The Goreletter: Imaginary Trivia

The Goreletter 3.04: Imaginary Trivia

Arnzen’s Weird Newsletter


+++ Vol. 3.04, Sept 27, 2005 +++
Blather. Wince. Repeat.

Imaginary Trivia

A boy was born with six breasts in 1962. Only two of them survived.

If one searches long enough in Salem, Massachusets, one can find fine urns filled with the ashes of witches burned at the stake. The splintery burnt timbers once found inside these urns — called “witchpicks” — are nearly impossible to discover, however, for at the turn of the century they were all the rage among voodoo cultists, who would stick the splinters into makeshift rag dolls hoping for bonus damage.

The first slide observed by the inventor of the microscope was smeared with his own nasal discharge. An enigmatic notation in the margin of his lab report reads: “God is cold.”

Weeks before the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, another plane beside the Enola Gay carried the atomic bomb to Asian shores — but this early flight was lost in the Bermuda Triangle. Neither the B-29 bomber nor its payload have ever been discovered. One military legend suggests that they were actually sent on a supernatural mission to destroy whatever force was behind the triangle itself. Another has it that the plane was swept up into a hurricane that still swirls untracked in the Atlantic, waiting to strike American shores.

It’s a little known fact that in 1883, the first iron gynecological instrument was used to torture a man.

“Fido’s Follicle Folly” — the first hangover remedy available in a dog-shaped medicine bottle — was patented in 1812 by Georges Catostrand. This popular medicine contained one knife tip of plaque scraped from the tooth of a feral canine suspended a pint of grain alcohol.

On the eve of his execution in 1974, Gary Bronson Davis gleefully requested “Human Head Cheese and Whore Haggis” for his last meal. It was granted.

The first flyswatter was actually a cat, swung by its tail to smash a pesky housefly.

Secret Vatican scrolls reveal that the first human baby was named neither Cain nor Able, but Cainable. He was actually a conjoined twin, before one side ate the other during a violent argument (hence the term, “cannibal”).

Few realize that the invention of the handkerchief predates men’s underwear.

After his beheading at the climax of the French revolution, Louis Bastarte’s dismembered head is rumored to have delivered the phrase, “Sacre Bleu! I can still feel my legs!” hours after they carried it away in a bloody basket toward its burial site. Some French claim to have been kicked by the phantom legs, which they believe stick out from the head’s grave site. A woman in 1911 also claimed to have been impregnated by “The Kicking Bastarte.” Her baby, of course, was invisible to the naked eye. She was diagnosed with hysteria, and continued to breast feed “Little Louis” at the asylum. Psychologists could never explain the cause of her spontaneous lactation.

Enormous marbles were swallowed by ancient Romans in order to cleanse the bowel. Games involving the stones soon followed. Today we call it Bocce.


Want a book signed? Want to attend a fiction reading or take a horror writing workshop? I’ll be at several events throughout October and I invite you to drop by. I always enjoy meeting subscribers at these things.

October 7th, 7pm
Barnes & Noble | Monroeville Mall, Monroeville, PA
Play Dead Book Signing

October 8th, 7pm
DV8 Espresso Bar & Gallery | 208 South Pennsylvania Ave, Greensburg, PA
Poetry/Short-Short Reading featuring Gorelets, 100 Jolts, and Rigormarole

October 22nd
Ligonier Valley Writers | Scottdale, PA
Horror and Fantasy Writing Workshop

October 27th, 7pm
Barnes & Noble | Monroeville Mall, Monroeville, PA
Guest Visit with Short Story Book Group

October 29th, 7pm
Barnes & Noble | Greensburg, PA
Reading and Play Dead Book Signing

November 3rd-6th
World Fantasy Convention 2005 | Madison, WI

Keep your eyes on the Goreletter weblog for updates:


“Exmortis” is an excellent haunted house game, reminiscent of the “Silent Hill” series of twisted “crawlers.” You click your way around a creepy abandoned house, picking up clues (and weapons) as you try to solve the mystery of where you are, why there’s a head in the microwave, and why there’s blood all over the furniture. Try to solve the symbol puzzle before you die in a horrible fashion.

Sure, you’ll spot a lot of familiar horror images and feel like you’ve been here before. But there’s something about the way this game is put together that makes it really creepy. Combining nice art and a moody score, Exmortis is effectively chilling, even if it tests your patience as you try to figure out what to do next (a link to a helpful “walkthrough” is included below for the frustrated).

