NOTE: Bob wrote this column for The Birmingham News August 6, 1999 . If you asked me, it’s still just as good 12 years later.
I have seen the Blair Witch. It was right outside my tent.
But first some background: Last week, I interrupted my annual baseball vacation to see The Blair Witch Project with my friend Chris Dugger, an old Birmingham buddy who became a Connecticut Yankee a couple of years ago.
It would be the perfect end to the perfect day. We saw the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates in the afternoon, the New Haven Ravens and Portland Sea Dogs at night and The Blair Witch Project at midnight. I was pumped.
Then it dawned on me, about the time crazy Mary Brown started talking about seeing that hairy halfman/half-beast up near Tappy Creek, that I would be camping in the woods the next night. By myself.
Suddenly, I wished we were watching Runaway Bride instead.
Especially, 24 hours later, when, after driving around in circles for a half-hour, I stopped at the grocery store outside Norwich and asked how to get back onto Route 97. “Never heard of it,” the guy in the checkout line told me. Neither had the woman at the cash register.
Like those three student filmmakers who disappeared in the woods outside Burkittsville, Md., I was lost. A complete unknown, with no direction home. I wondered whether the search team would ever find my rental car. And if they did, if they would find my body in it.
Suddenly, that twisted trick I played on Chris earlier that morning – mocking the most frightening scene from the movie, I stood in the corner of his living room waiting for him to walk in and find me – didn’t seem so funny anymore. (Not that it did then, either. “You’re a sick bleep,” was all Chris said, not even acknowledging the cleverness of my prank.)
But I stuck to the highway, tried not to panic, and by some miracle, eventually wound my way back to Salt Rock Campground. I drove up to my campsite – at the farthest end of a dark, unpaved road – said my prayers and crawled into my $29 Kmart tent.
Suddenly, I was glad I didn’t follow through with another one of my sick practical jokes and stack a pile of rocks outside my tent, mocking yet another scene from the movie. (I can be a real funny guy in the daytime.)
Suddenly, I couldn’t shake that image of those stick figures swinging from trees.
Suddenly, I started hearing things.
Suddenly, I wished I were staying at a Motel 6, where they leave the light on for wimps like me.
Suddenly, I wanted my mommy.
Then, by another small miracle, I fell asleep, cutting Z’s and dreaming sweet dreams. Blair Witch, my behind.
Suddenly, those pleasant dreams turned dark and sinister.
Suddenly, somebody – or some thing – caused the walls of my tent to start flapping like bed sheets on a clothes line.
I knew it was just a bad dream. I mean, what could the Blair Witch possibly be doing in Connecticut? Unless, of course, it was her wicked stepsister instead. I forced myself to wake up, and that flapping noise stopped as quickly as it began.
But I was wide awake again, and morning couldn’t come fast enough. Back in Norwalk, I knew Chris was chuckling to himself: “Who’s laugh ing now, funny boy?”
I kept reminding myself that The Blair Witch Project was just a movie, and that those three college kids didn’t really disappear in the woods, did they? I managed to fall back to sleep.
But not for long.
Suddenly, I heard somebody – or some thing – unzipping the door to my tent. It was a kid, maybe 5, maybe 6. He stuck his head inside my tent and, in a voice cracking with fear, pleaded: “Can you please help me?”
I was confused. Was this the Blair Witch? Or did the Blair Witch lead him to me? Maybe it was just another nightmare.
I’m not sure. I didn’t stick around to find out. I woke up, and I got out of there.
But the videotape is still in the woods if anybody wants to go back and look for it.