The Blair Witch Project was an anomaly in storytelling and movie promotion when it made its way into the public consciousness in 1999. Not only did filmmakers Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick promote the horror film as real-life found footage - going so far as to make the three lead actors hide until after the premiere - they crafted a movie that left audiences with more questions than answers. Many viewers left the theater unsure as to whether they had just witnessed a snuff film of sorts, especially since multiple Blair Witch legends are woven into history, often based on real people.
As a result of the cultural impact and long-standing unanswered questions, multiple The Blair Witch Project theories exist. Even today, new theories pop up all of the time, offering evidence connected to the 2016 sequel Blair Witch or expanding upon possible truths proposed more than a decade ago. Some of the most popular and intriguing theories about the film hope to uncover the truth behind what happened to Heather (Heather Donahue), Josh (Joshua Leonard), and Mike (Michael Williams).
Among the most widely accepted theories, many fans believe Josh may have killed his two companions in the Burkittsville, MD, woods. This theory hinges on the fictional story of Rustin Parr, the man who murdered seven children in his house during the 1940s.
According to the movie, children disappeared from town over the span of six months in late 1940 and early 1941. Parr took the children into the basement of his forest home in pairs and forced one to face the corner while he dispatched the other. Before he could kill an eighth child, the Blair Witch supposedly released Parr from her thrall once he agreed to confess to the people of Burkittsville. He did, and was executed by hanging in November 1941.
The inference is the Blair Witch possessed Parr to commit the crimes and then released him when she was duly satisfied. When Josh's belongings receive a covering of blue slime after a night of terror for the trio, many insist the Blair Witch set her sights on pushing him to murder. After another night of tension, Heather and Mike wake up to find Josh gone and a bundle is eventually recovered containing a piece of his shirt, some teeth, possibly a tongue, and his hair. Josh's screams the next night lead Heather and Mike to Parr's abandoned house - which supposedly burned down after his death.
According to the theory, Josh isn't yet a casualty of the Blair Witch, but is using his sounds of anguish to lure his friends into Parr's basement where Mike - the first to reach the destination - is placed facing the corner and Heather is killed - just like the children killed by Parr under the influence of the Blair Witch.
The audience never sees Josh's demise and only assumes he dies based on the bundle and his failure to return to the group.
The fishermen interviewed talk about a woman hovering above the ground, a fine mist emerging from the creek and rising to the trees, and the tragedy on Coffin Rock. Rustin Parr murdered seven children in the woods and the cemetery shows countless other children died in the area from unknown causes. Elly Kedward lost her life in the woods after accusations of witchcraft and multiple townspeople met the same fate before survivors deserted the town of Blair.
Comparing the site to the ghost-filled hotel in Stephen King's The Shining, this theory believes the woods are full of all types of supernatural creatures attacking visitors. The hovering woman might be the Blair Witch or another spirit damned to travel the woods for eternity, taking victims whenever she can. The mist might be a ghost who drowned in the creek or one of the victims of the Coffin Rock massacre.
Perhaps the murdered children take vengeance on any adult who enters the woods, mistaking them for Parr. Parr might still be in the woods as well, returning after his death to seek revenge. Kedward might be the Blair Witch or just an annoyed spirit seeking retribution by killing anyone who enters the forest where she died.
This explains the voices, sounds, multitude of hands smacking the tents, and the various supernatural occurrences that plague Heather, Josh, and Mike during their ordeal.
Early in the movie, Heather interviews a woman named Mary Brown (Patricia DeCou) at her trailer home. At one point the camera pans briefly across the gate leading to her porch, and it's made from the same sticks and twine as the stick people later found in the woods.
Among other strange pronouncements, Brown claims she saw the Blair Witch covered head to toe in a thick fur when she was a child. As the filmmakers discuss what she said in their car afterwards, one thing is clear: Brown wants recognition. It's also revealed Brown cautioned the students via a Bible quote Heather cannot quite recall when they first encounter the rock piles in the woods. An internet sleuth believes Brown referred to Genesis 31:52:
This pile of rocks and this one special rock both help us to remember our agreement. I will never go past these rocks to fight against you, and you must never go on my side of these rocks to fight against me.
Did Brown warn them of her wrath if they accidentally kicked over the rocks or walked past them into the woods, revealing herself as the Blair Witch?
Supposedly beginning life as Elly Kedward in 1729 Blair, MD, the woman who turned into the titular Blair Witch met an untimely demise after accusations of witchcraft sent her into the nearby woods as an exile. Her punishment continued as she received brutal beatings before being hung from a tree to die; her killers attached rocks to her limbs, according to the 2016 sequel Blair Witch.
Kedward's spirit lived on in the woods in order to take revenge on the townspeople who dared to venture too far into her domain, causing them to abandon Blair before it became Burkittsville. Children overwhelmingly populate the cemetery of Burkittsville, aligning with the town's legend of the Witch abducting multiple kids. Rustin Parr's confession to killing seven of the missing children may have been a lie concocted by an insane hermit living too close to the Witch's lair, or perhaps he witnessed her murdering them.
The filmmakers merely stumbled into the wrong place at the wrong time, prompting the Blair Witch to treat them like all the other trespassers in her woods.