Authors of fiction frequently create fictional locations for their stories, though often based on real communities with which they are familiar. They also sometimes take a real community as the locale for their tale but place it in a different area, under a fictional name. It leaves fans to wonder what the basis was for the site of the tale, whether based on reality, adapted from reality, or altogether the creative product of the writer’s mind.
Some writers combine real locations with their fictional creations. For example, in The Andy Griffith Show, references are made to Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina, as well as Mount Pilot, based on the real community of Pilot Mountain. The Beverly Hillbillies moved to the very real Beverly Hills, from the region somewhere around the fictional community of Hooterville. Likewise, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas left New York City to live on a farm near Hooterville. Here are ten famed fictional towns, and the real towns on which they were based, when known.
10. Mayberry, North Carolina, home of The Andy Griffith Show
Mayberry, North Carolina has long been believed to have been based on Andy Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy, a city in western North Carolina about five miles south of the Virginia state line. The Andy Griffith Show was so successful that Mount Airy built a tourist industry around its connection to fictional Mayberry, though it appears far more modern and larger than the Mayberry in which Andy and Barney patrolled the town with a single squad car, and virtually everyone knew everyone else.
The fictional Mayberry had but one traffic light, one long distance telephone line, an interstate bus line stop, and in the final season a railway station where a sign proclaimed the population to be 5,360. We know of one barber, Floyd, and one filling station and garage, owned by Wally, who employed Gomer Pyle, and later Goober Pyle after Gomer left town to join the Marines. The town which really inspired the idyllic Mayberry, according to Griffith himself, was not his hometown but rather Pilot Mountain. Pilot Mountain was and is much smaller than Mount Airy, more in line with the fictional town depicted in The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry, RFD.
Nonetheless, Mount Airy capitalizes on its status as Griffith’s childhood home with festivals and tourist attractions dedicated to Mayberry. Some of its citizens call their town Mayberry. Other towns follow suit, and the link with the fictional town is a significant part of local attractions. However, the Mayberry where Andy, Barney, Opie, Aunt Bee, and their friends had their adventures was on the backlot of Desilu studios in Culver City, California, as well as other locations nearby. Not a single scene was shot in North Carolina for either The Andy Griffith Show or Mayberry, RFD.
9. Hooterville, shared by Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, and The Beverly Hillbillies
The Hooterville Cannonball train connects a “little hotel called the Shady Rest” with the town of Hooterville, about 25 miles distant. Hooterville is a location featured in three CBS comedies of the 1960s, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres. On the latter show, the character Lisa Douglas, played by Eva Gabor, referred to the town as Hootersville, until the CBS censors caught on and corrected her. The major junction between the three shows was the general store/post office operated by Sam Drucker. Sam’s post office had a Zip Code of 40516 1/2. 40516 is a Zip Code for the Lexington Kentucky region. Another clue is frequent references to Bug Tussle, in the Hillbillies and in Green Acres. Believe it or not, there is a real community in Kentucky of that name, close to the border with Tennessee. In fact, there are at least three other “Bugtussles” in the United States.
Granny claimed to have grown up in Tennessee, in the Great Smoky Mountains, so the evidence makes a strong argument that the fictional Hooterville was in Kentucky, near the Tennessee line. But other references in all three shows point to the community being elsewhere, including the Ozarks, in the Smokies, and even in North Dakota. The most intriguing clue as to its whereabouts comes from the aforementioned Shady Rest hotel, featured in Petticoat Junction, about 25 miles from Hooterville. The Burris Hotel in Eldon, Missouri served as the model for the Shady Rest. The Burris Hotel was near a train station, in a small town with a rural atmosphere. And it is about 360 miles from Chicago, a distance once referenced by Oliver Douglas (Eddie Albert), on Green Acres.
The Clampett’s of The Beverly Hillbillies hailed from the Ozarks, although Daisy May Moses, usually referred to as Granny, originally hailed from Tennessee. Granny was Jed Clampett’s mother-in-law and frequently lobbied Jed over the course of the show to return to the mountains. When they’d go home to visit it was to Hooterville. So, it’s probably safe to say that Hooterville was located within a 25 miles radius of Eldon, putting it squarely in Missouri near Lake of the Ozarks. One may perceive that there is little agreement on the location of Hooterville. Given the somewhat bizarre characters which populated all three programs in which it appeared, it’s no wonder few towns claim to have inspired it.
