New Movie ‘Solves’ Local 1908 Murder Case That Inspired ‘Twin Peaks’

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A week after Hazel Drew, 20, was mysteriously murdered in the hamlet of Sand Lake in Taborton, and three days after her body was found floating in the waters of Teal’s Pond by a group of camping teenagers, the first Times Union page on July 14, 1908, already gave a taste of what was to come with its headlines.

“Hazel Drew’s killer is unknown”

“Officials are completely baffled as no clues of any value can be found”

What followed were several weeks of intense and sensationalized daily coverage, both here and in New York newspapers and even elsewhere across the country. And “no clues” quickly turned into an overabundance of clues, often both confusing and contradictory, as well as a gallery of suspects, persons of interest and related parties up and down the social strata. .

The increasingly dark story soon involved alleged sex parties, political corruption, double lives, missing suitcases, late-night dentistry, and doomed love affairs. The public’s attention was captured and the media was more than happy to provide every minute detail of the case. It all came to a head until, with the story now endlessly convoluted and the mystery still unsolved, people lost interest, the stories dwindled, and Hazel Drew took her place in local folklore.

One of the people who kept the legend alive was Betty Calhoun, a resident of Taborton who used the violent murder to tell a cautionary tale of a ghostly young woman who haunted the surrounding woods, the better to keep her grandsons safe. out of them when they visit during the summers. One of those boys, a young Mark Frost, grew up to be the novelist and television writer/producer who co-created the show “Twin Peaks” with David Lynch.

That’s right, Laura Palmer — and her tragic, watery demise — was inspired by Hazel Drew. And while the real tale didn’t involve log ladies or malevolent spirits named Bob, it had enough twists and colorful characters to rival anything Frost and Lynch cooked up.

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In a recent episode of The Eagle, we spoke to filmmaker John Holser, whose new documentary attempts to solve the centuries-old murder in Rensselaer County that inspired the plot of “Twin Peaks.”


Now, 114 years after Drew’s death and 32 years after “Twin Peaks” debuted, a new movie claims to solve the crime once and for all. John Holser’s 96-minute documentary, “Who Killed Hazel Drew,” has its theatrical premiere Sunday at 6 p.m. at Cohoes Music Hall. Kathy Sheehan, Rensselaer County and City of Troy Historian, will be on hand to provide historical perspective.

Holser says he was inspired to tell this true story because of Frost’s original flash of inspiration. “I was intrigued historically, because I grew up in this area. I was intrigued because my family lived less than a mile from where her body was found and where she grew up, but mostly I was intrigued by the challenge of telling the story in a way that was insightful, entertaining and historically correct.”

The film traces the efforts of present-day citizen detectives to solve the century-old case while exposing the dark underbelly of a post-Gilded Age Troy and Rensselaer County.

“I was curious about what elements would speak to me and what I would do with them in a narrative and visually,” Holser continues. “Cinema can be a wonderful excuse to explore the dynamics of life lived at any point in history.”

If you are going to

What: Screening of the film “Who Killed Hazel Drew”

Or: Cohoes Music Hall, 58 Remsen Street, Cohoes

When: 6 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $18

Information: 518-434-0776; thecohoesmusichall.org

Movie website: hazeldrew.com


This all follows the January release of the book “Murder at Teal’s Pond: Hazel Drew and the Mystery that Inspired Twin Peaks,” by self-proclaimed “Twin Peaks” devotees David Bushman and Mark T. Givens. Frost even wrote the foreword. Meanwhile, the publisher’s description says Drew sought to escape his rural roots in “the notoriously corrupt metropolis of Troy, New York.”

The benefits of decades of hindsight — not to mention a critically acclaimed cult classic milestone that spawned two movie sequels, multiple books, and a 2017 TV revival — fueled these latest efforts, but what about those intrepid journalists of 1908 who had to try to make sense of everything as it happened? Here’s a look at how the Times Union handled it.

Tuesday July 14, 1908: Police searched for charcoal peddler Rudolph Gundrum to corroborate the story of a ‘half-witted boy named Smith’, who said the two saw Hazel Drew get out of a car in Averill Park on July 7 and start walking towards Teal’s Pond. She reportedly told them she was going to visit her uncle’s farm in Poestenkill, nearly 4 miles away.

