Home » Ghosts in the Darkness: A History of the Blair Witch Legend Part II

Ghosts in the Darkness: A History of the Blair Witch Legend Part II

Twenty years ago a movie was made by taking hours of found footage recorded by three missing film students and editing it into a short, cohesive narrative. This film was then released into cinemas where it quickly became something of a sensation…

Missed part one of this feature? Check it out now!

And in the summer of 1999, millions across the world felt the same fear that residents of Burkittsville, Maryland have been experiencing for centuries. 

Fear of the woods and the dark and the unknown.

Fear of pain and suffering. Fear of being afraid.

Fear of the Blair Witch.  

With the release of the Blair Witch game for the Xbox One and PC, the video game industry joins Hollywood in continuing to exploit centuries of Maryland folklore and tragedy, seeming to forget that behind the legends and the whispers the history of the Blair Witch is one which lays claim to a large number of real life victims, all of which deserve to be remembered and have their voices heard.

Heather Donahue once said the evidence of the Blair Witch legend could be seen all around us. “Etched in stone,” she said, referring to the grave markers that surrounded her in that Burkittsville cemetery. But, as Heather’s own family knows all too well, that’s not always true, because sometimes the legend of the Blair Witch doesn’t leave anything behind to bury. 

The truth of Elly Kedward and the Black Hills will always be somewhat illusory. Both there and not there simultaneously. Schrödinger’s Witch. You can read the lore, you can study the mythology, and you can learn the history… but none of that guarantees understanding, because the real story often hides between the lines of text, shrinking away from the light.

A book of shadows.

Does something evil lurk in the Black Hills forest in and near Burkittsville, Maryland? Those of the skeptical persuasion often scoff at such a notion. 

But history? History tells a different story.

One not etched in stone, but written in blood. 

This is the history of the Blair Witch, as told by those that lived it, those that studied it, and those whose lives it has claimed.

Also See: 20 Years on, Nothing Compares to TBWP

Part II – The Ballad of Rustin Parr (And Other Tales)

TIMELINE (1940 – 1992)

Nov. 13, 1940 – Emily Hollands is abducted. (BWV1, TB7)

Dec. 5, 1940 – Kyle Brody is abducted. (BWV1, TB7)

Jan. 8, 1941 – Terra Shelly is abducted. (BWV1, TB7)

Feb. 20, 1941 – Steven Thompson is abducted. (BWV1, TB7)

Mar. 5, 1941 – Michael Guidry is abducted. (BWV1, TB7)

Mar. 13, 1941 – Eric Norris is abducted. (BWV1, TB7)

Apr. 2, 1941 – Julie Forsyth is abducted. (BWV1, TB7)

May 20, 1941 – Margaret Lowell is abducted. (BWV1, TB7)

May 25, 1941 – Rustin Parr walks into a local Burkittsville market and says that he is “finally finished.” After people hike to his secluded home in the woods, they find the bodies of seven missing children in the cellar. Each child has been ritualistically murdered and disemboweled. Parr admits to everything in detail, telling authorities that he did it for an “old woman ghost” who occupied the woods near his house. (BWL, BWD)

Nov. 22, 1941 – Rustin Parr is hanged. (CBW)

Late 1960s – A group referred to by the media as “The Blair Witch Cult” forms near Burkittsville. They use the Black Hills forest as a location for their rituals. (BDS, BBS)

1971Kyle Brody dies within the walls of the institution he spent most of his adult life living in. (BWD) The documentary Mystic Occurrences is also released this year. Hosted by Lucan Johnson, the film briefly delves into the legend of the Blair Witch. (CBW)

1983 – Cece Malvey, a student at Johns Hopkins University, disappears for six hours during a botany class trip to the Black Hills forest. Later the same year he hangs himself after creating the crudely drawn comic book Wood Witch Said. (BWC)

Jul 15, 1984 – Charles Patterson and his son Jeffrey go camping in the Black Hills forest. During the trip Charles hits his head on a rock, putting him into a coma from which he has never arisen. (BBS, SBW) 

May 14, 1992 – Jeffrey Patterson kidnaps a baby from the Walker family residence. The baby is returned unharmed the following morning and Patterson is committed to a mental health facility. (BBS, SBW)

1940: RUSTIN PARR AND THE BURKITTSVILLE 7

Prior to the release of The Blair Witch Project, the Rustin Parr murders were probably the most famous case associated with the Blair Witch legend. Tragically, seven young children (the “Burkittsville 7”) were found buried in Parr’s cellar, having been killed and mutilated. But it was Parr’s insistence that the killings were done at the behest of “an old lady ghost” that cemented his place within the mythology.     

“As I remember Mister Parr was an old hermit and he lived up on the mountain, he had a place up there and had been there for a long, long time. Sorta in the winter I guess that followed – the winter of 1940 – some of the young kids started disappearing.  Nobody knew anything about why they were disappearing.” – Jim Maynard (BWP, BFN)

“It wasn’t long after that, that Mr. Parr came into town and walked into Mr. Smith or Mr. Stryker’s store – I don’t know which one, one of the general stores – (depends on) who, you know, who was telling the story as to where he went. He come in and he said the words that have become famous in Burkittsville.” – Bill Barnes (TB7)

“One day, old Mister Parr come down into the market and said ‘I’m finally finished’… Nobody knew (what he meant by that) at first but the police went… and they searched his house and they found the bodies of seven kids from the area. And those were the seven kids that were missing. And then they brought them out of the woods one at a time. And it just was a terrible thing, just tore the whole community up.” – Jim Maynard (BWP, BFN)

“‘I’m finally finished.’ Those were the words that are attributed to him. I have asked around to anyone who might have been a survivor of that time. I can’t find anybody who is willing to say they know that Rustin Parr said those words.” – Chris Carrazco (TB7)

“Burt Adkins, who owned the store, thought at first Parr was referring to the wagonload of dog food the hermit had bought on his last visit into town.” – D. A. Stern (CRP)

“He said, ‘I’m finally finished.’ And that was his acceptance of death, I think. It had nothing to do with the crime. Everybody said, ‘Ahhh!’ But I don’t think it had anything to do with the crime.” – Dominick Cazale (TB7)

“Sheriff Bowers and Deputy Hobart found the bodies of seven little children buried in Parr’s basement. On their way back into town, they were accosted by the eighth child who had gone missing from Burkittsville during the seven months between November 1940 and May 1941.

