CATEGORIES On the Scene


In 1994 (so the story goes), students Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams and Joshua Leonard attempted to make a documentary about the infamous Blair Witch. Details provided by Burkittsville townspeople are slight, but legend has it that a group of witches killed several children years back, and their spirits still haunt the area. During the course of filming, the filmmakers become lost in the deep woods and are never seen again, though their footage and equipment turn up a year later.

Over a decade after the release of 'The Blair Witch Project,' the fear and intrigue that the film initially created seems almost silly. However, those who saw the movie before it got overhyped remember how real it felt, even though they knew the story couldn't be true ... Or could it? Those lingering feelings are what have driven thousands of amateur ghost-hunters and horror cinemaphiles to swarm this quiet town of only 200 people.

In 1994 (so the story goes), students Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams and Joshua Leonard attempted to make a documentary about the infamous Blair Witch. Details provided by Burkittsville townspeople are slight, but legend has it that a group of witches killed several children years back, and their spirits still haunt the area. During the course of filming, the filmmakers become lost in the deep woods and are never seen again, though their footage and equipment turn up a year later.

Over a decade after the release of 'The Blair Witch Project,' the fear and intrigue that the film initially created seems almost silly. However, those who saw the movie before it got overhyped remember how real it felt, even though they knew the story couldn't be true ... Or could it? Those lingering feelings are what have driven thousands of amateur ghost-hunters and horror cinemaphiles to swarm this quiet town of only 200 people.

Location as Character: Described as a time capsule into the 19th century, the town provided a creepy backdrop in the film, with its Civil War-era graveyard and proximity to The Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of battle in American history.

In the storyline, Burkittsville changed its name from Blair after the "incident." The three film students spend their first day interviewing the townspeople about the legend and even get a firsthand experience from the peculiar Mary Brown, who claims she encountered the Blair Witch as a young girl.
The Blair Witch Project
In actuality, only a few scenes were filmed in the real town of Burkittsville. Directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez shot most of the movie around Seneca Creek State Park about 40 miles away in Montgomery County, MD, an area where Sánchez attended school. Film landmarks Black Rock Road, Black Hills and Blair High School are also all in Montgomery.

Historical Significance: 'The Blair Witch Project' grossed $248,639,099 worldwide, after producers spent $25,000 on initial production and under $750,000 on the final budget. Not only was it groundbreaking for both independent and horror filmmaking, its DIY-style marketing campaign was revolutionary. It's believed to be the first widely released film marketed primarily on the Internet. The interactivity between the filmmakers and fans is the reason so many people continued to connect with the film well after the fright had passed. And it's also the reason historic Burkittsville soon bulged with tourists interested in imaginary witches, and not its true Civil War history.



Fun Fact: Although it only appeared briefly in the film, Burkittsville's welcome sign became a hot item for tourists with sticky fingers. Finally, the town decided to change its traditional black and white sign with cursive script to something completely different, hoping to deter horror nuts. The new sign is red, white and blue -- and notes the town's 200-person population, 1824 establishment and its listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Directions: The closest major city is Baltimore, which is a little over an hour away by car. Take the I-70 W forty miles until you reach US-340 W. After that, watch for MD-17 N, and that will take you into Burkittsville.

Visitor Info: While the locals have gotten past the onslaught of horror-happy tourists, do not be surprised if they don't have any answers for you about Blair Witch myths. Like most Civil War towns, however, they have their own local ghost tales and are happy to talk about history. Ask someone about The Battle of Crampton's Gap. The town is quite small, so there is not much in the way of nightlife, restaurants or hotels. Plan to make it a day trip.