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

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

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 two 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 III – The Blair Witch Project

TIMELINE (1994 – 1997)

Apr. 18, 1994 – Heather Donahue submits a proposal for her student film thesis to her professor. It describes a short documentary focusing on the legend of the Blair Witch to be titled The Blair Witch Project. (CBW)

Oct. 20, 1994 – Montgomery College Students Heather Donauhue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams arrive in Burkittsville to interview locals about the legend of the Blair Witch for a class project. Heather interviews Mary Brown, an old woman who has lived in the area all her life. Mary claims to have seen the Blair Witch near Tappy East Creek, where the witch had the form of a hairy, half human, half-animal thing. (BWL, BWP)

Oct. 21, 1994 – The students enter the Black Hills forest surrounding Burkittsville. In the early morning, Heather interviews two fishermen who tell the filmmakers that Coffin Rock is less than 20 minutes from town and easily accessible by an old logging trail. The filmmakers hike into the woods shortly thereafter and are never seen again. (BWL, BWP, BWD)

Oct. 24, 1994 – The students fail to return for classes. (BWD)

Oct. 25, 1994 – The police issue the first All Points Bulletin. Later that day, Joshua’s car is found parked on Black Rock Road, undisturbed. (BWL, BWD)

Oct. 26, 1994 – The Burkittsville Sheriff’s Office and the Maryland State Police launch their joint search of the Black Hills area, under F.B.I. supervision. This operation lasts 10 days and includes over 100 volunteers aided by dogs, helicopters and a fly-over by a Department of Defense Satellite. (BWL, BWD)

Nov. 5, 1994 – The search is called off after 33,000 work hours failed to find a trace of the filmmakers or any of their gear. Heather’s mother, Angela Donohue, begins an exhaustive personal search for her daughter and her two companions. (BWL)

Jun. 19, 1995 – The case is declared inactive and unsolved. (BWL)

Oct. 16, 1995 – Students Peter Gould and Andrea Lynn, from the University of Maryland’s anthropology department, discover a duffle bag containing 11 rolls of black and white film, DAT tapes, 10 Hi-8 videocassettes, a Hi-8 video camera, Heather Donahue’s journal and a CP-16 film camera buried in the foundation of a secluded cabin. (BWL, BWD)

Oct. 18, 1995 – The Burkittsville Sheriff’s Office puts out a press release stating that the items found by the anthropology students did indeed belong to Heather Donahue and her crew. It also states that, in light of the new evidence, FBI officials have decided to reopen the case. (BWL, BWD)

Nov. 13, 1995 – An article in the Frederick Post quotes “sources within the investigation” as confirming that the “found footage contains evidence suggesting that Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael Williams met with harm while filming their senior class project in October 1994.” (BWD) 

Dec. 15, 1995 – After an initial study of the bag’s contents, authorities show selected pieces of the film footage to the families. According to Angie Donahue, there are several unusual events but nothing conclusive. The families question the thoroughness of the analysis and demand another look. (BWL)

Jan. 15, 1996 – Angela Donahue hires Washington, D.C. investigative firm, Buchanan’s Private Investigative Agency to augment the work being done by law enforcement authorities. (BWD)

Jan. 16, 1996 – Sheriff Cravens and Buck Buchanan agree to full disclosure of information in the course of continuing investigations to avoid duplication of efforts. Investigator Buchanan is allowed to view portions of found footage not released to missing student’s families (some of it highly graphic in nature). No leads were gleaned from this viewing. Buchanan is also allowed access to the police files and related evidence for the original search for the students from Oct/Nov 1994. (BWD)

Feb. 16, 1996 – The families are shown a second group of clips that local law enforcement officials consider to be faked. Outraged, Mrs. Donahue goes public with her criticism and Sheriff Cravens restricts all access to the evidence, a restriction that two lawsuits fail to lift. (BWL, BWD)

Mar. 1, 1996 – The sheriff’s department announces that the evidence is inconclusive and the case is once again declared inactive and unsolved. (BWL)

Apr. 30, 1996 – Diane Ahlquist performs the Wiccan Sabbat of Beltane ritual near the location where the students’ footage was found. (BWD)

May 20, 1996 – Final case report submitted by Buchanan’s Private Investigative Agency to the family of Heather Donahue. (BWD)

Mar. 1, 1997 – The case is once again declared inactive, and remains unsolved. (BWD)

Oct. 16, 1997 – The footage of the filmmakers’ last days is turned over to the families of Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams. Angela Donahue contracts with Haxan Films to examine the footage and piece together the events of Oct. 20 – 27, 1994. (BWL)

1994: THE DISAPPEARANCES

“In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland while shooting a documentary.
A year later their footage was found.”
Opening text of The Blair Witch Project

“I think they knew the legend but I don’t think they knew the whole history. I don’t think they felt any fear, but I don’t think they felt any kind of respect. I think to them it was just another project. It was a way to get a grade. And I think they met her and I think she met them when she was ready to and I think they’re gone.” – Dottie Fulcher (CBW)

“I feel like I should throw a little party, buy a bottle of cuervo or something - a little fiesta before the potential hellshoot. Practical and theoretical experience are 2 different things. This raises concerns for me, as far as Mike goes… Handle what is actually happening rather than freak out about what would happen. How much to tell the boys? This is directly related to not worrying about what could happen. I don’t want them to be unnecessarily worried (esp. Mike).”
Excerpt from Heather Donahue’s journal, dated Oct. 16, 1994 (BWD)
“Elly’s out there. Maybe. Well…? If anything will/can find out it will be me. I can’t explain the kinship I feel to her.
She will get through. I cannot see how she could avoid perceiving the energy I am sending her way, and have been for 2 years now. The time is ripe. Right. Ready. Am I? Confidence must be a guiding force. If I cannot ground and center myself I will lose Josh & Mike immediately.”
Excerpt from Heather Donahue’s journal, dated Oct. 16, 1994 (BWD)
“Problems articulating (vision). Must remedy this if they are to trust me. Their trust is essential. Mutual surrender, like the devout.
Boy bonding. I am definitely out of that. Must stop worrying about being the bitchy boss lady. They need to know that I am in charge and that I have the ability to be so.
NOTE TO SELF - That means no waffling!” 
Excerpt from Heather Donahue’s journal, dated Oct. 17, 1994 (BWD)

On October 20th, 1994, Heather, Joshua and Michael leave their homes for the weekend to film a documentary about the Blair Witch. Their first stop is the town of Burkittsville, where they interview several locals about the legend. Some say they’ve only heard of the Blair Witch in passing, while others seem quite knowledgeable about the past occurrences involving the Witch (especially the Rustin Parr case). One woman, Mary Brown, claims to have seen the Blair Witch.

“Josh does not listen to me at all and he’s supposed to be my friend. Mike is more respectful and I don’t know dick about him.”
Excerpt from Heather Donahue’s journal, dated Oct. 20, 1994 (BWD)

OCT. 21, 1994: DAY 1 IN THE BLACK HILLS FOREST

The next day Heather, Joshua and Michael hike into the Black Hills forest where they first encounter a pair of fishermen before heading deeper into the woods.

HEATHER DONAHUE

You guys say you know something about the Blair Witch?

ED SWANSON

I’ve heard the myths. I don’t really believe much in it.

HEATHER DONAHUE

The “myth”?

ED SWANSON

That’s all I think it is.

