The Art of Possession – Becoming a Vessel for a Spirit
The art of possession within the world of Twin Peaks is not a very clear idea, and with many movies and other stories concerning possession, it makes it even less clear. This article will first lay out the basics of how a person may be possessed in the world of Twin Peaks, and then flesh each of these out in a more clear, and concise manner. We will stay strictly to the world of Twin Peaks, but may touch on sources of information to clarify important points.
Let’s Count the Ways
The first type of possession is the way that Leland Palmer was possessed by BOB. In episode 16, Leland explains that he opened himself up to BOB and let him in. This is the first type of possession, when a person willingly allows a spirit inside them for whatever reason it may be.
The second type of possession is by brute force, which we almost saw in Fire Walk With Me. BOB tried to possess Laura in the train car by performing a type of ritualistic ceremony that involved candles, a mirror, and forcing Laura to say a specific phrase.
The third type of possession is through the Black Lodge. We see this type of possession in the final episode of the series. Cooper enters the Lodge and meets up with his doppelganger, or shadow-self. The good Cooper is left behind, trapped in the Lodge while BOB exits using the doppelganger as his vessel.
There is probably a fourth type of possession which is less obvious to individuals being possessed and to others because there is actually no “possession” as we have laid out above. This fourth type of possession would be the removal of individuals and the appearance of spirits. When the spirits work is over, the original individuals appear again. Whether or not, this is actually a possession is hard to say, but we will lay out the guidelines here.
As a young boy, Leland Palmer visited Pearl Lakes. As he explained to Cooper in episode 10, the drawing of the man (BOB) in the wanted poster lived next door to his grandparent’s vacation home. But it’s not until episode 16 at the time of Leland’s death do we fully understand what happened to Leland. During a summer up at the lake, Leland opened himself up, invited you could say, so that BOB would enter him.
Leland told Cooper in his dying breaths, “When he was inside I didn’t know and when he was gone I couldn’t remember…he said they wanted lives, they wanted others, others that they could use like they used me.”
This type of possession is one of the most simple, and goes along with many of the Judeo-Christian beliefs of possession. In many cases, an individual must allow a spirit to enter their body. As a result, this individual may get other things in return. However, for Leland, he was probably tricked into opening himself up for BOB.
In the case of Leland two things may have happened:
1. When visiting the summer home, BOB would end up coming into contact with Leland somehow. Perhaps at night by the lakes when Leland was alone, BOB would appear to him in a vision. Leland tells Cooper in his dying breaths that BOB visited him in his dreams, much like how BOB visited Laura in her early teen years. It’s also possible that BOB visited Leland through an existing vessel, possibly a man or woman who lived on the lakes. BOB may have enticed Leland with great things and a great future, preparing Leland to allow BOB inside him. During these times, BOB flipped matches at Leland asking, “Do you want to play with fire, little boy?” This enticement, the idea of having great things (a great life, great girls, etc), convinced Leland that it would be okay to allow BOB to enter him. Then one night, he did, unknowing what BOB’s real plans were. Leland was tricked.
2. The second option may have been more like Laura’s unsuccessful possession and leaned more toward brute force, which we will get to in the next section. During his years growing up, Leland may have been enticed, and then mentally and physically abused by BOB in order to break him down. Leland tells Cooper that Laura was strong, inferring that Leland was not strong enough to go against BOB. So we could surmise that Leland couldn’t take much of this abuse and, as a means of bringing an end to it, finally allowed BOB inside him so the pain and suffering would end.
Leland’s possession is key to what would happen to Laura many years later. This event in the late 50s or early 60s would domino into Laura’s ultimate demise.
As already mentioned there could have been two different ways that Leland was possessed, through opening oneself or through a type of brute force. It is our belief that Leland fits under the first category, and not another brute force, which explains more of Laura’s unsuccessful possession.
As most of us know, Laura’s interactions with BOB started when she was 12 years old and only increased and grew worse through the years. Laura’s second entry in her secret diary is proof: “I hope BOB doesn’t come tonight.” However they didn’t get really bad until two years later: June 22, 1986 . According to this entry, BOB first started to just “play” with Laura, a type of hide and seek. Laura explains that thinking back on it, BOB was not playing in a nice manner, but would often try and scare her. It’s not until this date that Laura confides in her diary what BOB has been doing to her. She doesn’t exactly say when the sexual abuse started, but it’s obvious from her previous entries that things had not yet gone too far between her and BOB. The harsh abuse probably did not start until after Laura was fully into puberty and after she started her period. Sometime in 1985 or 86, the abuse had grown worse.
