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…
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 IV – Hysteria or History?
TIMELINE (1998 – 2016)
Jun. 1998 – Jake Henderson is murdered by his girlfriend, Eliza Baynes, who blames the crime on the Blair Witch. (BWF6)
Mar. 1999 – High School senior, Mark Reddick, drowns in Lake Lanois within the Black Hills forest while overseeing seventh graders on a school camping trip. (BWF3)
Jul. 11, 1999 – Curse of the Blair Witch, a documentary covering the Blair Witch legend and the 1994 disappearances of the Montgomery college students, premieres on television. (CBW)
Jul. 30, 1999 – The Blair Witch Project is released in cinemas. The film is an edited version of the found footage that belonged to the missing college students and was created by Haxan films with the permission of their families. (BWP, BWD)
Aug. 25, 1999 – Pocket books contracts Tristen Ryler and Stephen Ryan Parker to write a book titled The Blair Witch: Hysteria or History? which will focus on the mythology and psychology behind the Blair Witch legend. (BBS)
Sep. 1, 1999 – The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier is published. The book contains an overview of the Blair Witch legend, but primarily focuses on the 1994 case of the missing Montgomery College students. (BWD)
Sep. 21 – 22, 1999 – The Black Hills Murders. Jeffrey Patterson, Kim Diamond, Stephen Ryan Parker, Erica Geerson, and Tristen Ryler murder five tourists staying the night at Coffin Rock, mutilating their bodies and arranging them in a pentagram in an attempt to recreate the details of the 1886 massacre. The group then turns on each other, killing Geerson and Ryler before being apprehended by the police. (BW2, BBS)
2000 – To tie into the upcoming sequel to The Blair Witch Project, Pocket Books hires author D. A. Stern to take what little is left of Stephen Parker and Tristen Ryler’s research notes for their The Blair Witch: Hysteria or History? book and use them (in combination with Stern’s own research into the Black Hills Murder case) to create Blair Witch: Book of Shadows, published in November of this year. (BBS)
Jul. 2000 – Bantam Books begins publishing The Blair Witch Files series of books, written by Cade Merrill. Merrill claims the books are based on tales of the Blair Witch people have sent to his website.
Aug. 1, 2000 – Blair Witch – The Secret Confession of Rustin Parr is published. This book chronicles the final days of ex-priest Dominick Cazale, the man who took Rustin Parr’s confession shortly before Parr was executed. (CRP)
Oct. 2000 – The Burkittsville 7 and Shadow of the Blair Witch, two documentaries covering different aspects of the Blair Witch legend, premiere on television this month. (TB7, SBW)
Oct. 27, 2000 – Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, a film based on the Black Hills Murders, is released in theaters by Artisan Entertainment.
2014 – James Donahue, Lisa Arlington, Ashley Bennett, Peter Jones, Talia Cole and Lane Waller hike into the Black Hills forest to search for clues as to the whereabouts of James’ sister Heather, missing since 1994. None of them are ever seen again. (BW3)
May 15, 2014 – Footage shot by James Donahue and his group, recorded earlier in the year when they disappeared into the woods surrounding Burkittsville, Maryland, is discovered in the Black Hills forest.
Sep. 18, 2016 – The footage shot by James Donahue and his group, having been edited down to feature length by film director Adam Wingard and editor Louis Cioffi, is released into cinemas by Lionsgate Pictures under the title, Blair Witch.
1998: THE JAKE HENDERSON MURDER
In the summer of 1998, Eliza Baynes is arrested in Burkittsville for killing her boyfriend, Jake Henderson.
