Jack-in-the-Box

Mark Bacome

Book Cover

GENRE

MYSTERY HORROR

    Core Theme

    TRUTH, TRAUMA, REMEMBRANCE

    TIME PERIOD

    Contemporary

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    THE CHANGELING, THE ORPHANAGE

    CHARACTER LIST

    • DETECTIVE GILLIAN MCCLARY (F/40S) — LEAD. A DUTIFUL, SELF-RELIANT, UPSTANDING DETECTIVE SEEKING A NEW START ON THE WEST COAST, STILL GRAPPLING WITH GRIEF AFTER LOSING HER HUSBAND AND DAUGHTER
    MANY YEARS PRIOR.

    • BILL HARTFIELD (M/60S) — STRONG SUPPORTING. A CREDIBLE, INTELLIGENT PARANORMAL INVESTIGATOR WHO HAS RESEARCHED THE STILLES ASYLUM AND WHO PARTNERS WITH GILLIAN TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THE UNSOLVED MYSTERIES CONTAINED WITHIN.

    • DEPUTY BURELLI (M/30S) — SUPPORTING. A DEPENDENT YOUNGER OFFICER AND LOYAL FOOT SOLDIER TO THE STATION WHO IS DEPLOYED TO AID GILLIAN IN HER EFFORTS AND WHO IS FORCED TO MAKE A PIVOTAL, SNAP JUDGMENT DECISION IN THE FINALE.

    • JEFFRIE TRACE (M/20S) — SMALL SUPPORTING. AN ARROGANT INFLUENCER-TYPE WHO PRIDES HIMSELF ON
    DEBUNKING PARANORMAL HOAXES, BUT WHO FINDS HIMSELF BRUTALLY MURDERED WHEN BELLIGERENTLY CHEST-POUNDING INSIDE THE STILLES ASYLUM.

    • JACK (M/6-69) — SMALL SUPPORTING. A LITTLE BOY WHO WAS ABANDONED BY HIS MOTHER IN THE 1950S, ONLY TO BE SUBJECTED TO HORRIBLE ABUSE AND TORTURE AT THE HANDS OF HIS CHILDREN’S HOME
    CARETAKERS. LATER, IT IS REVEALED THAT A MENTALLY BROKEN/FRAGMENTED JACK HAS BEEN LIVING IN SQUALOR IN THE ABANDONED HOME FOR DECADES, HAVING MURDERED NEARLY 20 PEOPLE OVER THE YEARS
    IN A MISGUIDED EFFORT TO PROTECT THE HOME AND ITS VULNERABLE OCCUPANTS.

    Logline

    "Jack-in-the-Box" is a 70k word horror/mystery where 48 year old Detective Gillian McClary leaves a 17 year career at Fredrick Maryland PD, for the small Washington town of Port Latch PD in a desperate effort to self medicate her survivor's guilt from the loss of her husband and daughter in a car accident 14 years earlier. Once in Port Latch she is intrigued by a 5 year old cold murder case involving the abandoned Stilles Asylum for Disabled Children and the urban legend of the "Jack-in-the-Box" evil entity being the only suspect. After several weeks of research and the help of a Paranormal researcher Bill Hartfield-knowledgeable with the legend, all evidence continues to lead to the paranormal world and Gillian feels she is no closer to solving the mystery than the original Detective before her. Gillian's worst nightmares are coming true-life after death may not be as simple as heaven and hell, and there may be something far worse that can reach across and kill from the other side.

    Target Audiences

    Age: 35-54

    Target Gender: Female leaning

    Setting

    Small fictional Western Washington town of Port Latch, Stilles Asylum for Disabled Children

    Based on a True Story

    No

    Publishing Details

    Status: No

    Starting Description

    The legend of "Jack-in-the-Box" starts in 1966 when a boy kills his tormentor/Asylum maintenance man with an axe, but is never found. Since the murder and subsequent closure of the facility, various people squatting at the facility have disappeared, said to have been killed by the "Jack-in-the-Box,"

    Ending Description

    The author has not yet written this

    Group Specific

    Information not completed

    Hard Copy Available

    No

    ISBN

    Information not completed

    Mature Audience Themes

    Language/Profanity

    Plot - Other Elements

    Philosophical Questions, Twist, Meaningful Message

    Plot - Premise

    Overcoming Monster/Villain

    Main Character Details

    Name: Gillian McClary

    Age: 48

    Gender: Female

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Blunt, Charming, Complex, Confident, Decisive, Educated, Empathetic, Engaging, Gracious, Honorable, Outspoken, Unapologetic, Sarcastic, Skillful, Perseverance, Secretive, Strong Moral Code