8. Twin Peaks, a fictional Washington town
The original version of Twin Peaks ran for just two seasons, 1990-91, though a third season ran in 2017. It also led to a feature film, numerous books, and achieved a devoted fan base. In its pilot episode, the location of the fictional town of Twin Peaks is specified as being five miles south of the Canadian border, and twelve west of the state line, placing the town in the northeast corner of Washington’s Salmo-Priest Wilderness area. Dozens of locations were used for filming, and since then they have exploited their connection to the show, with three towns claiming to have been the “real” Twin Peaks.
The opening credits for the program prominently displayed a “Welcome to Twin Peaks” road sign. Snoqualmie, Washington installed a similar sign, with the same message, in 2017. According to the city’s official website, “Fans from around the world visit Snoqualmie each year…” anxious to see the sites where the program was filmed. Not to be outdone, North Bend, Washington, also claims status as the “real” Twin Peaks, including celebrating an annual “Twin Peaks” by mayoral proclamation.
Fall City, Washington, also lays claim to have inspired Twin Peaks, citing its Fall City Roadhouse as the bar where the fictional town’s youths liked to hang out. Numerous other sites around Seattle were used for filming the program, and devoted fans can readily tour all of them. In fact it has become a major tourist attraction for the region, with tour guides published in newspapers as far away as Great Britain.
7. Bayport, home of The Hardy Boys
The Hardy Boys debuted in 1927, in a novel titled The Tower Treasure. Written by several writers working for the Stratemeyer Syndicate, the brothers, Frank and Joe Hardy, were sons of a famous retired New York detective working as an independent investigator. The brothers assisted their father in some of his cases and took on others of their own. They lived in Bayport, on Barmet Bay, where the high school aged boys owned a speedboat, an iceboat, motorcycles, and their own car, purchased with the funds they earned from rewards. Where Bayport was, or Barmet Bay for that matter, was never made clear. In the 1950s and 1960s the original 38 novels were rewritten (which ruined them), but no new clues as to the location of Bayport were given.
It’s a city on a bay fed by a river, with cliffs along part of the shoreline, and islands in the bay near where it enters the ocean. It contains a port, an airport, and a train station, from which a trip to New York takes about two hours. That would seem to put it in Connecticut, in New Jersey, or on Long Island. In fact, there is a Bayport on Long Island. It is on the south shore, on a bay fed by a river, with a Shore Road (one of the series’ earliest titles was The Shore Road Mystery) , a train station, and a small airport nearby. During the period in which the early books were produced the area was a swamp of bootleggers, smugglers, fences, and other criminal activities as described in the Hardys’ adventures. The descriptions of the real Bayport and those of the fictional match almost exactly.
Still, a cottage industry of fans argue that the fictional Bayport was actually in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Delaware and other locations. Nonetheless the real Bayport closely matches the descriptions of the fictional Bayport in the original 38 books of the series, all of which are out-of-print and difficult to find. The Bayport of those books was a marvelous place where kids could escape to on rainy summer afternoons, part of what made the Hardy Boys Series so successful in the second half of the 20th century.
6. Gotham City, crime-ridden base of Batman
To many, Gotham City, the home of Batman and a host of costumed villains, is based on New York City. After all, New York is frequently referred to as Gotham. Bruce Wayne/Batman did not live in Gotham, not originally anyway, but in stately Wayne Manor, outside the city limits. And Batman on more than one occasion drove to Metropolis, to meet with Superman. Metropolis too, is often claimed to be based on New York. They both can’t be based on the same city. Some believe Metropolis to have been based on Cleveland, the home of Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. That theory allows Buffalo, New York to serve as the basis for Gotham City, being the requisite distance away from each other.
Arguments that Gotham City is located in New Jersey are strong, though conflicting locations appear. One has Gotham on the Atlantic coast. Several references in past Batman comics support the thesis, including one in which Robin and Batgirl drive along the Hudson County Highway. New Jersey has a real Hudson County. In a 1983 comic, a location 20 miles north of Gotham is described as being on the Jersey Shore. That would place Gotham north and east of Atlantic City, on the Atlantic. There is also evidence that Gotham City was based on Newark, New Jersey. Another reference has Gotham in the southwest portion of the state, along the Delaware.
Wherever Gotham is located, it is clear that from the size of its harbor, as well as the city itself, Bob Kane had New York on his mind when he created the Caped Crusader. Unless, of course, he was thinking of Chicago. Or Philadelphia. However, Kane was born, raised, and educated in New York City. The cityscape in the early books resembled the New York skyline of the time. So, while the fictional Gotham City may well be in New Jersey, or Delaware, or Illinois, it is most likely the real city known as Gotham inspired the home of Batman.
