he left ranked as a highly revered lieutenant colonel. His accomplishments and the top-secret projects he worked on are far too extensive to list in their entirety, but he specifically dealt with government cases of an extraterrestrial or metaphysical nature. To name a few: He worked directly on the Roswell UFO incident; the Maury Island incident; Project Blue Book; and even visited a vast Florida military installation with President Richard Nixon and Jackie Gleason, where Nixon showed him and the famed entertainer a bona fide alien life-form. It survived the Roswell crash, and had a “grayish-greenish-white spiny back” with a “small and pale” figure.

Before Nixon was impeached, he had obtained funds for a secret program for Douglas to run, which was set up in untraceable offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands. Established in 1983, the program, called the Listening Post Alpha (“LPA”), had the goal of searching for intelligent life around Twin Peaks and the entire Northwest. It operated completely off the books of any official government or military oversight. Douglas handpicked Major Briggs to help run its day-to-day operations.

Major Garland Briggs
Douglas hired Major Briggs for the confidential LPA program, who at the time was a young officer stationed at the Fairchild Air Force Base in nearby Spokane, with his wife and son, Bobby. (The LPA and its large, secluded building in the mountains were outwardly said to have been built to help the local airport upgrade its runways, communications, and security system to modern standards.) Originally, Major Briggs thought he was hired for a Strategic Defense Initiative job, but once Douglas shared the true intentions of the mission with him a few months later, he immediately agreed to continue working on the program. Douglas said he picked Major Briggs because of his background in structural engineering and architecture, and also because he experienced (and anonymously reported) a UFO sighting while co-piloting an aircraft in western Montana in 1979. When Douglas died, at the age of 80, Major Briggs continued to run the program on his own.

Twin Peaks Character Backstories, Explained