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Bill Hartfield

    Age: 57

    Gender: 57

    Role: Logical

    Key Traits: Adventurous, Blunt, Confident, Complex, Charming, Empathetic, Engaging, Decisive, Educated, Gracious, Masculine, Modest, Honorable, Perseverance, Sophisticated, Patriotic, Unapologetic, Strong Moral Code

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Trent Johnson

    Age: 41

    Gender: Male

    Role: Sidekick

    Key Traits: Blunt, Charming, Complex, Confident, Educated, Decisive, Empathetic, Engaging, Leader, Masculine, Honorable, Strong Moral Code, Unapologetic, Sarcastic, Patriotic, Perseverance, Badass

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Charles Beaumonte III

    Age: 38

    Gender: Male

    Role: Emotional

    Key Traits: Adventurous, Blunt, Confident, Complex, Charming, Empathetic, Engaging, Decisive, Educated, Gracious, Masculine, Modest, Honorable, Perseverance, Sophisticated, Patriotic, Unapologetic, Strong Moral Code

    Genre

    ACTION, DRAMA, FANTASY, SUSPENSE, THRILLER

    Brief

    Gillan is trying to restart her life as a detective in Port Latch after the tragic death of daughter and husband. She is called to investigate the disappearance of a young girl in the haunted Stilles Asylum building. The girl is later found, but many mysteries from that place remain to be solved, especially after the death of internet star Jeffrie Trace. Gillan’s investigative and negotiating skills will be crucial to find out what’s behind the legend of Jack in Box and the crimes surrounding it.

    Overall Rating

    EXCELLENT

    Point of View

    THIRD PERSON

    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: EXCELLENT

    Characterization: GOOD

    Commerciality: EXCELLENT

    Franchise Potential: GOOD

    Pace: GOOD

    Premise: EXCELLENT

    Structure: EXCELLENT

    Theme: GOOD

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    It is accurate.

    Draw of Story

    The first chapter, about the two children that were left alone with the bad Ruphord is heart wrenching and frightening enough to keep audience hooked from the beginning. It also makes the structure original as the mystery is revealed to the reader right from the beginning, which surprisingly doesn’t make the narrative any less interesting.

    Possible Drawbacks

    Nothing made me want to put the book down.

    Use of Special Effects

    THE STORY RELIES HEAVILY ON SPECIAL EFFECTS

    Primary Hook of Story

    If adapted, this movie would bring along an interesting and suspenseful storyline, enough to keep people on the edge of their seats not only due to the unsolved mysteries along the plot but also the emotional depth involving the main characters. The puzzles and detective work involved can also be intriguing for viewers. As a plus, the supernatural elements can be even more effective in drawing the audience in the story.

    Fanbase Potential

    It could have a large fanbase as characters are well developed, especially regarding the protagonist Gillan.

    Awards Potential

    It has awards potential not only due to the frightening scenes that would translate well into audiovisual but also because the scenario of the Asylum would enable great work from art direction.

    Envisioned Budget

    MEDIUM BUDGET

    Similar Films/TV Series

    GRAVE ENCOUNTERS; THE ORPHAN

    What’s New About the Story

    The most original thing about this story is its structure, as the story behind the horrible happenings in the Asylum is revealed from the beginning and the author somehow still manages to keep readers hooked; also the protagonist is a competent and strong female character that is also skillful, brave, smart and the overall heroine of the story.

    Lead Characters

    The life story of the protagonist Gillian and her life background, with her deceased daughter and late husband make her even more vulnerable to this triggering narrative, but she somehow manages to remain both soft and strong while facing the Asylums ‘demons’ as well as her own.

    Uniqueness of Story

    It is a rare gem.

    Possible Formats

    Film: Studio, Indie, Streaming TV Series: Network, Cable, Limited Run / Mini-Series, Streaming

    Analyst Recommendation

    RECOMMEND

    Justification

    I recommend it because the book is well written, story is touching and thrilling at the same time and the resolution of the mystery could only be carried out by a sensitive, empathetic but also strong and competent female protagonist.

    Brief

    Seeking a new start, a stalwart female detective with a tragic past moves across the country to join the police department in the sleepy Washington town of Port Latch. It’s an idyllic town, but with one glaring blemish— There is an abandoned, decrepit former children’s home that was recently the site of a grisly, unsolved axe murder.