From twelve-year-old Kyle Brody, they learned the horrible details of Parr’s crimes…” – D. A. Stern (CRP)

“He begins telling everyone what happened to him over this time. That he’s been locked into Rustin Parr’s home – into one of the rooms in the upstairs. And periodically he would be brought out by Rustin Parr who then, according to Kyle Brody… would face him into a corner while Rustin Parr then performed these atrocities on these children.” – Chris Carrazco (TB7)

“Each of them had again been disemboweled. There was again reported strange markings and carvings on their hands – on their foreheads – ritualistic carvings if you will.” – Lucan Johnson (CBW)

“What he did is, he took the kids down into the basement by twos and he made one face into the corner and then he would kill the other one. And then when he was done with that, he’d grab the one out of the corner and kill that one too. Said in court that he couldn’t take the eyes on him. He could… feel the eyes watching him. That’s why he made them face into the corner like that.” – Burkittsville resident (BWP)

TALIA COLE

He would take them up to his attic and make one stand in the corner while he killed the other one. 

LANE WALLER

There’s been some debate on that. Actually where… whether it was the attic or the basement.

ASHLEY BENNETT

So he thought he heard the Blair Witch telling him to kill people?

TALIA COLE

Well, he never said who its was. He just said that it sounded like this voice of an old woman.

Excerpt from conversation between Talia Cole, Lane Waller and Ashley Bennett from Blair Witch (BW3)

“Rustin Parr admitted to this crime and in the court he said that the reason he killed the children is that he was doing what this old lady ghost had told him to do. Now, it’s possible that this man was trying to fit himself into the mythos of the Blair Witch, but that’s conjecture.” – Charles Moorehouse (CBW)

“Twenty-five years after Parr’s death a national magazine published a retrospective on the killings that featured photographs of Parr’s house. One shows an inside wall covered with tiny, bloody handprints. It’s been assumed that they were the prints of the children he killed. But there’s no actual proof of that, nor is there anything that tells us if the prints belonged to one, two, or all seven of the children.” – Cade Merrill (BWF2)

“The murder of the so-called Burkittsville Seven is, in the opinion of this reporter and many others, the most shocking crime of the century. A mentally retarded drifter named Rustin Parr kidnapped and killed seven young children in the basement of his backwoods shack.
Now an even more horrifying truth about the deaths has emerged. Over this past weekend, a source that must remain unnamed informed this reporter that Parr also sadistically tortured his victims before putting them to death.
‘He cut those kids,’ the source revealed. ‘Let the scars heal, and then cut ’em again. It was like he was writing on them.’”
Excerpt from Baltimore Star article (BGS)

“I don’t think anybody ever thoroughly looked at the story. People just assumed things about Rustin Parr, they decided that certain things were this way, and they never did a thorough investigation.” – Chris Carrazco (TB7)

“Kyle Brody… was able to give testimony, and it was his words that decided the fate of the Burkittsville killer.” – Curse of the Blair Witch narration (CBW)

“(Kyle Brody) had details about Emily Hollands’ abduction. Emily Hollands was abducted an entire two weeks before Kyle Brody went missing. And yet he knows events about the abduction. About where Parr found her in the woods and abducted her and brought her back to his place.” – Chris Carrazco (TB7)

“The seven children that died, none of these children knew everyone of the other children that were missing. The only person out of the entire group that did know all eight of the children abducted was Kyle Brody. He had past histories with them – some of them troubled pasts. There are some instances… of their being disturbances between Kyle and some of the other kids.” – Chris Carrazco (TB7)

“What might have happened, actually, was that Kyle Brody had… planned this from the beginning.” – Chris Carrazco (TB7)

“…To turn around and say that my brother killed those children. Those children were his friends.” – Janine Brody (TB7)

“Rustin Parr never threatened anyone in any way. He was a peaceful person, and I just don’t believe that he had it in him to perform these… atrocious acts that were done to these children. This kid had it in him to develop these ideas, these schemes, these plans… and I think he is the one who lead Rustin Parr through every one of these things… I think he was there, taking Rustin Parr’s hand, putting the knife in it and having him do this because he would need someone with the strength of an adult to do some of these acts. But he was the one that was making the decisions. He was the one guiding Rustin Parr through this.” – Chris Carrazco (TB7)

“I remember Kyle sitting in this big box just staring straight ahead. Not looking at anyone. And those eyes of his just looking straight ahead. And answering these questions… I just remember Kyle’s face all white and pale and his eyes all blue grey. Almost as though he didn’t want to see what he had seen, he didn’t want to say what he was about to say, he didn’t want to know what he had come to know.” – Janine Brody (TB7)

QUESTION

Alright, Kyle. And what happened then?

KYLE BRODY

He told me to stand in the corner and face the wall. I could hear Emily screaming. He was cutting her. I looked. He was cutting a symbol on her face.

QUESTION

You’re doing fine, Kyle.  Could you point out to me the man who did that to Emily? Could you point him out to me?

KYLE BRODY

(Hesitating)

QUESTION

You’re doing fine, Kyle. It’s alright.

KYLE BRODY

(Pointing) That’s him sitting there.

QUESTION

Let the record note that Kyle Brody has identified the defendant, Rustin Parr…

KYLE BRODY

Sometimes he would come up to me. ‘Do you hear her? Do you hear the woman’s voice?’ I would cry… After a few days he killed her. He cut her open. And after he took everything out of her he left with her and I never saw her again. When he came back he told me not to be sad. That he’d bring someone else back soon.

