- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2008

FORKS, Wash. — Strange, previously unseen creatures have overrun this tiny logging burg, creeping through its neighborhoods and staring at the town’s high school.

The locals have a name for these otherworldly beings: “Twilight” fans.

And instead of taking up pitchforks and torches, the townspeople have welcomed the newcomers - and their wallets.

As any girl 10 and older and her mother know, “Twilight” is shorthand for the best-selling four-novel saga about a teenage girl, Edward Cullen, a handsome local boy who is a vampire.

Fascination with the world of the Robert Pattinson as the star-crossed teens.

The series by author Harry Potter.

But Mrs. Meyer set her fictional series in a real town, setting off a stampede of readers determined to see the place where vampires can come out during the day and where an extraordinary boy might become obsessed with an ordinary girl.

All this has come as a shock to the people of Forks - population 3,175 - which tended to attract tourists more interested in finding the best fishing holes than the parking lot where Edward saves Bella’s life.

Being hardy Westerners, they’ve adapted. The Marcia Bingham, has seen business soar after building a cottage industry around the “Twilight” series.

“This is such a phenomenon,” said Mrs. Bingham, herself an expert on “Twilight” trivia. “What [these books] have done for us is amazing. They’ve put us on the map, and we’re very grateful for it.”

Mrs. Bingham used to take pictures of every “Twilight” tourist who visited the chamber and put them on the Web site. “When I got to 900, I had to stop,” she said.

Now she greets the sheepish teenage girls who slink through her door with a cheerful, “Welcome to the ‘Twilight’ zone!” and points them to the chamber’s collection of “Twilight”-themed bling, including bumper stickers, T-shirts and jewelry.

Elle Wentross, 12, admits she was so overcome by the prospect of visiting Forks that she began simultaneously crying and screaming as she and her mother approached the city limits. “I’ve read all the books. I’m so excited,” she said, her breath still coming in rapid gasps.

The Wentrosses were visiting Sally Wentross.

“Twilight” fans hoping to see the books’ landmarks won’t be disappointed. The folks of Forks placed markers throughout the community linking events in the book to real-life locations, most of which can be found in the chamber’s “Forks Twilight Map.”

Some must-see sites are easy to find; there really is a Jacob Black, is 15 miles west of town.

Some townspeople have exercised some literary license of their own.

Bill and Esme Cullen, Edward’s vampire mother, leaves regular messages on the front porch letting visitors know of the family’s whereabouts.

At one point, the inn became so inundated with fans asking for a tour that the Bragers put up a sign saying that visitors were welcome to tour the grounds and take pictures, but that the inside was reserved for guests.

“There’s a fine line between fantasy and reality, and I guess these characters have become very real to some people,” said Mrs. Cullen’s notes. “But it’s been fun.”

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