    What We Liked

    This work has numerous undeniable selling points— For one thing, it has a enviably well-cultivated mystery and mythology to it— Not only do the protagonists shepherd us sure-handedly into the world of the supernatural, but they also dig deep into a checkered and occasionally downright heinous past. The central mystery of robust enough that it exists in two realms— We spend much time investigating the supernatural through a scientific lens, while in parallel we dive back into the past to investigate the real world trauma, tragedy, and history to the place. In essence, the author just keeps feeding us— It’s remarkable how much substance there is in this story of a mere 220-odd pages.

    Moreover, on top of the unmistakably effective genre elements, this work is sneakily emotional and thematically resonant on several levels just the same— Gillian carries with her an immense burden of grief, and her sometimes turbulent journey to reconcile it and to forgive and unburden herself in some cases terrifies us and in other cases dares to make us cry. This is not even to consider the dark past involving young Jack and his late sister, which ties in beautifully to the themes of grief, trauma, and resolution. All in all, much akin to “The Haunting of Hill House,” audiences will come for the scares and mystery intrigue, but they will be touched and unable to forget the story due to it profound themes and emotional impact.

    Film: This is a tightly-written, fast-paced novel with plenty of impact and intrigue— Audiences will be sure to scope out this work for its unique tone—at once a mystery and a supernatural horror— and they will find themselves surprised and enthralled from frame one thanks to its uncommonly grounded and relatable lead and to the nothing-held-back approach to the genre elements. Many horror/supernatural movies pretend in bad faith that the supernatural elements may or may not be real, effectively teasing the audience when the supernatural is surely the reason for buying the ticket in the first place. This work is, commendably, an exception. The author starts this work with a bang, giving the audience the feeling of being shot out of a cannon. Instead of teasing us and prolonging the inevitable, the author throws us in head first, challenging and inviting us to make sense of it all alongside out lead. It creates an experience that is uniquely immersive, participatory, and impactful. As noted above, this work is not just strong for its rich, unequivocally deep mystery and genre elements, but it comes out of nowhere to surprise us with its profound themes and incorruptible emotional backbone, unfurling out of Gillian and her grief. All in all, this work checks all of the right boxes— A memorable/relatable lead, a rich mythology, a complex mystery, and a firm commitment to catharsis and theme. This positions this work not just above many of the submissions on TaleFlick, but it positions it above most other speculative genre fiction in the marketplace today.

    TV: This would be an excellent adaptation for TV in that the mythology and central mystery of the text are more than robust enough to sustain a season of TV— As iterated above, the mystery element is a bit of a two-hander— the scientific aspects walking hand-in-hand with the historical. What is certain is that this story affords it audience a real opportunity for participation— You feel like you are along for the journey with the protagonists. You are in the gazebo with them or at the table with them as they trod ahead searching for answers. And, moreover, you are venturing into the dark with them when they set foot inside Stilles.
    Secondly, the author clearly makes an effort to develop and individualize his supporting characters— From Chief Johnson to Deputy Burelli to even Joe, there are a number of characters that would warrant expansion if adapted to the small screen. It is a real virtue that despite having such a strong lead in the form of Gillian, she is surrounded by an able-bodied supporting cast, better rendering the world and community around her and making her even more memorable, it feels, for her system and environment. All in all, this is a rare work whose mystery is deep, complex, and rich enough to sustain a season of TV— Further bolstered by an ample cast of well-grounded, relatable, unique and interesting characters that audiences would be sure to attach to and root for just as much as they do for Gillian.

    Key points:
    1. The Protagonist — Gillian is a grounded, intelligent, and quietly likable lead. She is an excellent audience surrogate for her curiosity, good-nature, and courage.
    2. The Resonance — This work sneaks up on you with its emotional impact, from Gillian reconciling her grief and laying out the beach towel for her daughter to the tragedy and complexity of Jack and the other victims.
    3. The Climax — The finale is certainly a high point in this text— A deftly executed twist that leaves the audience entirely on edge before an explosive release.
    4. The Pace — It’s a sure virtue that this text pulls no punches— We dive right into the world of the supernatural, wasting no time teasing it out to the audience, when we damn well already know and expect the site is haunted.
    5. The Setting — From the sleepy, small town feel of Port Latch—gazebo and all—to the dusty, decrepit former children’s home, this work contains many an immersive experience, and it is stronger for it.