Excerpt from Kyle Brody’s court testimony (CBW)

“I can still see the look on Kyle’s face as he told the jury how Parr had brought him down to the basement at knifepoint, made him stand facing the corner while he killed the other children. That look scared me…
His eyes were now dead. His voice, as he recounted the story of his kidnapping and all the things that came after, was flat, void of tone and emotion; an old man’s voice. I wondered how badly the boy had been damaged by what had happened to him.
The look on Carol (Brody)’s face scared me too. Not just the anger she so visibly radiated at Parr, but the satisfaction on her face as Kyle testified. Whenever her son’s testimony faltered, he would look to her, and she would tighten her lips and nod her head, as if willing the boy to continue.”
Excerpt from the journal of Dominick Cazale (CRP)

“Parr’s house was burned down after he was hanged. Supposedly they found a bunch of old tunnels and stuff underneath that didn’t go anywhere. Some kind of… underground railroad thing I think.” – James Donahue (BW3)

QUESTION

Why did you do it, Mr. Parr?

RUSTIN PARR

I heard voices in my head.

QUESTION

What kind of voices?

RUSTIN PARR

A woman’s.

QUESTION

Who’s voice, Mr. Parr?

RUSTIN PARR

No idea who it was.

QUESTION

Was it Satan, Mr. Parr?

QUESTION

Was it the Blair Witch, Mr. Parr?

RUSTIN PARR

It coulda been.

QUESTION

How did you kill the children, Mr. Parr?

RUSTIN PARR

With knives.

QUESTION

Mr. Parr were you alone in the killings?

RUSTIN PARR

Yes.

QUESTION

Mr. Parr, how did you get the children into the woods?

RUSTIN PARR

Promised ‘em things. 

QUESTION

What kind of things, Mr. Parr?

RUSTIN PARR

Candy.

QUESTION

Did you kill other children that we don’t know about, Mr. Parr?

RUSTIN PARR

No.

QUESTION

Mr. Parr, why those seven children?

RUSTIN PARR

That’s what the voices told me.

QUESTION

Mr. Parr, the writings on the wall at your house – what do they mean?

RUSTIN PARR

QUESTION

What are the writings on the wall, Parr?

RUSTIN PARR

QUESTION

Did you write those? Did you write that on the walls?

RUSTIN PARR

No.

QUESTION

Who wrote on the walls, Mr. Parr?

RUSTIN PARR

QUESTION

Mr. Parr, you’ve been sentenced to death, do you think this is fair?

RUSTIN PARR

Yes.

QUESTION

Mr. Parr, do you think God has forgiven you?

RUSTIN PARR

Yes.

QUESTION

Have you asked a priest for absolution?

RUSTIN PARR

Yes.

QUESTION

Have members of your family been to see you?

RUSTIN PARR

No.

Excerpt from Rustin Parr interview with reporters while in prison (CBW)

QUESTION

Why didn’t you kill Kyle Brody? Why’d you let him live?

RUSTIN PARR

He wasn’t one of them.

QUESTION

What do you mean?

RUSTIN PARR

That’s what the voices told me.

QUESTION

Were they just voices, Mr. Parr? Did you ever see anyone?

RUSTIN PARR

She was a ghost. I never saw her face…

QUESTION

Mr. Parr, the writing on the walls in your house, what does it mean?

RUSTIN PARR

I don’t know.

QUESTION

Did you write on those walls?

RUSTIN PARR

No.

QUESTION

Who did?

RUSTIN PARR

She did. The ghost. The Blair Witch. Whoever you say she was.

QUESTION

What happened to her, Mr. Parr? Where did she go?

RUSTIN PARR

She’s in the woods.

Excerpt from transcript of press conference with Rustin Parr conducted by the Burkittsville Sheriff’s Office (BWD)

“(Rustin Parr) seemed to get some pleasure from telling them the stories they wanted to hear. They would have hung him anyway.” – Dominick Cazale (TB7)

“I sat there in Rustin’s cell, on the cot next to him, and looked again at what the bandage on his arm had been covering. A mass of scar tissue. A riot of ugly colors - black, and blue, and a horrible, sickly green…
‘How did you get this, Rustin?’
No answer.
‘Did you do it to yourself?’
‘It was the only way, Father. I couldn’t let them come through me…’
Parr held his arm closer then, and pointed to the scars. ‘Look.’
For the first time, I thought I saw something underneath the scar tissue and discolored skin; the remnants of a pattern.
‘I know my Bible,’ Parr said. ‘I knew what I had to do. Isaiah six:six. “Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.”’
I shook my head. ‘I don’t understand.’
‘I am cleansed.’”
Excerpt from the journal of Dominick Cazale (CRP)
“There is something important I neglected to write down, which happened a few days before Rustin Parr walked into town to confess.
There was a string of forest fires up in the Black Hills, on the Hagerstown side of the forest, stretching down from Stone Quarry Ridge into the valley. Those fires, according to Burt Atkins, who owned a good chunk of land in the area, all appeared to have been… deliberately set.”
Excerpt from the journal of Dominick Cazale (CRP)

“Rustin Parr was tired of living in the way he was living… He told me that he had killed no one. Not just me – he told his god that he had killed no one. And I asked him, I said ‘well let me go to the judge with this story. Let me tell the people.’ And he said, ‘No. This is my confession. You have no right to take it anywhere.’” – Dominick Cazale (TB7)

"The man behind the 'Burkittsville Child Massacre' has been put to death. Rustin Parr, age 38, has been the first man to be hanged in the state of Maryland in eight years.
After a full confession, the small town of Burkittsville, Maryland was pulled into the national spotlight as they held Parr's trial after refusing extradition. Parr pled guilty to the seven murders, showing little remorse while apologizing to the parents of the dead."
Excerpt from The Washington Press article dated Nov. 22, 1941 (BCOM)
“But there was to be no happy ending for Kyle Brody. Plagued by recurring nightmares, Brody eventually had to be institutionalized. Today he is a resident of the Reston Hills Sanitarium, in Atlanta, Georgia.”
Excerpt from 1965 Associated Press article (BWD)

