The Secret History of Twin Peaks: The Cooper Section (Secrets and Mysteries, Part 7)

Much like Twin Peaks (the television experience), Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks is full of mysteries that can make your head spin at times. I had read it twice around the time it was published — once at breakneck speed looking for answers about what had happened to our beloved Twin Peaks characters since we last saw a bloodied Dale Cooper asking “How’s Annie?” (I sure didn’t get many of those answers); the other a more analytical approach questioning many of the sections that didn’t make sense.

The more I dug in, the more I enjoyed it. This, of course, was before we were treated to the return of Twin Peaks to our TVs in the summer of 2017.

With The Return now a year in the rear-view mirror, I looked forward to re-reading Secret History for this article. Some of it made more sense to me now (especially after reading Frost’s The Final Dossier), but other parts remain just as mysterious.

One of those sections is the portion of the Briggs dossier that was allegedly written by Special Agent Dale Cooper, which is what I’ll be focusing on for this article.

The Andrew Packard Case (part 1)

About halfway through the dossier (p. 153), the Archivist switches gears suddenly from Douglas Milford’s involvement with UFOs to some background on the town of Twin Peaks. This section includes a series of book excerpts and other documents that help fill in the backgrounds of some of Twin Peaks’ big players, such as the Martell’s, Packard’s, Jennings, and Hurleys.

The Archivist introduces “The Andrew Packard Case” (p. 169), a document that he says has an unknown author and was found in the Bookhouse.[1] It’s dated March 15, 1989, which places it right around the time Major Briggs disappears in the woods during his camping trip with Cooper, and it’s also the date of Douglas Milford’s note to Briggs that is included at the end of the dossier (p. 357).[2]

Agent Tammy Preston eventually deduces that it’s in fact Cooper who penned “The Andrew Packard Case” document due to the tone being consistent with his case notes, as well as a comment about loving the coffee and pie from the Double R.[3] At the tail end of the section on Andrew Packard, the author basically identifies himself as Cooper, stating that Josie had tried to kill him. And on top of that, the Packard document is directly followed by a handwritten note (more on this later) responding to Cooper himself.

So it’s curious why the Archivist would say the author of the Packard document is unknown. Unless maybe he didn’t believe that Cooper was the author.

Assuming, however, that Agent Preston is correct about Cooper writing this portion of the dossier, it’s still riddled with head-scratchers. Right in the first page of the document, Cooper makes a couple of very odd statements: First, he writes that Josie was born and raised in an orphanage. He then says Josie’s marriage license states she was 19 years old.[4] On the very next page, Cooper includes an Interpol document (verified by Tammy) that shows Josie was instead born to a mob-boss father and attended a private boarding school.[5]

When Cooper picks the narrative back up, he says “Josie was actually 27 when she met her soon-to-be husband, not the 21 she claimed.”[6] Cooper, a mere few paragraphs earlier, said she was 19 when she married Andrew Packard.

The document goes on to explain how Josie hires Hank Jennings to sabotage Andrew’s boat and cause an explosion that levels the boathouse and scatters unidentifiable human remains. Hank, meanwhile, is conveniently arrested just before the explosion to help cover up his crime. Everyone believes Andrew died in the blast but is somehow tipped off and manages to fake his own death. This all adds up to what plays out in the television series, helping to somewhat clear up this confusing plot line. In the TV version, characters refer to Andrew’s boating accident as the cause of his death, but there really aren’t a ton of details.

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Tammy comments that this plot twist almost seems to be lifted from the 1981 film Body Heat [7] — an amusing detail, but one that makes me wonder if this is the *true* story we’re getting.

Another odd comment from Cooper comes on page 3 of his report: “It’s not known exactly when [Sheriff Truman and Josie’s] romance began: I believe it happened after Andrew Packard’s ‘first death.'” Once again we find a contradiction just one page later. On page 4 or his report, Cooper states: “Near the end of her period of ‘mourning,’ around the time the insurance companies took a harder look at the accident, Josie first ensnared the good and decent Sheriff Harry Truman in her web, as an insurance policy of her own.” Why is Cooper making these contradictory statements?

