Blair Witch

Local Legends and Creatures of North America

Local Legends and Creatures of North America

Tis the season to explore all things that go bump in the night, keep us awake and give us a fright! Please join me as I look at local legends across North America, their origins, and the best books and movies to see on the subject.
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The Wendigo comes from Algonquin legend and is native to the Atlantic coast of Canada and the USA. There are several variations of the beast, but most popular is that the creature is a forest dwelling, evil spirit.
Physically it’s described as a giant with elongated limbs and protruding or visible bones. It often is said to have antlers or be half man half deer. The beast lives primarily off the flesh of humans and is associated with greed, famine, starvation and winter. Although the Wendigo is much larger than man it’s usually very thin and emaciated due to an increase in size after every meal. The wendigo is never full because it grows in proportion to each meal it eats.
A human Wendigo can occur when a man is overcome with greed, or resorts to cannibalism.

The book to read: The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood. Listen to the story here :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVCNUOk-O9E
Movies to watch: Ravenous (1999), and Wendigo (2001)

#2 The Blair witch

We’ve all seen the movie The Blair Witch Project or at least heard of it, but where did the story originate from? The directors based the film on the case of Elly Kedward an Irish settler.
In 1785 in the town of Blair located in Maryland several children came forward accusing Kedward of luring them into her home and taking their blood. The townspeople found her guilty of witchcraft and banished her to the forest. They left her in the woods bound to a cart during a particularly harsh and cold winter. As the time passed and no more was heard or seen from her, she was presumed dead.
In the middle of winter in 1786 everyone involved with Kedward’s death disappeared along with half the towns children. The remaining residents flee believing Blair is cursed. In 1824 Burkittsville is built over the corpse of Blair.
In 1825 11 witnesses come forward to testify that a ghost like hand reached up and dragged a 10-year-old girl into the Tappy East Creek. Bizarre greasy bundles of sticks are said to have clogged the creek for 13 days after the drowning and the girl’s body was never found.
In 1886 an 8-year-old girl goes missing in the forest, several rescue teams are dispatched to find the missing girl who eventually returns on her own. One of the search parties doesn’t return and are discovered at Coffin Rock weeks later. The five men are found tied together hand to foot and disemboweled in an advanced stage of decay. When a recovery team returns to the rock hours later the bodies are missing.
From 1940-1941 8 children go missing. A local hermit Rustin Parr enters the market shouting “I’ve finally finished”. Local authorities discover 7 of the 8 bodies behind Parr’s home buried in shallow graves. The 8th victim was still alive and found in the basement standing in the corner. Parr claimed to have heard an old woman’s voice ordering him to kill the children. Parr was tried and hung for his crimes.
In 1999 The Blair Witch project is released, people believe that it’s real. The movie makes millions and paves the way for every dickhead with a handheld camera to make a shaky, poorly edited movie.

Books to read: The Blair Witch Files – various authors (read all 8, they’re each an independent story) buy them here: https://www.thriftbooks.com/series/the-blair-witch-files/53167/

Movies to watch: The Blair Witch Project, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, Blair Witch (2016)

#3 Ogopogo
The Ogopogo or Naitaka is a large serpent like lake monster found in the Okanagan lake in British Columbia. The Ogopogo is reportedly 40-50 long and resembles the Basilosaurus dinosaur. It’s Green in color with a reptilian or horse shaped head (depending who you ask). It was First seen by Canada’s first nations people as far back as the 19th century. The first Nations called the creature Naitaka and believed it was a bloodthirsty killer demanding a live sacrifice from travelers in exchange for safe passage. Hundreds of years ago before entering, the natives would drop chickens and other small animals into the lake to appease the giant water spirit.
In 1946 a group of 30 car loads of people all claimed to have spotted Ogopogo although no proof was presented. All videos and sightings have been labelled inconclusive.
The creature has never been reported to have hurt anyone and is mostly happy to do its own thing, it may even possibly be a bottom feeder living off plankton and small fish.
I’ve spent many summers on the lake trying to catch a glimpse myself, but sadly never saw the creature.