“Arguing that their client’s testimony plainly demonstrates she is unfit to stand trial, attorneys for accused murderer Eliza Baynes asked Judge Jonathan Smith to dismiss the case against her today. Baynes has repeatedly insisted she is innocent of the murder of her boyfriend, twenty-year-old Jake Henderson. She claims the real murderer is Burkittsville’s most celebrated legend, the Blair Witch.” Excerpt from Baltimore Sun article dated Jul. 7, 1998 (BWF6)
“Dr. Zachary Clauson, the court-appointed psychiatrist for accused murderer Eliza Baynes, was killed last night in a freak auto accident. Dr. Clauson, the defense’s main witness, was scheduled to take the stand today. Defense attorneys requested a three day continuance in order to find a new psychiatrist to examine Baynes. But before Judge Jonathan Smith could make a ruling, the defendant became hysterical, insisting she wouldn’t talk to anyone else. She had to be forcibly removed from the courtroom, and court was adjourned for the day.” Excerpt from Baltimore Sun article dated Jul. 8, 1998 (BWF6)
“Twelve-year-old Ryan Henderson, the brother of murder victim Jake Henderson, made an impassioned plea today for justice in the sentencing of his former caregiver, Eliza Baynes. Claiming he would never forget the events he witnessed, a sobbing Henderson begged jurors to sentence Baynes to death. ‘The only way my mom and I can get over this is if she’s dead. She can’t stay alive when Jake isn’t. It just wouldn’t be fair.’” Excerpt from Baltimore Sun article dated Jul. 9, 1998 (BWF6)
“In a move that took many by surprise, State Supreme Court Judge Helen Day overturned the death sentence of convicted murderer Eliza Baynes. Judge Day stated that she had based her decision on a number of factors, including the mental condition of the defendant. Baynes’ sentence was converted to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The surviving members of the Henderson family could not be reached for comment.” Excerpt from Baltimore Sun article dated Jan. 17, 2000 (BWF6)
In 2000, Eliza Baynes dies in prison of mysterious causes. (BWF6)
1999: THE SCHOOL CAMPING TRIP
In late March, a group of students go camping in the Black Hills Forest, within a mile of where the 1825 Tappy East Creek incident occurred. Unfortunately, this trip would end in tragedy.
“The body of Mark Reddick, 18, was discovered yesterday beneath the ice at Lake Lanois in Black Rock State Park in western Maryland. Mary Jane Guzzo, a state police spokesperson, said the cause of death was drowning. Reddick, a senior at the Meade School, had been on a camping trip in the park with thirty seventh graders and three other seniors from the school. Two teachers, Russell Morris and Ruth Zadek, also accompanied the students on the trip. The teachers disappeared during the trip and are now reported missing. According to witnesses, Reddick ran onto the frozen lake to save two children who had fallen through the ice. After he pulled them to safety, the ice cracked under his weight and he fell into the lake. Two other seniors tried to save him, but he had already disappeared under the ice.” Excerpt from Baltimore Sun article dated March 22, 1999 (BWF3)
During the camping trip, the students claim that the water in Tappy East creek becomes black, filled with sticks, and undrinkable (just as it did following the Eileen Treacle drowning in 1825). Seventh grader Greg LaSalle takes samples of the water over the course of three days, intending to use them for a science project. Cade Merrill later sends these samples to Doctor Marcia Bledsoe of Adelphi Laboratories, who tests them and reports: “Sample three could not have been collected from the same creek as the others. They’re all water, but sample three contains some very unusual chemicals and minerals. It also holds significant traces of phelsine, a chemical that should not show up in a water sample at all. Phelsine is an enzyme found in human blood. It can’t exist by itself in water. However, there are no traces of blood in this sample. That’s impossible.” (BWF3)
1999: THE BLACK HILLS MURDERS
“Those inclined to a belief in the supernatural can now add the names Jeffrey Patterson, Kim Diamond, Stephen Ryan Parker, Erica Geerson, and Tristen Ryler to the Blair Witch mythology. All five were participants in what the local media has dubbed ‘The Black Hills Murders,’ which took place the week of September 20. That Friday night, Patterson, himself a resident of Burkittsville, Maryland, the witch’s supposed hometown, led the others into those very same hills on his inaugural “Blair Witch Hunt” - a guided tour of those sites commonly associated with the local legend. According to some, Patterson’s ‘hunt’ was all too successful; it is the Blair Witch, these people believe, who is behind this latest round of killings. The authorities seem to prefer other, more mundane explanations. They have arrested Patterson, Diamond, and Parker on first-degree murder charges… The cases against them are airtight, sources say, supported by physical evidence that includes actual videotapes of at least two of the killings… According to Burkittsville Sheriff Ronald Cravens, sometime in the early evening