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Arnzen's Weird Newsletter

+++ Vol. 2 #4, Dec. 20, 2003 +++

Stump Hallucinations


Blather. Wince. Repeat.

Out on a Limb

Amputation frightens me just as much as the next person, but there is one component of losing an appendage that I think would be interesting to experience: the “phantom limb” sensation. The feeling that the arm or leg or other appendage is still present, still attached, still moving, long after it's been dismembered. Some call it “stump hallucination” – which sounds sorta dirty to me – and also like some sort of psychedelic forest mushroom. The phrase “Phantom Limb” sounds so much better. It's almost as cool as the name for an underground comic superhero or a punk band.

80% of all amputees report phantom limb sensation. I don't mean to insult any of my differently-abled readers by pouring salt on old wounds with this topic, but I must say that in some ways you've got it lucky if you're missing an arm and a leg yet still feel its presence. Because you can do whatever you want to with it and no one will be the wiser.

With a phantom arm, I'd pick my nose in public whenever it itched. I wouldn't need to wipe it off. And that's only the beginning. I'd flip off rude clerks and obnoxious co-workers, giving them the phantom finger while smiling and nodding to their faces. I'd shoplift behind my back while talking to the department store clerk. I'd freak out everybody in arm wrestling matches at the local saloon. And if I had a phantom leg, well, I'd kick people who deserved it like crazy.

I'm no perv, but I can't promise that I wouldn't be curious enough to give a few people a little phantom feel up, either. No hard feelings, right?

And, of course, it goes without saying that it would be EXTRA cool to shake phantom hands with a fellow amputee. We could high five when no one was looking or phantom thumb wrestle. Or even a fist fight. Anything goes with my amputated ghost buddies.

I've heard that the brain doesn't die right away when the head is chopped off – and that some people's final vision is their headless torsos. But I want to know: do decapitated people have phantom head? I'm not so sure two heads are better than one – wouldn't that be kind of schizophrenic for awhile there?

I apologize for being so glib. Phantom limbs aren't always as fun as I make them sound. There's a serious condition known as “phantom limb pain” which is quite horrific. Image feeling like your hand had a nail driven through it – and no one could do anything about it, because it wasn't really there, not physically anyway. Just that zinging, pain, dismembered yet attached, present yet not physical in a way that anyone could help you. People with this condition have been driven to suicide. (Probably twice: after slashing their phantom wrists doesn't work).

Doctors haven't quite figured out what causes sensation in missing body parts. Some say that phantom limb is wishful thinking – a phantasy so powerful it manifests itself as “real” in the patient's brain. But this has been discredited – how many phantom bitch-slaps are you willing to take after claiming that 80% of all amputees are psychotic? Instead, most doctors see the nervous system as the cause. Some claim it's related to the nerve endings in the stump, which “tingle” after the trauma and therefore create “stump hallucination” – a sensation which reaches ghost-like out of the stump and the brain, literally, “fills in the blanks.” Another explanation focuses on the brain itself, which has a hardwired map for controlling body parts, and continues to rely on this map even after the limb is gone. It's sort of like using a map from 1982 to drive around modern day Russia. You're bound to end up in Transylvania. This can also lead to some wire-crossing. Some phantom limb pat

ients actually feel a tickle on their cheek when their phantom limb acts up. Others have even claimed to experience orgasms in their missing limbs! (See the “wishful thinking” theory above).

But maybe all this phantom limb business is not so scientific after all. Legend has it that Lord Nelson felt pain in his phantom limb – the sensation of fingers digging into the arm he lost after an attack on Santa Cruz de Tenerife – and claimed that this was “direct evidence for the existence of the soul.” If an arm can “exist” after it's been removed, why not the whole body after it has been destroyed? Sounds logical, right? But also frightening: I want to know who was digging their nails into his phantom sleeve. And I truly hope our souls aren't really the same shape of our bodies, like some ghost out of a bad cartoon. I'd like to think my soul is much more amorphous and gelatinous than that. More like a floating jellyfish or something, stingers and all. You heard me right: I want to be a phantom Man o War, floating in the air you breathe!

But I digress. I have to say that, soul or not, I don't really believe all that much in phantom limb. Because if it were true, all the other things that we're separated from would still haunt us in very weird ways. We'd all still feel tethered to our mothers through phantom umbilical cords or surrounded by strange bags of phantom placentas. Mothers would feel phantom children curling in their wombs, growing larger and larger, all the way into their nineties. In fact, there would be phantom wombs for hysterectomy patients, not to mention the ghosts of an innumerable amount of surgical procedures: phantom tonsils, phantom biopsies, phantom wisdom teeth, phantom Siamese twins, phantom foreskin, phantom liposuction fat, and on and on and on. Not to mention phantom fingernails and beards and nose hair and all the other things we snip away day after day without a second thought.