“Sometimes Kyle was okay. He was my big brother – just like every other little girl’s big brother… And then there were times when he wouldn’t come out of his room. Not to eat dinner, not to see his friends. I remember one morning I went up to get him to go to school, and he was hiding under his bed. He’d slept there the whole night…

Kyle did all these things that were crazy, and yet he used to insist there was nothing wrong with him…

One Halloween, in between his junior and senior year at high school, I’d invited a whole group of my friends over to the house. He locked all of us in the basement – wouldn’t let us go out at all. He said it was for our own protection – that Rustin Parr was waiting for us outside. I remember talking with him, reminding him that Parr was dead. And he was shouting at me, practically crying, telling me that it didn’t matter, that you couldn’t kill Rustin Parr. After that, Kyle got sent away for the first time.” – Janine Brody (BWD)

“I’m not going to say that he had an easy existence after the Rustin Parr trial, but certainly I think it’s better than being hung. He became a rather aggressive panhandler, where it wasn’t really an option for people to walk away and not give him something. He also had instances of shoplifting. He has robberies – not armed robberies, but, you know, very violent, aggressive things. So he tended to spend most of his time in a couple of different institutions, and that’s actually where he died as well.” – Chris Carrazco (TB7)

“The state of the mental institutions when Kyle Brody was first incarcerated of course is nowhere near as… humane as they are now.” – Dr. Alvin Frasier (TB7)

“He was a legendary dark figure in the hospital. He was this last incarcerated link to this heinous multiple murder that had taken place in 1940.” – Dr. David Hull (TB7)

“Kyle Brody’s pharmacological chart was all over the place when I first met him. They tried everything… probably known to man. And nothing was working.” – Dr. David Hull (TB7)

“There is actually about five minutes of footage, approximately, of Kyle Brody as an adult. There is a scene of Kyle Brody in his cell and he’s chanting something. And what he’s chanting is a phrase… ‘Never given. Never given, never given, never given.’ He’s chanting that, and… the importance to this is there’s actual (reports) from the guards that watched over Rustin Parr… while he was waiting to be killed…of Rustin Parr screaming the words ‘never given’. The same two words.” – Chris Carrazco (TB7)

“There’s a shot in this rec room of this insane asylum, and Kyle Brody is there with this large art  notepad, and he’s writing on the notepad. And what is being written on that notepad – being written from right to left, the way it is supposed to be written – is Transitus Fluvii… The witchcraft language. This is not a common language. It’s not known all around the world. Very few people know this. And here is Kyle Brody, and, to the best of my knowledge, that is what he’s writing.” – Chris Carrazco (TB7)

“Chris brought (the footage) to me and asked if I could tell him what (the writing) was. So, after examining that footage we determined that this gentleman actually was writing in Transitus Fluvii. You can see very clearly the little circle embellishments at the end… the little loops at the end of the letters.” – Kendra Fineman (TB7)

“That language was mostly really used in secret societies and cults and different sects and with witches that lived and practiced in Europe.” – Kendra Fineman (TB7)     

“This is the exact same language that we find on the walls of the upstairs of Rustin Parr’s home. Transitus Fluvii, written by this kid who has a high I.Q. and might have somehow picked this up at some stage in his life. That is compared to the possibility of Rustin Parr, a man who was illiterate – could not read or write at all in english. The idea of him writing Transitus Fluvii language all over the walls of his home – It’s absurd.” – Chris Carrazco (TB7)

“Rustin Parr abducted eight children. One of them was my brother. Seven of those children were butchered by that man. My brother was forced to stand facing a wall while other children were killed behind him. He could hear the sounds. He could hear them screaming. Not knowing what was going to happen next… How Kyle ever got away, I have no idea.” – Janine Brody (TB7)

LATE 1960s – THE BLAIR WITCH CULT

Founded by rock star Leroy Creegan in the late 60s, the group that would come to be known as “The Blair Witch Cult” never actually referred to themselves by that moniker (or any other) and seemed more concerned with sex, drugs and nature worship than the sort of nefarious deeds typically associated with the legend.

JOSHUA LEONARD

What did they say about the cult who lived in the woods…?

HEATHER DONAHUE

That was Rustin Parr, that was a hermit who lived in the woods in the ‘40’s.

JOSHUA LEONARD

No. No, no no. Like the commune thing.

HEATHER DONAHUE

Oh, the Blair Witch Cult. The, uh… the hippies.

JOSHUA LEONARD

Yeah.

HEATHER DONAHUE

They’re long since become BMW driving computer programmers.

JOSHUA LEONARD

No, when was that, man?

HEATHER DONAHUE

It was in the late sixties.

JOSHUA LEONARD

…I mean, isn’t that… Isn’t that at least somewhat feasible? That there’s still people living out in these woods?

HEATHER DONAHUE

Well even the Blair Witch Cult…

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

Where? Where are they living, man? We’ve been all over these woods.

HEATHER DONAHUE

…people didn’t really live in these woods. They were people that came out into the woods to do stuff. I mean, it certainly wouldn’t be people who were living in the woods.

JOSHUA LEONARD

They weren’t living in the woods?

HEATHER DONAHUE

No, they were just coming out.