This also doesn’t match up with a scene in Twin Peaks (which takes place just before the famous fish-in-the-percolator line), where Harry tells Cooper directly that he’s only been seeing Josie for the past 6 weeks.[8] That scene would have taken place in 1989, whereas Andrew’s death occurred in 1987, according to the dossier.

Cooper then transitions into a tangent on Hank Jennings’ past, in which we learn that Hank was originally part of the Bookhouse Boys until he was accused of fumbling on purpose in the Twin Peaks High state championship football game in 1968.[9] (To summarize the game, either Cooper or the Archivist includes a Twin Peaks Gazette article written by Robert Jacoby — a giant mystery on his own all throughout the Secret History. Read Brien Allen’s summary of all of the Robert Jacoby weirdness.)

Norma, Big Ed, and Hank

Cooper’s report then moves on to talk about Big Ed, Norma, and a brief history of the Double R diner. This section really set off flashing red lights when I first read it. Norma’s mother, Ilsa Lindstrom, dies in 1984, according to Cooper.[10] But wait, didn’t Norma’s mom show up in Season 2 of Twin Peaks? And why did her mom have a different name? Also, why isn’t Annie mentioned AT ALL in this section?

Many of these questions are cleared up in The Final Dossier, in which Tammy even acknowledges Cooper’s “misdirection” regarding Norma’s family, stating it could have been done for security reasons.[11] According to The Final Dossier, the woman who shows up in Season 2 of Twin Peaks is Norma’s stepmother and Annie’s mother. I find it interesting that this is the only section Tammy calls out any misdirection from the Briggs dossier.

So what to make of Annie’s absence from the Secret History? It does seem like a large and purposeful omission; however, the date of Cooper’s report — March 15 — would have been before he met Annie. But Cooper’s line about how Norma “lost her dad in 1978” suggests he probably knew more than he was letting on regarding Norma’s past. Additionally, in a section later in the dossier, the Archivist describes the Miss Twin Peaks Contest but doesn’t include a mention of Annie, the winner of the contest.[12]

Even though some of this section was cleared up in The Final Dossier, Cooper’s background of Norma, Hank, and Big Ed is still curious. First off, the details of Hank and Norma getting married do not match up with the television series. Early in Season 2, Big Ed tells Cooper (again, Cooper is being told directly, so it’s strange he would be getting these details wrong) that shortly after graduation, Norma and Hank run off together for the weekend. This upsets Ed so badly that he impulsively decides to marry Nadine, in Montana, and then Hank and Norma get married afterward.[13]

Cooper’s report in the Secret History states that Big Ed joined the military after graduation and is sent to Vietnam. While deployed, Norma marries Hank (and it’s revealed in Deputy Hawk’s journal entry that Big Ed doesn’t marry Nadine until after 1984).[14] This is all a pretty big discrepancy.

In the middle of Norma and Hank’s story, Cooper (or perhaps the Archivist) includes a postcard sent from Norma to her parents detailing her honeymoon to California. The card has a “First Man on the Moon” stamp but is dated April 17, 1969.[15] Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon on July 20, 1969. Coincidentally (perhaps?), when James and Donna break into Dr. Jacoby’s office late in Season 1, one of his souvenir umbrellas has a date of July 8, 1969 for the moon landing.[16]

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Another timeline oddity from this section: The Robert Jacoby article about the football game is dated November 1968, and it would suggest that Big Ed was not a senior that year (Frank Truman, who is older than Ed, was identified as a senior in the article). But then by April 1969 Big Ed has already graduated? It doesn’t add up.

The Andrew Packard document is interrupted in the dossier by “The Ballad of Big Ed and Norma and Nadine,” a journal entry written by Deputy Hawk — also said to be found in the Bookhouse (p. 195). I won’t focus much on this since it allegedly wasn’t written by Cooper, but I will point out that it says Big Ed shot out Nadine’s eye during a hunting trip with Harry Truman — not while on his honeymoon as he tells Cooper in the TV show.[13] Another huge difference.

