Margaret Lanterman, better known as the Log Lady, is a character in the television seriesTwin Peaks (1990–1991), created by Mark Frost and David Lynch. The character makes semi-regular appearances in both seasons, and is played by Catherine E. Coulson, who also very briefly reprised the role for a single scene in the prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.
The Log Lady is a fixture in the town of Twin Peaks by the time of Laura Palmer's murder, and most residents in the town regard her as crazy. This is mainly due to her habit of always carrying a small log in her arms, with which she seems to share a psychic connection, often dispensing advice and visions of clairvoyance which she claims come from the log; prior to the murder, she delivers moving and cryptic warnings to Laura Palmer herself. The Log Lady does not interpret the messages transmitted by the log, but instead functions as amedium for the information it conveys.
In attempting to solve Laura's murder, Dale Cooper often makes use of the Log Lady's apparent ability to communicate, through the log, with a possibly supernatural realm. Cooper gradually loses his access to this realm as the series progresses, and the Log Lady becomes a less central figure. The Log Lady provides Cooper with at least one useful tip, but the character, and her log, ultimately prove to be at least somewhat nonsensical.
When the series was syndicated to Bravo, Lynch created new Log Lady introductions for each episode ranging in length from under a minute to about three minutes.
According to David Lynch, the Log Lady was an old idea of his, where he had intended to do a television series based on the character called "I'll Test My Log with Every Branch of Knowledge". The idea came about whilst working alongside Catherine Coulson on the set of Lynch's directorial debut, Eraserhead.
History within the series and feature film
It is revealed that the Log Lady's husband was a lumberjack who died in a fire on their wedding night decades before the events of the series. (The Log Lady later says that her husband "met the devil".) Nothing is revealed of her husband beyond this, save for that at some point before he died, her husband returned from a trip to Glastonbury Grove (which served as an access point to the metaphysical realms of both the White and Black Lodges) with a jar of mysterious oil, which he claimed was for "opening a gateway". (However, when the story of her husband's death is first related in the series, Deputy Hawk mentions that the wood "holds many spirits", so it is possible that her husband's spirit resides in her log.)
Her husband, a woodsman, is thought to be the character played by Jürgen Prochnow briefly shown in the convenience store scene with other members of The Black Lodge in the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.
On February 18, 1989, five days before Laura Palmer is murdered, Margaret briefly encounters Laura outside the local roadhouse, the Bang Bang Bar. Putting her hand to the log and then the stunned Laura's forehead, Margaret intones: "When this kind of fire starts, it is very hard to put out. The tender boughs of innocence burn first, and the wind rises, and then all goodness is in jeopardy."
On the night Laura is murdered, Margaret later claims "my log" witnessed "two men, two girls" both approaching Jacques Renault's cabin—which is located a distance away from her own cabin home in the woods. And then, not long after, she alleges the log heard the screams of a girl.
The Log Lady first comes to the attention of FBI Agent Dale Cooper at a town meeting on February 24—the day after Laura Palmer's murder, which Cooper is investigating. She later approaches Cooper in the Double R Diner, who is clearly skeptical at her claim "my log saw something that night."
Four days later, Cooper arrives at the Log Lady's cabin alongside Sheriff Truman, Doc Hayward, and Deputy Hawk. Cooper is now more open to the log's power following his questioning (perhaps also noting the local men's reverence for the Log Lady's knowledge).
The Log Lady also provides advice to the other townspeople, most notably an other-worldly message she tells Major Briggs to deliver to Cooper and, it is strongly implied, to Donna Hayward in a note mentioning Laura's involvement in the Meals-On-Wheels.
She also guides Cooper to the Bang Bang Bar to see a vision of the Giant on the stage to hear his words: "It is happening again," a reference to Maddy Ferguson's murder, which was occurring at the same time.
During the disastrous Miss Twin Peaks Pageant, the Log Lady is impersonated in a bizarre disguise by the insane former FBI Agent Windom Earle, who is seeking to abduct the winning girl to help provide the means to enter the Black Lodge. When Cooper, Truman and the sheriff's deputies later regroup at the Sheriff's Station in a desperate move to learn Earle's location following his abduction of Annie Blackburn, the Log Lady also arrives. She then presents Cooper with the jar of oil her husband retrieved from Glastonbury Grove, thereby, providing Cooper with the means to enter the Black Lodge.
In popular culture
Shortly after Twin Peaks premiered, the contemporaneous new television series Northern Exposure featured a reference to the Log Lady in Season 1, episode 5 "Russian Flu" (1990). Several characters find themselves on a viewing platform at a waterfall and peering through the binoculars see a "lady" holding something, which they determine to be a log. This happens while music reminiscent of Twin Peaks is playing.
In Season 1, episode 14 "Mr. Chaney" (1992) of the American television show Eerie, Indiana, the main protagonist, Marshall Teller is rescued from a werewolf by another character known as "The Kid with the Grey Hair" by means of hitting the werewolf on the head with a log. Immediately afterwards Marshall exclaims "It's you!" to which The Kid with the Grey Hair responds "Well I ain't the Log Lady."
The 2010 video game Alan Wake features many references to Twin Peaks, amongst which is a character called the "Lamp Lady", a woman who carries a lamp around in public while uttering cryptic sentences.
The record label Crowdspacer produces series of video transmissions with several references to the Log Lady, amongst them Geoffrey Carey's character saying "I am an amateur, is it funny to you?" is a direct reference to the Log Lady's "I carry a log, is it funny to you?"
Coulson appeared carrying a log in an episode of Psych entitled "Dual Spires", which parodied Twin Peaks.