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donohue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard (BDS)

“While the kings of pop were undertaking their famous 1967 spiritual pilgrimage to the Maharishi’s Indian retreat, a Buffalo, New York band called Hillary’s Butterfly was honing its song-and-stagecraft on the more traditional rock n’ roll touring circuit. The Butterfly finally broke through last year at about this time…
But shortly after achieving success, the group disbanded. Lead vocalist Leroy Creegan put down his microphone and picked up the spiritual mantle the Beatles had discarded. Last fall, Creegan, 27, moved to Jericho Mills, Maryland, and, accompanied by a core group of followers, set up a commune, one devoted to the enjoyment of nature and each other…
The problem began in late April… when Creegan’s group began performing a number of their rituals outdoors. That’s when locals first realized that those ceremonies included elements drawn from the rich native folklore: Indian legends such as the Nanticoke Demon, believed by the areas original residents to haunt the surrounding forests, and the Blair Witch, a centuries old ghost said to inhabit those same hills.
It’s the association with the Blair Witch that has upset the previous harmonious relationship between Creegan and area residents…
The fact that these ceremonies virtually mimic those performed by a witches coven… only adds fuel to the fire…
...Some in the press have taken to calling (the group) the ‘Blair Witch Cult’ - another cause of friction between the two…”
Excerpt from Jul. 1969 issue of USA Report (BBS)

“OUR PRINCIPLES:

ALL WHO SHARE THEM, ARE WELCOME

TO SHARE OUR SPACE

All of us, red and black, yellow and white, man and woman, young and old, are human beings.

WE TREAT EACH OTHER WITH RESPECT.

The earth is our mother: she was here long before us, and will be long after.

WE TREAT THE EARTH WITH RESPECT.

Nature is the god we worship: her power is mysterious, and awe-inspiring.

WE TREAT NATURE’S POWER WITH RESPECT.

Words have power: we do not use them hurtfully, or lightly.

WE TREAT THE MYSTERY OF LANGUAGE WITH RESPECT.

Human beings are sexual creatures: the act of sex is our reason for being, and our natural duty.

WE TREAT THE ACT OF SEX WITH RESPECT.

Money is not an end, but a means to an end.

Drugs are not an end, but a means to an end.

Power is not an end, but a means to an end.

Our goal is enlightenment of the mind.

Our goal is fulfillment of the spirit.

Our goal is transcendence of the physical.”

Leroy Creegan’s “Manifesto” (BBS)

“It wasn’t really a cult: it was just a bunch of hippies, taking drugs out in the forest, waiting for something spooky to happen… I think (the name) came from this old book they used to use in their ceremonies. Or maybe the press made it up, I don’t know.” – Jeffrey Patterson (BBS)

“The so-called Blair Witch Cult disbanded in 1970, after Leroy Creegan’s mysterious disappearance.”
Excerpt from Frederick Post article dated Mar. 15, 1976 (BBS)

1983: WOOD WITCH SAID

“In 1983, Cece Malvey, a junior at Johns Hopkins, disappeared for some six hours during a botany class trip to the wilderness areas around Burkittsville, Maryland, and was later found unconscious in a dry creek bed. Upon waking up, Malvey, who was both hearing and speech impaired, immediately began trying to sign and write his explanation of what had happened to him. He had been struck from behind, he said, but then tended to by invisible caretakers who spoke to him, telling him stories that brought him to tears. Probably his experience was written off as an attention getting ploy, a dream, or maybe a drug reverie. Whatever the initial response of his first audience, he kept trying. A few Johns Hopkins staffers remember him desperately trying to sign the story to anyone who would hold still for it, and then, midway through his Spring semester, Malvey dropped out. He turned up again sometime in September, having produced Wood Witch Said and handing it out to passersby on the street. He took several dozen copies to each of the comics shops and bookstores in the area, as well. Then, in November, he was found dead in his apartment, having hanged himself.” – Jamie S. Rich (BWC)

In 1999, Oni Press decided to adapt Cece Malvey’s little seen Wood Witch Said comic for their line of Blair Witch comic books. These tales would eventually be collected under the title The Blair Witch Chronicles

1984: THE PATTERSON CAMPING TRIP  

“When he was nine, his father – (Charles Patterson) who was a local artist in Burkittsville – and Jeffrey went for a camping trip (in the Black Hills forest). On that trip Jeffrey’s father sustained severe head trauma (and injuries) to his spinal cord. And that resulted in him being completely incapacitated for the rest of his life. Now some people are inferring that Jeffrey was responsible for that accident. I will not come to that conclusion. What I would say is that, one way or the other, a nine year old witnessing this event can’t not be traumatized and affected by it.” – Vera Tenslue (SBW)

DR. CLAYTON LARSON

How old were you when the accident happened?

JEFFREY PATTERSON

Almost ten… We were way out in the woods by the time we made camp.

DR. CLAYTON LARSON

That’s why it was so hard to find you the next day.

JEFFREY PATTERSON

That’s right… He was washing the dishes we’d used for dinner in the stream, and laying them out on this big, flat rock.

DR. CLAYTON LARSON

Was this Coffin Rock?

JEFFREY PATTERSON

No, no. We were all the way on the other side of the forest.

DR. CLAYTON LARSON

Did you maybe think it was Coffin Rock? You meaning the nine-year-old you?

JEFFREY PATTERSON

…I could have thought that. I can’t remember.

DR. CLAYTON LARSON

All right. Go on.

JEFFREY PATTERSON

…I thought I heard something, out in the forest. Like a bear, or something big, coming toward us. My dad said he’d check it out, just to ease my mind. So he jumped up on the rock to get a better vantage point… He slipped, and fell. I jumped up on the rock and tried to help him, but…

DR. CLAYTON LARSON

Are you telling me what you think I want to hear, or what you really thought you saw? …I have Dr. Hoffman’s letters…

JEFFREY PATTERSON

I know now that I was imagining things. I was hysterical, right? It was getting dark, there were shadows everywhere…

Excerpt from the transcript of Jeffrey Patterson’s Shelter Glen Therapy session on Mar. 14, 1995 (BBS)

“We found out later there’s some suspicions on (Jeffrey’s involvement in) that. It was kinda passed over because… This kid was nine years old.” – Bill Dixon (SBW)

