Some of the most unwanted attention brought to the tiny Frederick County town of Burkittsville by the movie "The Blair Witch Project" has fallen upon a long-abandoned church and its cemetery.
Ceres Bethel AME Church was closed in 1984 after its minister retired, and AME leaders decided not to appoint a successor because the church had only three members.
Unknown visitors soon began to use the church and grounds for satanic meetings, even carving symbols and hanging portraits of the devil, according to the Rev. Richard Dyson, pastor of Mount Zion AME Church in nearby Knoxville. The problems only increased with the release this year of the hit movie, a pseudo-documentary set in Burkittsville in which students are mutilated and children murdered.
"I don't know, but since that picture came out, kids have been coming up here from all over," Dyson said. "The day I put a new lock on the church, four girls drove up and said that they were looking for the haunted building."
Fearing even more visitors on Halloween, Dyson plans to hold a prayer service today at the church to "take Satan away from it" and to let the public know the African Methodist Episcopal Church plans to reopen the building for services and draw new members.
"A lot of people in this area are into witchcraft, but the Lord said go ahead, re-establish the church," said Dyson. "We need to repent for letting Satan take the building in the first place," he added.
He plans to ask the makers of "The Blair Witch Project" to donate money to rebuild the church. "They have made millions off that picture," he said.