BOB GRIFFIN

Damn fool kids’ll never learn.

HEATHER DONAHUE

What’d you say, sir?

BOB GRIFFIN

I said you damn fool kids’ll never learn.

ED SWANSON

Eh, shut up.

HEATHER DONAHUE

“Damn fool kids’ll never learn”?

BOB GRIFFIN

That’s what I said… Anybody worth their salt around here knows that this area’s been haunted by that old woman for years.

Excerpt from Interview with Ed Swanson and Bob Griffin (BWP)

The group’s next stop is Coffin Rock, site of the 1886 massacre. Afterwards the trio set up camp for the night.

OCT. 22, 1994: DAY 2 IN THE BLACK HILLS FOREST

HEATHER DONAHUE

So you heard noises last night?

JOSHUA LEONARD

I totally heard noise.

HEATHER DONAHUE

See, the problem is, I sleep like a fucking rock.

JOSHUA LEONARD

It was like there were two separate noises coming from two layers of space over here (gestures to the right) and one of them was kind of, like… One of them could have possibly been an owl, but the other one was, like, a cackling. Was a definite…

HEATHER DONAHUE

No way.

JOSHUA LEONARD

It was a total cackling, man.

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donahue and Joshua Leonard (BWP)

After gathering up their supplies, the three college students resume their hike through the woods, searching for some sort of cemetery that Heather has heard lies within the forest. As more and more time passes and the three fail to find their destination, tempers flare. Joshua insists on looking at their map of the woods himself, and Michael angrily questions Heather’s knowledge of the area. After consulting it, Michael admits the map is useless to him and the three continue on their way, with Michael reluctantly putting his trust in Heather to guide them in the right direction.

Following some additional hiking the three stumble upon a pile of rocks wrapped up in vines and held between the top branches of a short tree. The tree appears to be surrounded by seven additional piles of rocks on the ground.

HEATHER DONAHUE

Guys? Do you remember something that Mary Brown said the other day? What was the story from the Bible that she was telling us? Fuck, I wasn’t listening to her ‘cause I thought she was a lunatic. It was Esau, but it was something about a pile of rocks.

JOSHUA LEONARD

She was totally telling us about her rocks, man.

HEATHER DONAHUE

What the fuck was it about a pile of rocks? Does anybody remember? “To live your life…”

JOSHUA LEONARD

This is like…

HEATHER DONAHUE

“Live your life…”

JOSHUA LEONARD

Looks like an Indian burial ground, man.

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donahue and Joshua Leonard (BWP)

“This pile of stones and this marker stand as witnesses that I will not go past the pile of stones to harm you, and that you will not go past the pile of stones or marker to harm me.”
Genesis 31:52

That night, after setting up camp, the three students return to the area with the piles of stones to get additional footage. While filming, Joshua Leonard inadvertently knocks one pile over.

HEATHER DONAHUE

You didn’t just knock that over. Please tell me you didn’t just knock that over.

JOSHUA LEONARD

I just knocked it over.

HEATHER DONAHUE

That’s not very nice. Let me put it back. Can’t be too careful.

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donohue and Joshua Leonard (BWP)

“Elly are you out there? How about saying hello, it would give this film such a jolt, to say the least.”
Excerpt from Heather Donahue’s journal, dated Oct. 22, 1994 (BWD)

Later the same night, the three students are woken up by loud noises (which sound like thick branches snapping) coming from within the woods surrounding them.

OCT. 23, 1994: DAY 3 IN THE BLACK HILLS FOREST

HEATHER DONAHUE

What do you think that was last night?

JOSHUA LEONARD

Personally?

HEATHER DONAHUE

Yeah.

JOSHUA LEONARD

I think it was someone fucking with your head.

HEATHER DONAHUE

But nobody knows we’re out here.

JOSHUA LEONARD

Yeah, but you ever see Deliverance?

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

…Well, it sounded to me like a bunch of people running around, and I’m not down with messing with the locals or whatever. I don’t know who the hell would come out here. What bugs me out is that we’re so damn deep in the woods and people are going to try and… and come out here and mess with us, then they got to have something wrong with them. And I’m not gonna play with that.

HEATHER DONAHUE

How do we know it was people?

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

Well even if it wasn’t, I’m not going to play with that either.

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard (BWP)

The trio once again gather up their camping equipment and head out, intending to hike back to the car and return home. After an indeterminate amount of hours pass, Mike voices concern that their surroundings look unfamiliar to him. Heather tells him that’s due to the fact that they are taking a different route back to the car. The group continues on for a bit before checking the map once more.

HEATHER DONAHUE

Okay, we just did a map check and it seems like we’re still pretty much on trail.

JOSHUA LEONARD

That’s not what I said.

HEATHER DONAHUE

No, I think we’re all right. Come on, let’s just keep going. We took a map reading. We just follow what the compass says. We’re going straight ahead. We’re going that way. That way.

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donahue and Joshua Leonard (BWP)

Joshua and Michael agree to continue walking, but after awhile, with the sun setting, rain pouring down and the car still nowhere to be seen, Heather says they should camp. Joshua and Michael don’t take the suggestion kindly, accusing her of not knowing where they are or where they are going. After some angry shouting, Michael and Joshua accept that they have no alternative, and again set up camp for the night.

“We are not home. Everyone freaked out today. I am sure I know where the car is, it’s just taking longer than I thought. I don’t know…
I truly like these guys, Mike has turned out to be incredibly cool, and Josh, well, Josh, he’s always a surprise. Then again, he always works hard, as well as being hard to work with on occasion…
I am so different from both of them, aside from just gender, that it makes it difficult sometimes for us to relate to each other and to communicate clearly.”
Excerpt from Heather Donahue’s journal, dated Oct. 23, 1994 (BWD)

That night, the three students are again woken up by the same strange, loud snapping sounds coming from the woods around them.

“We heard shit again. This time they thought it was deer. I think it’s because they fear it that they say it definitely is something tangible and earthly. They cannot for a second admit the possibility that it is the Blair Witch…
It was NOT deer. And I find it incredibly hard to believe that rednecks are chasing us through the woods all day for the sheer pleasure of stomping around on all sides of our camp at 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning…”
Excerpt from Heather Donahue’s journal, dated Oct. 24, 1994, 3:00am (BWD)

OCT. 24, 1994: DAY 4 IN THE BLACK HILLS FOREST

The next morning the film students wake up and discover three piles of rocks surrounding their tent.

HEATHER DONAHUE

Woke up this morning, just like two seconds ago, and there are piles of rocks outside of our tent. There are three, actually.

JOSHUA LEONARD

Are you seriously fucking positive those weren’t there when we went to bed last night?

HEATHER DONAHUE

I am seriously fucking positive these were not here. How would we have, like, just made a campsite in between three piles of rocks just by coincidence? …You don’t think this is strange?

JOSHUA LEONARD

This is way fucking weird, but it really doesn’t matter at this point because all I want to do is get to the goddamn car… Whatever it is at this point… We’re obviously not wanted here…

HEATHER DONAHUE

Okay, okay…

JOSHUA LEONARD

…so let’s get the hell out…

HEATHER DONAHUE

I can’t believe we have to leave just when shit’s happening.

