Blair Witch book has mysterious past

A private detective and an author prove as hard to find as Heather Donahue.

By Craig Offman
Published August 2, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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The hit movie "The Blair Witch Project" -- a ghost story that presents itself as a collection of found documentary footage -- is fraught with loose ends. The personal histories of the three lead characters -- who ostensibly disappeared in a Maryland forest while filming a documentary about a legendary witch -- remain a mystery to audiences of the film (although viewers of the Science Fiction Channel mockumentary "The Curse of the Blair Witch" are given a bit more background). But as the people who marketed "The Diary of Laura Palmer" (inspired by David Lynch's TV series "Twin Peaks") taught us, mysteries only whet the appetite of fans. Chapter III Records has just released a CD that supposedly reproduces the homemade compilation tape found in the lost filmmakers' car. Ambiguity, it seems, can be profitable.

On Aug. 9, Onyx, a subsidiary of Penguin Putnam that publishes movie tie-ins, will ship 100,000 copies of "The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier." The book purports to be the findings of a retired FBI agent and private investigator, C.D. "Bucky" Buchanan. "That's such a good name, we couldn't have made that one up," the book's editor, Dan Slater, told Salon Books. Contained in the book is Buchanan's correspondence with local authorities and his employers -- the parents of Heather Donahue, one of the vanished filmmakers -- as well as archival lore about the Blair Witch.


Salon Books asked to speak to Buchanan about his investigation, but Slater and Onyx publicist Hilary Schupf insisted that Buchanan did not want to speak to the press. ("He wants to keep his privacy," Schupf explained. Oddly enough, Slater used exactly the same terminology when pressed to set up an interview with Buchanan.) Reportorial diligence proved even less fruitful. Attempts to trace Buchanan's Private Investigative Agency, Inc., using the letterhead reproduced in the "dossier," revealed that the ZIP code in the Virginia town where the agency is located is fictitious. So is the town, and so, apparently, is the agency. Likewise, "third-generation psychic Diane Ahlquist," supposedly hired by Buchanan to find the lost trio, doesn't seem to exist.

A Web search on the book's author, D.A. Stern, also turned up nothing, although Slater eventually informed Salon Books that his first name is Dave and that he is the editor of "The Klingon Dictionary: English/Klingon Klingon/English," and a contributor to "Your Secrets are My Business: What Today's Information Thieves Don't Want You to Know." Yet Stern ultimately proved elusive as Salon Books learned when we requested to speak with the author. "We just can't get ahold of him," said Schupf. A likely story.

Craig Offman

Craig Offman is the New York correspondent for Salon Books.

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