The Unsolved: Hazel Drew

I just want to start off by saying that this is just a cursory glance at the Hazel Drew story and its connection to Twin Peaks. If this post piques your interest, I highly suggest reading Who Killed Hazel Drew? by Ron Hughes and for more in-depth details.

The Murder and Discovery

          The night of July 7, 1908 was not typical for 20 year old Hazel Drew. She had recently quit her job working with a professor, though the reason behind this decision remains cloudy. She traveled to Sand Lake, NY on the evening of July 7th, presumably to visit family there. After she arrived, she was seen walking alone by two locals – one of which she knew and spoke to, the other had no interaction with the young woman. She was not seen alive again after these two sightings.
          Four days later, Drew was found floating facedown in nearby Teal’s Pond. Having been in the water for days, she had to be identified by her clothing and dental fillings. An autopsy showed that she had suffered from a blow to the back of her head, which was the cause of her death. She did not have any water in her lungs, meaning she was dead before entering the pond. Her gloves and hat were both found on the nearby shore. All signs pointed to a deliberate homicide.

(A photo of Hazel Drew.
via Find a Grave)

The Theories

            There are many theories posited to explain Drew’s death. They fall into two categories: accidental and deliberate. There’s really only one theory in the accidental category, and it was posited by the police themselves. According to the investigation, no motive could be established. So that means it must be an accident, right? A local newspaper ran an article in which the officers posited that Drew was hit by a car and the driver dumped her body in the pond to cover up his accident. This theory, however, did not go over well. The rumor mill churned out story after story based on little (or no) fact. Some said Drew was dating a married man and was pregnant by him, leading him to murder her. Other said someone she spurned killed her in a bitter rage. Or maybe an admirer decided no one else could have her.
          As for who specifically killed Drew, there are several ideas floating around. Her brother was staying at a nearby farmhouse at the time, and the owner’s son became a suspect. This young man was said to be of low intelligence, and her brother described him as being “big and naughty.” Next is Drew’s depressed uncle, whose whereabouts could not be accounted for during the time of the murder. Or perhaps it was a scorned lover who was bitter over a breakup – Drew’s father admitted she was once to be wed. Maybe the local dentist, with whom Drew supposedly had an appointment? There’s really not an argument for or against any of these suspects, as there is virtually no evidence in the case. All of these accusations are not necessarily founded in fact. This case is a good example of how rumors and exaggeration can affect a murder investigation – the police want to close the case, the family wants the truth, and people? People just want to create drama and get attention.

The Legacy

            The unsolved murder of Hazel Drew has left a lasting mark on the world. Though her name may not be known outside of the area in which she lived and died, the bones of her story will seem familiar to anyone with an interest in 90s television – the iconic character of Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks is inspired by Drew. Mark Frost, the co-writer and co-creator of the iconic series, has confirmed this as fact. Frost grew up spending his summers in Sand Lake, near where Drew was murdered. The lore of the murder still hung heavy over the area. Frost’s grandmother regaled him with Drew’s story each time he visited, and this led him to pull inspiration from Drew’s story.

(Drew (left) and Palmer (right).
via the Washington Post)

          Let’s look at the parallels between Laura Palmer and Hazel Drew. Both Palmer and Drew were both considered to be picture-perfect. Both were beautiful and blonde, with impeccable reputations. In Twin Peaks, Laura Palmer was the popular homecoming queen. She was well-liked and had a great support system in her family and friends. In real life, Hazel Drew was a well-respected governess and reportedly had meaningful relationships with her family and friends. The other overarching parallel is that both Drew and Palmer had a hidden side to them, and a darker side of their life to go along with it. In Twin Peaks, Palmer was haunted by abuse, a cocaine addiction, and affairs with older men. In real life, it is rumored that Drew also held a second life.

Final Thoughts

           This is a case I don’t see getting solved. It’s unfortunate, but over a hundred years have passed without anything coming to light. The only way I can see life being breathed into this case is through the discovery of someone’s journal or letters or something like that. Or maybe someone coming forward with a family member’s hidden deathbed confession. But without something like that, I doubt we’ll ever see justice or resolution for Hazel Drew.


2 thoughts on “The Unsolved: Hazel Drew”

  1. Just read the Ron Hughes book, the one angle that may have been covered elsewhere but not in the book was the question…was Hazel Drew a lesbian and her rich benefactor was a woman?

    It would explain all the secrecy, coldness from the family and coded letters and why Minnie wouldn’t reveal what she new.

    1. Very very interesting! It’s something that definitely wouldn’t have been documented out of shame, and would explain what you’ve mentioned. Great theory.

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