Play Exmortis: (warning: the game is a 5 mb file that downloads when you load the page)
Brought to you by Ben Leffler Web Design:
Need help? The Exmortis walkthrough can assist, as a last resort:

[Requires Macromedia Flash, which is probably already plugged into your web browser. If not, go to: ]


It’s twisted memoir time!

+ Dramatize your own funeral (and/or wake) from the viewpoint of the person in attendance most likely to be bored by it all.
+ Look deep inside and mull over your greatest fear. Now write about what you think caused you to be so scared of this silly little thing. Consider everything out there that’s even scarier.
+ Write about being tortured in hell for your own greatest sin. Go on. You deserve it.

Instigation is a WEEKLY department in Hellnotes newsletter…who also now publishes a new online magazine based on selected prompts called Wee Small Hours! You can also buy huge collections of Instigation for chump change at gorelets’ very own site, The Sickolodeon.

Wee Small Hours:
The Sickolodeon:

GORELETS: Unpleasant Poems

Figure With Meat

“one has to remember as a painter
that there is great beauty in the color of meat.” — Francis Bacon

these heavy wings
of hand carved carcass
flutter with the ghost throes
of rusty meathook panic
pulling me out of my chair
with all the audacity
of a drunken butcher
lifting me high
as a crucifixion post
and my dinner fork
clatters on the table

[ Inspiration: ]


My novel, Play Dead — hot of the press — has been getting a great response from readers and reviewers alike. An excellent write-up has just appeared in Ransom Notes, the Barnes and Noble newsletter for mystery readers: “If Play Dead were a poker hand, it would undoubtedly be a royal flush.” Booklist (the journal of the American Library Association) is highly recommending it: “Established contemporary horror author Arnzen serves up a chilling brew of gritty dialogue and hard-boiled, James-Ellroy-style action that, by means of unexpected plot twists, never fails to keep readers alert and guessing.” Kind readers are also already posting great comments on sites like (where you can get the book at a good price) and the discussion board. Play Dead is an experimental horror novel, so I’m very excited that readers and reviewers alike are enjoying it! If you’ve already read it, please consider posting a comment someplace to help spread the word or feel fre
e to e-mail me your thoughts. It’s the only way I can tell if the experiment is a success. So far, it seems to be!

The special “Grim Grimoire” edition of Play Dead has not yet been priced, but word has it that production of these hand-sculptured books is coming along swiftly.

Play Dead:
Order at

The anthology — In Delirium — which includes my previously unpublished story about a mad dentist who creates his own toothy monster called “Mr. Mouth” — just went up for sale at Delirium Books and rumor has it that it’s already almost sold out! It’s a cool limited edition, due to mail this Christmas, and aside from being full of extreme horror tales, the collection is unified by one principle: the stories were all free gifts donated to the publisher, Shane Ryan Staley, by people he’s published in the past…simply as a gift for being one of the best publishers of horror around. The quality of Delirium hardcovers is among the best in the business. And with a line-up that includes hot writers Brian Keene, Kurt Newton, Mark McLaughlin, Tom Piccirilli, Weston Ochse and more, I can see why this rare collectible is almost sold out already. Get it while you still can at Delirium Books.

Delirium Books:

Edgar Allan Poe once began an intriguingly weird short story called “The Lighthouse” but never finished it. Now today’s science fiction, fantasy, and horror authors have taken the fragment and “collaborated” with Poe in a very unique anthology called Poe’s Lighthouse, edited by Chris Conlon, forthcoming soon from Cemetery Dance Books. My personal collaboration with Poe, “The Dead Lantern,” will appear alongside other writers like Gary Braunbeck, Elizabeth Engstrom, Tim Lebbon, Rudy Rucker, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Nick Mamatas, and more. And, of course, Poe!

I’m honored to have worked with the master’s material…and in the tradition of his “Pit and the Pendulum” or “Cask of Amontillado,” I took things in a very sadistic direction. This is going to be one helluva book! It’s limited to only 1000 copies, but you can get your pre-order in now to make sure you don’t miss the lighthouse, and end up adrift in the dark, dark sea.

