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The Blair Witch (real name: Elly Kedward) is the titular main antagonist in the 1999 psychological horror film The Blair Witch Project, and its mythology. Responsible for a long string of deaths and unexplained disappearances throughout the history of Burkittsville, she remains an imposing figure in the town's folklore, maintaining long periods of dormancy - only to reemerge and claim the lives of those who make the mistake of intruding on her home in the Black Hills.

History

1785

In life, the Blair Witch was an Irishwoman by the name Elly Kedward; having left her homeland for the United States of America in 1769, she settled in the small Maryland village of Blair and integrated unobtrusively into the town's populace - though modern experts claim that her Catholic faith made her an outcast among the predominantly Protestant community. In 1785, several local children accused Elly of luring them to her house to draw blood from them; following a brief trial, she was found guilty of being a witch and banished into the surrounding forest. However, this "banishment" also featured the accused being tied to a tree deep in the woods; with Elly being of advanced years and having no means of freeing herself from the ropes, it was assumed that she died of exposure in the brutal winter of that year.

However, in November of 1786, her accusers began to inexplicably vanish from across the town; by the time the winter came to an end, half of Blair's children had disappeared. Now living in fear of the Blair Witch that Elly's ghost had become, the townsfolk abandoned Blair as soon as the weather broke, leaving their homes boarded up and deserted, vowing never to speak the name of Elly Kedward ever again.

1825

After forty years left undisturbed, the ruins of Blair were unexpectedly discovered by by railway developer John Burkitt in 1824, who eventually had the abandoned township reestablished and settled under the name of of Burkittsville. With the railway continuing through the Black Hills and the town prospering as a result of bountiful harvests, the people of Burkittsville decided to celebrate at Tappy East Creek with a picnic in 1825; however, the festivities were unexpectedly interrupted when ten-year-old Eileen Treacle drowned in the creek.

Despite the fact that the creek was barely deep enough to wade through, the girl's body was never recovered, and witnesses claimed to have seen a pale spectral hand reach up from the water and drag the child into the creek. For thirteen days hence, the creek was contaminated by a foul oily substance, along with a number of inexplicable stick-figure totems; local ranchers quickly discovered that the oil was poisonous, prompting townsfolk to avoid the waters en mass, and even after the pollution faded away, people were intensely reluctant to go anywhere near Tappy East Creek thereafter.

1886

At a relatively placid point in Burkittsville's history, a young girl named Robin Weaver went out unattended and got lost in the Black Hills, only to return unharmed three days later; she claimed she had been lured off the trail by "an old woman whose feet never touched the ground." This mysterious woman led Robin to her home deep in the forest, took her down into the basement, and told her to stay there until she returned. After some time left alone, Robin panicked and escaped via a window before the Witch could arrive back at the house, and eventually made her way back to Burkittsville.

By then, however, a search party had been sent to look for Robin and did not return. Eventually, another search party was sent out to look for them, and soon located the decomposing bodies of their predecessors deep in the Black Hills, atop the natural formation known as Coffin Rock. All five men had been bound together at the wrists and ankles to form a solid structure, all of them had been carved with indecipherable pagan symbols, and all of them had been ritualistically disemboweled. Furthermore, blood soaked into the ropes indicated that they had been alive throughout this torture. The second search party immediately left to find the sheriff, but by the time they returned, the bodies had been removed from the rock - though law enforcement confirmed a strong smell of decomposition in the area.

1941

From 1940 to 1941, a number of local children began to vanish from across the town, beginning with Emily Holland. In total, eight children disappeared, and no evidence could be found of who had taken them or why. However, in May of 1941, eccentric hermit Rustin Parr abruptly left his solitary house in the Black Hills and arrived in town to inform all and sundry that he was "finally finished." Suspicious, police took the four-hour journey through the forest to Rustin's home, where they located the bodies of seven children - along with the only survivor of the massacre, Kyle Brodie.

According to Kyle, Rustin had taken the kidnapped children down into the basement in much the same way that Robin Weaver had been led over fifty years ago. There, he made one child face the wall while he tortured the other: much like the men on Coffin Rock, the victims would be carved with pagan symbols, then disemboweled. Only Kyle was spared this treatment, the reasons for which remain unknown.

Following his arrest, Rustin confessed to his crimes without hesitation, claiming that he had murdered the children on behalf of the ghost of an old woman who lived in the woods surrounding his house. Remaining blase throughout his interrogation and trial, he remarked that the voice of the old woman would only leave him in peace if he made it clear to the world that he was responsible for the murders. Rustin Parr was hanged in November of that year, and his house was burned to the ground by an angry mob.