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donohue and Joshua Leonard (BWP)

“A pile of stones like this – the first thing I think of is some kind of burial cairn. But that doesn’t make sense – that’s an Old World custom. I suppose it could be a carryover from Europe… could indicate a landmark of some kind too, I suppose… Three students, three piles. That makes sense. Three graves?” – Charles Moorehouse (BWD)

An indeterminate amount of time later Heather realizes that she no longer has the map.

HEATHER DONAHUE

Did you take it?

JOSHUA LEONARD

No, I didn’t take the fucking map, man…

HEATHER DONAHUE

I don’t have it. We have to go. I’m serious. I don’t have it…

JOSHUA LEONARD

That is… That… I mean, that’s the fucking, like, least responsible thing you could have possibly done, man.

HEATHER DONAHUE

I know that.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

You really don’t have it?

HEATHER DONAHUE

…Let’s go.

JOSHUA LEONARD

Which way are we walking?

HEATHER DONAHUE

That way.

JOSHUA LEONARD

Dude, we’re in the middle of the fucking woods! We’re in the middle of the goddamn woods. We can walk any way…

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

We’re going this way ‘cause that’s the way we’ve been going for a fucking day. We’re going this way, and that’s it. We gotta come across something.

HEATHER DONAHUE

I gave you the map, Josh.

JOSHUA LEONARD

I gave you back the map, Heather.

HEATHER DONAHUE

I gave you the map.

JOSHUA LEONARD

I gave you back the map!

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard (BWP)

The students start hiking south once again, with only Heather’s compass and the creek to guide them. After an indeterminate amount of time they stop to rest. 

JOSHUA LEONARD

All blame aside… this is really fucked up.

HEATHER DONAHUE

I know.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

Yeah… We really, really, really need to work together.

HEATHER DONAHUE

Exactly.

JOSHUA LEONARD

I realize this… Look, serious, the area’s not that fucking big.

HEATHER DONAHUE

Exactly. It’s very hard to get lost in America these days, and it’s even harder to stay lost. So we have that on our side…

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

Well, we’re doing a pretty goddamn good job of being lost…

JOSHUA LEONARD

At this point, when you’re not home today, when I’m not home today, people are going to start noticing. Like, my girlfriend is definitely going to notice that I’m not back today, and that I haven’t fucking called. I mean, if I called, it would be one thing… Which means that by tonight, if we haven’t found shit, someone’s going to be looking for us.

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard (BWP)

The group continues to hike, but they stop for a moment after Heather inadvertently soaks her feet while crossing a stream.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

You know what? (laughing) I kicked the… I’m sorry, it’s fucked up, it’s fucked up. But I kicked that fucking map into the creek yesterday. It was useless. I kicked that fucker into the creek!

HEATHER DONAHUE

…I fucking hope he’s kidding…

JOSHUA LEONARD

Mike, are you fucking kidding?!

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

I’m sorry, man. I’m sorry.

HEATHER DONAHUE

You’ve gotta be kidding me. You have gotta fucking be kidding me!

JOSHUA LEONARD

You think this is a fucking game?

HEATHER DONAHUE

…What the fuck! Are you out of your fucking mind?!

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

No, I’m not out of my mind! That map wasn’t doing shit for us!

HEATHER DONAHUE

Do you realize… Not to you, but I knew what the fuck that map said!

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

I’m sorry! …That map wasn’t doing shit all day!

HEATHER DONAHUE

If we get hurt or we die out here, it’s your fucking fault! It is your fucking fault! Do you understand?! I can’t believe you could be such an asshole! What the fuck were you thinking?!

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard (BWP)

The group continue south. Eventually they stumble upon a clearing filled with dozens of “stickman” totems (sometimes called “twana”); strange, person shaped creations of twigs and twine.

JOSHUA LEONARD

Jesus Christ. That’s fucking creepy.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

This is no redneck. No redneck is this creative.

Excerpt from conversation between Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard (BWP)

After getting some footage of the bizarre array of totems, the group moves on, but not before Heather takes one of the stickmen and puts it in her bag. After hiking again for an indeterminate amount of time, the three again set up camp for the night.

JOSHUA LEONARD

Think about the fact that half the people you talked to about the Blair Witch got completely agitated, man. Like the whole situation. Some people laughed at you, some people, like… didn’t talk to you… You talked to so many people about it, that, I mean, think about the fact we talked to some fucked up people.

HEATHER DONAHUE

We did?

JOSHUA LEONARD

We definitely talked to some fucked up people. We definitely talked to some people who could have potentially, like, pulled it off as a game and decided that since we were coming out here to make a movie they were gonna come out and just fuck with us. I mean, I mean it’s a stretch…

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

And it still doesn’t make any sense that we’re this lost…

JOSHUA LEONARD

…What do you think it is?

HEATHER DONAHUE

I don’t fuckin’ know.

JOSHUA LEONARD

I mean, if it’s not the Blair Witch and it’s not rednecks… My take on it is that it’s… it’s humans. It’s fucked up humans. It’s someone who’s probably severely demented and fucked up and not a safe person to be around.

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

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

In my defense about the map? You crinkled it up and threw it on the ground. I kicked it in the creek. That’s what happened.

JOSHUA LEONARD

Yeah, but crinkling…

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

I’m still sorry about the map. I’m really sorry about the map.

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

“It is freezing and we are still out here. We’re completely fucking lost now, we’ve decided basically to just keep heading south, but it doesn’t seem to be getting us anywhere fast and weird shit keeps happening which is, to be totally honest… beginning to scare me… I think we have enough footage - certainly more bizarre shit than we anticipated. I just want us all to be home safe.
The scarecrows/voodoo dolls whatever they were today, were disturbing… I cut one down. I probably shouldn’t have, the guys freaked out a bit when I did it, but I want to be able to look at it objectively when we get out of here.
We will laugh about this someday.”
Excerpt from Heather Donahue’s journal, dated Oct. 24, 1994 (BWD)

That night the three students are woken up by the sounds of children laughing and playing outside of their tent. The laughing then distorts into some sort of unnatural moan and the tent around them then begins to violently shake. The trio bolt from the opening, running out into the woods. As they flee, the sounds of children talking and laughing can be heard coming from the woods around them. At one point Heather spots something off camera, which causes her to repeatedly exclaim – “What the fuck is that?!” – but whatever Heather sees, she never speaks about it on camera or in her journals. The three of them come to a stop after running for some time, turn off all of their lights, and crouch together in the darkness.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

(whispering) What the fuck is going on? 

HEATHER DONAHUE

Did you hear that baby screaming?

JOSHUA LEONARD

SHHH! (whispering) Shut the fuck up. There’s no fucking baby out there, man.

HEATHER DONAHUE

Yes there was.

JOSHUA LEONARD

There’s no fucking baby out there.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

…Okay. I haven’t heard anything since we ran away.

HEATHER DONAHUE

…Oh my God, it’s cold. We should be quiet, okay?

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

…Okay. We should be quiet.

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard (BWP)

OCT. 25, 1994: DAY 5 IN THE BLACK HILLS FOREST

After the sun rises the trio return to their camp. They find their equipment and supplies strewn about, and Joshua’s canteen lies between pieces of the stickman totem which Heather took from the woods the previous day.

JOSHUA LEONARD

They spilled all my fucking water!

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

That looks like slime, man.

JOSHUA LEONARD

It’s just water, man. (Joshua reaches down and touches the liquid) It is slime. What the fuck is that?