1992: THE WALKER BABY KIDNAPPING

“An eleven-month-old Burkittsville infant, whose disappearance late last evening had sparked an intensive, countywide search by officials, was returned unharmed to her parents front doorstep early this morning…
Authorities have a suspect in custody, identified only as a local youth who knew the Walker family.”
Excerpt from Frederick Post article dated May 15, 1992 (BBS)
“Authorities have identified the suspect in last week’s kidnapping of a Burkittsville infant. He was named as Jeffrey Patterson, 17, the son of Kathy Sharrar Patterson… and Charles Patterson, a renowned local painter.
Jeff Patterson was intimately familiar with the Walker home, having served as a babysitter for the Walker’s two teenage sons on several occasions over the last year.”
Excerpt from Frederick Post article dated May 18, 1992 (BBS)

“In his early teens, Jeffrey kidnapped a baby of a neighbor… It was very carefully executed and specifically executed and he stalked that baby and planned that crime.” – Vera Tenslue (SBW)

“He kidnapped a kid. A baby. That is not normal.” – Bill Dixon (SBW)  

“Jeff Patterson came to us when he was… a couple of months shy of his eighteenth birthday. Jeff was brought here because he had abducted, there’s no easier way to say it… an infant. And took this infant into the woods, according to Jeff, in response to voices that he was hearing. Not uncommon among schizophrenics, and I’m afraid that had to be the diagnosis.” – Dr. Clayton Larson (SBW)

END OF PART II

THE PLAYERS

Ashley Bennett – Longtime friend of James Donahue. Bennett accompanies James into the Black Hills forest in 2014 and is never seen again. 

Bill Barnes – Executive Director of Burkittsville’s Historical Society. Known as the Burkittsville town historian.

Bill Dixon – F.B.I. forensic investigator that worked the Black Hills Murders case.

Cade Merrill – “Cade Merrill” claimed to be Heather Donahue’s cousin and hosted a website, theblairwitchfiles.com (no longer active), where people could send him their Blair Witch related tales, which Merrill would then verify via his own research. Evidence exists that the Cade Merrill identity was, in fact, an invention shared by many different authors, and the stories presented in his books are often exaggerated and sensationalized compared to the true events they claim to depict, but nevertheless “Merrill’s” research did on occasion turn up the rare bit of new information regarding the cases and folklore surrounding the Blair Witch.

Cece Malvey – A hearing and speech impaired student at Johns Hopkins University who, in 1983, disappeared for six hours in the Black Hills forest during a botany class trip. He later tells the story of what happened to him in a crudely crafted comic book titled Wood Witch Said before hanging himself shortly after its completion.

“Claiming to have ‘heard’ these stories for the first time in 1983, Malvey didn’t mention to anyone having grown up in Burkittsville, where he would have regularly been exposed to local legends surrounding the ‘haunted’ Black Hills forest. Armed with that discovery, I have assumed Wood Witch Said to be either a hoax or the product of a delusional fantasy. This theory was both challenged and confirmed as I began untangling Malvey’s scrambled narratives, but I’ve yet to reach a satisfying conclusion as to which version is more accurate. While the incoherency of the document suggests emotional disturbance and delusion, Malvey’s library records in the weeks after his disappearance show that he had requested a number of texts on Irish oral history and literature, as well as many on Maryland regional history and legend, so there’s equal evidence to suggest a hoax. The only firm conclusion I’ve reached is that Malvey was a bitterly unhappy man, and his motives, whether conscious or unconscious, for producing this fantastic account of his six hours in the woods are, most likely, rooted in a lifetime of loneliness, depression and anxiety.” – Jen Van Meter (BWC)

Charles Moorehouse – Professor of Folklore at Hampshire College.

Charles Patterson – Local Burkittsville artist who got his start illustrating sci-fi/horror pulp magazines in the late 1930’s before achieving some mainstream success with his paintings in the 1970’s. In 1984 Charles and his son, Jeffrey, went camping in the Black Hills forest and Charles fell and hit his head on a rock, putting him into a coma from which he has never arisen. 

“Patterson… began working as an artist right out of high school. In 1936 he made his first sale to a local pulp magazine, ‘Tales of the Uncanny,’ and was soon a regular contributor to many of the era’s other pulps… His best known work of this period (were his) illustrations for a series of stories featuring the occult detective, Sir Ian Connors.
Though writer August Simpson, a Baltimore native, created the series, it was Patterson who suggested incorporating bits and pieces of local mythology, in particular the ghost known as the Blair Witch, into a story called ‘The Book of Shadows’…
‘August loved the idea of bringing Connors to America. He came up here for the weekend, and we went camping in the woods to soak up the atmosphere.’
...In 1965… Patterson moved back to the Burkittsville area and started painting seriously again. He lived like a virtual hermit in the woods for a few years, coming down only to buy groceries and painting supplies. Patterson credits his growth as an artist to this period in time; certainly the themes he continues to work with today - nature as a physical, tangible presence, the mixture of the real and surreal within the same canvas - date to this period.
Another pivotal event occurred in the late sixties when Patterson met Kathleen Sharrar. Sharrar, formerly a singer with the pop group Hillary’s Butterfly, had come to the area along with group leader Leroy Creegan for the 1968 Hagerstown Happening Rock Festival…
‘They were all living like a commune, in this run down old factory up in Jericho Mills, not too far from where I was,’ Patterson recalls.”
Excerpt from Frederick Post article dated Mar. 15, 1976 (BBS)

Chris Carrazco – Film archivist who believes that Kyle Brody murdered the Burkittsville 7.

“As I was poring over the ideas of the Rustin Parr case and thinking about Rustin, who was this rather simple fellow… actually a simpleton… and this child. This magnetic, charming child, Kyle Brody, who I think has manipulated Rustin Parr (and) made him do his bidding. If not actually holding his hand and leading him to it, directing him still through every action.”

“Chris Carrazco is a blooming, fucking idiot.” – Janine Brody (TB7)

D. A. Stern – D. A. Stern has been investigating the occult and related phenomena for over twenty years. He is the author of several books, including Witchcraft: Primal Persecution and European Folklore in America. Stern has also written several books focusing on the Blair Witch legend.