Books to read: In Search of Ogopogo: Sacred Creature of the Okanagan Waters by Arlene B. Gaal. Buy it here: https://www.amazon.ca/Ogopogo-Arlene-B-Gaal/dp/0888394829

Movies to watch: Mee-Shee: The Water Giant (renamed due to aboriginal protest)

#4 Chupacabra
The Chupacabra was originally discovered in Puerto Rico, but now has many sightings in North America mainly in Mexico and some of the Southern states. Chupacabra literally translates to Goat-sucker and is associated with killing livestock. It kills by draining the animals blood and sometimes removing their organs through three holes in the chest. Its kills are purely vampiric as the flesh is not consumed only the blood.
The Chupacabra is described as a large animal (the size of a small bear) with spines from its neck to the bottom of its tail. Alternatively, it’s described as dog-like in nature with little to no fur. It has large fangs and claws and very pronounced eye sockets.
All reports and sightings have been deemed inconclusive by leading cryptozoologists.
Books to read: Tracking the Chupacabra by Benjamin Radford buy it here: https://www.amazon.ca/s/ref=nb_sb_noss/138-7302764-1050759?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=tracking+the+Chupacabra,
Movies to watch: Indigenous (2014), Chupacabra Territory (2016)

#5 The Jersey Devil or Leeds Devil
The Jersey Devil is native to New Jersey USA and was originally called the Leeds Devil. The creature is said to live in the pine barrens of Southern New Jersey. Its description varies, most commonly its described as a flying biped with hooves, a goat head, bat-like wings, horns, small arms and clawed hands. The Jersey Devil has a high-pitched banshee scream that can be heard at a distance.
The legend begins in 1735 with the Leeds family. A mother of 12 becomes pregnant with her 13th child and in her exhaustion and desperation curses the child in her womb. When the child is born it turns into a monster, growling and snapping, it kills the midwife before flying up the chimney and heading into the pines. Some variations of the tale suggest the mother was a witch and the father was the devil himself.
There are many reported sightings of the beast, but skeptics believe that it was a boogeyman invented by bored English settlers. There was also a general disdain for the Leeds family which could have spawned the unfavorable rumors.

Books to read: The Jersey Devil by Hunter Shea, buy it here:https://www.amazon.com/Jersey-Devil-Hunter-Shea/dp/078603887X

Phantom of the Pines: More Tales of the Jersey Devil by James F. McCloy 
Movies to watch: The Barrens (2012), The Last Broadcast (1998)

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about these fantastic creatures of legend as much as I did, keep a look out for my follow up on the Local Legends of Europe.

Posted by Candace Stone in Categories, EDITORIALS, EXCLUSIVE, HORROR HISTORY, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, 0 comments
FAN FILM REVIEW: Jason Hawkins’ The Blair Witch Legacy (2018)

FAN FILM REVIEW: Jason Hawkins’ The Blair Witch Legacy (2018)

Getting to review a fan film in its entirety is always a good thing, as it gives one a chance to reflect upon their own feelings towards the original source material.

The Blair Witch Legacy (2018)In the 1990s, I was an awkward teen who often sought solace in the mighty beast of horror fandom.

Frequently, I would see the latest cinematic release and feverishly sit on the edge of my seat, bucket of popcorn in hand, watching each gory moment that adorned the screen.

From the slasher fun of Scream to the seriously creepy repulsion of the cockroaches in Mimic, horror films always caught my attention more than most other things. However, as a huge true crime buff, when the beginning of the “based on true events” era began to rear its ugly head, I admit I was soured.

For me, it was The Blair Witch Project that kicked it all off.

Images of three foolish people running through the woods, freaking out over sounds and stick art just made me yawn. When the sequel Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 was released I did watch it and, surprisingly, always liked it much more ( perhaps it was the use of first-person narrative and shaky camera technique with the original, but that found footage genre has always been rather hit or miss for me). Even the more annoying drone aided remake Blair Witch in 2016 was a disappointment.

The Blair Witch Legacy (2018)So in recent months, when I took on the role of reviewing Jason Hawkins fan film The Blair Witch Legacy, naturally I began to recall my original feelings for The Blair Witch Project.

Gladly, I can be objective and not view it with solely those old feelings in mind, because I actually found that I loved this film. Hawkins took a stale concept and somehow manages to freshen it up. Ironically, what I despised about the original film I found brilliant in this one. I empathized with more of the characters this time around because Hawkins creates equally likable and unlikable leads and supporting roles through his well-paced and interesting script. Sam is our overly ambitious director, played impressively by Samantha Marie Cook. At times, we find Sam a normal woman with valuable goals, but once the film we pick up on her ulterior moments and dark secrets. Cook is great in her role as I found her likable at first, but ended up loathing her antics about midway. She was the character you begin to love to hate. Sam is aided by Cody (played by Cody Epling) and Jason (played by Jason Reynolds) on her quest to uncover the truth behind the original film from 1999. Both Epling and Reynolds inject the much-needed legwork for this film. The duo is fantastic on screen together and clearly fed off each other’s performance with great ease. The Blair Witch Legacy (2018)In the later scenes, they are able to convey their confusion, frustration, and despair so amazingly that I was drawn in rather strongly. The usual “Blair Witch” related tropes are easily present. From the reluctant locals to the more open and bold wannabe historians and witch loving characters, each supporting cast member adds those little nuances that create the folklore and weave a more believable scenario. As the story evolves, we await the confirmation that the witch is either a real case from prior times in the town, or merely a local urban legend and Hawkins tried to leave that interpretation up to his viewer. Do you believe in the witch? Or is there more to the tale still to come? With news from Hawkins that a sequel will begin filming in the summer… I am still awaiting the complete answers before I decide.

