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Murder Mystery Backstory

Hazel Drew Sand Lake Mystery Inspires Twin Peaks - Troy Authorities

Early on July 6th, 1908, a day before Hazel Drew was murdered, Mrs. Edward Cary, wife of Rensselaer Polytechnic Professor Edward Cary, asked her governess to do the laundry.

The job of the governess doesn’t typically involve laundry, that was the job of a domestic servant. So without notice, the governess quit. She packed her things and moved out of the Carey’s Pawling Avenue house the same morning.

She had just returned from a festive season on fourth of July weekend, a weekend with her Aunt.

Hazel Drew was by all accounts in a very good mood.

To many, including Mrs. Carey, quitting her job over something so small was strange and uncharacteristic.

The attractive nineteen year old was about to start a new chapter in her life.

Hazel Drew Sand Lake Mystery Inspires Twin Peaks - Hazel DrewHazel was respected and even admired by many including her friends, her family and the Carey’s.
But in recent months her travels became more frequent – trips to New York City, Boston and beyond. Her wardrobe became increasingly more fashionable, this made Mrs Carey and others wonder how someone with the salary of a governess could afford the lifestyle she was living?
Had her travels offered her new opportunities?
Had she meet someone or had the time away given her the confidence?

Hazel Drew had few concerns.

She was nineteen years old, she was pretty and seemed to think she had plenty of opportunities.
Hazel left the Carey’s in good spirits, she then visited her aunt and then made her way into Troy to see her mother. But exactly where she went that afternoon and where she spent the night is a mystery.
There were things about this pretty blond that those closest to her didn’t know. Answering these questions will go a long way in solving the Hazel Drew Murder.
What we do know is Hazel:
  • left with four dollars and fifty cents, salary owed from Mrs Carey
  • borrowed two dollars from her mother
  • checked a suitcase into storage Troy’s union station
  • boarded a train to Albany and returned to Troy and hour and a half later
  • was spotted twice in Troy on Tuesday July 7th between 12:00 noon and 1:49 pm
  • was spotted twice on Taborton Road, in Sand Lake between 7 and 7:30 PM
  • body was found floating face down in Teal Pond
Why was she in Sand Lake?
How did she get there?
Who Killed Hazel Drew?
Questions Troy District Attorney Jarvis P. O’Brien asked then, and many others continue to ask over one hundred years later.

A Ghost is in the Woods

The 1908 Hazel Drew murder would have stayed forgotten if not for grandma Calhoun’s bedtime stories and the imagination of her grandson Mark Frost, a future storyteller and co-creator of 1990 and 1991 television series Twin Peaks.
In an essay for a Sand Lake newsletter Mark writes;
“The inspiration for the television series Twin Peaks sprang from a nightmarish little bedtime story my grandmother Betty Calhoun planted in my ear as a young boy,”
“Betty, whose interest in the facts was, at best, glancing, framed this tale more along the lines of a cautionary ghost story: don’t go out in the woods at night, etc.”
“Poor Hazel’s body was found on the banks of the pond. Mystery ensued. Uncertainty about the perpetrator lingered, and may still.
“Some weeks later, a calf, stuck in the mud and bleating for help under a dim half moon, was mistaken for the spirit of the lost girl by a couple of local drunks, who fled the scene in terror.”
“Some twenty years later, half-remembered details of this sad tale swam through my sub-conscious during the creation of a similarly doomed character named Laura Palmer.”

Laura Palmer & Hazel Drew

Hazel Drew, Laura Palmer, Twin Peaks

Fueled by mystery, Hazel’s murder became front page news, attracting journalists from all over the country. They reported daily on the “Teal Pond Mystery.” Every day police and detectives made new discoveries. And, with every new discovery came another suspect, more questions and even more mystery.
“Drew – a blond bombshell with a ‘well-formed figure’ – was last seen picking raspberries by the side of Taborton Road at 7 pm on July 7, 1908.” – Daily Mail article, March 23, 2017, “EXCLUSIVE: From Sand Lake to Twin Peaks – How one woman’s grisly unsolved murder in 1908 inspired the 90s cult TV drama that is making a comeback in a Showtime reboot “
Hazel Drew was one of those women that other women admired. Her blonde, thick hair, was always immaculately styled. Her blue eyes were serious yet charming, and she had a small, upturned mouth, which in hindsight, made it appear as though she was always hiding a secret.”
Historian Ron Hughes says, “Hazel was drop dead gorgeous, beautiful… she was very classy, polite and fashionable.”

Laura Palmer was a straight A student and Meals on Wheels volunteer, the homecoming queen.

On the surface she was the daughter, neighbor, friend and student every community wished they had more of. Unfortunately, her death and Agent Dale Cooper’s investigation opened a box of secrets and revealed another Laura. Evidence showed Laura Palmer was living a secret double life as a cocaine-abusing prostitute.
One by one, each secret painted a clearer picture while simultaneously providing a series of rabbit holes to darker and stranger places.

