Popular series of books makes Forks a true Twilight zone
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Janet Hughes, owner of JT's Sweet Stuffs in downtown Forks, shows some of the Twilight souvenirs for sale at her shop. -- Photo by Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News

By Paige Dickerson, Peninsula Daily News

FORKS — When teenagers walk anywhere in Forks, a secret code seems to exist.

"Are you looking for Jacob or Edward?" Mike Gurling, office manager of the Forks Visitor Center, says to each as they walk in, as if it were a test.

Those in on the code emphatically name whichever Twilight character most holds their heart.

They are the dedicated fans of the teen phenomenon series of novels set in Forks.

The books, which tell the adventures of impassioned teens Bella Swan and her vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen, have remained top sellers since the first novel in the series, Twilight, was released in 2006.

"Oh my gosh, this is, like, my best birthday ever," said Raven Morningstar, 14, dancing in glee with her best friend Alice Newberry, also 14, last week.

"When I first read the books, and saw that it was here — I had been here a long time ago — and was just so super-psyched because it was, like, 'I have actually been there.'"

As a birthday trip, Morningstar, Newberry and Carina Morningstar, Raven's mother, made the trip from Seattle to tour Forks' Twilight sites.

The two 14-year-olds are avid fans and dedicated to their favorite characters — especially Edward Cullen.

Raven firmly believes that Bella will end up changed into a vampire in the end.

"But I think there will be a twist, and it will all end in a cliffhanger or something," she said.

Fans enliven Forks
The two teens are among the more than 100 fans who had passed through the Forks Visitor Center earlier that day.

They stopped at the "Swan House," one of the few remaining two-story craftsman style houses in town.

The Forks Chamber of Commerce presents the house as being like the one that Bella would have lived in.

The owner, Dave McIrvin, erected a sign to mark the residence  — but he doesn't give tours of the inside.

"Our house even has a blue room and yellow cabinets like in the book," the former Forks Middle School librarian said.

The series — Twilight, New Moon and Eclipse — has consistently remained in the top 20 on the USA Today list since Eclipse's release in August 2007.

Breaking Dawn, the fourth installment, will be released on Saturday and will be the last book in the saga, author Stephenie Meyer has said.

The books have caused an unexpected downpour on Forks, the rainy set of the torrid tale.

Since 2007
Droves of teen — and adult — fans began rolling into town in 2007 preceding the release of Eclipse.

Enamored with the story, fans want to see the setting.

Forks has since enthusiastically embraced the phenomenon, starting up Twilight Tours, lobbying for filming of the movie, "Twilight," which is to be released Dec. 12 — none of it was filmed in Forks — and many merchants have Twilight paraphernalia available for fans to buy.

Forks Community Hospital has a sign, "Dr. Cullen Parking Only," to celebrate Carlisle Cullen, who is a doctor at the hospital in the books.

"We have about 120 or 130 people in here a day," Forks chamber executive director Marcia Bingham said.

"Not every one of them are Twilight fans, but the majority are."

A glance at the guestbook reveals comments written in bubbly cursive signing as "the Future Mrs. Cullen" or boasting being on "Team Jacob" or "Team Edward" —- Bella's two romantic prospects.

They come from all over the world — Canada, Germany, Italy, Australia and nearly every state in the United States.

Emily Winfield — now from Sacramento, Calif. and previously from London, England — was visiting family in Sequim and Vancouver, British Columbia.

She couldn't pass up the opportunity to see the spot she had imagined so vividly.

The books — and Edward — captured her imagination.

She pre-ordered Breaking Dawn, so she can devour it as well.

"The books are so deep," she said.

"I'm really excited to see what happens in the new one.

"You have got to love Jacob, but Edward has always had full claim on her heart."

"For me, it was a little like coming home," said Ashley Shykes, 17, of Nashville, Tenn.

"I grew up in Washington when I was little, and it was fun to come back.

Adult fans
Not all fans are teenagers.

Bill Brager, innkeeper of Miller Tree Inn, said that nearly every night, he and his wife, Susan, have guests drawn to Forks by the Twilight series.

The inn was selected by the Forks Chamber of Commerce as the house most like the Cullen house, where Edward lives with his vampire "parents" Carlisle and Esme Cullen, and siblings Alice, Jasper, Rosalie and Emmett.

Nearly every week Susan Brager writes a note from "Esme" — Edward's vampire mother — explaining why the Cullens are not at home.

"One time, we were having a Quillayute Valley School District scholarship meeting and Marcia Bingham was here — she's the head of the committee — and there were three women here who were all over the age of about 40," Brager said.

"We asked what they were here to see, and they said they wanted to see the rain forest, Ruby Beach, stuff like that."

The women went upstairs.

Bingham started talking about Twilight.

"Well, soon enough, one of the women's ear perks up, and they come down and confess that they were really there because of Twilight," Brager said.

Hotels in the area see fans nightly, Bingham said.

Stephenie Meyer Day will be celebrated on Sept. 13 — the fictional Bella's birthday — and several hotels are already full, Bingham said.

The day will attract an estimated 1,000 fans, Bingham said.

Among those will be 130-150 Twilight Moms — members of a Web site, www.twilightmoms.com, dedicated to the adult fans of the series — said Lisa Hansen, founder and senior administrator of the site.

"We get lots of teens, of course, but lots of moms and dads too," Charlene Cross, owner of Lepell's Flowers and Gifts, said.

"Sometimes the dads get just as giddy as the girls, talking about the books and what else is coming up."

Lepell's, Chinook Pharmacy, JT's Sweet Stuffs and the Fern Gallery each see about 50 to 60 fans daily.

"We get people from all over the place," said Peggy King, Chinook Pharmacy assistant, who was wearing her very own "bitten" T-shirt.

"It is so much fun," said Janet Hughes, owner of JT's.

"But darn those fans. They all seem to love Edward, and I'm a Jacob girl myself.

"Edward is cold and hard, and who doesn't want something warm and cuddly," she said referring to Jacob Black's alter ego as a werewolf.

The boost is evident this year, all the shop owners agreed.

But it was evident even before the tourist season began.

"We had Twilight fans staying here early in the year before summer started," Brager said.

"And that is what really means something to our business, because we are already busy in the summer.

"It is the off-season boost that helps us out so much."

As the teens exit the visitor center on a cloudy day Gurling tells them to enjoy the weather that inspired the setting for the novels.

But on sunny summer days, — Gurling tells them: "Enjoy the weather. Bella sure would."

Twilight Tours
THE FORKS CHAMBER of Commerce  offers Twilight tours on most weekends of the month.

The cost of each tour depends on the number of people on it.

For two riders, the cost is $20 each; for four riders, $15 each; and for six to eight riders, $12 each.

Check out the Web site — www.forkswa.com and click on events — for more information, and to see if more events have been added.

E-mail info@forkswa.com to sign up for a tour or phone 360-374-2531.

Pop phenomenon
AUTHOR STEPHENIE MEYER'S three books set on the West End occupy three spots in this week's USA Today list of nationwide best-sellers.

The top five:

1. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown)

2. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown for Young Readers)

3. The Shack by William P. Young (Windblown Media)

4. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown)

5. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, Jeffrey Zaslow

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Reporter Paige Dickerson can be reached at 360-417-3535 or by e-mail at paige.dickerson@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 31. 2008 9:00PM
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