Leland refers to Laura as a strong person, and able to withstand the “advances” of BOB and to stop him from entering her. This strength is obvious when she directly confronts BOB and the tree that he would take her to in the July 25, 1986 entry. And then in her own mind, she stood up against BOB again on August 3, 1986 when she and Bobby made love for the first time in a barn. Laura writes:
“I felt truly satisfied, like years of taunting and emotional pulling and pushing had been set free….The tension and the anxiousness that I felt for so long, about how it would be when someone really wanted me. Not because they wanted me to weep or to die slowly of a sadness I could not name…I felt like I should feel, like all girls should feel…but I could not forget that there were other worlds to think about.”
A few months later, and after trying to stay awake in order to see BOB coming through the window, BOB took one more step inside Laura’s head…he started using her hand to write to her via the diary. It’s at about this point that the pain and suffering that BOB had been producing within Laura drove her to subdue it with lines of cocaine.
The ongoing abuse continued to grow. In the November 13, 1987 entry, Laura asks BOB want he wants. He writes: “I WANT YOU.” He goes on to say that her life is worthless and that Laura owes her loyalty to him. As you can see, BOB is beginning to plant the idea of convincing Laura to open herself up for him, trying to convince her that she needs him, and that she owes him.
With the continuing abuse from BOB and his demands to be Laura (FWWM: “I want to taste through your mouth”), it was only a matter of time before Laura would give up and open herself up to BOB, freely allowing BOB to enter her.
However, this time never came, and the brute force would be necessary. According to Leland right before his death, “They wanted Laura.” But according to her father, she was too strong for them, and wouldn’t let BOB in. So they forced Leland to kill her.
Following Laura on the night of her death, Leland passed by the Log Lady’s cabin and then came upon Jacques’ where he waited until Jacques came out of the cabin after tying up Laura and having sex with her. He knocked Jacques out, and then Leo ran off after seeing his friend on the ground. Ronette and Laura now belonged to Leland. He took both of them to the train car where he began to put together the brute force ceremony that would ultimately lead to the possession of Laura Palmer.
This ceremony is not described in depth and is only inferred for this article. However, we can assume that there is a ritual that BOB must put a person through in order to possess that person. In the case of Laura, he tied her arms back, like Albert described in the Sheriff Station, and then placed a mirror in front of her face so she was forced to look at herself, and at the time of possession, BOB. Somewhere in the car there may have also been a circle of 12 candles representing the 12 sycamores at Glastonberry Grove (see the Glastonberry Grove Theory Article). Also in the car is a small mound of dirt with a note at the base that reads Fire Walk With Me in blood. The key to this ceremony is to force Laura to say those words: “Fire Walk With Me” which will allow BOB to enter her.
The word “fire” may refer to two things: 1) BOB (or possibly any other spirit that is working on the possession) or 2) it may also refer to power or magic. Leland tells Cooper that BOB asked him if he wanted to play with fire, thus play with BOB (or BOB’s power). In regards to the phrase, “Fire Walk With Me,” the person is requesting that BOB/spirit (or power) walks with them in their life. That’s why when Laura said the phrase when speaking with Harold in FWWM, she suddenly changed. She opened herself up for a split second.
Through this ritualistic ceremony, BOB tries to force Laura to allow him in by slowly wearing her down. At any point when Laura gives up, he can enter her. This brute force may have worked if it wasn’t for the appearance of the angel, and also the ring that Mike/Gerard throws into the train car. By putting the ring on, Laura makes one final stand, forcing BOB to kill Laura, just as Leland described right before his death. (See the Ring Theory Article for more information concerning the power of the ring.)
The Black Lodge Possession
UPDATE: June 1, 2017: With the new season of Twin Peaks this third type of possession is now in question. As Season 3 unfolds, this section may require updates.
Even less is known about how the Black Lodge truly functions and what actually happened in episode 29 when Dale Cooper entered the lodge and tried to rescue Annie from Windom Earle.