The Andrew Packard Case (part 2)

Eventually, the Archivist leads us back to Cooper’s summary of the Andrew Packard case (p. 215), which concludes along the same lines of the TV show, with a couple of noticeable exceptions. Cooper writes that Josie takes out Thomas Eckhardt’s associate and *then* “tries to kill an FBI agent who is on to her — yours truly — with the same weapon.”[17]

Although late in Season 2 Albert reveals that Josie used the same gun to shoot Jonathan and Cooper, the shooting of Cooper takes place well before Jonathan’s murder. Tammy curiously comments that Cooper’s notes state he was wearing a bullet-proof vest because he was expecting Josie’s attack.[17] However, Cooper had been wearing a vest because of his raid at One Eyed Jack’s.

Josie

Immediately following the abruptly ended Andrew Packard section is a handwritten note from Harry Truman (although Tammy says it’s a 96% probability it was written by Truman) addressed to Cooper regarding Josie’s death.[18] This is odd for a couple of reasons: Remember, the Archivist introduced the Andrew Packard section saying the author was unknown. And also, why would Truman feel the need to explain what happened at the scene of Josie’s death? In the television series, Cooper is present when Josie mysteriously dies. He reaches the room where Josie has killed Thomas Eckhardt before Harry does.[19] Following Truman’s note is Josie’s autopsy report (p. 220), dated March 11, 1989, which also doesn’t really add up.

One last thing about this section of the dossier supposedly written by Cooper: He makes a reference to Andrew’s “first death,” as if he already knew that Andrew Packard had died for real after his faked death. And on page 13 of the report, Cooper openly wonders, “So how exactly did he die the second time?” Cooper never answers his own question in the document, but if this is written on March 15, how would he even know Andrew was killed for a second time? The bank explosion doesn’t occur until March 28, according to the Archivist. That date also matches up with the final date we see from Major Briggs when he puts out his M*A*Y*D*A*Y message at the very end of the Secret History (p. 359). Cooper was already trapped in the Black Lodge when Andrew Packard blew up in the bank. So how did he know about the death and write about it on or around March 15?

What Does This All Mean?

So why are there so many inconsistencies in the section of the dossier that “Cooper” wrote (and all throughout the Secret History)? Well, after my third read-through, I’m still not quite sure. During earlier readings, pre-The Return, I was in favor of the theory that someone had altered the dossier after the fact.

The inconsistencies within the dossier itself — sometimes mere pages apart — and the obvious omission of Annie Blackburn made this a very viable explanation. And I still think some dossier doctoring is possible.

But now that we’ve seen The Return, and can assume that Major Briggs was bouncing through time (while apparently holding on to this dossier), I think it’s possible that some of the sections in the dossier come from different timelines.

Perhaps there’s a timeline out there where the first man walked on the moon before April 1969. Or another where Big Ed joined the army and married Nadine 20 years after Norma and Hank were married.

As Tammy quotes in a section of Secret History about Fat Trout Trailer Park owner Carl Rodd’s newspaper column “Carl Said It”: It’s all connected. What is, is. What was, was. All there is is now.[20]

I think this points toward some sort of time-altering aspect going on here.

However, this still doesn’t explain all of the minor inconsistencies within the dossier materials, like why we may see contradictory statements sometimes even on the same page.

So this made me wonder: If the pages within the dossier were in fact doctored…why would that be done? In The Final Dossier Tammy says the reason for discrepancies in Cooper’s section on Norma’s family are “difficult to pinpoint.”[11]

Tammy wonders if Cooper had been misled by his sources or was trying to be discreet about sensitive materials. But I think it might be something completely different.

In Gordon Cole’s letter to Tammy introducing the Briggs dossier in Secret History, he says it was recovered from a crime scene. During The Return, we weren’t told about a dossier being found at the scene of any crimes.

But then in The Final Dossier, Tammy says it was found following the investigation of Ruth Davenport’s murder. She assumes Major Briggs delivered his dossier to Bill Hastings and Ruth Davenport, who concealed it in a storage locker in Ruth’s apartment building.[21]

What if this isn’t quite what happened, but instead Dale Cooper’s Double stole the dossier after killing Briggs, doctored parts of it, and then stashed it in Ruth’s apartment building, where he knew the FBI would find it? Doctoring the dossier could have been a way to steer the FBI away from DoppelCooper. Perhaps Briggs had even included a note at the end that revealed the truth about Cooper, and DoppleCooper removed it. No way to know for sure, but this seems plausible.

