`Blair Witch' works magic for doomed house

Interested party pays state to preserve famed house

January 01, 2000|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

A star is born and a house is saved.

The house made famous by the hit horror movie "The Blair Witch Project" will not be torn down, the state Department of Natural Resources has decided.

"The state was approached by a party that has an interest in the structure that has a benefit for the state," said DNR spokesman John Surrick.

The Griggs House, a two-story, gabled dwelling where the film's characters meet their end, had been slated for demolition by state officials, who concluded several years ago that the dilapidated house was a hazard.

But state officials changed their minds a few days before Christmas, Surrick said.

Surrick referred further questions to the Maryland Film Office, which promotes movie production in the state. An office spokeswoman would not say whether the house, tucked in Patapsco State Park in western Baltimore County, will be used in coming features.

"We don't comment on any upcoming projects," said Andrea Thomas.

William Whitacre, lawyer for Orlando, Fla.-based Haxan Films, producers of "The Blair Witch Project," said the creators of the movie are working on a sequel, but are still scouting locations. "I don't think there is an immediate plan to use it [the house]."

He said a number of entrepreneurs were interested in preserving the house, but that Haxan did not pay the state to spare the property. He said he believes the film's distributor, Artisan Entertainment, did.

Artisan offices in Santa Monica, Calif., were closed this week.

Residents of Granite believe the house's significance extends well beyond its role as a backdrop for a horror film, and are delighted with the state's decision.

"I hope this means that it will be protected and that DNR will document the history of this house," said Beverly Griffith, a member of the Granite Historical Society. "It's 200 years old. There's got to be some history there."

The building, which lies just outside the Granite National Historical District, may have played an important role in the history of the community, Griffith said.

Several Griggs descendants have taken an interest in the house, but its earliest history is a mystery. The house, now owned by the state, has been vacant for a number of years and stood mostly hidden in the woods until it was discovered by the movie makers. Since it became famous, movie fans have flocked to Granite to see the house and take away souvenirs.

The Maryland Historical Trust placed the Griggs House on its inventory of potentially historic properties 20 years ago, listing it as an "application of Federal-style architecture characteristics to regional farmhouse construction."

Trust officials who reviewed the DNR demolition petition did not find the dwelling significant, but Granite residents say more research is needed.

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