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

It’s slime, dude…

HEATHER DONAHUE

Whose shit was thrown around? Who specifically?

JOSHUA LEONARD

It’s my shit! My shit.

HEATHER DONAHUE

Why you?

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard (BWP)

After a brief argument about Heather’s insistence that everything be caught on film, the three once again pack up their equipment and start hiking south. Before long they come across a stream with a large, fallen tree resting over it, which they use to cross the waters. The group continues on until Joshua breaks down and starts crying.

JOSHUA LEONARD

What the fuck was this blue jelly shit all over my shit?

HEATHER DONAHUE

Let’s go. Let’s go. If we keep going south, we will get out. Please.

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donahue and Joshua Leonard (BWP)

Eventually the group comes across the same fallen tree that they crossed that morning, despite having continuously walked south all day. 

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

No, that’s the tree we crossed. That tree is down. That’s the same one. Oh God!

HEATHER DONAHUE

No. Oh, no… No, Mike, it’s not the same log. It’s not the same log, Mike…

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

It is! Open your eyes!

HEATHER DONAHUE

It’s not the same log. It’s not… It’s not the same log.

JOSHUA LEONARD

Fuck. Fuck!

HEATHER DONAHUE

(sobbing) It’s the same log. It’s the same log. It’s the same log.

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard (BWP)

HEATHER DONAHUE

Where do you want to go to camp? I mean I guess today south didn’t work out, so tomorrow we’ll go east. I don’t… I don’t know what to say, Josh.

JOSHUA LEONARD

How the fuck did we walk south all day and wind up…

HEATHER DONAHUE

We walked south all day, okay? We walked south all fucking day. I don’t know how we ended up here!

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donahue and Joshua Leonard (BWP)

The trio sets up camp, but tempers fray as the sun sets.

JOSHUA LEONARD

Come on, you can do better than that.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

This is not the place or the time, guys. We have things to prepare for here.

JOSHUA LEONARD

Okay, here’s your motivation! You’re lost, you’re angry in the woods, and no one here is here to help you! There’s a fucking witch and she keeps leaving shit outside your door.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

Josh.

JOSHUA LEONARD

There’s no one here to help you! She left little trinkets.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

Josh.

JOSHUA LEONARD

You fucking took one of them. She ran after us. There’s no one here to help you!

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

Josh!

JOSHUA LEONARD

We walked for 15 hours today! We ended up in the same place! There’s no one here to help you!

HEATHER DONAHUE

(sobbing) Just stop.

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard (BWP)

Inside the tent, Joshua apologizes to both Michael and Heather, and the three of them prepare to go to sleep. 

“Breakdowns. Exhaustion. A giant circle. We hiked 11 hours today in a giant circle. We have no food. Hungry. Despairing. Exhausted. Hating and loving each other extremely and alternatively all day long. About to go to sleep now. Sure. After what happened last night. Those children’s voices… There doesn’t seem to be much sense in keeping watch except that one of us is always conscious and shitting our pants… I am trying desperately to hold my shit together while Josh and Mike fall apart. As long as I keep shooting, I feel like all of this has a purpose. Maybe not at the moment but eventually… I still can’t figure out how we hiked in a circle today. I had the compass out all day. All 3 of us checked it every 5 minutes. We were going SOUTH all day. How are we going to get out of here if we keep hiking in circles?”
Excerpt from Heather Donahue’s journal, dated Oct. 25, 1994 (BWD)

OCT. 26, 1994: DAY 6 IN THE BLACK HILLS FOREST

Heather and Michael wake up the next morning and discover that Joshua is missing.

HEATHER DONAHUE

Fuck, Mike, we never got out of earshot! Josh!

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

Hold on, calm down…

HEATHER DONAHUE

Do you remember what he said yesterday?

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

What?

HEATHER DONAHUE

About the shit on his bag, about how… Josh!

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

Let’s go. We got to find him. Come on.

HEATHER DONAHUE

We can’t even find the car! How the fuck are we going to find Josh?

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donahue and Michael Williams (BWP)

Heather and Michael yell for Joshua repeatedly, but he doesn’t respond. After waiting an indeterminate amount of time, they reluctantly head east. When the sun goes down, they set up camp and go to bed for the night.

“Josh is gone. It is Mike and I now. Alone. I question why I continue to film. It seems sick almost. Who will see this footage? Will I?... Fear, hunger and cold are taking their toll. Where is Josh? Maybe he ran off for help like Mike says, but why did he leave all his stuff in the middle of the freezing night? And why was it his stuff we found scattered outside the tent covered in that shit.. I should have never cut down that doll from the tree… My mind is so fully in documentation mode that I have failed to fully, deeply register fear until Josh disappeared this morning… Whatever is chasing us has to be documented. I am in a situation now where I have no choice. If something is going to harm me that I can’t stab or kill and if I am defenseless in the face of it, the least I can do is capture it so that people will know it is real.”
Excerpt from Heather Donahue’s journal, dated Oct. 26, 1994 (BWD)

That night they are woken up by the sounds of Joshua’s repeated and agonized screaming, coming from somewhere in the woods around them.

HEATHER DONAHUE

Should we go for him? Is it a trick?

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

…Where’s it coming from? Josh! Josh, where are you?! Tell me where you are! …I don’t know if it’s really him. I don’t know if it’s really him.

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donohue and Michael Williams (BWP)

Eventually the screaming stops and Heather and Michael return to the tent.

HEATHER DONAHUE

Whatever it is, knows that Josh is gone.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

If that was Josh, he would have said where he was.

HEATHER DONAHUE

Whatever it was sounded like Josh.

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donahue and Michael Williams (BWP)

“We heard Josh. It sounded so much like Josh. We want to hear him so badly, but not like that. He was screaming like someone was hurting him. Maybe it’s all in our minds.”
Excerpt from Heather Donahue’s journal, dated Oct. 27, 1994, 12:30am (BWD)

OCT. 27, 1994: DAY 7 IN THE BLACK HILLS FOREST

Heather wakes up the following morning and discovers a bundle of sticks tied together with what appear to be strips of Joshua’s flannel shirt. Heather tells Michael that there is something there, then she picks it up and tosses it aside without examining it. But later, while Michael is otherwise occupied, Heather goes back to the bundle alone and opens it. Inside of the sticks she finds a small pouch which also appears to have been made from Joshua’s shirt. The pouch is filled with blood, hair and human teeth. Heather begins sobbing and hyperventilating, but does not share the discovery with Michael. Eventually the two of them resume hiking until it gets dark, at which point they again set up camp. 

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

It’s not your fault anymore, it’s nobody’s fault. You can’t have a fault for something this enormous. A human cannot be faulted for something this enormous. It’s impossible. It’s not your fault. I don’t want you to think that. Okay? Heather…

HEATHER DONAHUE

Okay.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

Look at me.

HEATHER DONAHUE

Good luck to me explaining that to Josh’s mom. Good luck.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS

It’s not your fault. We have everything documented. It’s not your fault.

Excerpt from conversation between Heather Donahue and Michael Williams (SAS)

As Michael is otherwise occupied, Heather records what has come to be known as her “confession.”

