The town where Twin Peaks was filmed has its own share of mysterious deaths

Fans of David Lynch’s 1990s cult classic know the heavily wooded stretch of Southeast Reinig Road as the real-life location of a now-famous fictional sign: “Welcome to Twin Peaks, Population 51,201”.

On that same road nine years after Twin Peaks premiered, then 39-year-old Dayva Cross stabbed his wife and two of his stepdaughters to death in their rambling brown ranch house. He kept a third stepdaughter captive in his bedroom for hours, dragging her out occasionally so he could refill his wine glass.

The 13-year-old escaped. Police later found Cross slumped on his bed, smoking a cigarette. The crime rattled Snoqualmie, which was already on edge. Because two weeks before Cross’s killing spree, a family dog in the area had brought home a grisly trophy: part of a human hand that police later traced to a woman’s remains.

In Snoqualmie Valley, the truth can be even more frightening than fiction.

Snoqualmie Valley has seen its share of odd deaths. Photograph: Karen Ducey for the Guardian

Lynch and Mark Frost created the surreal TV series, and Twin Peaks 2.0 will hit screens on Sunday. . They set the eerie murder mystery in lumber territory outside of Seattle for the quirky charm of small towns such as Snoqualmie, North Bend and Fall City, for the region’s brooding beauty, for its slight air of menace.

The pair – both heavily involved in the show’s return – had already written the pilot and were scouting locations in Washington state when a friend of Frost’s suggested they check out Snoqualmie, “so we drove out there and literally found the place that we’d written already existing,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “It was a really weird moment of synchronicity.”

Despair brings the suicidal to mist-shrouded Snoqualmie Falls, some 30 miles east of Seattle and a recurring motif through the show’s two seasons. Misadventure regularly claims the lives of hikers and skiers, and Snoqualmie Valley’s thick woods all too regularly hide human remains.

“I would not want to be quoted as saying it’s a dumping ground,” said Sgt Cindi West, spokeswoman for the King County sheriff’s office. “Dumping implies someone put it there. But we’ve had our fair share of bodies found in the area.

“Some are hikers that have died, some have killed themselves and others are either undetermined or victims of homicide,” she said. “If you think about it, Seattle is a very populated area, and [Snoqualmie Valley] is the first really empty place outside the city.”

The body of Twin Peaks homecoming queen Laura Palmer wasn’t the first discovered in the region, and it certainly will not be the last.

A replica of a Twin Peaks sheriff’s patrol car in Snoqualmie.

A replica of a Twin Peaks sheriff’s patrol car in Snoqualmie. Photograph: Jason Redmond/Reuters

In the decade before Twin Peaks, the Green River Killer began his deadly rampage throughout the Pacific Northwest. Gary L Ridgway, described as America’s most prolific serial killer, was a commercial truck painter who preyed on women at the margins of society.

In 2003, he led investigators to the remains of April Buttram, 17, one of at least five victims he buried in and around Snoqualmie and North Bend. The teenager had disappeared 20 years earlier.

Mark Lindquist, chief prosecuting attorney in neighboring Pierce County, ascribes Snoqualmie Valley’s gruesome heritage to what he calls a “self-perpetuating myth”.

“Once something is publicized as a place for X, then it enters the public consciousness as a place where you do X,” said the author of novels about weird crime in his own neck of the woods.

And if X is corpse disposal?

“On a practical level,” Lindquist said, “you’re not going to dump a body in downtown Seattle.”

Sheriff Harry S Truman, one of Lynch’s fictional Twin Peaks crime fighters, has a more nefarious explanation: “There’s a sort of evil out there,” he says in episode four. “Something very, very strange in these old woods. Call it what you want, a darkness, a presence. It takes many forms, but it’s been out there for as long as anyone can remember. And we’ve always been here to fight it.”

Either way, the tragedies take their toll on the Snoqualmie Valley.

Baby Kimball’s shrine is visible near where she was abandoned.

Baby Kimball’s shrine is visible near where she was abandoned. Photograph: Karen Ducey for the Guardian

In 2014, a tiny body was discovered along a lonely stretch of country road between Snoqualmie and North Bend. Her umbilical cord was still attached. She was wrapped in a towel. Local authorities in rural Washington state named her Baby Kimball, after the creek near where she was found.

Three years have passed. Her life and death remain a mystery. But Valley residents have since erected a small shrine on Southeast North Bend Way to mark where the newborn was discarded. Its sides are rough wood; its roof, pale green metal siding. Inside, there’s a white cross with Baby Kimball written in black marker.

Rev Marty Benedict, family life pastor at Snoqualmie Valley Alliance Church, serves as chaplain of Eastside Fire & Rescue and the Snoqualmie police and fire departments. He counsels the families of victims and the first responders who handle bodies. He also presided over the dumped newborn’s funeral.

Rev Marty Benedict’s church parking lot served as a kind of back lot when this year’s installments were filmed.

Rev Marty Benedict’s church parking lot served as a kind of back lot when this year’s installments were filmed. Photograph: Karen Ducey for the Guardian

Between 75 and 100 people showed up for the service, Benedict said, and “I talked about our part as a community, how we embraced an unknown child, how we came together to love her, to care for her.”

Benedict worked at Salish Lodge & Spa, the Great Northern Hotel of Twin Peaks fame, when the show’s first season premiered. His church parking lot served as a kind of back lot when this year’s installments were filmed.

“That created a little buzz again,” Benedict said. “It’s kind of a fun thing, I think, for the community.”

As the new Twin Peaks air date neared, Salish Lodge offeredfans the “Twin Peaks Experience”, which included a Dale Cooper cocktail and the chance to binge-watch the show’s first season from their hotel rooms.

Twede’s Cafe, aka Twin Peaks’ Double R Diner, sells “A Damn Fine Cup of Coffee” by the pound and slices of “Twin Peaks Cherry” pie. Employees work in T-shirts advertising the restaurant and the show.

Not all of them, however, are impressed.

“I’ve never seen Twin Peaks,” said Jesse Lester, a 16-year-old student who buses tables at Twede’s. “I’ve heard it’s very bizarre, though.”

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