    Synopsis

    Meet Gillian McClary. She is a dutiful, good-natured, if a bit closed-off/to-herself detective.
    Seeking a new start, she takes a job at the police department of Port Latch, Washington, hoping a new town—and a new coast, for that matter—will offer some sort of reprieve to her grief.
    Years ago, Gillian lost her beloved daughter and husband in a car accident, and their loss haunts her to this day in the form of both nightmares and the invisible, ever-present burden of guilt.
    After meeting the mayor and Police Chief Trent Johnson, Gillian joins her colleagues in a search for a missing teen girl— Evidently, the teen went missing inside a decrepit, abandoned former armory-turned-children’s home that, naturally, has become the source of many an urban legend. Although the teen is nowhere to be found, Gillian and co. find themselves witness to a plethora of strange voices and sightings, and Gillian is soon clued into the building’s checkered past— Not only is there a legend of “Jack-in-the-Box,” a tale of a little boy who was tortured by being imprisoned in a iron box-like structure in the basement, but more recently, an arrogant influencer was found brutally murdered by an axe-wielding assailant, although neither the culprit or weapon were ever found.

    While battling intermittent nightmares over her lost family, Gillian begins her effort the close the one and only cold case in Port Latch— the murder of arrogant paranormal debunker Jeffrie Trace. After reviewing the retained footage of Jeffrie’s efforts and interviewing his traumatized, surviving partner, Gillian continues to dig into the folklore surrounding the building. Many people believe that a demonic, evil shadow figure resides in the building, possibly even something flesh and blood. She finds records of horrific abuse of the children sheltered there as well as a number of curious, unexplained disappearances, both of caretakers and residents.
    Soon, Gillian connects with a friendly, avuncular paranormal researcher named Bill Hartfield, a kind of kindred spirit. Together, the two delve deep into the history of the storied building, thanks to Bill’s decades of credible, analytical research. Soon, they turn their sights to investigating the building in-person seeking to record EVPs and other phenomena and, ultimately, to get to the bottom of the Jeffrie Trace murder and more. After considerable search efforts and increasingly hairy encounters with supernatural entities—including Gillian being physically grabbed by a dark figure—human remains are found on the premises. This prompts the opening of an official investigation, much to Gillian’s satisfaction.

    Returning to the infamous building with new resolve and manpower, Gillian and Bill are increasingly able to put together the pieces— Housed in the children’s home in the mid-20th century was in fact a little boy named Jack who, along with his sister, was brutally abused and tortured by the caretakers. Although many were murdered and erased from the face of the earth—including Jack’s sister Jillie—Jack persevered, adopting the persona of an elder boy who was a kind of protector figure after he was slain by the abuser. Jack went so far as to kill his torturer/abuser himself. Ultimately, the utterly shocking reveal unfolds that Jack is in fact still alive—having been living in squalor inside the home all these years, having been driven insane by his abuse and conditions. In his delirious state, Jack has appointed himself the protector of the domain, ultimately seeking to kill anybody who enters and/or antagonizes him, i.e. Jeffrie Trace. A tense standoff ensues when an old, tumor-stricken, sickly Jack reveals himself to Gillian, along with Chief Johnson and Deputy Burelli. Gillian does her best to appeal to and talk down the frenzied old man, but when he raises his axe and threatens her, Burelli has no choice but to gun him down. In the end, federal investigators take up the investigation, as Gillian and co. internalize their close calls, supernatural encounters, and, ultimately, the inevitable act of violence to close the case once and for all. Gillian reflects on the complexity of the abused, disturbed Jack, and ascribes due blame to the real monsters to created Jack, as he came to be.
    Gillian has a renewed optimism in her life outlook, with Bill’s help coming to appreciate the presence, grace, and acceptance of her late family, still with her after all. In an epilogue vignette, a 6-year-old Jack is welcomed into the light by his little sister.

    About The Author

    Mark T. Bacome was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1962 part into a military family. He grew up on the West coast, California and Washington, and graduated High School in Olympia Washington. He has an extensive creative background ranging from professional musician, graphic artist, published cartoonist and writer/director/producer of several thousand radio and television commercials. Descendants and the following books of the series are his first attempts at full length novel writing. Mark has a degree in Computer Network Engineering and as of this writing is a senior computer analyst on a government contract. Although he is not yet able to quit his day job, he does have aspirations to continue writing and publish many more novels covering various genres.