Posted by Michelle MIDI Peifer in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
Blair Witch Experience

Blair Witch Experience

The Blair Witch Project_Quote / Fair use doctrine.
That's the simple yet chilling premise of The Blair Witch Project, one of the most successful horror movies of all time.

It started with a website showing news articles about the missing students and footage of police and search parties looking for them. “Missing” flyers were distributed at festivals where the film was shown. The Sci-Fi Channel aired a documentary about the legend of the Blair Witch and the students who had gone into the woods to find her. The movie was number two at the box office for the first several weeks after its release and the story's momentum persisted. Heather Donahue, Josh Leonard, and Mike Williams were all listed as “missing, presumed dead” on movie databases and the Frederick police department was flooded with calls from people asking why more wasn't being done to find the students.

While watching The Blair Witch Project, you see enthusiasm turn to despair and curiosity to fear. Hunger, exhaustion, and paranoia sharpen the senses until innocuous things piles of rocks, stick figures, and handprints on a wall invoke terror in the actors and the viewers. The found-footage style of the movie makes the viewer assume the role of the characters as they trudge disoriented through the woods and barrel screaming down the stairways of a decrepit abandoned house.

Blair Witch Experience, a weekend-long camping trip started in 2013 by Blair Witch aficionado Matt Blazi, takes things a step further, letting attendees visit the filming locations in chronological order.

2017's trip took place on October 20th and 21st. The first stop was the Burkitsville Cemetary in Burkittsville, MD. We saw the scenery and various gravestones from shots in the beginning of the movie and the sign for historic Burkittsville. The sign was stolen and put back up several times since the original movie came out. It was left down last year, anticipating the release of the latest Blair Witch movie but put back up since then and was the site of the first of many group pictures for the trip.

Next was the Knights Inn in Knoxville, MD, where the actors spent the first night of filming. Matt Blazi even rented room 118, the same room where Heather, Josh, and Mike stayed.

After that, we went to the locations where Heather interviewed locals about the legend of the Blair Witch. The Silver Rail Diner had closed since the filming of the movie, but people were waiting when we arrived. Susie appeared in The Blair Witch Project, holding her toddler daughter Ingrid, who became distressed when Susie told the story of the witch and covered her mother's mouth to make her stop talking. Susie eagerly told us about the circumstances of them being included in the filming, and she and Ingrid took pictures with fans and thanked everyone for their support of the film. We also visited Stupp's Market, where a man was filmed explaining the story of Rustin Parr murdering children under the influence of the witch, and Staub's Country Inn. Staub's is now a lawn and garden supply store, but we were graciously welcomed into the building by the proprietor of the business.

Susie and Ingrid reenacting their interview in front of the Silver Rail Diner.

Susie and Ingrid reenacting their interview in front of the Silver Rail Diner.

From there, we went to the woods.

Everyone met at Black Rock Mill in Seneca Creek State Park. We headed up the same road that took Heather, Mike, and Josh into the wilderness, but before we got too far we were halted by a bloodcurdling cry of “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?!” and a figure running past us wearing all white with a white stocking cap distorting its features. It was a stuntman from the scene where Heather, Josh, and Mike ran through the woods and Heather saw something that terrified her and made her scream “What the fuck was that?!”

Suitably freaked out, we went to the rock in the river where Heather interviewed two fishermen who begrudgingly told her the story of Robin Weaver, a girl who was abducted by the witch. Two men were fishing off the rock when we got there. It was Ed Swanson, one of the fisherman from the original movie, and Dan Karcher, the social media director for Haxan Films, the movie's production company. We also met a woman named Ingrid, who lived around Seneca Creek State Park. She let Heather, Mike, and Josh into her house to use her phone one rainy night during filming when they lost contact with the rest of the crew. Her hospitality earned her and her husband a section in the movie's “special thanks” credits. We were rejoined by Susie, Ingrid, and director Eduardo Sanchez. The meeting had special significance because that was the first time Eduardo had seen Susie and Ingrid since the filming twenty years prior.

