Down the hill in Burkittsville, Md., tourists now show up to follow the Blair Witch trail--to the annoyance of the locals. ("It wasn't real, it didn't happen, stop bothering us and . . . hey, how about one of these genuine witch souvenirs?")
The attraction a mile up the road, however, is both real and a tribute to nonfiction. Most visitors are probably Appalachian Trail hikers looking for a rest room, but while they pause they can appreciate the nation's only memorial to the work of war correspondents. In 1896, George Alfred Townsend, himself a reporter during the Civil War, built a 50-foot-high memorial atop South Mountain, now part of Gathland State Park. Townsend's eclectic design incorporates a large Moorish arch below three smaller Roman arches, inspirational quotations and statues of Pan, horses' heads and Mercury. And a crenelated tower. And a weather vane. It is dedicated to the Civil War reporters who "cheered the camps . . . educated provinces of rustics . . . and gave incentive to narrate distant wars and explore dark lands." Information about the arch, its creator and the surrounding ruins of his mountain retreat are available in the museum across the road, open April through October in what was Townsend's stone residence, or by calling South Mountain Recreation Area at 301-791-4767.