Dominick Cazale – Former Priest who took Rustin Parr’s confession before Parr was executed for the murders of the Burkittsville 7.

Dr. Alvin Frasier – Psychologist who treated Kyle Brody following his abduction by Rustin Parr.

Dr. Clayton Larson – Psychotherapist who treated Jeffrey Patterson at the Shelter Glenn Mental Health Facility.

Dr. David Hull – Case worker for Kyle Brody.

“I met Kyle Brody in the late 60s when I was assigned to the psychiatric ward of the Maryland State Institute for the Criminally Insane. I’d heard about him before I got there because he was quite infamous and his case made quite a number of newspapers.”

Frank Lauriat – Investigator hired by Buchanan’s Private Investigative Agency to develop a profile of the three missing film students. Trained in both psychology and law enforcement, Lauriat was a key figure in establishing the F.B.I.’s Profiling Division in the 1970’s.

Heather Donahue – One of three film students who went missing in the Black Hills forest in 1994 while filming a documentary on the Blair Witch. Heather was described by her film professor as committed, energetic and creative. Someone who was trying to find her “voice”. It was Heather’s idea to film The Blair Witch Project as her student thesis. She submitted a proposal to that effect to her professor in April of 1994. 

“Some of Heather’s earliest memories are of her grandfather’s tales of the ghosts and witches said to haunt (Frederick County, Maryland). She made it her mission to investigate and document the origins of these stories, primarily as an act of preservation.”
Excerpt from Heather’s biographical sketch of herself that she wrote for Professor DeCoto’s class (BWD)

“Hey, I’m from New Orleans, and I’ve been around that voodoo stuff my whole life, and I’ve seen a million and one of those tarot readers and fortune tellers, and I’ve never seen a single one of them that wasn’t entirely fake. Heather, on the other hand, was completely into that stuff. Ouija boards, tarot cards – you name it, she had it.” – Rachel Meyer (BWD)

“Heather is a stable, level-headed, determined young woman.” – Frank Lauriat (BWD)

James Donahue – Heather Donahue’s brother. In 2014 James saw footage online that the owner claimed had been recently discovered in the Black Hills forest. James believed his sister could be seen in this footage, so he went into the forest to investigate, along with three friends and two Burkittsville locals. None of them were ever seen again.

Jamie S. Rich – Former editor-in-chief of Oni comics.

“When Haxan films and Artisan Entertainment contacted Joe and me about Oni doing a tie-in with The Blair Witch Project, I remembered Wood Witch Said, the similar names and references, and I knew what we’d do. Jen Van Meter did the reading and research required to tease out… Malvay’s narratives and adapt them for illustration, and we were all grateful to Tommy Lee Edwards, Guy Davis, and Bernie Mireault for bringing their phenomenal talents to the undertaking. We’re all pleased with the results and hope you are too.”

Janine Brody – Kyle Brody’s sister.

“Kyle Brody’s sister… was one of the many thorns in the side of a system that was already full of thorns. She was convinced that her brother was not insane. And did everything, to the best of her ability, to keep him out of a mental institution.”  – Dr. Alvin Frasier (TB7)

Jeffrey Patterson – Son of local Burkittsville artist, Charles Patterson, Jeffrey developed a fascination with the Blair Witch legend from an early age. When he was nine he and his father went on a camping trip in the Black Hills forest, the details of which are unknown, but which resulted in his father hitting his head on a rock and falling into a coma from which he has never arisen. Later, when Jeffrey was seventeen, he abducted a baby from a family he used to babysit for. The police returned the child unharmed, but Jeffrey was committed to a mental health facility for the crime. In 1999, Jeffrey, having been released from the institute a few years previously, began giving tours of Burkittsville and the Black Hills forest. It was while hosting such a tour that he became involved in, and perhaps masterminded, the Black Hills Murders.

“He wanted so much to be part of (the Blair Witch legend) that I think when he wasn’t a part of it he made sure he was a part of it.” – Bill Dixon (SBW)  

Jim Maynard – Burkittsville resident who is somewhat familiar with the legend of the Blair Witch in general, and with the Rustin Parr incident specifically.

“Oh that’s an old, old story!”

Joshua Leonard – One of three film students who went missing in the Black Hills forest in 1994 while filming a documentary on the Blair Witch. Described by his film professor as someone who “thought it would be cool to be in the film business” but who lacked the willingness to do the work necessary to achieve that goal. 

“I think Heather and Josh were really sort of polar opposites in a lot of ways, but clearly they liked each other.” – Michael DeCoto (CBW)

“A prototypical example of a ‘troubled’ youth. Unfortunately, as the interviews make all too clear, the parents were completely unaware of their son’s problems; a sad case. There’s nothing in the footage to contradict what police and school officials said about him: he is a classic underachiever… If you’re going to look into the three kids’ backgrounds for associates who might have been involved in their disappearance, he’s the one to focus on.” – Frank Lauriat (BWD)

“Joshua Leonard began his filmmaking career at 9 years old, documenting local sporting events and family gatherings on his father’s 8mm Bell & Howell. Later in his high school years, he wrote and directed his own TV show, ‘MD Skunk,’ which quickly became a local favorite of the Rockville youth culture as well as the highest rated midnight show on WQED cable channel 3. ‘MD. Skunk’ was noted for its unique mixture of skateboarding tricks and punk rock concert footage cleverly edited with stock car chases and classic gun fights.”
Excerpt from Joshua’s biographical sketch of himself that he wrote for Professor DeCoto’s class (BWD)

Kendra Fineman – Transitus Fluvii expert. 

Kyle Brody – The second child to go missing during the Rustin Parr case, and the only one that was spared.