Director Ed Sanchez talking to Susie and Ingrid for the first time since the filming of The Blair Witch Project.

Director Ed Sanchez talking to Susie and Ingrid for the first time since the filming of The Blair Witch Project.

We went back into the woods with Ed Swanson, Dan Karcher, and Eduardo Sanchez. We stopped at Coffin Rock, the site where, according to Blair Witch lore, a group of men was found ritualistically slaughtered and a part of the woods where Heather, Josh, and Mike found piles of rocks on the ground and in makeshift baskets in trees.

Stickman Forest

Stickman Forest

The final stop for the first day is the “stickman” woods. Replications of the movie's simplistic but sinister totem hang from tree branches and vary in size. Eduardo made the biggest one last year, about seven feet long, but decided to outdo it this time. He, Ed, Dan, and several fans constructed a stickman that was almost as tall as a tree and required seven people to pick it up and lean it against a tree to support its weight.

The first day of the trip ended with Matt Blazi being named by Eduardo, Ed, and Dan as an honorary member of Haxan Films. It was a fitting gesture to recognize a fan who is so dedicated to the movie that he turns his love of it into a one-of-a-kind experience for so many others. The attendance of the trip grew from three people its first year to almost 20 this year and included attendees from all over the country and even Europe.

Matt Blazi being honored as a member of Haxan Films by Ed Karcher.

Matt Blazi being honored as a member of Haxan Films by Dan Karcher.

The second day of the trip involved going to the site of Rustin Parr's house. The actual house was destroyed in 2004 when Hurricane Sandy hit. All that remains now is some foundation and debris. Attendees combed through the tall grass to find bricks and stones. They found the corner where Mike stood unresponsive to Heather's shrieking. The spot is overgrown and almost unrecognizable but still evocative of the grim final shot of the movie.

All directors aim to make their movies seem real to their viewers but none were as convincing, both within the context of the movie and without, as Dan Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez with The Blair Witch Project. Blair Witch Experience enables fans to immerse themselves in the world of the film and become part of it physically as well as emotionally.

Check out Matt Blazi's Blair Witch Experience on Facebook.
Posted by Alan Smithee in ATTRACTIONS AND DESTINATIONS, 0 comments
HoTS LIVE Welcomes BJ McDonnell

HoTS LIVE Welcomes BJ McDonnell

 

 

This week the House of Tortured Souls crew of Lord Dixie, aka Allen, and John Roisland bring you another action packed episode. Our special guest is director and cinematographer BJ McDonnell. BJ is perhaps best know as the director of the horror film Hatchet 3, where he took over the reins from series creator Adam Green. BJ is also the director of a violent trilogy of videos for metal band Slayer, as well as being involved in some of the biggest Hollywood movies ever. Can you say Antman and Avengers 2, children?

We will talk to BJ about the Slayer videos, Hatchet 3, and touch a little on the pros and cons of practical effects versus CGI.

John and Dixie will also bring you up to date on recent HotS activity. This includes the new Blair Witch movie and of course Rob Zombie’s 31, which was just released on VoD. Love him, hate him, or wish you were married to his wife, he is Rob Zombie and he makes his movies bloody. Plus find out if Lew Temple says, “Tits on a boar hog”. Pssst, he totally does.

Want to work for House of Tortured Souls? John will tell you how! Only on this episode of House of Tortured Souls LIVE. Which is, of course, pre-recorded. Ladies and gents, there’s only one way, yes one way to make sure the Creepy Clowns don’t get you, and that is by listening to House of Tortured Souls LIVE. That’s HoTS Live to all the cool kiddies. You got it – HoTS is cool!

 

As always we have to thank the awesome Rocky Grey for the opening music, and of course thanks to BJ McDonnell for coming on and putting up with us. Until next time, peace out! And somebody bring me a Pepsi!

And Keep It Evil!!

Posted by Allen Alberson in HORROR NEWS, PODCAST, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Blair Witch (2016)

MOVIE REVIEW: Blair Witch (2016)

The Blair Witch Is Back

By Dixielord

In 1999, movie making changed forever. A new subgenre of horror was born, the found footage shay cam film. It ushered in a wave of jiggly screens, bouncing videos and migraine headaches. It was a hit movie, and filmed in a way that way too many people believed it was real. It was The Blair Witch Project. Now, fifteen years later, a sequel is being made.