Patterson’s tour group was confronted by another, run by locals Tony Amonte and Nicholas Dugan… and angry words were exchanged. Eventually the newcomers, accompanied by tourists Greta Hanson, John Chin, and E. J. Kim, stalked off. The Parr site secured, Patterson and company settled in and began consuming considerable amounts of alcohol and hallucinogens. Fuel for what came next, according to Cravens. The sheriff believes that sometime in the predawn hours, Parker, Patterson, and at least one other member of the group trekked through the woods to Coffin Rock, where Amonte and Dugan’s group were sleeping. There, they murdered all five hikers in their sleep, arranging their disemboweled bodies in the shape of a pentagram to simulate the ‘Coffin Rock Massacre’ of 1886… The morning of Thursday, September 21, Tristen Ryler awoke to discover that, during the night, possibly because of stress suffered during the previous night’s events, she had suffered a miscarriage. She was rushed to a nearby hospital, treated and released. The entire Blair Witch Hunt tour group then returned to Jeff Patterson’s home which is located near the Black Hills. What they did during the day is not yet known, but Kim Diamond’s movements during the early evening hours are easy to trace. Several witnesses - as well as videotapes from a security camera - place her in the Black Hills Market, a local convenience store, where she apparently went to replenish the group’s alcohol supply. Diamond… exchanged words with the store manager, Peggy Shuler, who refused to sell her groceries. Diamond then pulled out a nail file and slashed Shuler’s throat, killing her. Meanwhile, back at Patterson’s home, relations among the other group members were souring. According to reports, Erica Geerson, 19, whose role in the weekend’s events remains the most difficult to piece together, had been the object of sexual advances from Jeff Patterson throughout the course of the tour. She had repeatedly spurned him. At some point during the evening of September 21, authorities allege that a frustrated Patterson killed her in a jealous rage. Rage is also the suspected motive behind the last of the Black Hills killings, Stephen Ryan Parker’s murder of his coauthor and lover, Tristen Ryler. This murder was committed within Patterson’s home on the evening of September 22, when, according to sources, Turner, in what he may have intended as a gruesome reenactment of the 1941 execution of Rustin Parr, hung Ryler from a makeshift gallows.” Excerpt from the Oct. 1999 issue of USA Report (BBS)
“There are three theories on who committed these murders. To me Jeff Patterson is the most logical. There’s another theory that Jeff Patterson and two of his cohorts came together as some frantic, mass hysteria or whatever. And then there’s this third theory which is some evil force taking over out in the woods… I don’t think I’ve been involved with such a case that had such… boogeymen in the woods type stuff.” – Bill Dixon (SBW)
“Having done my research on my client, there’s nothing there to suggest that this boy is violent.” – Donald McPherrill (SBW)
“‘That night in the woods was when all the trouble started,” Diamond told reporters. 'I felt a presence all around us.’ Diamond named that presence as the Blair Witch… ‘Somehow Elly came out of the woods with us,’ Diamond said… Burkittsville Sheriff Ron Cravens dismisses Diamond’s claims as nonsense… As an example, Cravens points to the murder of convenience store clerk Peggy Shuler, for which Diamond also stands accused and was captured on the store’s security cameras. ‘What’s on those tapes is not what really happened,’ Diamond told the press.” Excerpt from the Dec. 13, 1999 issue of World News Beat (BBS)
“He was going in the Black Hills forest long before the movie came out and trying to backtrack whatever path those three individuals might have taken and then bringing people up there… That’s how he recruited his two recruits, as I understand.” – Bill Dixon (SBW)
“The (murders) came as a big surprise to the whole community. There seems to be some kind of a connection to this… legend… at least in people’s minds. There is a seemingly sadistic element to the actual crimes… and all of the people who were involved actually – oddly enough – didn’t share any profile at all, except that they each had access to the internet.” – Deputy Hank Hart (SBW)
“The two people who are accused of conspiring with Jeff Patterson don’t even have a long relationship with him.” – Deputy Hank Hart (SBW)
“Burkittsville Sheriff Ron Cravens revealed to a stunned crowd of news reporters that Burkittsville native Jeff Patterson was institutionalized in 1992 after kidnapping a neighbor’s infant daughter and fleeing with her into the Black Hills forest. ‘The doctors said he wasn’t well enough to stand trial,’ said a visibly angry Cravens. ‘I’d like to know what made them think he was well enough to release into society.’” Excerpt from the Dec. 13, 1999 issue of World News Beat (BBS)
“Just as a matter of law – I don’t know if you know this – you cannot expose the records of someone before the age of eighteen. This is not to hide any particular thing on the part of my client, it’s just a legal fact.” – Donald McPherrill (SBW)
