2387: Blair Witch
Title text: "Are you concerned the witches won't breed in captivity?" "Honestly, we're more concerned that they WILL. We don't know what it involves, but our biologists theorize that it's 'harrowing.'"
The Blair Witch Project is a found footage horror film released in 1999. For the marketing campaign of the film, the producers created the legend of the Blair Witch, a supernatural being whose legend originates in Burkittsville, MD. As it sometimes happened in Protestant societies in the colonial era, a woman was ostracized from the community after having been accused of witchcraft. This woman, who tends to conflict in name with various versions of the lore, would supposedly attempt to inflict revenge upon the community that exiled her, and these fearful people fled from the town.
The comic takes a humorous turn on the legend, suggesting a conservation program to save the Blair Witch. While the film was described by reliable sources as faked and misrepresented footage, the Blair Witch is postulated as separate species that is being tracked by the IUCN Red List. With the rise of camera-phones in the modern age, sightings of beings that are most likely fictitious, such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, are becoming rarer over time, due to lack of credibility of a reported sighting without visual evidence (although with the rise of deepfakes, even visual evidence might lose credibility in the future). A species which has not been notably documented for a long time would indeed be moved to the "possibly extinct in the wild" category, as Megan notes.
Rather than taking this to mean the Blair Witch does not exist however, Megan instead suggests habitat loss as the reason why encountering a Blair Witch might be more difficult. Habitat loss is in fact one of the most prominent and concerning reasons for extinction in recent years. Megan claims that suburban projects have fragmented the witch's "spooky forest" ecosystem, a reference to the many species that are dying off due to encroachment, logging, and similar human activities. Migration due to climate change is also an observable phenomenon in animal populations (and some plant populations, depending on their mode of travel while in seeds; those that rely on animals to germinate will migrate as well).
Megan then proposes a plan to catch and breed Blair Witches in an attempt to resurrect the species. This final panel is more obviously humorous, as even if the Blair Witch did exist separate from humans, there is only one, and thus any attempt to breed and repopulate would be futile. It may be possible that this is not a problem, but if it is, it could also raise the objection that any pair of Blair Witch may both be female, and thus unable to reproduce. This could be resolved by (a) assuming that Witches can (sometimes?) be male as well, or (b) assuming that, much like Tremblay's salamander, females can reproduce with a male of a related species (most likely human, in which case the project might have difficulty obtaining approval from an ethics review board.) The phrase "Blair Witch Reintroduction Project" is a reference to The Blair Witch Project.
The title-text suggests that the comic is a lecture, as Megan's whiteboard and pointer would suggest. A (presumed) student asks whether Megan is concerned that witches won't breed in captivity (a serious real-world concern to the IUCN). If this is a press conference, the question would be asked by a reporter instead. Megan replies that they are worried that there will be breeding, but biologists are unsure how the breeding occurs, calling it "harrowing" (presumably because they have captured the Blair Witch and it has set a curse on their laboratory as she supposedly did in Burkittsville). Historically, communities practicing witchcraft may have fled to the woods to engage in sometimes very sexual behaviors that others at the time were very frightened by.
- [Megan is standing in front of a screen looking away from it at an audience off-panel. She is holding a stick, pointed at the chart behind her. The chart shows the stick figure from The Blair Witch Project. Above is an unreadable line of text, and below are two smaller rectangles a smaller one above the other, the small seems to be empty, but there seems to be some kind of graph in the bottom one.]
- Megan: Other than the fake 1999 video, there have been no Blair Witch sightings in 30+ years.
- Megan: The IUCN redlist says the witch is "possibly extinct in the wild."
- [A close-up of Megan's face. The screen now shows a habitat map, with four separate shaded areas enclosed in a dotted line. The dotted line and one of the areas goes to the upper edge of the screen indicating they continue beyond the shown area. Beneath the dotted line and to the right there are three small squares, one of them clearly shaded the same way as the areas above. Next to each there is an unreadable label.]
- Megan: Development in the Maryland suburbs has fragmented the spooky forest habitat.
- Megan: Climate change will push any remnant populations north.
- [Back to the original setting, Megan is standing with the stick pointing downwards, and the chart is out of frame.]
- Megan: That's why we plan to capture any surviving witches and establish a breeding population.
- Megan: Then, in time, the Blair Witch Reintroduction Project can begin.
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