Twin Peaks, Twin Peaks
The woodsy, fictional town of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks is filled with secrets — and the owls are not what they seem. The seedy underbelly of the small town is revealed after the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer. Suddenly, the cherry pie smiles of Twin Peaks’ residents take on a sinister meaning. The richest man in Twin Peaks wants to destroy the lumber mill and has a few unsavory vices. Drug dealers, pimps, and prostitutes seem to run the place, and doppelgängers of the dead wander freely.
Sunnydale, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Welcome to Sunnydale, where the vampires are hungry and the hellmouth that the town is built on is ready to swallow you alive. The California locale in Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a gateway between this world and the next — which is why demons and other supernatural beings can’t seem to stay away. Whedon enjoys toying with horror movie tropes when it comes to Sunnydale’s residents, who are either totally clueless or hiding something — including the villainous Mayor Wilkins. Vampire slayer Buffy and her Scooby Gang-esque pals also have their secrets — Seth Green’s Oz turns out to be a werewolf, and Buffy isn’t exactly public about her nifty side job — but the real Big Bad of the town wants to sink Sunnydale into the ground forever.
White Pine Bay, Bates Motel
Bates Motel transports the troubled characters from Hitchcock’s Psycho to coastal White Pine Bay, Oregon from the film’s Fairvale, California. There, Vera Farmiga’s widowed Norma runs a motel, hoping to start a new life with her son Norman (Freddie Highmore). The town is a hot bed of obsessions, dark desires, and twisted family secrets — all of which are perpetuated by the creepy Bates.
Hemlock Grove, Hemlock Grove
The town of Hemlock Grove in Eli Roth’s Netflix series is a hotbed of secrets and lies. Rumors amongst residents about the Godfrey Institute for Biomedical Technologies and Hemlock Acres Hospital point to abominable medical experiments. There’s also chatter about werewolves, cults, and murder. The show questions what truly defines a monster.
The pilot episode of Chris Carter’s The X-Files is set in the fictional town of Bellefleur, Oregon where a teenager has been mysteriously murdered (a suspected extraterrestrial attack). The weirdness continues during the investigation when Mulder and Scully experience mind-bending lapses in time. Meanwhile, the residents of Bellefleur seem to know something about the bizarre occult-like activity taking place around town that they don’t want the FBI agents to know. Other episodes of The X-Files that take place in strange small towns include “Our Town,” in which the townsfolk are cannibals.
One of several fictional Stephen King small towns, Derry, Maine is the setting of the spine-chilling miniseries It. Since the story spans time periods, we get to see Derry then and now — and not much has changed. The one constant is Pennywise the Clown, a sadistic demon in disguise who tortures a group of children (now grown and troubled by the past), preying on their insecurities. Naturally, the parents of Derry’s children don’t seem to notice the monstrous being haunting their loved ones — and in many cases, like Bev’s abusive father, they are part of the problem. King, like David Lynch, loves a story where the white picket fence and small town cheer is mere veneer, hiding a subterranean world.
Collinsport, Dark Shadows
Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows is set in the dreary coastal village of Collinsport, Maine — home to the ancient Collins family. Like all good melodramas, the main characters are hiding a bevy of secrets — in this case, the supernatural and vampy kind. With a family as old as the Collins, there are bound to be a few skeletons in the closet.
The Dead Zone
Stephen King’s 1979 novel The Dead Zone has been adapted several times, including by David Cronenberg who cast Christopher Walken as Johnny Smith. The story became a TV series in 2002, starring former teen icon Anthony Michael Hall in the role. We assume the TV show is also set in the fictional Castle Rock, Maine — a favorite setting for King where Cujo and Needful Things takes place. Hall’s Johnny falls into a coma and awakens with a psychic gift, realizing his idyllic small-town life has been turned upside down. He also learns a few secrets about his fellow residents thanks to his new gift. When Johnny touches people, he has visions about their past and future.
Eerie, Eerie, Indiana
The town of Eerie is like a supermarket tabloid brought to life. Bigfoot, Elvis, and extraterrestrials abound in the Indiana town, because, as teenager and new Eerie resident Marshall Teller puts it, Eerie is “the center of weirdness for the universe.”
The Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone is a mecca of small-town weird, featured in classic episodes like “Stopover in a Quiet Town,” where the residents of a deserted town don’t realize they’re the dollhouse playthings for an alien, and “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” in which a peaceful suburb is destroyed by the thoughts, attitudes, and prejudices of its residents.