“To me, one of the saddest parts of this case is the fact that Jeff Patterson was even let out of the mental facility. These bodies would not be out in the woods today if he’d still been where he should have been: Locked up.” – Bill Dixon (SBW)
“(Jeffrey Patterson) demanded three forms of therapy (in 1992). One: pharmaceuticals. The other: electroshock treatment. And the third and most important: very intensive therapy. Talk. Exchange. And he left here, a man capable of assimilating into the larger society.” – Dr. Clayton Larson (SBW)
“If we didn’t think that it was right to let Jeff back into society we certainly never would have.” – Dr. Clayton Larson (SBW)
“(Jeffrey Patterson has) apparently been on medication for (schizophrenia). There’s no cure for it, but if a schizophrenic stays on medication the symptoms are repressed. And I would be very interested to find out if, prior to this recent event, Jeffrey stopped taking the pills.” – Vera Tenslue (SBW)
“A sequel to the movie ‘The Blair Witch Project’ is being released based on the murders of which Jeff Patterson is accused. The victims’ families unsuccessfully attempted to block the production of the sequel.” Opening text of Shadow of the Blair Witch
“‘Book of Shadows’ was, I believe, the title of the movie that (Jeffrey Patterson) planned to make.” – Dr. Clayton Larson (SBW)
2000: THE SECRET CONFESSION OF RUSTIN PARR
Blair Witch – The Secret Confession of Rustin Parr is published in August of this year. This book, written and assembled by D. A. Stern, chronicles the fate of Dominick Cazale, the ex-priest who took Rustin Parr’s confession before Parr was executed. Shortly after being diagnosed with dementia, Cazale films an appearance for the documentary The Burkittsville 7, claiming that Rustin Parr had confessed that he had killed no one. Cazale then returns to Burkittsville for the first time in decades and goes on a tour of the town with a local “Blair Witch Walk” group. After coming home from the trip, friends and acquaintances note that Cazale and his wife, both of whom had previously been quite social, rarely leave the house. Two months later there is a fire at Cazale’s home… one which the authorities have ample evidence is started by Cazale himself.
“A Hallandale Beach man was rushed to the Broward County General Hospital last night after suffering extensive burns in a fire that also caused the death of his wife. Dominick Cazale, 85 years old, is currently listed in critical condition, with third-degree burns over 30 percent of his body, in the burn unit at Broward County General, a nursing supervisor stated. The blaze was discovered shortly after 11 p.m. Friday evening, by a police officer patrolling the neighborhood. The officer tried to enter the home, but was driven back by heavy smoke and fire. Firefighters arrived shortly thereafter and brought the blaze under control. At that point they discovered the body of a woman later identified as the burn victim’s wife, Mary Cazale. Dominick Cazale was found near his wife.” Excerpt from Miami Herald Examiner article dated Jul. 1, 2000 (CRP)
While visiting Dominick Cazale in the hospital, D. A. Stern glimpses what he believes to be a Transitus Fluvii character burned into the flesh of Cazale’s arm. A short time later he receives the ex-priest’s journal in the mail.
“It all went wrong when we hiked into the woods. Up until that point, my return to Burkittsville - apart from the nonstop chatter of our guide - had been a cathartic experience, far more so than my half-truthful interview with that filmmaker. I felt foolish for… all those years I’d spent running from my past, when the things that had haunted me for all those years turned out to be the products of my own overactive imagination. Then Mary stepped over the foundation wall and stood on the ground where those seven children had been buried. The air itself seemed to shimmer; for a moment, I thought I saw Rustin Parr’s house standing there intact… Front door open, vines climbing up the outside of the house… The writing on the walls.” Excerpt from the journal of Dominick Cazale, dated Jun. 22, 2000 (CRP)
“No more good days. Mary sits in bed and scratches at her arm. Mary curses at me in language so foul I cannot bear to repeat it, even here. Then she collapses in tears…” Excerpt from the journal of Dominick Cazale, dated, Jun. 25, 2000 (CRP)
“I opened my eyes this morning to the sight of Mary standing at the bedroom door. At first, I thought she was trying to open it. Then I saw what she had done. All around the doorway, the wall was covered with symbols she had drawn in the night: runes, which matched those on her arm. The symbols were red. She’d used her own blood.” Excerpt from the journal of Dominick Cazale, dated Jun. 27, 2000 (CRP)
Dominick Cazale succumbed to his injuries and died on Jul. 15, 2000, at Broward County General Hospital. (CRP)
2000: THE BLAIR WITCH FILES
In July, Bantam Books begins publishing The Blair Witch Files series of books, written by Cade Merrill (who claimed to be Heather Donahue’s cousin). Merrill bases the books on various Blair Witch related tales sent to him by readers of his website.