Okay, it's a second sequel if you count Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, which didn’t follow the story line of the first film and may or may not be considered canon depending on which day of the week you ask the creators. But now we have a true sequel, following the storyline of the first film.

The plot of Blair Witch (2016) concerns the brother of Heather (Heather Donahue) from the original film. After scouring the Internet, he finally finds what he believes is evidence to the location of his missing sister.. Gathering a group of friends and video equipment, they trek into the woods in search of Heather. Instead of his sister they find, just like in 1999, the Blair Witch.

Sadly, however, the 2016 version doesn't have much of the magic of the original. Found footage and shaky cam is no longer a novel device but a pain in the ass. Plus, for a POV movie, there are times when you wonder just where the fuck the footage is coming from; there are some shots that are just not possible from one of their headsets. But that's a small nit picky point. I do think the film would have been better to just forget the shaky cam and go with a traditional steady-cam film. Too many times the quick spins were near nausea-inducing, and the dark scenes did little to build suspense.

Which is my biggest qualm with the film. For a movie like this to work, there has to be a build up of tension. The first film, at least for me, managed to build a sense of fear as Heather, Josh, and Mike wandered lost in the woods. When Josh disappeared, we had no clue what happened; in the new film, even with the black outs, we see way too much. We aren't left to wonder if Josh was taken by the witch? Did he just get lost?Kill himself? Here we see the victims dragged away. It's good for a quick jump, but nothing else.

There was also the decision to show the witch. And of course we have to make her creepy and inhuman looking so we can use the CGI budget. So they add to the back story, and now the witch has been hung from a rack so we have a witch that could give Slenderman a boner. To their credit, the witch does look creepy and inhuman and she's limited to a few quick views. So while it's somewhat effective the addition just seems cheap and unnecessary.

A haunting scene from Blair Witch

One of the more haunting scenes in Blair Witch
Photo credit Lionsgate films. Fair use doctrine.

But I wanted to try and review this on its own merits and haven't seen the original since it's first release. So I'm going to try and limit it to what I liked and disliked in this film. The main thing that killed my enjoyment was the pacing. The beginning was just too ungodly slow. Slow isn't always bad. If you are building tension or developing characters, slow can be good. But an hour in I still didn’t feel like I knew anything about these characters. Nothing beyond the stereotypical horror movie tropes anyway. Then once things become strange, they try to build that tension too fast - people disappearing, people reappearing, people getting lost - all in compressed time. Add to it headache inducing camera work and shifting perspectives that went on too long before the pay off.

The Blair Witch is back

The Blair Witch is back!
Photo credit Lionsgate films. Fair use doctrine.

There was also way too much time at the beginning showing the cast goofing off. There was no real reason for this, it didn’t tell us much about the characters and didn't advance the story, It seemed like nothing more than filler to pad out the length.

Once you get close to the end, the action, and tension does finally ramp up. The POV camera works to the films advantage during the chase and hunt through the cabin. The confusion and claustrophobia starts to make the viewer uneasy (and not just in the tummy), but only the cabin scenes had this effect. The filmmakers tried for a claustrophobia-inducing tunnel scene, but it failed pretty miserably for me. The camera shots, from wherever they came from, made the space look too open. Film is all about illusion and those shots broke the illusion. To see claustrophobia done right check out The Descent or Crawl or Die, where you literally feel suffocated.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say, even though it felt like a cheap rip of the end of the original Blair Witch, it did manage to build up my level of dread. There's also the hint that the entire film was some type of paradoxical time loop. Which doesn't really do anything for the film, but it doesn't really detract from it. It's more of an Easter egg than anything else. So let’s call it a push.

So my final verdict? The last 20 minutes or so is serviceable and even scary at times. Sadly it takes way too long to get there and very little tension is built up along the way. It copies a few of the more well known scenes from the original, which is good for a nostalgic “ha”. While casual horror fans might enjoy it, most horror fans will be bored to tears before the action starts. As slow and plodding as the original was, it held me. That's not the case here. I definitely don't see Blair Witch (2016) having anything like the cultural impact of the original. And they didn't even try to convince us it really happened.

The Blair Witch was directed by Adam Wingard (You're Next, The Guest) and stars Callie Hernandez (From Dusk til Dawn:The Series) and James Allen McCune (The Walking Dead). I really wanted to like it but unfortunately I just found it too slow, and the pay off, while not horrible, isn't worth the wait.

4/10 stars

Posted by Allen Alberson in MOVIE REVIEWS, PARANORMAL, REVIEWS, 1 comment