Order Poe’s Lighthouse:
Cemetery Dance:
The original fragment:

The 72nd issue of Dream and Nightmares poetry magazine just arrived in my mailbox. I’m not only a contributor to this issue, but a lifetime subscriber to the magazine, and they’ve been around a lifetime! Well, 20 years, anyway. Their next issue will be a very special 20th anniversary issue, so now is a great time to subscribe. If you love science fiction, fantasy, or horror poetry, this is THE magazine to read. The longevity of D&N speaks volumes. Plus editor David Kopaska-Merkel has some of the highest editorial standards in the business and always selects the most intelligent, sophisticated pieces. (I’m not just saying that because I’ve appeared there — I’m saying it because he’s extremely selective and has rejected me many times!) Learn more about Dreams and Nightmares at:

UK scholar Gina Wisker has put together a great overview of the horror genre for Continuum Books recently, called Horror Fiction: An Introduction. I was impressed by the range of topics covered by this book (…and surprised to find myself listed between King and Hitchcock in the chapter called “The Best and Best Known” in the genre, along with a discussion of my book, 100 Jolts). Wisker does a great job covering the primary elements and nuances of the genre, so if you’re looking for some good scholarship on horror, this is a great place to start. Find it at:


Board Games for the Demented

World’s Goriest Board Game

Googly Chess by Bob Crouch

Totally Gross Board Game

Gross Out Games for Christian Youth Camp


Strange Itineraries by Tim Powers lives up to its title: it’s a trip.

Tim Powers is a powerhouse fantasy novelist. He’s probably known best for his historical fantasy, and books like The Anubis Gates and Declare have won him a huge following. I think my favorite is Last Call, a book about the inspiration behind playing cards come to life, which was one of the handful of card-related stories I read as I was working on my novel, Play Dead. It taught me more about writing than it did about cards, per se. An accomplished writer of what you might call “fabulism,” Tim Powers talent is bringing the mythic and the marvelous to life while at the same time retaining a strict psychological realism, dramatizing the way characters think and feel in deeply penetrating ways, regardless of whether they’re magicians or monsters or men. The world in a Tim Powers book is marvelously unique, yet at the same time his settings are very concrete and keenly detailed and the people are undeniably just like you and me. But being “psychologically” realistic does not make
Tim Powers a “realist” by any means — indeed, his mission seems to be to bend reality, and Strange Itineraries succeeds at unhinging it at every stop along the way as he takes us on a tour of some exceptionally weird landscapes and frightfully uncanny mental vistas.

Strange Itineraries collects nine fantastic tales by Powers, culled from anthologies (like the mega-horror book, 999), collectible chapbooks, and familiar serials like The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Asimov’s SF Magazine. It’s a great sampling of Powers’ talent (as well as that of James P. Blaylock, his collaborator on one third of the stories included here — almost enough to make me think he deserves to share the book’s byline). The stories range from peculiar fantasy to disturbing (but subtle) psychological horror and twisted alternate reality. Powers is not a horror writer in the strictest sense, but he can be very dark and mind-bending (and often, funny), but what really floors me is his sheer imagination. He takes risks and always pulls it off.

In his introduction, Paul di Filippo refers to this collection as a book of “haunted” stories. This is an excellent way to think of Strange Itineraries — though it is not so much a collection of “ghost stories” as it is a tour of diverse settings where things are not as they seem. In the title piece, “Itinerary,” a character steps into a short circuit in space and time and Powers effectively loops the plot structure of this story in a way that really gets you at the end. (You’ll also learn why this book has a porcelain duck on its cover, of all things). One of the darkest tales in the collection, “Through and Through,” visits a priest with a ghost in his confessional, a specter who looks him “through and through” with surprising results. “Pat Moore” is the doppelganger story to end all doppelganger stories, where the title character encounters more Pat Moores than even Pat Moore can imagine. In “The Better Boy” — perhaps the best “magical garden” tale I’ve ever read — Powe
rs shows what happens when a man’s “inventor’s pants” go missing and throw off his plans for the tomatoes…and so much more. The closing story, “Night Moves,” invokes the specter of death in a mind-bending and sophisticated way, rife with irony. I really can’t describe these stories without either relying on gross overgeneralizations or spoiling things by giving everything away. So I’ll just stop now and say that if you’re looking for an escape, climb aboard Strange Itineraries and prepare to launch on a very bizarre tour hosted by one of the most brilliant imaginations of our day.

Strange Itineraries is available in trade paperback for $15.95 (US) from Tachyon Publications.

(And congratulations to Tachyon who is celebrating their tenth anniversary in publishing!)