However we can surmise from the basic information given in episode 29 to get a good understanding of this type of possession. We must begin with Hawk’s statement to Cooper about the lodges in episode 18:
Cooper: …Have either of you fellas heard of the White Lodge?
Hawk: Where’d you hear of it?
Cooper: Well, it was the last thing Major Briggs said to me before he disappeared.
Hawk: Cooper, you may be fearless in this world, but there are other worlds.
Cooper: Tell me more.
Hawk: My people believe the White Lodge is the place where the spirits that rule men and nature here reside.
Harry: Local legend, goes way back.
Hawk: There is also a legend of a place called the Black Lodge, the shadow-self of the White Lodge. The legend says that every soul must pass through there on the way to perfection. There you will meet your own shadow-self. My people call it The Dweller on the Threshold…but it is said if you confront the Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.
This is pretty much all we know about the lodges when Cooper enters it for the very first time in episode 29. Upon entering though, the audience, and Cooper, both connect his dream from episode 2 with what this new place is…they are the same.
In episodes 26 and 27, we are given a bit more insight into the Lodges by the rhetoric of Windom Earle as he explains to Leo and their captive Rusty Tomaski what the Lodges are. He says:
“Once upon a time, there was a place of great goodness called The White Lodge. Gentle fawns gamboled there amongst happy, laughing spirits. The sounds of innocence and joy filled the air and when it rained, it rained sweet nectar that infused one’s heart to live life in truth and beauty. Generally speaking, a ghastly place, reeking of virtue’s sour smell…but I’m happy to point out that our story does not end in this place…for there is another place, it’s opposite. A place of almost unimaginable power, chock full of dark forces and vicious secrets…spirits there are as likely to rip the flesh from your bones than greet you with a happy “good day”. And to harvest these spirits in this hidden land…would offer up a power so vast that it’s bearer might re-order the Earth itself to his liking. Now, this place I speak of is known as the Black Lodge and I intend to find it.”
As we can see, Earle explains that the Black Lodge is a place of great evil, where spirits are hunters and whose expressed purpose is the continuing of evil’s existence. Whereas, the White Lodge is a place of goodness and purity, the spirits there are helpful and inspiring to further the propagation of goodness. At this moment, we learn that Windom Earle’s primary goal was to find the Black Lodge. When Major Briggs signs on to help Cooper with his investigation, Cooper has him look through the Project Bluebook files because he and Earle had worked together on it. While doing this, the Major finds a videotape of Earle discussing evil sorcerers, the dugpas and their tapping into the Lodge where evil is “cultivated” in “exponential fashion”. This is when Cooper realizes what Earle is after and that they have to get there before Earle does. At the end of episode 27, we see the location of the portal into the Black Lodge, when we see BOB’s hand emerge from the darkness and he appears declaring, “I’m out!” Two other points learned in episode 28: one, the opening appears when Jupiter and Saturn are in conjunction and that “Fear and love open the doors” fear=Black, love=White.
Looking back on Hawk’s description of the Lodges, the important point is his final statement:
“The legend says that every soul must pass through there on the way to perfection. There you will meet your own shadow-self. My people call it The Dweller on the Threshold…but it is said if you confront the Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.”
For many people, Cooper entered with imperfect courage, and that is why he was trapped. However, another view could be made that might fit better. Cooper’s soul was not annihilated, it was trapped within the lodge. But one person’s soul was destroyed – Earle’s. Earle entered the black lodge, not with courage, but as a means to tap into its power. He then crossed the line by trying to take Cooper’s soul. He didn’t have permission to do this, and because Earle entered the lodge for a different reason other than with perfect courage, BOB destroyed his soul, allowing Cooper to try and escape.
When trying to escape, Cooper comes into contact with what Hawk referred to as “shadow-self” or “The Dweller on the Threshold.” LMFAP referred to this shadow-self as a doppelganger, a being with gray-white eyes.
Cooper’s first meeting of a doppelganger was when he saw LMFAP’s opposite, followed by the screaming Laura doppelganger. He later saw the evil side of Leland, which held him up, just in time for Cooper’s own doppelganger to appear at the other end of the hallway. At this point, Cooper begins to try and escape, outrun his opposite. Now for many this is his imperfect courage coming forth, and there is evidence to support this, but since Cooper did enter the lodge and confronted Earle, and even BOB, with courage, then he did pass this test. The next step is to outrun his opposite and get out of the lodge before he comes face to face with the doppelganger.