“In 1994 three college students went into the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, to make a film about the legend of the Blair Witch. They never came back. My cousin Heather Donahue was one of those filmmakers… So I read every story about the Blair Witch legend that I could get my hands on. I e-mailed and called everyone who might know something… It wasn’t long before more people heard about my work and started sending their stories to my Web site theblairwitchfiles.com… I researched and archived the most intriguing stories in these case files… I have now decided to open some of them and publish them. Why? Because I know the answers are out there. My hope is that these books may reach that one person who holds the missing piece - the key that unlocks the mystery of the Blair Witch.” Cade Merrill’s opening text for all the books in the Blair Witch Files series
2000: THE BURKITTSVILLE 7 AND THE SHADOW OF THE BLAIR WITCH
Two documentaries are released in October of this year, The Burkittsville 7 and Shadow of the Blair Witch. The former deals with Chris Carrazco and his belief that it was Kyle Brody, not Rustin Parr, who murdered the Burkittsville 7. The latter covers Jeffrey Patterson and the Black Hills Murders. (TB7, SBW)
2014: BLAIR WITCH
“The following footage was assembled from memory cards and DV tapes found near Burkittsville, Maryland in the Black Hills Forest on May 15, 2014.” Opening text of Blair Witch
In early 2014, Heather Donahue’s brother, James, watches a video online which claims to have been taken from a DV tape found in the Black Hills forest. The video appears to show the same house that can be seen at the end of the 1994 found footage which belonged to the missing college students, and James believes that he can see his missing sister in the clip. He decides to take a trip into the Black Hills forest, starting with where the tape was found, to see if he can find out anything about Heather’s whereabouts or discover the location of the house that she seems to have disappeared in.
His friends, Lisa Arlington, Ashley Bennett and Peter Jones, agree to accompany him on the trip. Lisa brings a variety of camera equipment along in order to document their investigation, including a camera drone, a Canon 5D Mark III DSLR with an EF-S 50-200mm lens, and high definition Bluetooth earpiece cameras that everyone in the group wears at all times.
“When James was 4 years old, his older sister disappeared while making a documentary near the town of Burkittsville, Maryland. Some of the footage shot by James’ sister was later found. The final moments of it showed her going into a house, seemingly within the Black Hills forest. That area was extensively searched by police and FBI but they could find no evidence of an existing house in those woods. Investigators concluded that James’ sister might have vanished elsewhere despite her crew’s equipment and footage being found nearby. For as long as I have been friends with James, he’s wondered what happened to her. His continued search to find closure and answers to his sister’s disappearance is the subject of this documentary.” – Lisa Arlington (BW3)
James messages the people who uploaded the video onto the internet and arranges to meet with them and have them show James and his friends where it was that they discovered the DV tape containing the footage.
“The thing is, he’s going back out to those woods to look for his sister, Lisa. Because he thinks she could still be there because of some blurry footage that some weirdo put online.” – Peter Jones (BW3)
The group arrives at the home of Darknet666, aka Lane Waller and Talia Cole – two Burkittsville locals. Talia and Lane agree to show them where the tape was found, but only if they take them along for the trip. The group reluctantly agrees, and the six of them drive up to the Black Hills and hike into the forest.
So, do you guys really believe all these old stories? I mean, ‘cause someone died everywhere at some point, right? It doesn’t mean that every square foot of this planet is haunted.
Did you grow up here?
See, I… I did. Talia did. We both… we both grew up here. And the older folks in town used to talk a lot about these woods when I was little. And after (James’) sister and her crew went missing and their stuff got found, suddenly everyone I know just wanted to forget it. This area has a history of things happening that no one really likes to talk about. Rustin Parr. Coffin rock. The list goes on and on.
Excerpt from conversation between Peter Jones and Lane Waller (BW3)
Lane shows the group where he claims to have found the DV tape, half buried beneath a tree burned by a lightning strike. The group continues on, but when everyone removes their shoes and crosses Tappy East creek, Ashley’s foot is badly cut as she does so. James patches her up with a first aid kit and the group continues on for an indeterminate amount of time before stopping and setting up camp.
That night the group hears a series of loud sounds coming from the woods around them, similar to the sounds that can be heard in the 1994 found footage. They then hear a large tree fall over, after which things seem to go quiet.
When the group wakes up the next day, the camp is surrounded with stickmen totems, and they are stunned to discover that they have somehow slept until two in the afternoon. They decide that the safest thing they can do is leave. A storm comes in as the group hikes through the woods, back towards their vehicles.