How long is my phantom nose hair, anyway? And does this explain why I trip over my phantom feet for no apparent reason sometimes? If only I was a jellyfish, with my phantom pseudopods, I wouldn't have these problems.

[Recommended reading (and source for some of the above, including that orgasm in the limb business): Phantoms in the Brain by V.S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee. (NY: William and Morrow, 1998). More info here: ]


Eye Prodding

You've probably used your computer to generate funhouse effects on photographs before – smearing someone's face into a surrealist masterpiece or smudging someone's nose clean off. It's fun the first time you “goo” a graphic. But the shock effect wears out quickly – when you've seen it once, you've seen it a million times. But there's something genuinely disturbing about prodding Arseiam's Eyes. I can't put my finger on it. The concept isn't new, but it somehow creeps me out every time. Check it out at the link below. Be sure to click around and visit all the bizarre graphic experiments on Arseiam's page and see if you can find another favorite of mine: “The Illegible Poetry Generator.”

[Requires the Flash MX player, a plug-in which will auto-install in your web browser if you don't have it already.]


+ How does the mutant employ his third arm?

+ What happened to the man who is missing half his head?

+ We already know what the “undead” are. But what are the “unalive”?

Instigation is a WEEKLY department in Hellnotes newsletter:

If you publish something instigated by this department, let me know at and I'll mention it here! Or if you're bold (and willing to forfeit electronic rights), post your response to a prompt at the new Goreletter weblog by clicking on the word “comments” underneath the “Instigation” section at:


Dark Grey: The Body's Last Days

Is it even possible that you've never read the prolific poet named John Grey?

Grey, a long-standing award-winning speculative poet whose writing has appeared in virtually every quality horror magazine I can think of, is someone I've idolized for years. He's one of the few writers of poetry that I would call a “master” of horror. I'm not sure if it's because I admire his no-nonsense, almost minimalist, approach to free verse or simply because his dark imagination always surprises me with a fresh idea. His sense of irony is profound and deep. Whatever it is, he's got one of the most macabre minds in the business and it's a shame he hasn't received the acclaim he really deserves. John Grey is what you would get if you combined Robert Frost with Edgar Allan Poe: he writes plain-speaking, accessible poems that always – always – surprise. Grey can easily catch you off-guard with a surprise twist ending that makes you rethink everything you took for granted in the lines that precede it. This can add a layer of depth to the poem or simply drop you down a trap door into nightmare. Or sometimes he'll just ring a phrase so resoundingly “right” that it jolts you like an electroshock helmet juicing up on your temples. In either case, his poetry always misleads and misdirects and murders you with its final lines. It's the sort of stuff with irony that cuts so sharp that makes me blurt out a gasp or a laugh. And I always shake my head and say to myself, “Damn, he's good!”

“The Body's Last Days” – John Grey's 2003 mini-chapbook (4“ x 5-1/2” pocket-sized, 32 page booklet) from Richard Geyer, Publisher, is Grey at his least cerebral and most physical. This book is composed mostly of previously published horror poems about death, mutilation, and decomposition that reveal Grey at his most ferocious and visceral. I've been reading this poet for years and this collection really strikes me as his least subtle, most horrifying, body of work.

The title poem, “The Body's Last Days,” is deceptively simple joke that actually suggests much more than what's on the surface. The poem describes just what it suggests, relating what the body experiences as it rots, “told,” as it were, from the viewpoint of a corpse decomposing in a coffin. Its rotting narrator seems almost hilariously fixated on the worms that feast on him, as you can tell from the opening lines:

Worms, then voices, then more worms,
then the rhythmic thump of rain,
and, of course, a veritable
worm invasion and some wind through
the pear trees, and then all
the worms these worms know

The rapid and deceptively cavalier return to the worms again and again throughout the poem seems glib and silly, but it drives home the horrific notion that there's really nothing the narrator can do about it and that it's really all that matters because of the recurring trauma. And though one might come to the conclusion that the narrator is somehow fixated on these worms, the poem is all about how the worms are fixated on the narrator.

In another poem, “Last Laugh,” Grey catalogues a imaginatively original battery of body parts in stanzas that read like haiku – from “two dismembered lips/like flattened pink slugs” to “insides of a throat/torn out/stretched like saran rap/around a busted jaw” only to end with the clincher: “what a sense of humor/looks like dead.” This strange poem is an example of what makes Grey so talented – a whole revenge plot is carefully placed “off stage” in the implications of the title and the last line, which allows the images to confront us with revolting horror first and inviting us to fill in the blanks with “poetic justice” via our own imaginations.