To me, it makes more sense that if the Briggs dossier was doctored, it would be for the purpose of confusion or being misleading — not as a means of protecting someone.

Was Cooper Really the Author?

One of my favorite aspects of the Secret History is trying to determine who wrote what in the dossier. At the very end, Major Briggs reveals himself as the Archivist, admitting that Douglas Milford also wrote some of the Twin Peaks sections.

I always found the final portion of the book striking. The tone and writing styles are vastly different from what we’ve seen all throughout the dossier. Briggs uses first person and becomes much more revealing. Why? It’s possible because he was rushed, feeling the clamps of some very bad things about to happen in Twin Peaks. But perhaps there were more “archivists” in addition to Briggs and Milford, and that’s why the end portion sounds so different.

Did Cooper really write that section on the Andrew Packard case? If so, did he maybe write other sections that were attributed to the Archivist?

There are actually a number of similarities between Cooper’s writings and the Archivist’s. As mentioned earlier, Cooper writes about Andrew Packard’s “first death” when he likely shouldn’t have known about it. Similarly, on p. 74 of Secret History, the Archivist writes about Andrew’s “first death” in 1987.

On p. 5 of the Andrew Packard case, it says “A brief look at how Hank Jennings’s criminal disposition developed is in order.” This language and type of setup is extremely similar to what we see from the Archivist. For example, on p. 153 of Secret History, the Archivist writes, “…a deeper look into the underlying dynamics of power and influence in [Douglas Milford’s] hometown are in order.”

And the way Cooper bounces around from topic to topic (e.g. talking about Norma and Hank’s honeymoon in a section titled “The Andrew Packard Case”) goes right along with the Archivist’s style.

Is this all a coincidence? Was it all due to the “doctoring”? Or possibly just Mark Frost’s writing styles bleeding through into multiple characters?

I’m fairly certain it’s intentional, and it constantly has me looking for clues whenever I read the Secret History.

Just like we all love to do while watching Twin Peaks.

References

[1] Frost, Mark. The Secret History of Twin Peaks, (New York: Flatiron Books, 2016): 168.

[2] Frost, 357

[3] Frost, 182

[4] Frost, 171

[5] Frost, 173

[6] Frost, 174

[7] Frost, 178

[8] Twin Peaks, Episode 1, “Traces to Nowhere”

[9] Frost, 180

[10] Frost, 191

[11] Frost, Mark. The Final Dossier, (New York: Flatiron Books, 2017): 43.

[12] Frost, 340

[13] Twin Peaks, Episode 8, “May the Giant Be with You”

[14] Frost, 198

[15] Frost, 190

[16] Twin Peaks, Episode 7, “The Last Evening”

[17] Frost, 218

[18] Frost, 219

[19] Twin Peaks, Episode 23, “The Condemned Woman”

[20] Frost, 147

[21] Frost (Final Dossier), p. 106


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3 Replies to “The Secret History of Twin Peaks: The Cooper Section (Secrets and Mysteries, Part 7)”

  1. Thank you Bryan for this interesting article. One of the overarching themes with the Return was the shiftiness and unreliability of time and memory. Timelines shifted and became shifty and, before you knew it, whole sequences were out of whack. The series did not sit neatly or adhere well with what had come before. And I think this was entirely intended. I think TSHOTP was integral to this – coming out some months before the latest series, it was a “tip off” that the show was going to be slippery with the “truth” – i.e. what we accepted as the factual reality of the original series was, in fact, the presentation of one perspective or separate perspectives and the narrators were unreliable. This I think is the reason why several apparently contradictory facts are presented by Frost that fly in the face of what we saw in the original run – Pete being a draughts and not a chess player and so on. This reaches a climax of sorts at the end of the final dossier, where the pulling out of Laura from that timeline (and hence never murdered) creates a kind of vortex, pulling memory and time along with it. This ending, coming chronologically after the events in the Return, may explain why time appears so shaky. Or, to put it another way, the (non-)death of Laura and the creation of the alternate reality is like a stone thrown in a pool, with the ripples through time pushing in all directions – forwards, backwards and sideways.

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