“We had a boy there in town, name of Kyle Brody. Kyle was a weird sort of a kid. And bein’ like he was, one of the things he’d liked to do was, he’d like to catch cats and stuff ‘em in a mailbox.” – Bill Barnes (TB7)

“Kyle came home (one) day – he’d filled one of his buckets with frogs – and he began cutting off the legs of one of these frogs. And my mother said ‘what are you doing?’ And he said, ‘I’m trying to see if frogs have feelings.’” – Janine Brody (TB7)

“There’s history of the boy being a problem child – a very difficult child to deal with. When he disappeared, the parents thought he had run away.” – Chris Carrazco (TB7)

“He liked to fight. He would always fighting with the other kids. And he didn’t care how big they was… One day he tried to pick a fight with me, but I never thought nothin’ about fighting.”– Bill Barnes (TB7)

“Kyle Brody, when we first saw him, I determined almost immediately that he belonged away from society. That he belonged in a mental institution. He was obviously mentally ill.” – Dr. Alvin Frasier (TB7)

Lane Waller – Burkittsville resident and one half of “darkweb666” (alongside Talia Cole), a youtube account that posts videos delving into the legend of the Blair Witch. Lane accompanied James Donahue and his friends into the Black Hills forest in 2014 and was never seen again.

Leroy Creegan – As the lead singer of the band Hillary’s Butterfly, Creegan was an up and coming rock star. But he threw that all away in the late 60’s when he moved to Jericho Mills, Maryland, and started the group that the press would dub “The Blair Witch Cult.” In 1970 Creegan mysteriously disappeared and the group disbanded.   

Lucan Johnson – Host of the 1971 documentary Mystic Occurrences

“My name is Lucan Johnson and I’m a witch.”

Michael Williams – One of three film students who went missing in the Black Hills forest in 1994 while filming a documentary on the Blair Witch. 

“(Smiling) When he was a little kid… he was a pain. He was really always pushing our parents buttons. Sorta the devil with a halo on his head. We had the golden rule of no cursing in the house and, of course, he’d have to walk by and slip out the little ones… He was always that kind of character.” – Tom Williams (CBW)

“Very much a follower – psychologically speaking, he had little choice in the matter. Look again at the transcript where Sheriff Cravens interviews the boy’s father – or should I say, where the father interviews Sheriff Cravens. You can tell Michael never was given the opportunity to make a single choice in his life. Resentment at those boundaries, no doubt, will shape the rest of his days.” – Frank Lauriat (BWD)

“At the age of 5, Mike won first prize in kindergarten for the best drawing of a fish. Since then he has won absolutely nothing except for “Least Likely to Succeed” in his graduating year of high school.”
Excerpt from Michael’s biographical sketch of himself that he wrote to accompany Heather’s thesis project (BWD)

Rachel Meyer – Heather Donahue’s best friend.

Rustin Parr – Backwoods hermit that lived in a house within the Black Hills forest and was convicted of killing seven children in Burkittsville over a six month period. Parr was hanged for his crimes in 1941.

“I will say this now about Rustin Parr; from the very moment we shook hands, I knew I had nothing to fear from him. He had a simple, guileless manner, a ready smile, and such an obvious affection for his dog that I instinctively liked him.”
Excerpt from the journal of Dominick Cazale (CRP)

“He was very uncomfortable in society, and society was very uncomfortable with him.” – Dominick Cazale (TB7)

Talia Cole – Burkittsville resident and one half of “darkweb666” (alongside Lane Waller), a youtube account that posts videos delving into the legend of the Blair Witch. Talia accompanied James Donahue and his friends into the Black Hills forest in 2014 and was never seen again.

Tom Williams – Michael Williams’ brother.

Vera Tenslue  – F.B.I. Profiler that worked the Black Hills Murders case.

SOURCES

BLAIR WITCH: BOOK OF SHADOWS (BBS) by D. A. Stern. Published by Pocket Books, Nov. 1, 2000.

BLAIRWITCH.COM (BCOM) official website for the film series.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT: DELETED SCENE (BDS) DVD extra for THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT FOTONOVEL (BFN) Published by Fotonovel Publications, May 1, 1999.

BLAIR WITCH – GRAVEYARD SHIFT (BGS) by Dave Stern. Published by Pocket Books, Sep. 28, 2000.

BLAIR WITCH (BW3) released by Lionsgate, Sep. 18, 2016.

THE BLAIR WITCH CHRONICLES (BWC) published by Oni Press, Nov. 6, 2000.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT: A DOSSIER (BWD) by D. A. Stern. Published by Onyx, Sep. 1, 1999.

THE BLAIR WITCH FILES – THE DARK ROOM (BWF2) by Cade Merrill. Published by Bantam Books, Jul. 2000.

THE BLAIR WITCH LEGACY (BWL) DVD extra for THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (BWP) released by Artisan Entertainment, Jul. 30, 1999.

BLAIR WITCH VOLUME. I – RUSTIN PARR (BWV1) released by Gathering of Developers, Inc. on Oct. 4, 2000.

CURSE OF THE BLAIR WITCH (CBW) premiered on The Sci-Fi Channel on Jul. 11, 1999.

BLAIR WITCH – THE SECRET CONFESSION OF RUSTIN PARR (CRP) by D. A. Stern. Published by Pocket Books, Aug. 1, 2000.

SHADOW OF THE BLAIR WITCH (SBW) premiered on The Sci-Fi Channel on Oct. 22, 2000.

THE BURKITTSVILLE 7 (TB7) premiered on Showtime on Oct. 3, 2000. 

(Much love to Eduardo Sanchez, Daniel Myrick, Gregg Hale, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams without whom there would be no legend.)

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Written by R. K. Stewart
A mad poet of Sanaá, Yemen, who flourished around 700 A.D, R. K. Stewart visited the ruins of Babylon and spent 10 years alone in the great southern deserts of Arabia - the "Empty Space" of the ancients - long held to be inhabited by evil spirits and monsters of death. He died in 731 A.D., devoured in broad daylight by an invisible demon (but you can still follow him on twitter @rksdoom)
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