1990s

The Blair Witch once again returns to prominence when three Montgomery College students, Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard enter the Black Hills to research the Blair Witch legend for a class project. Over the course of their time in the wilderness, the Witch stalks the group at length, disrupting Josh's attempts to sleep and subtly leading the students off their exit route. Cohesion among the group begins to break down, and Mike eventually throws the group's map into Tappy East Creek in a fit of temper; soon after, the group stumbles upon a clearing full of the Witch's stick-figure totems, leaving them even more disoriented and afraid than before. That evening, the Witch attacks the group directly, mimicking the voices of her younger victims as she assaults the group's tent, forcing them to flee into the night.

Finally, the Witch abducts Josh in the middle of the night and proceeds to gut him the following evening, torturing Heather and Mike with his screams. The next morning, the Witch leaves a bundle of sticks outside their tent; upon unwrapping it, Heather finds the butchered remains of human gums, teeth, and hair, along with several blood-soaked scraps of Josh's shirt. Late that night, the Witch mimics Josh's voice to lure Heather and Mike to Rustin Parr's house - somehow still standing despite having been burned to the ground four decades prior. There, the Witch lures Mike and Heather down to the basement one by one, where she kills both in a similar fashion to the Rustin Parr murders.

Back in Burkittsville, a search for the three students begins, but despite the best efforts of the local police and numerous volunteers from the community, nothing is found of the trio except for Josh's car - still parked on Black Rock Road despite the filmmakers' best attempts at returning to it.

The following year, the trio's footage and personal effects are found by an anthropological research team working in the area, having been buried under a crude stone wall that had once been part of an 18th century house. The head of the team expresses confusion over how these items came to be here: burying these items and reassembling the wall exactly the way it had been before would have been difficult, and doing so without disturbing the layers of charcoal and soil under it would have been impossible, given that these layers had been at the site since the colonial era. After a sustained forensic investigation in which both the 16mm and camcorder footage are studied at length, the police find no conclusive information on what became of the missing filmmakers. Eventually, the footage is made available to the public and released as a film.

It gained something of a following, with many tourists venturing into the woods in hopes to find the truth. One such tour group consisted of Stephen and his pregnant wife, Tristen, who are researching the Blair Witch for a book they are writing; Erica, a Wiccan; Kim, a goth psychic; and Jeff, their local tour guide. That night, they black out following an argument with another tour group, and awake to find their tapes missing, research torn up, and Tristen has had a miscarriage. After Tristen is discharged from the hospital, the group heads to Jeff's house, an old civil war factory, where they experience strange visions and find hours of missing footage from their tapes. Erica eventually dies, but when they call her parents, they claim not to have a daughter. Looking over the lost footage, They play the tapes in reverse to view the lost footage. The new footage shows Tristen leading them in an orgy and the ritualistic murder of the other tour group. Once the video ends, Jeff begins taping Tristen and demands a confession. She asks Stephen for help, but he claims that she deliberately killed their baby, so she ties a rope around her neck and Stephen shoves her from the ledge.

After this, Kim, Stephen and Jeff are interrogated by police in separate rooms and show separate tapes. In Kim's room, they play security footage from the store of her stabbing the cashier in the neck with a nail file. In Jeff's video, he kills Erica, arranges Erica's clothes and stows her dead body in the closet. In Stephen's video, they show him lynching Tristen, accusing her of all the death that surrounds them and cursing her as a witch. All three claim they never did any of those things.

2010s

WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW

Twenty years later, Heather Donahue's brother James examines the Blair Witch documentary footage his sister and her colleagues made before vanishing. James is convinced they are still alive so he, together with Peter, Ashley and Lisa, together with locals Talia and Lane. Lisa wants to make her own documentary from the quest.

During their first night in the Black Hills, the group talk about the legend of the Blair Witch and how the Witch was once a woman named Elly Kedward, who got banished from Blair in Maryland. Her ghost is said to be so disturbing that if one so much as looks at her, they die of fright.

For some reason (implied to be the Witch's magic) the crew oversleep until next afternoon. They also heard creepy noises in the woods at night. Lane confesses he created the Pagan Blair Witch figurines they encountered the previous night. Peter gets angry at Lane and tries to attack him; Lane gives them all the finger and storms off into the woods in a fit of rage, accompanied by Talia.

Ashley becomes ill because of a cut on her foot and Peter goes to get firewood but the Witch chases him and the Witch causes a tree to smash onto Peter, knocking him unconscious. The sadistic Witch mimics Peter's desperate cries which fade as James hears them and investigates.

Soon, Talia and Lane reappear, claiming they were lost for days with no sunrise, which sounds impossible. When they awaken, it is still pitch dark. Disbelieving that the Sun hasn't yet risen, they find larger stick figures around. Peter's voice suddenly erupts on a walkie-talkie; James answers it, and hears a creepy voice mimicking Peter's on the other end; heavily implied to be the Witch's voice.