Dead Like Me

For your next movie night, rent:
The Seventh Seal (1957)
Love and Death (1975)
Meet Joe Black (1998)


Be among the first Goreletter subscribers to post a customer review — pro or con — of my new book, Play Dead, at,, or another online bookstore and win a free surprise gift. To win, you must alert me if/when your review appears and send me your mailing address so I can ship your prize in the mail. (Note: this contest does not apply to readers who received an Advanced Review Copy from the publisher). Get your orders in now; the race is on!


I received many excellent entries for the Goreletter’s “Mess Up My Fridge” contest last month. Now my refrigerator is truly damned. So many strange entries came in that I couldn’t just pick one winner…but FOUR, which all tied for first place. For prizes, everyone received a free Arnzen poetry book — and anyone who entered was e-mailed a free Bitpasss for access to The Sickolodeon, just for playing!

Below are the winning entries. Didn’t win? Eager for more? The “review race” contest for Play Dead is still on! Be among the first subscribers to post a “customer review” of my new novel on,,, or some other online bookseller, and you could win a free signed book or magazine (no matter what you say about Play Dead)!


Soft belly babies
Two hearts strong rhythm — stiff hooks
Both splitting wetly

— Stephen M. Wilson

blind casket petfood
mouse balloons and memory
cat embalmed in milk

— Cameron Pierce

Squalid brain balloons,
Memory writhing inside,
Gleam with mad wonder.

— Tanya Twombly

Embalmed skin costume
Naked writhing locked inside
Wet with casket worms

— HorrorWench


Cat paws out the heart
Of the dead mouse as it spurts
And it tastes like milk.

— Barbara Bates

Dead memory worm
writhing inside wet brain chunks
with unstoppable rhythm.

— Kathy B.

The contest is over, but you can always post fridge magnet poetry on “The Damned Fridge” at


It actually pays to scroll this far down.

The Right House on the Left is a comedy-horror chapbook featuring hilarious haunted house fiction from three of the funniest writers around: Mark McLaughlin, Steve Vernon, and L.L. Soares. For the month of October only, Goreletter subscribers can get 20% off this outrageous book by ordering directly from Novello Publishers. That’s just $4.00 each (and that includes postage)! Make your check or money order payable to “Maria Barracato” and send directly to: Novello Publishers / Gorelets Offer, Box 060382, Staten Island, NY 10306. Limit two copies per customer. US orders only. [Make sure you write “Gorelets offer” on the envelope or in the memo field on your check.] Learn more at:

My favorite bookstore,, is back with a great coupon for you. Get $10 off Ray Bradbury’s book, A Chapbook for Burnt-Out Priests, Rabbis and Ministers when you use coupon code “BURNTLESSTEN” in the online check-out form. Coupon good until 12/31/05. Order at:

This great bargain is extended for Goreletter subscribers only. Buy any book directly from the publisher’s online catalog at Raw Dog Screaming Press and receive a FREE COPY of the disturbing “docudrama,” 15 Serial Killers by Harold Jaffe! You must enter the discount code “FREE15” in the comments field when you check out using PayPal.

GET FICTIONWISE — the web’s best sci-fi and horror e-book seller — maintains a special 15% off page for Goreletter subscribers, which is updated weekly. This week features e-book treasures by writers like E.L. Doctorow and Spaulding Gray — and emerging talents like Darren Speegle, A.P. Fuchs, and Vera Nezarian. Do a search for economical Arnzen titles while you’re there, like 100 Jolts or the hard to find Stoker finalist, Paratabloids!

Dark Discoveries magazine is offering an exclusive discount to all Goreletter subscribers. Save 25% on subscriptions or single copies. That’s 4 issues for $14.99 or single issues for $4.50 instead of $5.99 (shipping is free!). You can pay thru paypal (to: ) or see the publisher’s website for details on where to send a snail mail payment. Use code GOREDISC in your order to claim the coupon.


Writers: Don’t forget that you can get a free 2-month “Taste of HELLNOTES” subscription by participating in their new monthly “Wee Small Hours” publication. What better way to instigate yourself into some twisted storytelling?

All material in The Goreletter is © 2005 Michael A. Arnzen, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward the entire contents as a whole, without alterations or excisions. Direct links to articles in the archives or the weblog are permitted and encouraged. For reprint permissions of individual pieces, please contact

Winner of the 2003 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Alternative Forms from the Horror Writers Association:

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With apologies to latitude 53,41667, longitude 27,91667.

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The True Value of Interior Decor

“The consumer’s side of the coffin lid is never ostentatious.”
— Stanislaw J. Lec (died 1966)