“I just want to apologize to Mike’s mom and Josh’s mom and my mom… And I’m sorry to everyone. I was very naive. I am so, so sorry for everything that has happened, because in spite of what Mike says now, it is my fault because it was my project and I insisted. I insisted on everything. I insisted that we weren’t lost. I insisted that we keep going. I insisted that we walk south. Everything had to be my way, and this is where we’ve ended up. And it’s all because of me that we’re here now, hungry and cold and hunted. I love you, Mom and Dad. I am so sorry… What is that? (sobbing) I’m scared to close my eyes. I’m scared to open them… Oh, God. I’m going to die out here.” – Heather Donahue (BWP) 

“I am losing hope. Actually, I may have lost it… We are being stalked and whatever is stalking us will at least be documented… To Josh & Mike’s parents - I am sorry. I am sorry for what happened to your sons… I lack the strength to hold the pen… I want to laugh. I want to laugh. I want to laugh.”
Final entry in Heather Donahue’s journal (BWD)

That night Michael and Heather again hear Joshua yelling in the woods, but this time actual words can be heard, including “Somebody!” “Please!” and “Please follow my voice!” Despite having doubts that the voice belongs to Joshua, Michael and Heather head into the woods in an attempt to locate the source. What they find is a derelict and decrepit three story house at the top of a hill. As they search the house, they hear the voice yell out Heather’s name. Unsure where it is coming from they run upstairs. Strange symbols are written on the walls of the second floor, and several walls of the third floor are covered in the handprints of children. Again the voice rings out and Michael, believing it to be coming from the basement, charges downstairs, leaving Heather behind. In the basement, Michael looks around for a moment before there is a loud “thump” and his camera hits the ground. Heather then enters the basement as well, where she briefly films Michael standing motionless in the corner as she screams his name. Then there is another “thump” and Heather goes completely silent as her camera also hits the ground.

AFTERMATH: THE SEARCH

“The search for the 3 missing Montgomery college students continues in Frederick County tonight, as dozens of volunteers and state officials joined local forces in what has now become a full scale search of the Black Hills area.” – Channel 11 News (CBW)

“Local officials, combined with over one hundred search volunteers, have failed to come up with any signs of the three missing filmmakers. Montgomery College film students Heather Donohue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard were reportedly shooting a school project about a local myth called the Blair Witch. At this time their whereabouts are still unknown.” – Channel 6 News (CBW) 

“The only piece of evidence found by police was Joshua Leonard’s car parked on Black Rock road.” – Curse of the Blair Witch narration (CBW)

EMILY MCKENNA

I kept tellin’ ‘em they should look at this old house I know in the woods, ‘cause everybody knows that’s the Blair Witch house…

STEVE WHATELY

Do you know if they ever went to this Blair Witch house?

EMILY MCKENNA

I doubt it. Cravens is a real tight-ass. He don’t want to hear nothing that don’t fit in with his narrow view of the world.

Excerpt from interview with Emily McKenna (BWD)

On Dec. 23, 1994, Mary Brown contacts the Sheriff’s office, claiming she’s seen an apparition of Joshua Leonard. She describes him as screaming in agony. “He was in terrible pain. He was missing some teeth and holding onto his side, and his hands were all wet and oh, it was terrible.” (BWD)

“I was listening to the interview tapes in the car, and something hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m talking to (Burkittsville Deputy) Hart about the search party, and he was saying how by Thursday night – that’s the 27th – they were on their second go-round through the forest. But Buck, they should have found those kids, because according to the footage Mrs. Donahue’s got, they were still out there, wandering around lost, all three of them.” – Steve Whately (BWD)

QUESTION

How many times did you guys search the area?

MARK MASON

Musta crossed through it five or six times. Every day of the week that we were searching.

BUD MICHELS

Yeah. Back and forth. All the time.

MARK MASON

We went everywhere. About a hundred of us…

QUESTION

Upon hearing the tapes at the firehouse, is there anything else that seemed really suspicious to you?

BUD MICHELS

Um, yeah, it’s kinda weird the discrepancy between the number of days that they were supposedly out there and when we started searching for them. It looked like they’re out there four or five days or whatever. It’s just kinda strange.

MARK MASON

Strange we never ran into them.

BUD MICHELS

Yeah.

QUESTION

So you’re saying that the time they spent out there should have overlapped the time you guys were searching?

MARK MASON

Yeah.

BUD MICHELS

Yeah, unless that was shot somewhere on, like, the moon or something, because we had helicopters and search planes.

MARK MASON

Yeah, we went out there on Tuesday and someone has tapes they were talking about it being Friday already. And, uh… It seemed kinda strange that we got that many guys out there and didn’t see them. Didn’t run into them. Didn’t hear anything. You know? Somebody wants to be found its… strange.

Excerpt from Interview with firemen Bud Michels and Mark Mason (SAS)

“Burkittsville has only got myself and one deputy. We did the best we could. We called in the county authorities early and we contacted the F.B.I. later for more in depth searching.” – Sheriff Ronald Cravens (CBW)

“I’ve been talking to sources within the Bureau about the original search. They were all very impressed with how Cravens went about it – he did a thorough job… split the whole area into a grid, real textbook-style search.” – Frank Lauriat (BWD)

“The Black Hills search for three missing filmmakers has been called off. 10 days and thousands of man hours have been unable to produce any clues to the cause of the mysterious disappearances.” – Channel 6 News (CBW)

“Dear Sheriff Cravens,
I have tried repeatedly to reach you on the phone, but you have not returned any of my calls.
You and I both know the history of Burkittsville and the events that have earned our town its peculiar reputation. Past events have proven that something evil resides in the Black Hills that surround us. The same Black Hills that those three young people hiked into a few months ago and never came back from. The Blair Witch is alive and well.
Sheriff Cravens I urge you to look to the past for the answers you seek.
Sincerely, 
Dottie Fulcher”
Letter to Sheriff Ronald Cravens from Dottie Fulcher, dated Dec. 12, 1994 (CBW)

AFTERMATH: 1995 – THE FOOTAGE IS DISCOVERED

In October of this year, Professor David Mercer’s anthropology students discover items belonging to the missing film students buried in the secluded foundations of a house within the Black Hills forest.

“So we’re working over there and, all of the sudden, I hear a commotion from the other side of the foundation, and I hear, like, rocks banging together. We ran around the side and apparently what happened was that Pete was removing a stone and a section of the wall just caved in… I just told them, I said, you know, clear this out a little bit. And about twenty minutes later Pete comes running up and he’s got this dirty old… like a backpack… in his hand.” – David Mercer (CBW)

DAVID MERCER

My original intention was that we would study some of the construction techniques and materials used at the time. But a week into the dig, we found some evidence indicating the cabin was used as a way station on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War.

STEVE WHATELY

What kind of evidence?

DAVID MERCER

A short stretch of hidden passageway – about four feet long – in the basement of the house. It must have gone all the way down to the creek at one point.

STEVE WHATELY

That’s Tappy East Creek?

DAVID MERCER

Yes…

STEVE WHATELY

So who first chose this house as the site for your dig?

DAVID MERCER

I did.

STEVE WHATELY

Why?

DAVID MERCER

I was out hiking with my family last summer in the woods, and just stumbled onto it.

Excerpt from interview with David Mercer (BWD)

“This backpack was found in sterile soil. Which is like the bottom of the site… From there to the middle of the earth is just dirt. The original house at the site had burned down and so there was a layer of ash that was, like, sitting in the interior of the house, like the basement. So this knapsack had been in sterile soil with no evidence around it of disturbance, and over the top of it was an undisturbed layer of ash. And the whole thing was boxed in by basically a Colonial era wall that was undisturbed. Even a forensic expert could not have put that thing into the site without disturbing the charcoal, the wall or the sterile soil. It was as if it materialized. And, of course, that’s not the language of science so I just don’t know what to say about this really.” – David Mercer (CBW)

PETER GOULD

That one rock was in there pretty good. When I pulled it out – boom! The whole back half of the basement wall collapsed.

JEN COLTON

And that’s when you found the backpack?

PETER GOULD

That’s right.

JEN COLTON

Was there any indication that the ground around the backpack had been disturbed recently?

PETER GOULD

You mean, like somebody else had been digging there? To bury it?

JEN COLTON

That’s what I mean.

PETER GOULD

No. Maybe I’m not making myself clear. The wall was intact, the ground was undisturbed, and…

JEN COLTON

I understand your point – the backpack couldn’t have gotten where it was. But it did.

PETER GOULD

Yes.

Excerpt from interview with Peter Gould (BWD)

“It appeared that the stones had been there for many, many years and had not been disturbed. So it makes you wonder how someone had removed those stones forensically. In other words, stone by stone, carefully not disturbing them and then putting them back in the same exact order that they were originally in the ground. Makes you wonder why they were hiding them there. Certainly not for someone to find them because they would probably stay there for years and years more if there hadn’t have done that Anthropology dig.” – Buck Buchanan (CBW)

“What I recognized real quickly were a couple of 16mm film cans. There was also what looked like some video tape cartridges in there. This had nothing at all to do with Colonial period stuff, of course, and so I called the Sheriff.” – David Mercer (CBW) 

“Footage was found that, allegedly, was filmed by the three students. I contacted a local color lab, we got it developed and I reviewed the film. And all I found was the students themselves, some scary noises in the woods at night – and a few examples of that – but no concrete evidence on what happened to the students.” –  Sheriff Ronald Cravens (CBW)

“After reviewing the film I still thought it was a hoax.” –  Sheriff Ronald Cravens (CBW)

“I think it would be remote that it’s a hoax because of the way the tapes were hidden and the fact that – just to view the tapes – they are very realistic and the tape is from a time period that the students would have been able to have taped it.” – Buck Buchanan (CBW) 

“Of course it’s not a hoax. That’s the film Heather wanted to make. Whatever was happening to her out there… I don’t know anything about that.” – Michael DeCoto (BWD)

AFTERMATH: 1996 – PRIVATE INVESTIGATORS ARE HIRED

“In January of 1996, at the recommendation of her father-in-law, Randy Donahue, Angela Donahue hires a Washington, D.C. investigative firm - Buchanan’s Private Investigative Agency - to augment the work being done by law enforcement authorities. 
The agency’s head, C. D. “Buck” Buchanan, Jr., employes a team of several detectives full-time for several months, sparing no effort or expense in the attempt to find some trace of the missing students.”
Excerpt from The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier (BWD)
“What (Buck) didn’t put in his report was the phone call he made to a longtime friend of his, Maryland State Senator Carolyn McComas. McComas made a call of her own to Burkittsville Selectman John Davis, who phoned Cravens and requested the Sheriff afford Buck all possible assistance.”
Excerpt from The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier (BWD)

RANDY DONAHUE

There’s something out there in those woods that don’t play by our rules.

BUCK BUCHANAN

The Blair Witch.

RANDY DONAHUE

Now don’t look at me like I’m crazy. I’ve seen stuff out there in those woods you wouldn’t believe. When I was a boy… they were always warning us kids not to go into the woods, that the Witch would get us. But you know how it is – you don’t believe it, and then you go out there and nothing happens, and so you eventually ignore what they tell you altogether, and you forget to be careful… So this one afternoon, I’m hiking along the trail by myself – and you have to understand that this trail is some pretty tough going, it’s right in the middle of the forest and all overgrown – and I come to this big pine tree, with a huge branch right in the middle of the trail. When I push it back, somebody grabs it. And it’s this old woman, standin’ right there on the trail, holding that branch, staring at me… Well my heart is hammering in my chest, and I don’t know whether I should scream or laugh because by God is she ugly, she’s got hair all over her arms like a lumberjack or something, and she’s just staring at me. And then she says ‘Donahue.’

Excerpt from interview with Randy Donahue (BWD)

A Buchanan’s Private Investigative Agency report, dated Jan. 22, 1996, summarizes investigator Sonenberg’s efforts to obtain information regarding the history of the property where the missing students’ items were found. Park Ranger Alvin Hunt reveals that the only recorded visitors to the area in Oct. 1995 were the anthropology students from the University of Maryland. A visit to the Frederick County Courthouse and an examination of the property records therein show that the house was originally built shortly after the incorporation of Burkittsville in 1824. The property’s earliest recorded owner was an Elizabeth Richardson, who deeded the property to the state before dying. Records since then were incomplete. (BWD)

“Go back a little further, though, and you find something very interesting.
(Rustin Parr’s Grandparents) were Constance Blair (though I suspect one, I can find no connection to the original settlers of the area) and William Sykes. Sykes had a brother named Eldon.
Dig through those property records I copied you on at the beginning of the case. You’ll find that in 1858, Eldon Sykes owned the property the students’ footage was found in. The foundation, the burned-out shell of a house in the woods…
Could those be the remains of Rustin Parr’s house?”
Excerpt from email to Buck Buchanan from Carlos Sonenberg, dated Apr. 10, 1996 (BWD)

A Buchanan’s Private Investigative Agency report, dated Jan. 20, 1996, summarized Investigator Frank Lauriat’s examination of the found footage, stating “All three (students) show the effects of marked sleep deprivation, exposure, and malnourishment.” It also stated: “The conflicts between the students at times border on the physical. I’d be remiss in not suggesting that whatever happened to them could have been self-inflicted. Assuming you do get the Sheriff to release the rest of the footage to Mrs. Donahue, I’d keep an eye out for that dynamic in particular.” (BWD)

“There’s no doubt in my mind something horrible has happened to those kids. You don’t need to be an expert in psychology to see that they were all scared to death - especially that girl. If I were in your shoes, Buck, I’d walk right over to that girl’s mother and tell her to call off the investigation. As far as I’m concerned, she’s better off not knowing the details.”
Personal note from Frank Lauriat to Buck Buchanan (BWD)

On Feb. 1, 1996, Checkmark Laboratories turns in its scientific analysis of the soil from the site where the footage was found to Buchanan’s Private Investigative Agency. They discover trace amounts of unrefined opiates in the soil, as well as a higher percentage of decomposed vegetable and animal material than normal. There are also significant quantities of ash. (BWD)

“It’s pretty easy to map the locations in the footage to a standard U.S. Geological Map…
You can see how the kids got so lost, so quickly. The old trails in there loop around on each other, and the terrain around the hills I’ve marked “A” and “B” is identical. That’s also why they kept going in circles, too.
But there’s something strange about the last few minutes of the film - where the two kids go to the house.
Take a look at that part of the footage yourself. You can see they’re going up a fairly steep hill. Close to a 45 degree angle, up at least two hundred feet, altogether.
Problem is, there is no hill like that in the Black Hills area. Nothing with a deviation from ground level of that significance, anyway…
Setting aside those last five minutes or so, the kids are clearly in the Black Hills. It’s hard to believe that none of the search parties were able to find any trace of them.”
Excerpt from Geographical Analysis of the found footage (BWD)

In a letter to Buck Buchanan, dated Mar. 21, 1996, Angela Donahue suggests bringing in a psychic to aid in the investigation. Buck replies on the 26th, telling her that law enforcement did use them from time to time, and he would contact a woman he was familiar with, Diane Ahlquist, and tell her about the case. (BWD)

“Take frame grab 96 from the student’s footage - it’s the one from the end of the film, where Heather and Mike are running through the house and run by a wall covered with what looks like hieroglyphics.
Hold it next to the photo from the magazine article on Kyle Brody.
It’s the same writing.
It’s the same wall.
It’s the same house.
The last scene in the kids’ footage is in Rustin Parr’s house. Which is impossible, because that house burned down in 1941.”
Excerpt from a memo from Carlos Sonenberg to Buck Buchanan, dated Mar. 28, 1996 (BWD)

On Mar. 29, 1996, Hampshire College Linguistics Professor, Peter Walling, identifies the writing seen in both the found footage and in pictures of Rustin Parr’s house as a mixture of slightly corrupted Transitus Fluvii, a Hebraic language, and Futhark, a proto-European language that dates from the first millennium B.C. (BWD)

“I didn’t see Heather - but I did see a house. I believe it to be the house you described to me over the phone the last time we talked - the house that Heather found in the forest. 
Forgive me if this next part sounds a little melodramatic - realize that what I see is often a metaphorical, rather than a literal, representation of reality.
In front of the house, I saw three men lying on the ground, bound to each other - I couldn’t quite see how - in the shape of a triangle. One of them was Buck Buchanan. I didn’t recognize the other two. I felt an awful sense of apprehension witnessing this scene, as if something terrible were about to happen.”
Excerpt from Diane Ahlquist’s letter to Angela Donahue, dated Apr. 25, 1996 (BWD)

On Apr. 25, 1996, Sheriff Cravens confirms to Buck Buchanan that the location where the missing students’ footage was found is the burnt foundation of Rustin Parr’s house. (BWD)

“Tomorrow at midnight marks the observance of the ritual Sabbat of Beltane - the season of renewal, of new life. I don’t think the timing is a coincidence: I don’t believe in coincidence…
I know you don’t believe in any of this, Buck. But please, please humor me: this forest is an evil place. I can sense that already… I don’t mind telling you that I’m extremely frightened. The danger there will be great. I can protect us, if you’ll let me.”
Excerpt from email to Buck Buchanan from Diane Ahlquist, dated Apr. 28, 1996 (BWD)

“That psychic who’s here had a dream about (Mary Brown) last night, how she was trying to warn us about something.” – Carlos Sonenberg (BWD)

DIANE AHLQUIST

We were talking about the dream I had last night?

MARY BROWN

That’s why you came down here to see me.

DIANE AHLQUIST

That’s right. Because in my dream you were trying to warn me about something. You said I had to be careful about going into the forest because–

MARY BROWN

Because of the witch… You need to be careful, too.

CARLOS SONENBERG

Me?

Excerpt from interview with Mary Brown on Apr. 30, 1996 (BWD)

On Apr. 30, 1996 Diane Ahlquist, Carlos Sonenberg, Stephen Whately and Buck Buchanan head to the foundations of the Parr house to investigate, and so that Ahlquist can perform the Sabbat of Beltane ritual in an attempt to connect with Heather Donahue.

BUCK BUCHANAN

We’re at the site, and we’ve been searching the entire afternoon. We’re about to call it quits – looks like it might rain.

JEN COLTON

Not a cloud in the sky down here.

BUCK BUCHANAN

Yeah, I don’t know where this came from. It was supposed to be clear all night. We’re not really equipped for a storm.

Excerpt from phone conversation between Buck Buchanan and Jennifer Colton on Apr. 30, 1996, 6:20pm (BWD)

DIANE AHLQUIST

Within the circle, we’ve now created sacred space. A space where we can move between dimensions – this physical one, and the one beyond. As this is Beltane – a time of transition – the walls between the dimensions are particularly easy to breach…

CARLOS SONENBERG

Did you hear something?

STEVE WHATELY

No.

BUCK BUCHANAN

No.

CARLOS SONENBERG

It sounded like a girl crying… There’s (it is) again.

STEVE WHATELY

I think I heard it too.

BUCK BUCHANAN

Go check it out, Steve.

CARLOS SONENBERG

I thought we were supposed to stay in the circle.

BUCK BUCHANAN

I’m using my discretion. You have your gun?

STEVE WHATELY

Right here…

BUCK BUCHANAN

What’s the matter?

STEVE WHATELY

I fell – twisted my ankle.

CARLOS SONENBERG

I’ll go… I’ll be right back…

DIANE AHLQUIST

(unintelligible)

STEVE WHATELY

How long has she been babbling like that?

BUCK BUCHANAN

Started right after you left.

STEVE WHATELY

What’s she saying?

BUCK BUCHANAN

How would I know? Does that even sound like English to you?

STEVE WHATELY

…Do you want me to go after (Carlos)?

BUCK BUCHANAN

Give him a few more minutes.

DIANE AHLQUIST

I’m in the house.

STEVE WHATELY

What did she just say?

BUCK BUCHANAN

She’s in the house?

STEVE WHATELY

What the fuck does that mean? …Diane?

BUCK BUCHANAN

Look at her eyes. She can’t hear you.

DIANE AHLQUIST

Oh, God, it’s everywhere! I can sense it everywhere!

STEVE WHATELY

That doesn’t even sound like her.

DIANE AHLQUIST

I’m running through the house. Up the stairs. Down the stairs. Mike? Mike, where are you?

STEVE WHATELY

This is creeping me out. Buck?

DIANE AHLQUIST

I’m in the basement. Oh, God! The smell!

BUCK BUCHANAN

I don’t like this at all. Let’s wake her up…

DIANE AHLQUIST

Mike? Mike, what’s the matter? Why are you standing like that?

STEVE WHATELY

Jesus, what was that? Was that Sonenberg?

BUCK BUCHANAN

Go! Go get him!

STEVE WHATELY

(unintelligible)

DIANE AHLQUIST

MIKE!

Excerpt from the transcript of Diane Ahlquist’s Sabbat of Beltane ritual, performed near the remains of the Parr house between 10:14pm and approximately 11:30pm on Apr. 30, 1996 (BWD)

OPERATOR

What’s the matter, sir?

BUCK BUCHANAN

We have two injuries. A male, age twenty-seven, with a broken arm. A female, same approximate age, in some sort of trance – I can’t snap her out of it…

OPERATOR

Hold the line, sir, and I’ll see if I can patch (a doctor) through from the hospital. We’re dispatching an ambulance right now.