Lisa notes that the camera Lane has uses DV tapes identical to the one that Lane and Talia claim to have discovered in the woods. Ashley continues to struggle with her injured foot, but assures everyone that she wants to keep moving. As the group continues hiking, Lisa spots twine in Lane’s backpack which matches the twine used to create the stickmen at their camp that morning, and Talia admits that she and Lane are responsible for the totems, stating that they were faking the presence of the Blair Witch in order to convince them that the stories were real and that something is happening in the Black Hills forest.
“Hey, we didn’t fake those noises last night! And, sleeping until 2 o’clock – how could we fake that? There is something really going on out here in these woods.” – Talia Cole (BW3)
When Lane and Talia also reveal that they have never been deeper into the woods than the edge of Tappy East creek, the rest of the group tells them to return to town on their own, having had enough of their lies. Lane begs to stay with them, but Peter and James make it clear that he is not welcome.
James is crushed, now convinced that the footage that lured him into the Black Hills forest was nothing more than a hoax, created by Talia and Lane.
The group continues hiking for the rest of the day, following James’ GPS, but they find themselves somehow back at their campsite from the previous night, having spent the day walking in a large circle. Ashley can no longer stand on her injured foot, so the four of them make camp for the night.
Peter further tends to Ashley’s wound, but it looks inflamed and appears to pulsate, so he informs James and Lisa that Ashley’s foot has gotten worse.
Lisa flies her drone camera up above the treeline to try and discover which direction leads back to the clearing where they parked their vehicle. To her surprise, however, the footage it broadcasts to her phone doesn’t appear to show any recognizable features in the forest around them. The drone then suddenly malfunctions and plunges into the branches of a tall tree.
James checks on Ashley’s foot while Peter goes into the woods to gather firewood. After finishing his examination of the wound, James tells Lisa that it’s infected and they should take her straight to the nearest ER the next day.
While he’s gathering firewood, Peter’s flashlight malfunctions and loud noises start coming from the woods around him,. He also glimpses something moving between the trees. Suddenly a large tree falls on him, pinning him to the ground. There is then a deep growling sound nearby, before something seems to grab Peter and his camera goes out.
James hears the sound of the tree falling and runs towards it, yelling repeatedly for Peter to respond to him. James also tries contacting him on the radio, but receives no reply.
A short time later Lane and Talia reappear at the camp, emerging from the woods looking battered and filthy.
When was the last time you saw us?
Uh, earlier this afternoon.
They’re not lying.
It’s been 5 days since we saw you. Maybe 6. I don’t even fucking know. The sun… the sun is not coming up! The sun is not fucking coming up!
Excerpt from conversation between Lane Waller, Lisa Arlington and Talia Cole (BW3)
Lane refuses to stay with the group, and marches back into the woods, leaving Talia behind with Lisa and James.
Unable to find Peter, James and Lisa reluctantly go to sleep, setting the alarm for 7am the next morning. But when the alarm sounds and they get up, they discover that it is somehow still dark outside of the tent. They also discover two piles of rocks and a parade of stickmen totems surrounding the campsite.
An extremely sickly looking Ashley exits her tent and joins the group as Talia takes a closer look at one of the stickmen.
“My… This is my hair. She took my hair.” – Talia Cole (BW3)
Ashley, convinced that the stickmen are another hoax being perpetrated on the group by Talia and Lane, grabs the stickman from Talia’s grasp in a rage, bending it backwards until it snaps in half. Instantly, the same thing happens to Talia and she collapses to the ground in a broken, misshapen heap.
Suddenly one of the tents is violently yanked up off of the ground by an unseen force and Lisa, Ashley and James flee into the woods. After a short amount of time Lisa and James regroup together, but they realize they’ve lost track of Ashley.
Ashley, meanwhile, has come to a rest in the woods, where she pulls what appears to be a long, thin, blood and pus soaked twig out of her calf – it seemingly having somehow spread through her lower leg from the wound on the bottom of her foot.
Elsewhere, Lisa and James hear Peter’s voice come over the radio, raspily begging for help.
Ashley stumbles upon the drone, stuck in the branches of a nearby tree, and starts to climb up to retrieve it. But as she reaches for the drone, a white hand grabs at her, sending her plummeting violently to the ground. Moments later, something drags her away.
James and Lisa hear Ashley’s screams and start running in the direction that they believe them to be coming from. What they find instead is a house. A house that appears to be the same one that Heather Donahue and Michael Williams stumbled upon in 1994, as seen at the end of their found footage. James and Lisa hear screams coming from within the house.
That’s my sister!