5. Bedrock, stone-age small town home of The Flintstones
The Flintstones, in their original configuration, were essentially an animated version of Jackie Gleason’s The Honeymooners. Fred and Barney substituted for Ralph and Ed, and their wives Wilma and Betty replaced Alice and Trixie. The Flintstones and Rubbles didn’t live in a Brooklyn walk up though. They lived in the mid-sized city of Bedrock, which for a town of its size offered considerable amenities in the original series. It was never revealed where Bedrock was, but some clues allow for speculation. Palm trees and desert like areas would seem to put it in the American Southwest, but Christmas shows found Bedrock covered with seasonable snow for the holidays.
One show in the original series placed the modern stone age family a two days’ drive from Rock Vegas, presumably Las Vegas. Another had them driving several hours to reach Indianrockolis, which, if the latter refers to the current Indianapolis, places Bedrock in the American Midwest. It appeared to be a typical mid-size American city of the 1960s. Barney and Fred both worked blue-collar jobs, though Barney’s exact line of work was unspecified. Fred worked operating a brontosaur crane in a quarry. Both exhibited midwestern stereotypes of the time, belonging to a Lodge (Loyal Order of Dinosaurs, later changed to the Loyal Order of Water Buffalo), participating in bowling leagues, shooting pool, and having marriages to stay at home wives.
Bedrock could have been based on many midwestern cities of the day. We know more about where it wasn’t than where it was. It may have been near the Great Lakes, since the Flintstones and Rubbles often go to the beach and in one episode it is revealed the city has its own yacht club. In 1966 Bedrock City opened in Custer, South Dakota, to cater to the tourist trade. It has since closed. Another Bedrock, in Arizona, remains open as of this writing.
4. Cabot Cove, Maine, a small town with an extraordinarily high murder rate from Murder, She Wrote
The New England coastline is well-known for the number of small, picturesque, towns and villages which span from Connecticut to Maine. Among them was the fictional Cabot Cove, the home of Jessica Fletcher in the television program Murder, She Wrote. Jessica wrote murder mysteries for a living, for which she gained international renown. In her spare time, she solved real-life murders (in her fictional world) that seemed beyond the ken of the professionals. Cabot Cove, Maine, offered her an unending string of mysterious murders, an opportunity to develop her sleuthing skills at a rate that made the little village the undisputed champion of the world, at least as regards rates of homicides.
The inspiration for the quaint New England seacoast town could have been one of several communities along the Maine coast, but its stand-in for filming purposes was on the California coast. Mendocino’s sets included Jessica Fletcher’s home, and scenes shot outside of town were mostly done on sound stages at Universal City. Cabot Cove was not based on any single Maine community, though some fans of the show have ascribed it to Penobscot Bay, Kennebunkport, or Boothbay Harbor. So, Cabot Cove joins the equally fictional Maine towns of Spruce Harbor (Orphan Train) and Crabapple Cove (M*A*S*H) as non-existent towns created in the style of a quaint New England coastal village.
The difference with Cabot Cove is during the twelve seasons of its fictional existence it had one of the highest murder rates for any location in the world. Of course, not every murder Jessica investigated occurred in Cabot Cove. She often went to other locations to solve murder mysteries, including joining forces with Thomas Magnum in Hawaii. Nonetheless, according to a 2012 article in Britain’s Daily Mail, Cabot Cove had a murder rate exceeding that of Honduras. At the time, Honduras had the highest recorded murder rate in the world. No wonder few towns anywhere want the reputation of inspiring Jessica’s home town.
3. Shangri-La, a mystical utopian-like region which first appeared in Lost Horizon
Shangri-La first appeared in Lost Horizon, a 1933 novel by James Hilton. Hilton located the fictional place in the Kunlun Mountains of Tibet. In 1937 it appeared in a feature film starring Ronald Colman. In both film and novel Shangri-La is a lamasery, sheltered from the bitter cold of the high mountains which surround the valley in which it is located, totally unknown to the outside world. Yet the lamasery is equipped with western conveniences such as plumbing fixtures manufactured in Akron, Ohio. It was also equipped with a piano and a harpsichord, and the four English air crash survivors who are guided there by postulants soon learn the valley alters the aging process. Some of the residents of the lamasery are more than two centuries old.
