An urban legend takes on deadly lives of its own throughout the years in The Remaking, the latest book from writer and performance artist Clay McLeod Chapman, the brilliant mind behind The Pumpkin Pie Show. From campfire story to horror movie to true-crime podcast, The Remaking features multiple iterations of one eerie tale, massaged into different forms through the passage of time, and ahead of the supernatural thriller's October 8th release from Quirk Books, we've been provided with an exclusive excerpt to share with Daily Dead readers.
To immerse yourself in a creepy campfire tale circa 1951 in our exclusive excerpt from The Remaking, simply click the cover art below, and prepare yourself for the story of Jessica Ford. To learn more about The Remaking, visit:
"In a culture long obsessed with stories of the macabre, what price do we pay for all this storytelling? That is the question performance artist, screenwriter, and author Clay McLeod Chapman brilliantly explores in The Remaking (Quirk Books; October 8, 2019; $19.99), a supernatural thriller about a true-crime tale that takes on a life of its own. Inspired by the urban legend of The Witch Girl of Pilot’s Knob, Chapman reimagines the story of a single mother and her daughter who were burned at the stake as witches in a small town in Kentucky in 1916. In Chapman’s version, these women become Ella Louise and Jessica Ford, the inspiration for storytellers who seek to put their own stamp on their story, from a campfire tale to a B-horror movie to a meta slasher flick to a true-crime podcast.
1951 – The Campfire Tale. Twenty years after Ella Louise and Jessica Ford were burned at the stake, a crowd of eager kids gathers at the scene of the alleged crime, hungry for details. Their curiosity is sated by a local man who promises to tell them the story for the price of a bottle of whiskey.
Ella Louise was born to a wealthy family in Pilot’s Creek but was always an outcast. After her parents disowned her on the night of her social debut, she made the woods her home, and nine months later she was joined by baby Jessica. Townspeople speculated that Jessica was immaculately conceived by the Devil, but this didn’t stop respectable women from turning to Ella Louise for her herbal remedies when traditional medicine failed them. Then one day a pregnant woman who took Ella Louise’s remedy lost her baby boy, prompting a witch hunt that ended with Ella Louise and Jessica burned at the stake outside their home. Ella Louise’s body was never found, but Jessica was buried in a steel-reinforced coffin, under six feet of concrete, in a grave surrounded by a fence of white crosses. It’s this gravesite that inspires the legend of The Witch Girl of Pilot’s Creek, which will keep Ella Louise and Jessica’s story alive for years to come…
1971 – The Hollywood Movie. Twenty years ago, Lee Ketchum sat around that campfire and learned the sins of his hometown from the man in the woods—and the story has stuck with him ever since. Now, as a Hollywood director, he wants to bring his obsession to the big screen. He just needs to find his Jessica.
At nine years old, Don’t Tread on Jessica’s Grave is Amber Lynn Pendleton’s big break. Under the oppressive gaze of her stage mom, she quietly and obediently sits through long makeup sessions in a trailer on location in Pilot’s Creek. But Amber has been hearing a voice in her head, the voice of someone who helped her win the audition and tells her what to do during her scenes. When it’s finally time for Amber’s biggest scene, though, she caves under the pressure and hides—until a figure at the edge of the woods beckons her to follow. Thinking it’s the actress who plays Ella Louise, Amber obeys.
The next day, a search party finds Amber buried alive in the woods, claiming that Ella Louise left her there…
1995 – The Remake. Amber Lynn Pendleton has been haunted by what happened to her on the set of Don’t Tread on Jessica’s Grave. Washed up in her thirties but still considered a Scream Queen, she supports herself with appearances at horror conventions and manages the ghosts of her past with alcohol and Klonopin. Some people believe Amber’s story that those ghosts are real while others think she’s simply an attention-seeker.
When Amber’s agent calls to let her know that someone is remaking the movie on location and wants her to play Ella Louise, she initially refuses—until she realizes that the best way to let go of these ghosts is to confront them once and for all.
Back in Pilot’s Creek, Amber finds herself losing time: one moment she’s waking up from a nightmare of being burned alive and the next moment she’s on set, ready for the new Jessica, Danielle Strode, to deliver the big scene. But just like that fateful night twenty-four years ago, Danielle goes missing—and all signs point to Amber…
2016 – The True Crime Podcast. Nathaniel Denison, the creator and host of the podcast “Who Goes There?” is known for debunking urban legends. Now he’s ready to tackle the rumors surrounding the “cursed” film sets of Don’t Tread on Jessica’s Grave and I Know What You Did on Jessica’s Grave. Unlike the fans, he doesn’t think supernatural forces are at work—just a deranged actress who was shockingly acquitted of a little girl’s murder.
Nate’s investigation takes him to a trailer park in Pilot’s Creek, where he finds a haunted-looking Amber, trapped stewing in her dark past. She’s been living here since the trial, shackled to the town that ruined her life. But Nate presents a unique opportunity for Amber to unburden herself of Jessica’s story. She offers to take Nate to Jessica’s grave—a sight he’s shocked to see really exists. But as the night goes on, he becomes aware that Amber is on a mission from which neither might return.
The results of The Remaking are scary, clever, morally complicated, massively entertaining, and ultimately cathartic. For fans of horror and true crime, Chapman deftly weaves a tale that ultimately asks its readers: Are you prepared for the consequences of storytelling?"
[Photo credit: Above photo of Clay McLeod Chapman courtesy of Noah Greenberg.]
To read the excerpt, click the cover art below: