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Behind the Scenes – A Docudrama in the Making

– Posted in: Unfolding Documentary

Hazel Drew Unfolding Documentary

Why is documentary filmmaking so difficult?

And, why did I decide to devote what will likely turn out to be three years to making this one?

The easy answer is “it’s a good story.”

Hazel Drew was an ambitious farm girl trying to find her way in a city drunk on wealth, power and opportunity.

I suspect the real answer is buried deep within the part of myself that asks the questions.

If I’m diligent and fully surrender to the process, then hopefully my motivation for making this film will become a journey that plays out on the big screen. Hopefully, I can transport the audience back to a time and into the heart of a pretty young woman who was murdered on what was likely one of the happiest days of her life.

And if I’m honest about why I’m making this film, I’d also admit to being caught up in the enthusiasm created by a group of backyard detectives who think we may uncover something. At first, I thought them mad but what if the film itself could help?

What if, by making a documentary, we (we meaning all of us) could uncover additional clues sufficient to answer a few key questions.

Some say the investigation is only two questions away from solving the murder.
  1. How did she get from Troy, NY to Sand Lake, NY?
  2. Where did she spend the night prior to her murder?
Somebody somewhere has or had these answers. Did they tell anyone? Did a grandchild uncover a diary or a deathbed admission?
These stories get passed down through generations. Tucked away in someone’s attic, basement or hope chest, there’s a photo album, a letter or even a journal that might provide some answers.

Someone knows who the stranger sitting at the Taborton bar muttering, “It’s too bad, it had to be done” was. Or they may have a letter from one of Hazel’s friends disclosing all that Aunt Minnie wished to keep quiet.

In 1908 the nation’s eyes were on Sand Lake and “The Teal Pond Murder Mystery,” where the body of beautiful Hazel Drew lay floating in a sawmill pond.

Sand Lake's Averill Park Hotel
Hazel was originally from the Sand Lake but until the morning prior, was employed as a governess in Troy NY.
She was a spirited young woman who reflected the times and her environment. Troy was a happening place, possibly the wealthiest city in the nation. It was full of powerful men. Sand Lake was a trolley ride from the nation and the playground of people with money.
This was the world 19-year-old Hazel found herself in.
Hazel Drew had worked her way up from a farm girl and was now a woman of fashion and travel. For five years she had worked for people with money and power. She was slowly transforming from farm girl into an unusually attractive and admired young woman.

Revisiting Troy & Sand Lake

Wheel at City of Hazel Drew

This documentary will also be an opportunity to revisit 1908, a time when the city of Troy and the Town of Sand Lake were bustling reflections of the industrial revolution.
It was a romantic time when Troy was home to the world’s most powerful vertical water wheel generating 1100 horsepower. A time when the Hudson River moved hundreds of canal boats, river barges, and passenger vessels every week.
Hazel Drew lived fully embracing all that a young, smart, beautiful, young woman could. Unfortunately, shortly after she was seen walking up Taborton Mountian, Hazel was killed by a blunt force blow to the back of the head.

The First Suspect

A young admirer named Frank Smith saw Hazel near the pond where she was found dead. He said that she was swinging her hat as if she didn’t have a care in the world.
Did Hazel know this person?
Was this a random act? Modern profiling techniques say no.
The Hazel Drew Murder is complex. The people involved are mysterious.
The story was first told to Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost by his grandmother. Mark later revisited the mystery and was inspired to create Twin Peaks’ main character Laura Palmer.
The entire first season and half of the next revolved around who killed Laura Palmer, a young woman living a double life, eerily similar to that of Hazel Drew.
Mark later disclosed that this was no coincidence and that his research into the Hazel Drew murder did indeed help form the character of Laura Palmer. A character that would go on to become famous around the world.

How can you be involved and help to solve the mystery “Who Killed Hazel Drew?”

There is a lot to unpack and that’s why I’m calling this an unfolding documentary. During the making and release of the documentary, this website will share existing and new information including:
  • Investigation reports
  • New Interviews
  • Photos
  • Maps
  • and more
If you’d like to receive “Who Killed Hazel Drew” updates and be notified when tickets for the film’s premiere go on sale, please click here and sign up for notifications.
Help us discover missing clues by sharing this website with family & friends
I promise to make this an intriguing journey!
If you’d like to read more about “Who Killed Hazel Drew?” check these pages out.
6 Comments… add one

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6 comments… add one
  • Tamara Wager August 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

    I justed started reading the story. There are so many theories that you could come up with. The investigation has so many loop holes.

    • John January 8, 2018, 1:29 pm

      We’ll be going into some of those theories in the documentary. I think the juxtaposition of that information in an audio/visual medium will give be intriguing for many.

  • Joan Fuess January 2, 2018, 3:20 am

    Combining John’s research and reading Ron Hughes’ book “Who Killed Hazel Drew?” I look forward to coming up with a solution to this mystery. On March 13th Ron Hughes will be here in person to discuss his research and theories at the Sand Lake Center for the Arts hosted by the Sand Lake Historical Society. I hope all the amateur detectives out there join us.

    • John January 8, 2018, 1:30 pm

      Thanks Joan, I’m looking forward to the 13th!

  • Jan Newport April 29, 2018, 5:01 pm

    I wish I could say I have artifacts, etc. for you to use, but I don’t. However, I’ve sent out “feelers” to relatives. One of my cousins lives in the original log house where our grandfather was born on Berlin Mountain, way past Taborton. He has an ox which would present a suitable farm scene, I would think. He may also have some vintage items. I know he has old cars, but I don’t think any as old as you need. I have a picture of my grandparents, who were married in 1909, in a horse drawn buggy, but I doubt that has survived. Wish I could help!! Best luck in your quest for artifacts! I’ll continue to spread the word.
    (Incidentally, I was steered to your website by our step grand daughter-in-law, Nicole Molinski.)
    Jan Newport

    • John April 30, 2018, 3:37 pm

      Hi Jan, Thanks for reaching out and sending out feelers. I’m getting some of the items needed, thanks to helpful people like you. An Ox would be great 🙂 I’m looking forward to working with Nicole. She’s got a great part! Cheers! John

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