Ashley berates Talia for creating the figures because of her role in doing such the day before and snaps one in half in anger, causing Talia to be ripped in half by the Blair Witch (the Witch is still unseen). The Witch appears as a tall, white, emaciated ghostly figure that races through the campsite, and separates everybody, and Ashley finds her aerial drone lodged in some trees. She climbs up but the Witch is at the top of the tree. A spectral hand shoots down, knocking Ashley off, who falls apparently to her death, while the Witch drags her offscreen.

James and Lisa find Rustin Parr's house, and James enters. He runs through the house, and ends up in a room where a lightning flash illuminates the Witch herself. Lisa gets too scared to wait outside in the dark woods during an epic thunderstorm, and, screaming, flees inside the house. James and Lisa find Lane, now aged, in the basement, saying he is under the Witch's control, and Lane attacks, but Lisa kills him in self defense by shooting him dead.

The Witch performs her magic on the house which involves light shining in which soon disappears. Then the Witch enters the house through a mirror. She mimics Heather's voice, mockingly apologizing, and kills James, pulling him into darkness. Lisa backs down the deserted corridor, now partially lit by the risen Sun outside, and during a brief glimpse, she gets a sighting of a monstrous, emaciated creature behind her - The Witch has finally been caught on tape. The Witch disappears into the darkness as quickly as she came. Lisa is desperate not to see the Witch once more so she keeps the camera fixated behind her, determined not to see anything supernatural. As Lisa backs down to the door, she leaves a goodbye message, and as she is almost out, she hears the Witch using James' voice, taunting her. She turns round, sees the Witch, and apparently dies of fright.

The Witch has now claimed Heather, her brother James, and Lisa as well.


Appearance and Personality

But you can't understand because you're so afraid... Just like those pathetic children from the Blair village!
~ The Blair Witch, possessing Tristen, as she taunts Jeff and his group.

The Blair Witch was a complete monster, gaining strength from other people's suffering and taking pleasure from their misfortunes. She preferred the dark of the night to the light of day, although, she could use light in her magic, showing she had mastered both dark and light magic. Like many perpetrators, she played the victim card - when she was alive she claimed to be innocent and denounced her execution as wrongful. She may have been so mentally disturbed she actually believed in this. But she was a dark soul, full of rage and hate at every living thing. To her, murder was just a game, and an amusing one at that. She would presumably gain her victim's power by draining their souls. Then she would grow in strength through the centuries.

Being a damned soul she was condemned to remain in Burkittsville's Black Hills forest forever. She was active both at night and in the day, as she could control the very trees and rivers in the forest. Such was her mere reputation that she forced an entire town to shut up their doors and evacuate because of how much the residents feared her.

Physically, as Elly Kedward, the Blair Witch was an old lady when alive, being about sixty when she moved to America. However, her ghost could apparently shape shift. Rustin Parr saw her as just being an old lady in black who would vanish when approached. Mary Brown saw her as being a half naked old lady covered in thick black hair. Heather Donahue barely saw her at all, but she was seen to yell "Oh my God what the fuck is that?" when a hideous apparition ran through the woods. In 2016, the Witch chose to appear as a tall, seven foot high emaciated white figure, with possible hair covering her face - similar to many appearances of evil female spirits. What is possibly the Witch's true form appears in the third film, when James Donahue is in Parr's house and sees an elderly woman wrapped up in 1600s clothing in the end of a corridor.

The Blair Witch is cited to be one of the scariest horror villains ever made - given her film's reaction amongst horror fans and cinema goers. She is said to be so disturbing and horrifying that "people curled up in the foetal position due to fear in their seats" so frightening one presenter said "It scared me to death" and her character has had such an impact on horror fans and cinema goers that she has inspired many references in popular culture, novels and many general witch stories follow the same theme as hers, set in a menacing forest with an eerie presence.

When she needed to act with mortals, the Witch would possess a human who harboured resentment or a want for attention. Such was the cases with Rustin Parr and Tristen, who both became her unwitting vessels. Through Parr, she killed several children, and through Tristen, she commanded her group to viciously kill several German tourists in the forest. When possessing a human, little change appeared except that their lips gave a cruel smirk and their eyes appear distant and cold. Also, possessing a body made electronics malfunction and play backwards, referring to the Pagan technique of Widdershins, or "undoing the evil."

Gallery

Trivia

  • The Blair Witch is inspired by the real woman Moll Dyer who lived in Leonardstown, USA. She was accused of being a witch.
  • The Blair Witch is one of the few villains to not gain infamy from her body count, but rather the reputation, fear and horror she inspires from her name alone.