I don’t know what happened to your sister, James, but that’s not her. That can’t be her. Let’s go.
No! No, I have to go in!
My sister’s in that house! I have to get her!
You know this is what I came here for.
Excerpt from conversation between James Donahue and Lisa Arlington (BW3)
James enters the house and hears sobbing. For a moment he sees Peter standing, facing into the corner of a room, motionless, but then a door slams shut and James looks away. When he looks back, Peter is somehow gone.
Outside Lisa shines her light across the forest and some misshapen thing, with unnaturally long and thin limbs, quickly ducks behind a tree, causing her to flee into the house. Inside she makes her way into the basement, where she is accosted by Lane, who is even filthier and more disheveled than he was the last time they met.
“Figures, she couldn’t have let you go. She had to find people who remember. Rustin Parr understood. You have to do what she tells you!” – Lane Waller (BW3)
Lane strikes Lisa and she collapses to the floor. He then drags her to the entrance of a covered hole in the ground, opens it, and roughly throws her in. Lisa discovers that the hole is connected to a narrow tunnel, barely wider than she is, which she crawls through in order to escape. But the tunnel goes around in a large circle, leading her back into the basement of the house. There she is again attacked by Lane, but this time she plunges a knife into his neck, and he collapses.
Running up the stairs, Lisa catches another glimpse of the distorted, long-limbed monstrosity making its way towards her. As she flees, Lisa’s camera catches a shot of her in a nearby mirror. This footage appears identical to the footage that Lane and Talia uploaded to the internet days earlier… meaning that the video which lured James Donahue and his group into the Black Hills forest in the first place was somehow Lisa’s own future recordings, and that the person in the footage who James mistook for his sister had, in fact, been Lisa all along.
Lisa and James reunite in the attic, where they see a mysterious bright light briefly cover and then pass over the house, as if the sun had just risen and fallen in a matter of seconds.
Something enters the attic with James and Lisa, but they run into the corner, turning their backs to it.
Don’t turn around! Don’t look!
Shh, shh! Quiet! Just keep your eyes closed. She only takes sacrifices. We can’t look directly at her.
She’s in here.
Shh! It’s cold. So cold. Close your eyes. Lisa, I’m so sorry. This is all my fault… Heather?
What are you doing?
Is that really you?
Who are you talking to?
Excerpt from conversation between James Donahue and Lisa Arlington (BW3)
Apparently believing that he hears his sister, James turns around to look and is immediately snatched away. Moments later, Lisa attempts to back out of the room, using her handheld camera to avoid looking directly at her surroundings, but when she hears James speaking to her she turns to look and is struck down by something unseen. Her camera hits the ground and the footage ends.
END OF PART IV
A village full of children…
A little girl…
A priest trying to bring hope to the masses…
Five brave men who searched the darkness for a missing child…
Seven innocent children…
Three college students, lives full of possibility and potential…
One teenage boy who loved the wrong girl, and one who gave his life to save drowning children…
Five people whose only crime was a fascination with the dark and macabre…
A young man who went in search of his missing sister, and the three friends that tried to help him…
Innocents and heroes. Family members and friends.
All victims of the Blair Witch legend, yes, but that’s not all that they are. They’re also sons and daughters. Husbands and wives. Ordinary men and women and boys and girls caught up in the extraordinary.
But more than that, they will live forever as a warning to us all.
How many dream of experiencing the fantastic? Of discovering a world beyond our own, full of the miracles and magic and wonder that our minds have always imagined? How many of us watch movies and read books and play games as part of our neverending quest to find and explore such places?
But such escapism can come with a price, because it’s not just love and light that lives in the realm of the fantastic, but impossible darkness as well. And sometimes the places that we flee towards can be so much more terrible than the reality we’re running away from.
I’ll leave you with these final words from The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier…
“It seems to me that all that can be said for certain is that something lives in the Black Hills. Let whoever goes searching for it beware.” D. A. Stern
Adam Wingard – Director of films such as You’re Next and The Guest, Wingard helped edit down the footage found within the Black Hills forest in 2014 into the feature film Blair Witch, released in 2016.
Ashley Bennett – Longtime friend of James Donahue. Bennett accompanies James into the Black Hills forest in 2014 and is never seen again.
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.
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.
Donald McPherrill – Jeffrey Patterson’s defense attorney.
Dr. Clayton Larson – Psychotherapist who treated Jeffrey Patterson at the Shelter Glenn Mental Health Facility.