Other poems in the collection inject new life into the typical tropes of the dead: haunted houses, cannibals, rats, suicide, torture…it's all here. There's so much horror packed into this tiny little book; I think any horror fan would love to find it festering in his or her stocking this Xmas. To get these twenty-seven chilling poems – including the Rhysling Award winning poem, “Explaining Frankenstein to his Mother” – send just $3 to Richard Geyer, Publisher, 1338 West Maumee, Idlewilde Manor #136, Adrian, MI 49221. Or review the following websites for more information:


“One Eyed Freaks of the 1950s”

For your next movie night, rent:
It Came from Outer Space (1953)
The Cyclops (1957)
The Crawling Eye (1958)

GORELETS: Unpleasant Poems


Happy Holidays! I wanted to surprise everyone by packing extra horrors into this special issue of The Goreletter, so I invited friends from several writing communities to send in “holiday gorelets” for publication here, with a prize going to my favorite submission. Not an easy task to judge! Most of the poems are about Santa and Xmas. I did not reject any of the entries – to my way of thinking, the more the merrier. I'll post the award winning poem at the very end, along with a little explanation why I chose it. Enjoy. And do yourself a favor and visit some of these writer's websites and buy their books with that gift certificate you got for the holidays. Really: try someone new!

First Christmas at Grandma Lucia's House

With loving dark arms she reaches to embrace
the children, the kids' candy apple eyes wide
in terror as the huge hands descend gray
and powerful, fleshly, the thick unnatural lipstick mouth
alive with ancient smiles, behind her the meats
hanging from racks and wires, sausages, lungs,
necks, these are delicacies where she's from, starving
peasants would scream in the fields for this,
staring into snow-stuffed skies for the face
of Mother Mary, and my kids are shrieking.

– Tom Piccirilli

A Sled Parked atop the Roof

A sled parked atop the roof.
Deer grazing on the front lawn.
A man in red breaks into the house
Passes through the front door
Without opening it – amazing!
His hands are empty going in
But his arms are loaded when he leaves
Can you see bloodstains on crimson material?
A shell in each chamber should suffice.
This magic elf won't rob us twice.

– Bev Vincent

Santa's Got a Brand-New Bag

Cookies and milk shoved into a gaping maw
Guts rumble beneath the big red suit
Pine tree wilts as the mouth opens wide
A gloved finger slides down the throat
Vomit and bile, gifts and gobs rain down
Floor now slick with acid and toys
The fat elf retreats, his job well done
Another holiday worth remembering

– John R. Platt

Santa is a Cannibal

Santa is a cannibal…what, you hadn't heard?
Well, his habit isn't flaunted;
He's wickedly canny to get what he's wanted
For dinner, elves are preferred.
Little elfin Leonard brought
Santa cookies and custard,
But ol' Kringle's carnivory
got the lad flustered.
“He tried to flee,”
Santa ho-ho-hoed with great glee
“But he was terrific with mustard!”

– Lucy Snyder

Empty Stockings

smoke Christmas Eve,
crematorium ash
on the hearth the year the fat man

– Deborah P. Kolodji

Unwrapping The Phantom

The angry Santa weeps lakes of tinsel
packages them in the womb of crystallized sky
then adorns his presents with ribbon-ed clouds

And He sends them to adults in anger
For in this world of antediluvian Gods
he is now a jolly, lobster-red joke

But we know not what we had
when we were ten, and, believed in him
And, what magic was uncreated when
we were given that final gift; the truth…

– J.M. Heluk

'Twas the Night After Christmas

Welcome to Dark Santa’s manse
It’s time for the midnight dance
Come into his workroom
And seal your doom
Try not to be afraid
Though it’s a very dark tomb
Stuffed with all sorts of toys
To fulfill his twisted joys.

– Ron Breznay

Reindeer Games

It was Blitzen, I think, who, sick of his damned
lashing, twisted to bite the ropes that bound us
setting Santa into freefall toward no chimney
below but all twelve of us flew down anyway
and tore him to pieces, champing through fat
onto bone and flying our twelve separate
ways and all twelve of us had red shiny noses
the Christmas that freedom was our first gift
to each other

– Michael A. Arnzen,

Christmas Presence

Early morning, and the first awake.
Mom and dad and sister, still sleeping.
The packages look different, are lumpy,
clumsily re-wrapped.
Ornaments glisten. They seem almost moist,
nestled in there among the blinking red lights.
The tinsel looks silky and blond
The cookies are gone from the mantle, and,
The stockings are full. But they're small.
Little girl stockings.

– Chris Garrett

Please Come to my Solstice Sacrifice
and Tree Decorating Party!

Drink blood ‘til you’re sated,
eat flesh ‘til you’re gorged,
then we’ll light the fire,
sacrifice the supplicants.
There’ll be chanting and dancing,
while decorating the tree:
First entrails, then eyeballs,
carved kneebones, cartilage,
perforated kidneys, and a
four-chambered heart.

