Here’s the final entry in this series of the excerpt from Murder at Teal’s Pond, the story that inspired the show Twin Peaks.
The authors are giving away three copies of the book, so don’t delay. Enter today by sending an email to David Bushman at email@example.com!
Here’s where we left off.
Twin Peaks brought us here, and it is to Twin Peaks that we now return:
Similarities between the Hazel Drew murder and the TV series poked at us, relentlessly. Sand Lake, we found out, has twin peaks of its own: Perigo Hill, in the northeast corner of the town, and Oak Hill, near the center, each rising to an elevation of nine hundred feet. The eastern part of the town, including Taborton, is rich with woods, evoking the anagogic Ghostwood of Twin Peaks. Laura Palmer’s body was discovered on the bank of a lake by lumberjack Pete Martell as he went out fishing early one morning, Hazel’s in a mill pond by two young men on a weekend camping and fishing outing. Back in the day – before the denuding of the forests — lumbering was big business in Sand Lake; the mills, powered first by water and then by steam, employed over two hundred people, enriching their owners, just like Twin Peaks’s Packard Mill. When the mills shut down in Sand Lake and Troy, industry moved on and those jobs were lost for good, evoking the third season of Twin Peaks.
Colorful characters like Hazel’s erratic parents, charcoal burner Rudy Gundrum, “half-witted” farmhand Frank Smith, belligerent aunt Minnie Taylor, and recalcitrant uncle William Taylor seemed like real-life counterparts to the Log Lady, Dr. Jacoby, Major Briggs, and Sarah Palmer.
Finally, during one particularly exhilarating moment, we came across the name Thomas Lawson — who one day, many years hence — would become the maternal grandfather of Mark Frost, the man who had sent us on this journey in the first place. Lawson, a highly respected professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy at the time, was a minor player in the story of Hazel Drew — a colleague and friend of her last employer, fellow RPI professor Edward Cary, who doubled as city engineer for a time — but even still! We admit to momentary anxiety over the discovery — neither one of us wanted to be responsible for discovering that Frost’s grandfather was somehow implicated in the death of the woman who inspired his grandson’s greatest creation. Thankfully, neither of us had to make that phone call.
The deeper we probed, the more striking the similarities between the two women at the center of these stories — Hazel Drew and Laura Palmer — became. Both were beautiful and beguiling young women who inspired male obsession. Laura, as her psychiatrist, Dr. Jacoby, famously said, built fortresses around her secrets; Hazel, too, had secrets, and those around her either failed to penetrate them or went to their graves protecting them. In Laura’s case, clues were everywhere, yet everyone in her orbit ignored them, resulting in her death. Might Hazel too have been saved if people have been paying closer attention?
True, Laura came from a wealthy family — her father was a successful attorney employed by the wealthiest man in town — while Hazel was of modest means at best; her father was a rapscallion who loved booze and couldn’t seem to hold a job. But Hazel did leave home at an early age and would go on to interact with some of the most influential, politically wired families in town, exposing her to a lifestyle foreign from her own.
Both Laura and Hazel dreamed of escape and reinvention; in the end, fate determined otherwise.
If Hazel had been a man, or a person of wealth, might her murderer have been apprehended?
Still, Hazel’s murder and the ensuing investigation didn’t lack for attention; rather, it became front-page fodder for newspapers across the country. Why? A working-class girl from a poor family is murdered in a remote section of woods that most people had never even heard of. Something about this story was obsessively compelling, drawing the attention even of famous journalists like Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer (pen name: Dorothy Dix) and William M. Clemens.
As we continued to investigate, reasons started to suggest themselves. First, there was the political angle. Hazel’s employers were powerful people. District Attorney Jarvis O’Brien was up for re-election. Rumors of wild sex parties and young women held captive against their will at a camp (or summer home) not far from the scene of her death surfaced. Allegations of secret affairs and possibly even an unwanted pregnancy were tossed around daily in newspaper articles. We started out wondering who killed Hazel Drew; we wound up just as immersed in another, even more rudimentary mystery: who was Hazel Drew? Because almost all of the people who controlled the narrative contemporaneously — chiefly investigators and reporters — were men, the story was filtered through the male gaze, and Hazel — like Laura Palmer and her antecedent, the eponymous protagonist of the 1944 Otto Preminger film noir Laura — became a projection on a screen, absorbing whatever qualities or shortcomings these unreliable narrators assigned to her: woman as defined by male obsession.
As we said earlier, investigating a 113-year-old cold case isn’t easy. We do, however, believe we’ve uncovered the murderer, and we make a pretty strong case for the prosecution. The solution is explosive. Read on to find out who, and why.
Hazel Drew has been dead for 113 years.
Epicurus notwithstanding, Hazel is still here.
David Bushman is the author of five books, two on true crime and three on pop culture. His most recent book, Forget It, Jake, It’s Schenectady: The True Story Behind ‘The Place Beyond the Pines,’ looks at one of the most notorious police scandals in New York State history, resulting in the convictions of four policemen and the suicide of a fifth, who took his own life after being pressured to testify against his colleagues on the force. The FBI probe also resulted in the resignation of the Schenectady chief of police, who soon after was arrested and convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. David spent twenty-five years as a television curator at The Paley Center for Media (formerly The Museum of Television + Radio), where he organized screening series and exhibitions and moderated panels. His other books include Twin Peaks FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About a Place Both Wonderful and Strange (2016), Buffy the Vampire Slayer FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Sunnydale’s Slayer of Vampires Demons and Other Forces of Darkness (2017), and Conversations with Mark Frost: Twin Peaks, Hill Street Blues, and the Education of a Writer (2020). He lives in New York with his wife and two daughters.
Mark Givens worked as a consultant for the federal government for many, many years and is the creator and host of the Twin Peaks-centric podcast Deer Meadow Radio (www.deermeadowradio.libsyn.com). His first book, the Amazon bestseller Murder At Teal’s Pond: Hazel Drew and the Mystery That Inspired Twin Peaks was published in January of 2022. Mark lives a sometimes strange and wonderful life with his wife and three children in the outskirts of Philadelphia, where he is currently brainstorming concepts for his next book.