E. J. Kim – Burkittsville tourist killed during the Black Hills Murders.
Eliza Baynes – Eliza murdered her boyfriend, Jake Henderson, when she was 17 and blamed it on the Blair Witch. She died in prison in 2000.
Erica Geerson – Geerson took part in the Black Hills Murders before becoming one of the final victims herself.
Greta Hanson – Burkittsville tourist killed during the Black Hills Murders.
Hank Hart – Burkittsville deputy who worked on the case of the missing students in 1994, as well as the Black Hills Murders in 1999.
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)
Jake Henderson – Henderson was killed by his girlfriend, Eliza Baynes, in 1998. During her trial Baynes would claim that it was the Blair Witch who had murdered Henderson.
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.
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)
John Chin – Burkittsville tourist killed during the Black Hills Murders.
Kim Diamond – One of the three individuals charged with committing the Black Hills Murders.
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.
Lisa Arlington – Friend of James Donahue. Arlington accompanies James into the Black Hills forest in 2014 and is never seen again.
Louis Cioffi – Film editor who helped turn the footage found in the Black Hills forest in 2014 into the feature film Blair Witch in 2016.
Mark Reddick – Reddick was a high school senior who drowned in a frozen lake within the Black Hills forest in 1999 while saving two children who had fallen through the ice.
Nicholas Dugan – Burkittsville local killed during the Black Hills Murders.
Peggy Shuler – Burkittsville local killed during the Black Hills Murders.
Peter Jones – Longtime friend of James Donahue. Peter accompanies James into the Black Hills forest in 2014 and is never seen again.
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)
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 Ryan Parker – Parker was a writer of non-fiction who was researching his next project (co-written by his girlfriend, Trysten Ryler), Blair Witch: Hysteria or History? when he became embroiled in the Black Hills Murders.
“It was the hysteria surrounding (The Blair Witch Project) that sparked Stephen’s interest. Over the next two weeks he began shaping his impressions of that hysteria into a book proposal… By the end of July, he’d put together an extended outline… and sent it on to his agent. That proposal, however, came flying back almost as quickly as it had gone out. ‘The problem… was the execution.’ So says agent Jennifer Gates, talking from her New York city office. ‘He’d come up with this great concept, and proceeded to drown it in endless layers of historical detail…’ Enter Tristen Ryler. While Stephen had no desire to revisit the scene of his failure, she immediately grasped what Gates had been trying to tell her boyfriend… ‘Tris took his idea, and reworked it,’ says Ryler’s sister, Suzanne. ‘She made it into a book that could sell, and that made him angry. That’s when their problems started. That’s what she told me.’” Excerpt from the Nov. 21, 1999 issue of The Boston Times
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.
Tony Amonte – Burkittsville local killed during the Black Hills Murders.
Trysten Ryler – Trysten Ryler was in the research phase for her next project, Blair Witch: Hysteria or History? (which she was co-writing with her boyfriend, Stephen Ryan Parker) when she became the seventh and final victim of the Black Hills Murders. It’s unclear exactly what her role was in the other killings prior to her death.
Vera Tenslue – F.B.I. Profiler that worked the Black Hills Murders case.
BLAIR WITCH: BOOK OF SHADOWS (BBS) by D. A. Stern. Published by Pocket Books, Nov. 1, 2000.
BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2 (BW2) released by Artisan Entertainment, Oct. 27, 2000.
BLAIR WITCH (BW3) released by Lionsgate, Sep. 18, 2016.
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT: A DOSSIER (BWD) by D. A. Stern. Published by Onyx, Sep. 1, 1999.
THE BLAIR WITCH FILES – THE DROWNING GHOST (BWF3) by Cade Merrill. Published by Bantam Books, Oct. 10, 2000.
THE BLAIR WITCH FILES – THE PRISONER (BWF6) by Cade Merrill. Published by Bantam Books, Apr. 10, 2001.
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (BWP) released by Artisan Entertainment, Jul. 30, 1999.
BLAIR WITCH – THE SECRET CONFESSION OF RUSTIN PARR (CRP) by D. A. Stern. Published by Pocket Books, Aug. 1, 2000.
CURSE OF THE BLAIR WITCH (CBW) premiered on The Sci-Fi Channel on Jul. 11, 1999.
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.
(Special Thanks to Simon Barrett, screenwriter for Blair Witch (2016), who provided the last names for Peter, Ashley, Lane and Talia.)
(Much love to Eduardo Sanchez, Daniel Myrick, Gregg Hale, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams without whom there would be no legend.)