Letters to the Editor

"Blair Witch" buzz is real, not faked; multiple partners, multiple problems; Christian-bashing in "Son of Sam" story was over the top.

Published July 23, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Did "The Blair Witch Project" fake its online fan base?


I have the distinction of being the very first person who put up
a fan site dedicated to "The Blair Witch Project" in December 1998.

Is this article aimed at discrediting the
filmmakers (who I met for the first time at the opening of the film on July
16 in Los Angeles), because larger studios are jealous of the attention this
tiny film has gotten? Thousands of fans online are absolutely furious at the lack of facts in
this utterly ridiculous piece. The only ones pointing fingers at
Haxan Films are other studios. The only spin doctoring that happened came
courtesy of people like myself who wanted the word to get out about this
film early.

How did we know about it so far in advance? The Independent Film Channel
ran pieces about three missing students who disappeared making a documentary
over a year ago. People looking for information on the subject found only
one source: the Haxan Films Web site. That is where we started the community,
where the buzz began. "The Blair Witch Project" got its first major
exposure before the Sundance Film Festival when I talked about the film on the syndicated Mark & Brian Show in October. They booted up the Haxan site on the air and got major
interest, both from new fans and industry insiders.

Directors Ed Sanchez and Dan Myrick have been very accessible to all of us;
that made us want to spread the word about the film. I can guarantee you that no one from inside Haxan Films used a single plant to help spread the word.

As for me, I have been fascinated with this whole film from the first
moment I saw a clip of Heather Donahue crying into a camera. Everything I
have done has been for the love of it, as a film fan. Haxan Films didn't
offer me a cushy job or pay me for my services. After all the whole purpose of our actions was to draw attention to the film. Well, we did it, didn't we?

-- Jeff Johnsen

My daughter, Abigail Marceluk, is not a fake or a charlatan. She is a cum
laude graduate of Yale, with honors in Film Study and a graduate student in
Film and Media Arts at Temple University. She was investigating witches for a Masters thesis film project when she happened upon the Blair Witch. She became involved with Eric in the chat
room. They decided to create the fan site on their own. They are two very
talented people, I agree, and am flattered that you think their site is a
bit "too glossy" for amateurs.

Impressed with the site, the producer of TBWP invited Abigail and Eric to
the Florida Film Festival. They were so fascinated by the pair that they
invited them to their offices to hang out. That's why Abigail and Eric appeared in the SciFi special.

Abigail has been ahead of the pack since she was a small child. It does
not surprise me that she is in on one of the first Internet fan sites. I
am sorry that you are so jaded that you cannot accept true youthful
enthusiasm when you see it.

-- Robert Marceluk

Wilmington, Del.

Patrizia DiLucchio implied
that many of the reviews of Blair Witch were planted because Artisan
"was enforcing a strict no-tapes policy." I suppose you are also going
to tell me that bootlegs of "The Phantom Menace" aren't available either? If you had bothered to do your research, you would have found that many people had copies months in
advance. The movie was even downloadable over the Internet!

DiLucchio also implies something sinister in the fact that Harry Knowles mentioned
the movie before he saw it. In his mention of the pre-Sundance buzz it
was very clear that he had not seen the movie yet. He did see the movie
before he wrote his review, and was genuinely excited by it. The truth -- that this movie is getting good reviews because it is excellent and innovative -- is not sexy as a vast conspiracy.

-- Andy Howell

Three's company; so is four or five



What surprises me about this article is that anybody thinks polyamory is
anything new or different from open marriage, plural marriage, swinging,
marriage understandings or any of the other variants and names given
marriages with consensual infidelity over recent years -- or that consent
somehow changes the lay of the land from secret philandering. The fact
is that infidelity hollows out the emotional core of any marriage, and
leaves an artifice of short-term practicalities and long-term
instability. I'm sure some of these marriages will survive in form, but
most will fail in form and fact. Polyamory is merely one form of
dishonesty replacing another. The victim this time is the illusion that you can separate the emotional, intimate and exclusive aspects of sex in marriage from the marriage itself.

-- K. Bogdan


Leanna Wolfe is quoted as describing poly people as "just too wacky, and they're never going to go over in the heartland." Now, I'm not sure what heartland she's thinking of, but it must not be
the one that includes the Midwest. The very first alt.polycon
gathering (a convention for participants of the alt.polyamory newsgroup
on Usenet) was held here in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area; I chaired the convention. The first
polyamorous wedding or ceremony of commitment was held in Michigan, I
believe, at the church of the three people involved in the ceremony.
Many of us are lifelong Midwesterners,
and we're already heartlanders in very good standing, thank you.

There is one caveat regarding resources
and definitions of polyamory that may explain Wolfe's reaction. if
she encountered any of the unfortunate proselytizers who insist on
attaching their own religious, social or political beliefs to the
practice of polyamory, she may have been bombarded with their decrees
that polyamory must (or, in some cases, must not) include tantric sex,
libertarianism, joint living arrangements, neo-Paganism, creative
visualization, merged bank accounts, New Age philosophy, Mormonism,
California residency or condoms. (Condoms are one of the "must nots" for certain Christian swingers-cum-poly groups who believe, apparently, that good intentions are a barrier effective against HIV and other STDs.) If those admittedly loud voices are the ones she accepted
as characteristic of polyamory, then I'll retract my statement about
inaccuracy entirely, and agree that they definitely won't go over in the
heartland. That sort of "snake-oil cure-all" poly proselytizing has gone
over around here about as well as solid lead ice-fishing houses would.

-- Elise Matthesen


Ryam Nearing has never said that she started the polyamory movement in the '80s. What she did start in 1984 was a newsletter covering the polyamory scene, and that has evolved into the magazine Loving More.

