Making more history
"For the record, there never was a 'Blair Witch,' nor was the vicinity of Burkittsville ever known as 'Blair Township,'" Burkittsville's "unofficial historian" Timothy J. Reese wrote in 1999. "Those claiming to have done their homework in this regard had better direct their gullible inquiries to the buffoons who crafted this fictional cinematic nonsense. We locals would appreciate it if they took their fantasies elsewhere."
Those "buffoons" only doubled down after The Blair Witch Project's Sundance premiere. After purchasing the movie out of the festival, Artisan Entertainment commissioned Myrick and Sánchez to shoot additional footage for both the movie (including mentions of Rustin Parr and four alternate endings) and a fake television documentary that would air on the Sci-Fi Channel (now the uber-hip "SyFy") the week the film was released. Julia Fair, an employee of Myrick and Sánchez's Haxan Films, was in charge of creating props representing Blair’s witchy history. Fair created dozens of documents for the film, including the "only" copy of a book called The Blair Witch Cult that serves as the inciting incident for the character of Heather’s curiosity in the film.
"I tried to put it in historical context," Fair told The Baltimore Sun in 2000. "I researched the times and the history of Maryland." The real township of Burkittsville was founded by Henry Burkitt in 1810. In Fair’s history, a railroad magnate founded it on the site of Blair in 1824 so he could exploit limestone deposits in the area (there are no limestone deposits near actual Burkittsville). A year after the film was released, Fair would realize what her thorough job had wrought. According to an April 2000 interview, she swore never to visit the town again after a Burkittsville historian told her, "You're ruining the history of my county."
Blair Witch mania approached Burkittsville like a storm. In the weeks leading up to the July 30th release of the movie, residents received emails from strangers asking about the witch. Postmaster Larry Ott told The Baltimore Sun that he warded off a barrage of phone calls. ("I've been postmaster since '93, and I tell them that if all this had happened in '94, I think I would have heard about it.") The city put its two police deputies on overtime to patrol the cemetery and issued a notification to all residents: "After viewing the movie, people may want to come out and see what Burkittsville is really like. We ask that you be cautious and reinforce safety precautions within your family." In turn, residents started locking their front doors for the first time ever.
Burkittsville mayor Joyce Brown, just starting her second term, was forced to address media attention and defend the town's values. "I've lived here 35 years and have also inquired with some older citizens -- none of them have ever heard of a Blair Witch," she told the Sun. "We are a Christian community. We have two local churches that have been established over 100 years. We take our Christianity seriously."