In the very last room, Cooper’s doppelganger catches up with him and the lights go out. Only our imagination can fill in the blanks at this point, but it might be safe to assume the following happened:
When the doppelganger catches up with Cooper, Cooper is pulled back. His good self is removed from his body, and Cooper’s evil self enters, controlled by and manifested through BOB. The good Cooper is trapped in the lodge, as Annie tells Laura in FWWM during her dream. He can’t leave and no one on the outside is aware of the change, and the possession of Dale Cooper by BOB.
The fourth type is the hardest to explain because it isn’t a “true” possession, but a temporary placement of spirits where humans normally are.
The best example of this is Mrs. Tremond and her grandson who supposedly live next door to Harold Smith. When Donna and Cooper come to visit them, however, they are suddenly gone. The same goes with the trailer that belonged to the Chalfonts at Fat Trout Trailer Park in Deer Meadow in FWWM. The third example is less obvious and is only mentioned when Leland is talking to Cooper and Harry about the man in the wanted poster. He explains that the man lived near his grandfather’s summer house at Pearl Lakes, but when Hawk checks out the house, it’s boarded up.
This indicates that the spirits are allowed to possess the home, or location, of an individual for a need. In the case of BOB, it was to get closer to Leland as a young child. For the case of Mrs. Tremond and grandson, it was probably to help lead Donna to Harold Smith. The reason for Mrs. Chalfont and grandson to be at Fat Trout is still unclear. We may be able to surmise that Tremond/Chalfont and Grandson are spirit guides, or spirits that help lead individuals into certain directions.
What Happens to the Original Soul?
In the first three types, there is a soul in the body (we will call it a vessel for this segment). We have Leland, Laura, and Cooper. Because we only see two actual possessions, we are going to remove Laura from the equation for now, and insert Philip Gerard (Mike).
In the case of Leland’s vessel, it seems like two souls are present in the body, BOB, and also Leland. Right before dying, Leland says that he was not aware when BOB entered and was not aware of what happened when BOB left. So for Leland’s soul, there was missing time that he couldn’t account for, which explains why BOB would often visit Laura at night, while Leland was asleep, so that “missing time” wasn’t so obvious for Leland. He would probably wake up in the morning, not understanding why he was so tired, or why his shoes were covered in mud. He may have passed it off as sleep-walking. This same type of possession happened with Gerard. He explains to Cooper that he used drugs in order to keep Mike from appearing, which indicates that for Gerard, he was able to sense when Mike was taking control, and learned that drugs would keep the spirit away. The other possession that we are aware of is the Giant and Senor Droolcup (the waiter). It’s obvious that the old man is the vessel for the Giant and is around each time the Giant appears to Cooper. This is the case each time Cooper sees The Giant except for the final time when The Giant waving his hands in the final episodes. As far as we know, the waiter is not around which might explain why The Giant appeared and disappeared so quickly, and Cooper couldn’t hear his voice. The Giant may have been able to leave his vessel for only a short period of time to warn Cooper, but didn’t have all his abilities because the vessel was not nearby.
In the case of Dale Cooper, we have an entirely different situation. Cooper’s good self is stuck in the lodge, which means that his evil self (manifested through BOB) has complete control of his body. Only one soul is inside the vessel of Dale Cooper, unlike with Gerard, Leland, and the waiter.
The question that remains to be answered, and never will be, is does BOB ever leave Cooper’s body, and if so, what remains…the evil-self? And if that’s the case, would it not be obvious that something is “wrong” with Dale Cooper?
The art of possession in Twin Peaks is key to the surrounding pain and suffering of some of the townsfolk, and more specifically, the Palmer family. As we have explored, there are three main types of possession (and a similar fourth one) that the spirits of the lodge can use in order to possess an individual or influence their actions, as is the case with the Tremonds/Chalfonts.
For other individuals in the series who are also possessed with spirits (like Senor Droolcup-waiter- is possessed or is used by the Giant) these spirits use humans as one means of traveling and interacting with other humans, without rising suspicion unnecessarily. In many respects, Senor Droolcup is much like Phillip Gerard in how he is possessed.