Jim Gerard's feigned "oh my gosh, I'm so confused" approach might be cute enough to get an article published, but it contributes virtually nothing to understanding a very real and important social phenomenon. By focusing on the titillating and outrageous end of the spectrum, he casts an entire population into a fantasyland of a writer's misconception.

-- Barry Northrop

The article quoted an acquaintance of mine, Joel Spector, as saying, "Our condom contract about sex outside the group runs to six pages, and details what can be done with whom, when and under what circumstances. I'm not pleased with it."
Joel assures me that this is not an exact quote; it gives the clear
impression that he doesn't like the contract. Exactly the opposite is
true. Joel is very glad the contract exists; his only displeasure is with
how complex it can sometimes be. Hardly the same as what the article implied.

-- Vincent M. Wales

Polyamory Awareness & Acceptance Ribbon Campaign

Ogden, Utah

Jim Gerard's piece didn't gain from gratuitous swipes at Mormons, especially since the church has disavowed the practice of polygamy for more than 130 years. In fact, practicing polygamy
is grounds for excommunication. I don't know whether the writer knew this
or not; I prefer to think that he was ignorant of the facts, instead of the
alternative explanation: that he wanted to punch up his piece with some
cheap Mormon-polygamist jokes.

-- Paul Robichaux

Son of hope



Of course, you're right to be so offended by the "harried Christian
propaganda" video 'The Choice is Yours -- With David Berkowitz." Why
bother trying to give today's youth pause before having sex, drug
problems and criminal records? Like you, I'd much rather have a society
filled with teens in jail or dead rather than "walking through the
park in the sunshine, carrying Bibles and wearing big, glassy-eyed
smiles on their faces." Man, that part about sunshine and smiles really
gives me the willies!

I mean, can you believe the stupidity of these Christians, trying
to make us believe that jail is a "dark and despairing, sin-filled place
you really don't want to go"? What are these people on? Oh, I forgot. They're "Jesus freaks" who
believe that "No matter how much wrong you've done, there's a way to
have every wrong we've ever done be completely forgiven." Puh-leeze!
Give me a serial killer any day!

I just wanted to thank Salon for taking such a brave stand
against obviously biased material. Too bad not everyone has the complete
impartiality you seem to possess. I, for one, feel much
safer knowing there are people like you warning us of such threats
as hope, remorse and redemption.

-- Richard Keegan

I have really had it with the Christian-bashing that people like
Cintra Wilson continue to push on us. I have no idea whether or not
David Berkowitz is reformed or repentant, but frankly that's not for me
or Wilson to question. Her attack seems much more squarely aimed at
Christians themselves. Although I find myself opposed to the views of a
lot of ultra-conservative Christian rhetoric, there simply is no place
for the vehement disdain that Cintra spews forth at Christianity.

Whenever a pro-choice advocate speaks out,
it's free speech, yet when a pro-life advocate speaks, it is somehow
unacceptable. You don't have to be Christian, you don't have to
believe in God or forgiveness, but it is rather immature
and in very bad taste to pick on those of us who do.

-- Christopher Pupillo

Sambos in the shadows


Debra Dickerson is simply wrong on the legal issue here, even though what she argues for (finally) is a symbolic gesture from Gov. Bush, or anyone else who owns, sells or buys real property with a racially restrictive covenant in the chain of title.

The restrictive covenant was not in Gov. Bush's deed, it was in the chain of title, which means it cannot be "removed" -- no matter what Gov. Bush did or failed to do. New language could appear in the chain, negating the language of the covenant, but the new language would not remove the old. Nothing can do that. So the effect of the actions would be just like Shelley vs. Kramer, which nullified all such covenants in 1948.

A chain of title records everything that ever happened to affect real property. Racially restrictive covenants are in many such chains for good; no amount of legal "scrubbing" will remove them. They cannot be enforced; neither can they be removed. "Land mines?" Not really. They are reminders of a racist past that is no longer visible in "whites only" signs or "colored" entrances and drinking water fountains. The land mines are our racist attitudes; they're not "buried" in our real property records.

-- Robert M. Jeffers

As someone who researches deed and titles in
Virginia almost every working day I can state for the record that it is
highly unlikely that anyone who owns a home is entirely cognizant of his or
her subdivision restrictions. These covenants rarely appear in deeds, or
even on the mortgage survey if one is required, but on the subdivision maps
themselves. These maps are rarely seen by anyone but the professionals
responsible for facilitating the sale, and race restrictions are so common
on pre-WWII subdivision plots that they lose their shock value quickly.
The task of striking the historic language from these documents would be
not only pointless but prohibitive in scale. It would be the bureaucratic
equivalent of hunting down and destroying every item of "Mammy memorabilia"
in the hands of private collectors such as Ms. Dickerson.

-- Robert Wade Bess

Young heroes in an ancient land


Whereas students in the third world sometimes
function as a national conscience, their American counterparts are portrayed
as party animals who are more concerned with looking out for No. 1.
Maybe that comparison is fair, but there is a real reason behind it: America's government works, and despite what seems to be an incredibly cynical view of our leaders, I think that most of us have faith
in the system if not the individuals who participate.

If we hate the president, we're not going to riot in the streets; we're
going to patiently wait and organize and try to vote him out in the next
election. This works. We feel as if we have a voice guaranteed by the
First Amendment, and we can express it through voting or letter writing or
even calling in on Larry King. One of the driving elements of a protest is
a sense of impotence within the system. Americans today don't feel this.
Just because students don't protest doesn't mean they aren't activists in
some sense of the word. Activism is more likely to be expressed through
participation, rather than protest.

-- David E. Cohen

By Letters to the Editor

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