Manhattan Project

One may wonder why we regularly see Gordon Cole in his office seated in front of a mushroom cloud poster of an atomic explosion? In episode 7, after revealing a corn cob painting on one of his office walls, the camera pans to frame Gordon whistling bird calls from the beginning of Rammstein’s song Engel  (German for Angel– not all the angels have disappeared from Twin Peaks, after all) eyes closed, seated below that very poster of total annihilation.

What could be the meaning of this? Why choose such a background image?

I believe this scene should be linked to Dale Cooper’s transdimensional fall to the electromagnetic tower beacon above the ocean of consciousness, where he meets the mysterious woman with her eyes sewn shut, as well as to Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks All of this should in turn be connected to the following picture from the Manhattan Project’s propaganda billboard depicting the Three Wise Monkeys

Manhattan Project

The research and development realized under the name “Manhattan Project” is what led to the conception of the first nuclear weapon in the United-State during World War II. Mark Frost makes it clear in his book that Douglas Milford, Twin Peaks’ town mayor’s brother, was “assigned to various hazardous duties around the Manhattan Project, bearing the risk of possible radiation exposure”.

Is this the reason why his right thumb print shows an atypical finger print with lines in the shape of a spiral? (I’ve regularly discussed the importance of the spiral motif in David Lynch’s work and in Twin Peaks – see my book Twin Peaks: Unwrapping the Plastic for more details).


Douglas became one of the notorious “men in black” whose role it was to make sure that nothing related to this project and what followed – including Roswell and technology transfer from “aliens” to the American government (these aliens being either Nordic, grays, Lemurians from the Hollow Earth, or transdimensional beings) – leaked to the general public. Here is what Douglas wrote in his journal in 1958: “One source says Ike rejected ‘offer’ – these ‘Nordic types’ apparently made their offer contingent on U.S. giving up nukes. Second meeting – time and location unspecified – followed with ‘grays’, who made no such demands and offered their tech in exchange for access to ‘genetic material’. That source says second offer accepted“.

All of this is of course highly reminiscent of both the X-Files and The Day the Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 1951). In the latter, an alien comes to Earth because of the invention of rockets and atomic power, to warn us that the planet will be destroyed if we do not give up our drive to wage war. (in the film, a famous command to stop Gort, the robot accompanying the alien is “Klaatu barada nikto”; no such thing in Twin Peaks, though, but there’s “Garmonbozia…”). Interestingly, besides the Mahnattan project and the development of the atom bomb, Frost’s book also focuses for a while on Marvel John Whiteside Parsons, the co-founder of Jet Propulsion Laboratory, creator of “alchemic elixirs” (fuels) for rockets. Parsons declares at one point: “you can create an elixir that will call forth… call them what you will… messengers of the gods…”. Since angels are supposed to be the messengers of the gods, this can be connected to Cole’s whistling in his office.


The three monkeys billboard embodies the need for secrecy surrounding the Manhattan project with the proverbial “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. This idea of turning a blind eye resonates strongly with the ongoing theme of surveillance in the new season of Twin Peaks. It is also a direct visual connection to at least two moments in the series: Gordon Cole’s whistling session mentioned above (eyes closes, deaf as a post, whistling instead of talking) but also the mysterious woman in the purple tower (eyelids sewn shut, asking for silence because of her “mother”, her mumbled speech reminiscent of the sounds made by the deaf).


Is it possible that the many alchemical references spread throughout the series are there to remind viewers of what was at stake in Los Alamos, i.e. the creation of the first atom bomb? Is this the sort of “metamorphosis” hinted at by the presence of Franz Kafka’s portrait in Gordon Cole’s office, facing a nuclear mushroom behind his desk? The ability that humans have developed through science to “transmute” metals into energy might account for a growing alien interest in humans (coming from the Lodges or elsewhere) in our collective destiny.

Behind Dale Cooper’s personal quest then, it might very well be our future as a species that’s at stake here (though Garland Briggs explains that “our limited, linear sense of time means nothing to them”).

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