Earlier this month, Salon Books speculated that some of the "experts" who contributed to the spin-off book "The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier" were something less than, well, real. The author, D.A. Stern, and his publisher, Onyx Books, protested that the book presents the actual results of an actual investigation into the events depicted in the hit film, "The Blair Witch Project," which is ostensibly a collection of found footage shot by three film students who disappeared in a Maryland forest. The film leaves many questions unanswered and Stern's "dossier" professes to fill in the gaps.
Purported to be the findings of retired FBI agent and private investigator, C.D. "Buck" Buchanan, "The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier" also contains a photo of a psychic from New Mexico named Diane Ahlquist and a transcript of a siance Ahlquist and Buchanan held in the forest while searching for the lost students. (Buchanan, who, according to the book, works in Virginia, has appeared in the Sci-Fi Channel program "The Curse of the Blair Witch.") But legwork by Salon Books revealed that the addresses and phone numbers supplied for both Buchanan and Ahlquist were false, and moreover concluded that "noted occult journalist D.A. Stern" was in reality Dave Stern, editor of "The English/Klingon Klingon/English Dictionary," itself a work of dubious authenticity.
Since then, the Aug. 9 issue of Publisher's Weekly revealed that a photo in the book of one "Bud DiGrassi Jr.," an ex-convict, is in fact a photo of Kevin Votel, an employee of Publisher's Group West. A further investigation by Salon Books determined that a group photo of "professor Mercer's anthropology class" actually depicts several Penguin Putnam editors.
But just when "The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier" seemed an incontrovertible sham, Salon Books discovered that gumshoe Buck Buchanan is indeed a real person and that psychic Diane Ahlquist -- who, according to PW, is shopping a book proposal about the phases of the moon -- may be as well. Salon Books reached an answering machine in Florida that delivered the following message: "Hi. You've reached Diane Ahlquist. Because of my heavy work schedule, I will try to return your call in a day or two." (Ahlquist did not, however, respond to a message left by Salon Books.) An e-mail from an irate Salon reader (who refused to be quoted or named in this story) also asserted that Ahlquist does, in fact, exist.
Salon Books then located Buchanan at his agency, Buchanan's Investigations, also in Florida. "How did you get my number?" the former G-man asked warily when contacted by telephone. Citing an agreement with Artisan Entertainment, the company that produced "The Blair Witch Project," Buchanan refused Salon Books' request for an interview. When asked why he thought Artisan Entertainment had approached him to work on the project, he replied, "because of my credentials." Buchanan, who the book claims hired Ahlquist to help him investigate the Blair Witch mystery, did answer one further question about himself and the psychic: "Do you both exist?" Salon Books asked. "We do exist," he said.