The Twilight Saga and Other Strange Phenomena

Forks, Washington

By —— Bio and Archives--November 27, 2011

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imageThere was a time in my life when I thought the only contribution the little town of Forks in northwestern Washington made to civilization was rain, receiving over 100 inches of the dreary slop each and every year. That shows you what I knew, and how utterly unsophisticated I am because concealed in this old, middle-class logging town wedged between Olympic National Park to the southeast and 60 miles of wilderness beach a few miles west are handsome, albeit pasty-looking, blood-sucking vampires casting bedroom eyes at exposed necklines, breathing deep and working up ferocious appetites for things dripping, red and raw.

These aren’t your run-of-the-mill vampires. The nice ones are “vegetarian” because they’re partial to animal, rather than human, blood. They run fast, though not as fast as a speeding bullet, jump and bounce and flip through the air with the greatest of ease, and are strong beyond belief; stop-a-moving-car-with-your-bare-hands strong. They blend in with humans because they come without the telltale fangs and exhibit a measure of restraint when they get the munchies. One particular hundred-year-old vamp youngster named Edward bears a striking resemblance, as far as looks go, to our dearly-departed James Dean of East of Eden fame.

Not to be outdone, living deep in the dark, moss-covered, evergreen forest are bare-chested Native American Indians of the Quileute tribe who morph into wolves the size of mules. When they’re not running around shirtless flexing their overgrown pecs, they spend days and nights galloping about on all fours ripping the less fortunate, but sometimes deserving, to shreds, occasionally for a noble cause. It’s fair to say the vampires and werewolves in Forks don’t like each other, a virulent animosity that’s been festering for decades, if not centuries.

And when the vampires and man-wolves aren’t ripping and tearing and drooling and slurping, they all talk to each other in deliberate slow monotones interspersed with long melodramatic pauses for effect that’ll put you to sleep if you’re not careful. I think they call that “art.”

There’s even a pretty 18-year-old virgin girl in Forks - Bella Swan - if you can believe that in today’s America. Bella’s deeply in love with the vampire Edward but can’t decide between him and the werewolf Jacob whom she seems to toy with emotionally. They’re crazy about her, compete for her affections, cherish her and make fools of themselves in the process. Bella loves that kind of attention. Let’s go ahead and say it - Bella’s a tease. As for premarital sex, that’s out of the question, hovering just beyond reach but giving the threesome a tension rarely seen in film nowadays; something blue, something new. More importantly, the boys are committed to constantly protecting her from really bad vampires who want her dead and drained.


Like all girls her age wrestling with those yucky hormones, Bella mopes around and has a hard time making decisions. Yet, despite her faults, she’s got one thing going for her others might envy. She’s the high school superstar sweetheart of the phenomenally successful Twilight Saga books and movies that are sweeping the planet. Smashing box-office records, these popular movies are lining love-starved teenage girls mostly, and a few frustrated older women, around the block at the Cinemax who loyally wait for the latest installment of forbidden vampire lust, confounding teenage angst, overpowering primal odors, and digitally animated supernatural gore. Chicks go for the romance, and guys are in it for the action. There’s even a plot or two.


Film adaptations of Stephenie Meyer’s New York Times best-selling books (over 100 million copies sold globally, with translations into 37 different languages), the movies have grossed over 375-trillion dollars to date, and counting. “Breaking Dawn,” the latest Twilight movie which opened last week, has got Hollywood in a tizzy over the kind of money this fantasy-romance-action story is bringing in. By now most everyone who pays the least attention to film has heard of Forks, Washington. It’s a real place, and it turns out the folks are genuinely friendly and as patriotic as American pie. Over the years I’ve blasted right on through remote Forks a dozen times or more and never blinked twice - until now.


The Twilight phenomena has put Forks (pop. 3,500) in the spotlight and routinely draws giddy tourists in the thousands from every corner of the globe. It’s also created a mecca for all things Twilight; driving and audio tours, vacation rentals, online communities, Twilight festivals, themed sandwiches and lasagna, Twilight memorabilia galore - some cheesy, some not - entire Twilight stores, even. The Twilight industrial mini-complex was greatly needed around here, and is much appreciated no doubt in the wake of the timber industry’s recent hard times that have thrown many locals out of work. And while the residents might not be getting rich off the supernatural, every bit helps. The author, Stephenie Meyer, did good.


A great way to meet the locals is on the 4th of July during the parade when the audience lines up and down Main Street while a respectable convoy of floats creep by and candy flies. If you’re in town for a visit, whatever you do, drive the dozen miles or so west down the 110 to the coast. If you take the Mora Road turn-off north across the Quillayute and Sol Duc rivers you can camp in the very tall trees at Mora Campground and explore Rialto Beach. With enormous driftwood logs cluttering the high-tide mark, tall evergreens lining the sand for miles, and rookery stacks and rocky islands just off shore, the place is beautiful.


