'Twilight' Fans' Destination: Forks, Wash.

The teen vampire movie Twilight opens in theaters Friday. The movie follows the best-selling series of romance-thriller novels, set in the small and rainy hamlet of Forks on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Despite its remoteness, the town has become a pilgrimage destination for readers from around the world.

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Movie theaters nationwide are holding midnight screenings tonight, delighting fans of a vampire saga called "Twilight." The best-selling series of romance-thriller novels is set in the small and rainy hamlet of Forks in rural Washington state. Despite its remoteness, the town has become a pilgrimage destination for readers. Reporter Tom Banse reports.

TOM BANSE: In Forks, Washington, fans of the vampire saga are called Twilighters. Just in case you're not related to one, you should know they're smitten by the star-crossed romance of a teen vampire and his human girlfriend, Bella.

(Soundbite of movie "Twilight")

Ms. KRISTEN STEWART: (As Bella Swan) I know what you are. Your skin is pale white and ice cold. You don't go out into the sunlight.

Mr. ROBERT PATTINSON: (As Edward Culler) Say it out loud. Say it.

Ms. STEWART: (As Bella Swan) Vampire.

BANSE: "Twilight" novelist Stephenie Meyer settled her fictional vampire clan in Washington's Olympic rainforest based on an Internet query. She searched for the wettest place in America. Forks was her answer. Meyer lives in Arizona and never visited the town before finishing the book. Her reasonably accurate description of a damp place where the sun rarely shines doesn't seem that favorable for tourism. But "Twilight" fans like Nicole Warren(ph) want their visit to be vampire-friendly.

Ms. NICOLE WARREN: It's got to be at least cloudy.

BANSE: Why?

Ms. WARREN: Because in the books it rains and is cloudy a lot.

BANSE: Warren starts her "Twilight" pilgrimage at the Forks Visitor Information Center. That's where Chamber of Commerce Director Marsha Bingham provides the Forks version of a Hollywood map to the stars.

Ms. MARSHA BINGHAM (Director, Chamber of Commerce, Forks): The places named in the book are the hospital - and you know there's a parking place reserved for...

BANSE: Until recently, this two-star logging town was better known as a way station for the nearby National Park or as a battlefield in the war over the endangered Spotted Owl in the 1990s.

Ms. BINGHAM: These are the restaurants that sell "Twilight" themed foods, like a Bellaburger or Bellasagna with Edbread.

BANSE: Now Bingham's Visitor Center guestbook is signed by people from all over the world who share one common obsession.

Ms. BINGHAM: It's a phenomenal gift. I can't thank Stephanie enough. I can't imagine that she had any idea how enormous this would grow and how big a following it would be.

BANSE: A colleague of Bingham's started a Vam tour of "Twilight" settings around Forks. The tours are sold out through January. Among the "Twilight" fan club, perhaps none is more devoted than 46-year-old Annette Bruno-Root. She's a social worker from urban Vancouver, Washington, but she uprooted her husband and five children and moved to Forks this fall. The family opened a souvenir shop, called Dazzled by Twilight.

Ms. ANNETTE BRUNO-ROOT (Proprietor, Dazzled by Twilight): I just think it's really fun to be with my kids, live something all day long that I absolutely love, and get to talk to amazing people from everywhere.

BANSE: A few townsfolk sound like they're sick of the "Twilight" phenomenon. They post anonymous complaints on the Internet about being overrun by what they call freaks. But the great majority appear to be taking the novel twist in stride. Teacher Sherry Shaff(ph) lives next door to a pilgrimage stop. Every few minutes, another car pulls up on her otherwise quiet street. People climb out to take pictures of the supposed home of the lovestruck heroine, Bella.

Ms. SHERRY SHAFF (Teacher): It's really neat to see these people come and experience what Forks is really like. There's a lot of negative press about Forks, just because it's a logging community and being such a grey and rainy place. And we have a beautiful town. We have wonderful people.

BANSE: Shaff chuckles, though, at how some younger fans appear to blur fantasy and reality.

Ms. SHAFF: They really want to know, you know, how long has Bella lived here?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SHAFF: And I just want to say, it's a house. It's a normal family. You know, it's all fiction.

BANSE: Ironically, the movie version won't light up the silver screen in Forks. The town's only theater closed down well over a decade ago. For NPR News, I'm Tom Banse in Forks, Washington.

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