Excerpt from transcript of Buck Buchanan’s 911 call at 1:10am on May 1, 1996 (BWD)

“Nothing like that has ever happened to me before, I wish I could remember more of it. I’m glad Buck convinced me to let me tape record that evening: when I get out of here in a few days, I’m going to listen to that tape and see if it sparks any memories.
Perhaps if those memories come back, I’ll be able to remember more specific things about Heather as well. Usually, when I go into a trance, I pick up images of where the object or person I’m looking for is in the here and now. Hopefully, those memories will come back to me as well.”
Excerpt from letter to Angela Donahue from Diane Ahlquist, written from her hospital bed on May 11, 1996 (BWD)

“The case of the Black Hills disappearances has once again been closed. The investigation was reopened last October after film reels and video cassettes supposedly belonging to the three missing film students were found by a Maryland University Anthropology class. Frederick County police officials declared today that the found footage was inconclusive and that all possible leads on the case have been exhausted.” – Channel 6 News (CBW)

“I think it remains unexplained, what happened to them. In my law enforcement career I’ve seen people that have actually decided to disappear on their own and re-establish a new identity. There was no reason in this case for them to do that and there’s no indication that they did. There’s never been any evidence found to show that they fell upon foul play – that they’re no longer living. So it’s something in between or certainly at the very least something very suspicious.” – Buck Buchanan (CBW)

On May 26, 1999, Buck Buchanan sends author D. A. Stern his approval to use the notes and transcripts from his investigation in a book entitled The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier. (BWD)

AFTERMATH: 1997 – HAXAN FILMS

“Only by exclusive arrangement with the missing students’ families was Haxan films able to assemble the students’ footage (found a full year after their disappearance) into a narrative of their doomsday ride into the Black Hills of Maryland, a journey both mysterious and terrifying in its implications.”
Excerpt from The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier (BWD)
“Angela Donahue… was instrumental in getting all those materials turned over to Haxan Films in their entirety for editing and assembly into what became THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. For reference, she also supplies the filmmakers with every piece of evidence that Buchanan’s Private Investigative Agency managed to dig up.”
Excerpt from The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier (BWD)

“As we were reviewing the tapes, we were witnessing this transformation – from this student film about the Blair Witch into this visual diary of the filmmakers. Heather turned the camera on her, Josh and Mike in an effort – it seems to me – to leave some kind of record.” – Dan Myrick (BWD)

“When they asked us to assemble it into a rough cut for all the families, I think they were hoping that the footage was going to provide some answers… we were really looking forward to getting all of it because it was going to answer all of our questions. But it really was the opposite.” – Gregg Hale (BWD)

“There are instances in the footage where the three filmmakers run across things they really can’t explain – things that are definitely man-made, but you can’t really explain them with natural causes.” – Ed Sanchez (BWD)

END OF PART III

THE PLAYERS

Andrea Lynn – University of Maryland anthropology student who, along with fellow student, Peter Gould, discovers the duffel bag containing the property of Heather Donahue and her crew buried under the foundation of a secluded cabin in the Black Hills forest.

Angela Donahue – Heather and James Donahue’s mother. After police label the case of her missing daughter inactive, Angela hires Buchanan’s Private Investigative Agency to continue searching for answers. Later, she is instrumental in getting the missing students’ found footage turned over to Haxan Films for editing and assembly into what became The Blair Witch Project

Bob Griffin – Father-in-law to Ed Swanson, and one of the last known people to see the missing college students alive.

Buck Buchanan – Head of Buchanan’s Private Investigative Agency, the group hired by Angela Donahue to augment the work being done by law enforcement authorities and search for evidence in the disappearances of Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams. Buck was involved in full-time law enforcement/investigative service for thirty-two years. He graduated from the FBI National Academy in 1980. 

Bud Michels – Fireman who was part of the search effort to locate Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard.

Carlos Sonenberg – Investigator with Buchanan’s Private Investigative Agency. Worked on the Missing Persons Investigation of Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams. Sonenberg is a data processing expert with a ten year background in law enforcement (including two years as Chief Deputy for the F.B.I.’s Special Archives section). 

Charles Moorehouse – Professor of Folklore at Hampshire College.

Dan Myrick – Co-Director of The Blair Witch Project. 

“I remember hearing a little bit about the case – I guess it must have been back in ‘94, when the students first disappeared.”

David Mercer – University of Maryland anthropology professor. He is with the group of anthropology students when they discover the film reels and videotapes belonging to the missing Montgomery college students.

Diane Ahlquist – A “third generation psychic.” Brought in to work on the missing students’ case by Buck Buchanan, at the request of Angela Donahue.

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

Dottie Fulcher – Search party volunteer. Believer in the Blair Witch. 

“I went to the Sheriff’s office and I tried to talk with him and he’s really been no help… I called when we didn’t find anything with the search party and I told him I thought we should still keep looking because I know there are clues out there… I still go out and I still look and I know there’s something out there… (Sheriff Cravens) just doesn’t want to hear anything I have to say.” 

“Elly is not very far from any of us at any time and she chooses her time to appear.”

Ed Sanchez Co-Director of The Blair Witch Project

“We received a call back in the middle of 1997 from (Michael DeCoto), asking us if we’d be willing to help a friend of his edit some raw footage. He put us in touch with Angela Donahue, and when we found out the whole story from her… Well, we were more than a little intrigued.”

Ed Swanson – Fishermen who was one of the last known people to see Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard before they disappeared.

Emily McKenna – Search party volunteer. 

“Blair Witch is what got those kids.”

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.

Gregg Hale – Producer of The Blair Witch Project.

“We were anxious to get involved with the project.”

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)

Jennifer Colton – Investigator with Buchanan’s Private Investigative Agency. Worked on the Missing Persons Investigation of Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams. Colton is a former member of the Baltimore police department, and began working for Buchanan’s Agency in Aug. 1995.

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)

Mark Mason – Fireman who was part of the search effort to locate Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard.

Mary Brown –  – Burkittsville local who claims to have encountered the Blair Witch when she was a girl. Some sources indicate that Mary attended the same school as Kyle Brody in the 1940’s.

“There really isn’t many people that say that (the Black Hills forest is) haunted, but there was this old woman, Mary Brown, who used to… She was kind of a crazy lady.” – Jim Maynard (BWP)

“(Mary Brown) thinks she is in the film business. She also says she’s a ballerina. She says she’s a historian writing a book on American History and that she’s a scientist who does research at the Department of Energy.” – Heather Donahue (BWP)

Michael DeCoto – Heather Donahue and Joshua Leonard’s film Professor. DeCoto had never heard of the Blair Witch prior to reading Heather’s proposal, but thought the project sounded like a great opportunity to document centuries of local folklore. 

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)

Peter Gould – University of Maryland anthropology student who, along with fellow student, Andrea Lynn, discovers the duffel bag containing the property of Heather Donahue and her crew buried under the foundation of a secluded cabin in the Black Hills forest.

Rachel Meyer – Heather Donahue’s best friend.

Randy Donahue – Heather Donahue’s Grandfather.

“I guess you could say it’s my fault she went out there, because I told her all the stories.”

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)

Ronald Cravens – Burkittsville Sheriff. Cravens worked several cases that were part of the Blair Witch Legend.

“I did a very good job.”

“…There’s this feeling I have, that (the Police) know more than they’re willing to talk about. I think they don’t want to admit that (the missing students) saw (the Blair Witch) and that she’s there.” – Dottie Fulcher (CBW)

Stephen Whately – Investigator with Buchanan’s Private Investigative Agency. Worked on the Missing Persons Investigation of Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams. Former New York City police officer who now works as an investigator for hire to top agencies in both the U.S. and overseas. Received the NYC Department Medal of Valor three times.

SOURCES

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

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

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

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

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

STICKS AND STONES: AN EXPLORATION OF THE BLAIR WITCH LEGEND (SAS) released DTV by Artisan Entertainment, Oct. 1999.

(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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