- Cauldron Lake is a special place; very inspiring.
- ― Barbara Jagger
Cauldron Lake is one of the most important locations in Alan Wake. It is a large lake located near Bright Falls, Washington, and acts as an entrance to the Dark Place, a supernatural location where fiction and reality flow together. As a result, writers and artists near Cauldron Lake can turn their works into reality.
Cauldron Lake is a caldera lake in the mountains of the U.S. state of Washington. It is the eighth deepest lake in the world, formed from a volcanic crater. The lake has been the subject of much folklore throughout history and local Native American tribes regarded it as a gateway to the underworld, though it is unknown whether they knew of its power. Cauldron Lake has mysterious supernatural powers that enable artistic creators to bring their works to life at the site, including events, creators, and characters. These powers are the result of the lake's connection to the Dark Place, a realm of pure creativity and imagination.
In the 1970s, acclaimed poet Thomas Zane lived in an island cabin on Cauldron Lake; due to Zane's love of diving, the island came to be known as "Diver's Isle". Zane wrote stories and poems about Cauldron Lake with the help of his lover and muse Barbara Jagger and young assistant Emil Hartman. Zane eventually discovered the supernatural powers of the lake; Jagger later drowned in the lake under mysterious circumstances. Hartman, with possible ulterior motives, convinced Zane to use the lake's power to write Jagger back to life. However, when Zane did so, Barbara's body was possessed by an alien entity known only as the Dark Presence. Realizing his mistake, Zane cut out Jagger's heart, then used his poems to write himself, her, and everything else related to the incident out of existence. This was the most likely cause of the 1970 volcanic earthquakes which sank Diver's Isle. Zane and the Dark Presence were both trapped deep within the Dark Place. The earthquakes resulted in the collapse and flooding of various deep mining tunnels in the area, resulting in the loss of 32 lives and the end of the Bright Falls mining industry.
The Anderson Brothers use unfiltered water from Cauldron Lake as a key ingredient in their famous moonshine - it is hinted that the water of Cauldron Lake itself is chemically unique, as it makes the Andersons' moonshine very powerful and clears the mind of those who partake. Drinking the moonshine allowed Alan Wake to recall the events of the week he had forgotten.
- Thomas Zane, in Alan's dream, quotes his poem about the lake:[note 1] and after Alan finishes Departure, he states:[note 2] He states that the "lake" is actually an "ocean". The meaning of this is still somewhat unclear, and possibly a metaphor for both characters realizing the scope of the lakes power and danger. What it could possibly mean is that the dark presence doesn't just lurk in Bright Falls, but could eventually be a global phenomenon. It may also be possible that "It's not a lake" literally means that it is not a lake as it contains no water, just the darkness. The best evidence for this theory is that unfiltered "water" from cauldron lake is a key ingredient in the Anderson brother's moon shine which according to the dying man at the Anderson's farm "makes you see" and it allows Alan to put many of the final pieces together. If it is that the lake contains no water than the statement is a mixed metaphor: "not a lake" meaning it literally isn't a lake and "its an ocean" indicating the greater scope of the darkness.
- The waters of Cauldron Lake are green at the surface and black just under the surface, foreshadowing the evil that lurks in its depths.
- The Dark Presence currently resides in the Dark Place at the bottom of the lake. The two, however, are not one and the same.
- In the world of Alan Wake, Cauldron Lake is the eighth-deepest lake in the world. In the real world, that honor goes to Great Slave Lake, located in Canada's Northwest Territories. However, the ninth-deepest on the list is Crater Lake, a lake made from the caldera of an extinct volcano, found in Oregon. This depth also makes it the deepest lake within the United States. Given its location in the Pacific Northwest and its status as a particularly deep lake formed from a volcano caldera, it was likely a source of inspiration for the creation of Cauldron Lake.
- "There lied a deeper, darker ocean green, with waves both wilder and more serene..."
- "It's not a lake, it's an ocean."