Drew packed up and told her aunt she was going to stay with a friend in Watervliet, but none of her associates in that town had seen her for a month. Also, no suitcases were recovered and the Smith boy said she was not carrying one.

Wednesday July 15, 1908: Someone named ‘Con’ Sullivan was now wanted by police after he allegedly remarked that while on a carriage ride on June 21, Drew and his aunt, Minnie Taylor, had planned to spend a day after the 4th of July with the men they were currently accompanying.

Water from Teal’s Pond was drawn in hopes of finding Drew’s missing suitcase. The coroner determined that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head. A corset string found at the scene and a mark on her neck initially led to speculation that she had been strangled, but it was determined that the mark was from her collar pressing into her neck.

Thursday, July 16, 1908: Under the headline “The Murderer Can Never Be Caught,” The Times Union reported that Drew’s suitcase had been found in the Union Station parcel hall in Troy, containing the nightgown his mother had had said that she was special and that she would not travel. anywhere without.


Speaking of her mother, the Times Union said the woman applied for the $500 life insurance policy her daughter took out with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company after a positive body identification. The newspaper further stated that “the Drew family are a strange family…they showed no interest in helping try to find the murderer. They received the news of the girl’s death in a rather indifferent way.

Saturday July 18, 1908: An acquaintance of Drew from Maine told police the murdered woman had received an offer from a dentist in Troy, possibly the same dentist Drew had arranged appointments with at the dentist at night, according to his employer.
After denying for days that their daughter had a love life, Drew’s father admitted she was engaged a few years earlier to a man who broke up with her when she fell ill, then married another woman .

Wednesday, July 22, 1908: Rensselaer County District Attorney Jarvis P. O’Brien considers exhuming Drew’s body after numerous details about various men, unexplained trips and other rumors cast doubt on her family’s attempts to portray her as “pure” and “virtuous.” O’Brien thought the coroner’s review had been cursory, especially in light of new evidence that Drew had spent two weeks at her uncle’s farm the previous January, sick and in some “condition”, and she could have been in the same “state”. again at the time of his death.

Thursday, July 23, 1908: DA O’Brien decided not to exhume Drew’s body, saying whether she had an “operation” or not had no bearing on the cause of death. New witnesses said Drew drove to Union Station in Troy on the afternoon of July 7, waiting to meet an unknown person. At the same time, Frank Jones, the husband of Drew’s friend from Maine, was wanted to determine if he was in Troy at the time of the murder. And the letters kept by Drew showed “that she had a fondness for male society”.

Monday July 27, 1908: The inquest into the death of Hazel Drew began in the dance hall of Ward’s Hotel in Averill Park and the district attorney, fearing the identity of a murderer would never be found, called for testimony a prominent doctor in Troy that she died of suicide, probably out of fear of her current “condition”. Five different doctors had said she died before hitting the water, but the witness said she injured her head when she hit a rock on the shore as she tried to drown.

Tuesday July 28, 1908: Mrs. John Drew, mother of Hazel Drew, told an Associated Press reporter that she believed her daughter had been ‘hypnotized’ or ‘hypnotized’ by someone who then killed her .

Friday, July 31, 1908: The day after the inquest into Hazel Drew’s death was concluded without uncovering a single new clue, the coroner issues his final decision: “Hazel Irene Drew died of blood extravasation in the hard- mother caused by a blow to the head from a blunt instrument in an unknown manner.

Thursday November 18, 1909: A new murder mystery took center stage when the body of a 27-year-old Green Island woman, named Caroline Gorgen, was found in an ash heap in the back of a Troy brewery at Hoosick and Tenth streets. . It has been mentioned several times that, much like the Hazel Drew case, it will likely remain unsolved.

Wednesday, November 24, 1909: Finally, Hazel Drew was mentioned, along with fellow murder victims Caroline Gorgen and Anna Mitchell, in a Times Union op-ed offering advice that young women should learn: “The average man in his attitude towards girls and women are a kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde persona. It has two sides, a good one and a bad one. He went on to explain this incoherent and contradictory nature of man before concluding with, “Don’t be a prude and fear no man.” Be honest, frank and fearless, but Draw the line.”

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