If you return to the 110 and follow the La Push Road down to La Push and the Quileute Indian Reservation you can visit First Beach and Second Beach, if you don’t mind a short walk. Both beaches played roles in the Twilight Saga. This is where Jacob and his werewolf family den. They have cabins out in the woods someplace, but not to worry. Pick up your trash and carry it out, don’t run around naked on the beach, don’t make a nuisance of yourself while out on the Rez, and you probably won’t have your jugular ripped out of the side of your neck and your innards disemboweled by the pack who have a low tolerance for annoying tourists who cross the line.


We got our first taste of Twilight while watching the second movie in the series, New Moon. “Do I have to?” I asked as she popped in the DVD and settled back. An hour or more later I felt an elbow in my ribs. “Wake up. I think something’s going to happen.” Bleary-eyed I sat straight and spotted Bella and Edward in Italy of all places with a coven of super vampires who seem to be calling the shots, ruling that Bella could live if she became a vampire. Something like that. Whatever.


This summer on yet another trip through Forks I made it a point to swing by the Chamber of Commerce. Bella’s reddish-orange ‘53 Chevy pickup was parked out front, though why she kept it parked here was a mystery to me. When I asked the pretty Chamber girl where Bella was hiding, I was met with a distant stare and a sigh as she handed me a small packet of material - a driving-tour map with directions and photos of Twilight landmarks.

“Do I have to?” I asked as we set off, me feeling like a fool, but curious as to what a vampire looks like in the non-flesh, and smells like, in real life. After a few wrong turns we ended up parked in front of Bella’s home at 775 K Street where she lives with her dad, a local cop. No one seemed to be home at the small two-story house, and as much as I wanted to see if she was as cute in person as she was on screen, and ask her why she kept her truck parked way over there at the Chamber, I resisted a knock on the Swan’s door, snapped a photo instead like any self-respecting paparazzi, and drove to the Cullen place.

Three stories tall, surrounded by lofty trees and a manicured lawn, the Cullen home is where Edward lives with his family, or coven, of vegetarian vampires. “Don’t you dare,” she said as I shook off her hand. “They’re dangerous.” Undaunted I stepped out of the car, hitched up my pants, took a deep breath and walked over to the porch where I knocked and waited. And waited. And waited some more. I knew they were in there, drooling no doubt, fighting back those plasma-deficient hunger pangs.

I could sense their presence, palpable, eerie, and when I could wait no longer I walked back to the car disappointed, but feeling their eyes burning a hole in the back of my neck, peeking from behind drawn curtains on the second floor with blood-lust, wanting to suck me dry. Let me rephrase that - wanting to sink their pearly whites into the soft folds of my dirty neck and drain the bubbly red stuff out, just for the snack of it.

After that we circled through town, a great way to get a feel for the place, by the way, visiting other Twilight hot spots; Bella’s high school, the police department, the hospital. And we got lost and turned around more than once. There’s a lot more to Forks than meets the eye; it’s spread out all over. But I never saw Bella in the flesh, and if I ran into a vampire or a werewolf I never would have known.

The latest installment of the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn, is not only a huge box-office success, but it’s powerful in its rendering. So powerful that reports of seizures and convulsions have been reported during Bella’s birthing scene. A virgin no more I’m guessing, Bella marries Edward the vampire and though I’m not sure how they pulled it off, she has the big one. Can’t blame the audience, though. If I watched Bella give birth to a hybrid vampire, or anything else for that matter, I’d be on my hands and knees too, retching along with the best of them.

That fall, just a few weeks ago, we drove south from Forks on the 101 and camped in a small campground near Humptulips. We had the place to ourselves, but something was amiss, something just didn’t feel right among those dark and spooky trees so we moved on quickly the next day. A few weeks later I read that one John Chase, while riding his bike up the 101 and camping in the forest along the way, walked into 89-year-old Ralph Aldrich’s yard in Humptulips, a wonderful man who never harmed a fly, and shot him in the back with a crossbow, killing him. Chase then moved inside the house and attacked Ralph’s 83-year-old wife, June, taking a hatchet to her head. She wasn’t found for 19 hours and succumbed to her injuries not long after. Appearing deluded, the attacker claims to have slain demons. So for those of you who don’t believe in vampires or werewolves in this country, think again, because they’re alive and well, and strolling among us as we speak.


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John Treadwell Dunbar -- Bio and Archives | Comments

John Treadwell Dunbar is a freelance writer

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