Hazel Drew Murder Mystery

Previously in 1908, District Attorney O’Brien unraveled the clues to a girl with secrets. What he found in her trunk opened questions about another young girl’s double life.

Miss Drew was not all she seemed.

It was first reported that Hazel had “no known sweetheart.” Rensselaer Polytechnic Professor Green, employer of Hazel’s good friend Carrie Weaver, said “Miss Drew met Miss Weaver and soon after her arrival became intimate. No young men ever called on them.
But contradicting that – on July 15th the Troy Record reported that a “the dead girl had an engagement with a real estate dealer and insurance man”
The papers also reported wealthy business man Henry Kramroth’s glasses were found near Teal Pond. Kramroth owned a camp in Sand Lake where neighbors reported orgies and women being held against their will.
One newspaper report described a woman “clad only in a rubber overcoat” and neighbors had heard screams emanating from the camp near the time of the murder.  Kramroth defended himself against allegations, including that women were being held against their will at his resort.
Again fans can see shades of Twin Peaks’ Ben Horne and his Canadian brothel “One-Eyed Jacks.”

Number of Hazel Drew murder suspects increased daily

Those of you who remember the revolving door of suspects and theories fueling the fist season of Twin Peaks will appreciate the daily changes and abundance of suspects named in the Hazel Drew murder.
It kinda reads like the cast from an Agatha Christie mystery:
“Police honed in on a numerous suspects, including a ‘dim-witted’ farm boy, a drunken charcoal peddler, a train conductor and a dentist who had supposedly proposed to Drew despite being married.”
” A ‘florid-faced’ stranger spotted near the pond and a man with a ‘dark-complexion’ seen with a girl who looked like Drew on a trolley bus were also suspected.”
Then there was Drew’s ‘suicidal and melancholy’ uncle William Taylor who lived near the pond and helped pull her body from the water. Even locals who had no obvious connection to Drew came under suspicion, most notably the ‘half-witted’ son of a Sand Lake widow, Sowalsky, a muscular troubled boy of twenty who was believed to torture farm animals.
Hazel checked a suitcase into storage, but no one ever found out why. There was a newspaper clipping in the case, a notice that said Edward LaVoie had departed for Chattanooga, Tennessee. Was Hazel’s suitcase awaiting her return for a trip to Tennessee?

Will the “Hazel Drew Murder” be solved 109 years later?

It was ninety degrees on July 7th and a beautiful nineteen year old girl dressed in heeled Victorian boots, a long dress and gloves was murdered shortly after catching the eye of Sand Lake local and one-time neighbor, Frank Smith.
He said,
“She was strolling along Taborton Road, idly swinging her hat as though she had no special errand.”
Another witness saw her picking raspberries on the side of Taborton Road around 7 pm. She commented to her husband that it was late for such a pretty girl to be walking alone. They drove on.
Miss Drew was classy, polite and fashionable. Frank Smith and many other men were fond of her. Her older brother Joseph said,
”Hazel was a pretty girl, and had many admirers. I am inclined to think she cared more for girls than for men.”
Hazel Drew's mother claims she was hypnotizedOn July 6th, the day before her last walk on Taborton Road, Hazel left her job, visited her aunt and her mother but never mentioned her plans to travel to Sand Lake to either one.
Or did she?
  • Her Aunt Minnie was apparently withholding information and urging her friends to be tight lipped
  • Her mother Julia, believed a man who was said to have hypnotic powers, had exerted a “mysterious influence” over her daughter.
One story Sand Lake grandparents used to tell was that three local businessmen, including a lawyer and an undertaker, were involved in the murder. It was thought that one of them got her pregnant — so they did her in.

Hazel’s final hours revisited

Is it possible that she took the trolly from Troy to Sand Lake and none saw her?
Why had her gloves been folded neatly and placed 20ft from the shore alongside her elegant straw hat and monogrammed pin?
These and more unanswered questions are being addressed now, a hundred years later, by a group of historians and authors. Armed with nothing more than an internet connection and hundreds of archived newspapers, they’re working to uncover and understand what, where, how and especially who?
  • Do they really think they can solve the Hazel Drew murder case?
  • What drives them so deep into the past?
  • Why are they trying to understand a girl they never knew, a life so different from theirs?
  • Why did Hazel’s murder effect Mark Frost in such a strong and memorable way?

Hazel Drew Sand Lake Mystery Inspires Twin Peaks

“Who killed Hazel Drew?” is the question I’m asking myself as I interview experts and work on scripting a Hazel Drew docu-drama.
As of this moment I have no answers. I’m trying  to be content with just asking the questions and imagining the possibilities.
This reminds me of two poignant quotes.
        “Work done with anxiety about results is far inferior to work done without such anxiety, in the calm of self-surrender. Seek refuge in the knowledge of Brahma. They who work selfishly for results are miserable.” – Bhagavad Gita
        “A wise man once told me that mystery is the most essential ingredient of life, for the following reason: Mystery creates wonder, which leads to curiosity, which in turn provides the ground for our desire to understand who and what we truly are.” – Mark Frost taken from The Secret History of Twin Peaks

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