The novel was highly popular in the 1930s, and became the first mass-marketed paperback book when it was released as Pocket Book #1 in 1939. Of course, there was no hidden utopia in the Himalayas, though the plot device has been used in other novels, including Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King, which appeared many years earlier. Through the book and film, as well as subsequent remakes, Shangri La came to be used to denote a mysterious, unknown place of pleasant and stress-free existence. Franklin Roosevelt named his new relaxation camp in the Catoctin Mountains Shangri La in 1942. Today it is known as Camp David.
The concept of an unknown utopia hidden from civilization has been used many times since, in varied forms of entertainment. Unfortunately, no such place exists, or at least one has never been found. Several places borrow the name, possibly in a hopeful manner. There is a Shangri La in Tibet, so-named in 2001 in an effort to promote tourism. The name also appears in ancient Tibetan texts, which provided Hilton his source for the novel. Despite numerous expeditions and claims of cities to be the Shangri La of myth, the lamasery in the hidden valley has yet to be found.
2. Peyton Place, a fictional New England town
Shangri La became synonymous with innocence and honest pleasures, as well as peaceful existence. Peyton Place became the opposite. First appearing in a novel in 1956, Peyton Place was a composite of several New Hampshire towns, which under their placid surfaces concealed adultery, murder, abortion, incest, class inequalities, and other subjects then considered taboo. Because of its highly controversial content matter it was condemned by religious leaders and moralists, and as a result sold exceptionally well. It also spawned two movies, a sequel novel, a primetime television series, and a daytime soap opera. Peyton Place came to be a two-word term for intrigue, scandalous behavior, backstabbing, and other like behaviors.
The novel did not specify the town’s location, other than placing it in New Hampshire, near the state line with Vermont. Later, television located Peyton Place in Massachusetts. The film and the television show were considerably less salacious than the novel, both having to contend with censors. The film was shot largely in Camden, Maine, and that picturesque New England town has exploited its connection to Peyton Place to this day. But it was not the inspiration for the fictional town and its seedy goings-on created by its author, Grace Metalious, who disapproved of the film. She found its removal of some of the most scandalous activities in her book made it lame.
Metalious shaped Peyton Place from four communities, her hometown of Gilmanton, where she wrote the novel, nearby Laconia, and the towns of Belmont and Alton. Her hometown did not appreciate the notoriety she bestowed upon it. She received anonymous threats and her children were hounded at school. Several of the more lurid events of the novel were based on real incidents that occurred in Gilmanton during Grace’s life. The town which provided most of the setting for the novel and subsequent adaptations continues to distance itself from Peyton Place and its wayward daughter who created it.
1. Metropolis/Smallville, fictional homes of Superman/Clark Kent
When Superman first appeared in 1938, he was already an adult, with his Clark Kent alter ego working as a reporter for the Metropolis Daily Star. He didn’t begin working at the Daily Planet until his appearance on radio. His childhood in Smallville was described as part of his backstory, but details of his youth didn’t begin until the 1940s. Smallville was described as being in the Midwest, a nondescript farming community. Later changes put Smallville within a short driving distance from Metropolis. Metropolis was a major city, with a port, airports, large railroad stations, several newspapers and radio stations. Was it based on New York? Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were both from Cleveland, Ohio, and it was there the character was originally conceived and evolved.
Metropolis’s original skyline, drawn by Shuster, was influenced by Toronto, Canada, though the city is clearly in the United States. Cleveland was the setting for the original strips, with Siegel and Shuster hoping to publish them in a local newspaper. When the strips were published instead in comic books, they created the fictional Metropolis. In Superman #2, published in 1939, Metropolis was established as being in New York State. Nonetheless claims as to Metropolis actual location have varied, including one published in the 1970s which placed Metropolis in Delaware, across the bay from Gotham City, with the two connected by bridges. In 2019 DC Comics confirmed Metropolis is located in the state of New York. Debate among fans continues.
Regardless of which state is the home to Metropolis, it is clearly based on New York City, including housing the Statue of Liberty in its harbor, and the United Nations among its many institutions. Smallville too has moved from time to time, sometimes within a few hundred miles of Metropolis, and at others being located in Iowa and Kansas. While Smallville was created to imbue Clark Kent/Superman with American midwestern values, Metropolis acted as the big city fraught with crime in Superman’s earliest creation. He has since been recreated many times, as have his fellow Superheroes and the worlds in which they live and work.