– Terrie Leigh Relf

stocking stuffers

red ribbony bonus
surprise tucked deep
beneath candy
caned fingers
pruned mistletoes
the egg noggin drip
a dead giveaway

– Kurt Newton

The Necrotide Spirit

There was a Christmas Tree
in the mausoleum this year.
Saw it when I was placing roses
by old Aunt Matilda's crypt.
Gifts by the dozen sat beneath the tree,
all gaily wrapped yet dirty.
I felt suddenly festive
and couldn't help but sing along
with the clogged and raspy voices.

– Kevin Donihe

Super Ate Family Films

licking at
the window bloody
red holiday
smile slit spreading
ornamental anger
thankful for this bounty

– John Edward Lawson

Santa Goes Postal

Mrs. Claus no longer speaks, save to complain
of cold and isolation. I find solace
in cable horror movies, watch shooting sprees
on CNN performed by postal workers
with less cause for grief (fewer packages, better
work conditions than my icy North Pole prison).
I scheme to pull children from their beds,
drag them trembling over frosty white
powdered lawns, where (I'm guessing) blood
will make a lovely cherry snow cone spill.

– Norman Prentiss

* WINNER * Nosferatu Celebrates the Season

Not down
some chimney but through
her window
he is everything good girls
die for
tall dark & red-suited –
eventually – bearing
the gift that keeps on
giving: endless
Christmas Eves.

– Ann K. Schwader

+++ All of these poems were so good, it was impossible to pick one winner in this so-called “contest.” I almost chose Kurt Newton's “stocking stuffer” because it reads so much like an Arnzen “Gorelet” that it's uncanny. It's a damned good horror poem, so I'm sending Kurt a signed printout of my e-book, Sportuary ( ) for taking third place. Tom Piccirilli's “Grandma Lucia” is the most literary and probably well-written of the batch – truly a dark and familiar poem – but perhaps not as gleefully gory as the others. Tom takes second and wins a free review copy I have of the Monks/Fisher Sex Crimes anthology (see the MSI coupon in this issue). Although it's a vampire poem, Ann Schwader's piece stood out as the most original to me, in not only the Nosferatu concept, but also the way it weaves double-meanings into amost every line, therefore standing up to multiple re-readings. Ann wins a copy of Bruce Boston's fantastic new collection, Pitchblende (, signed by Boston, Simon, and Arnzen (who wrote the intro and edited the book). Ann's poem wins because it's written so tightly that it's truly a gorelet. But they all are and I thank every writer who contributed for their grotesque gift to us all. Happy Horrordays!

Drop by the blog and leave a comment on the above, if you like!


Delirium Reprints Grave Markings in 2004
I'm very pleased to announce that Delirium Books will be re-releasing my Bram Stoker Award-winning first novel, Grave Markings, in a limited run of collectable leatherbound and hardcover copies in Spring 2004. This is part of their Dark Essential series of “must have” horror books. I'm excited to have this fine publisher releaseing the book on its tenth anniversary. It will include new artwork and a new introduction reflecting on what on earth I was thinking when I wrote this crazy tattoo artist-cum-serial killer fantasy about skinning people alive. These Dark Essential books sell out very quickly upon publication, so keep your eyes glued to Delirium Books home page to learn when it will be offered for sale (pre-order availability will likely be sometime January!)

A Bestseller
I was happy to learn that two of my titles (three if you count the “Scary Holidays” anthology I'm in) were listed on the Shocklines Bookstore bestseller lists at the beginning of December! So thanks to all of you reading this who have picked up copies of the lettered edition of Gorelets: Unpleasant Poems or who pre-ordered the signed version of my book, 100 Jolts, from Shocklines! Want to see what all the hubub is about? Check out these books:

Gorelets: Special Editions
I believe Fairwood Press still has a few copies of the highly collectable lettered edition of Gorelets: Unpleasant Poems available. There were only 52 copies in the limited run and it's probably a steal at just $9.99. I also made a sneak offer on my website this past month to websurfers who want a signed copy inscribed with a unique haiku written just for the buyer, for $10. This “haiku-inscribed” run will be withdrawn after I sell one more copy, so it's first-come first served! Any order for the haiku edition must use paypal to If you just want to save a few bucks on it, though, you can always order the regular version direct from Fairwood Press using the coupon mentioned elsewhere in this edition of The Goreletter. Or save even more on Double Dragon's e-book edition, which includes some bonus gore!
If you're an customer, they now are selling the e-book version of Gorelets: Unpleasant Poems. Naturally, you can get this elsewhere, like direct from Double Dragon Publishing. But I wanted to mention Amazon, because I'd like to encourage those of you who have read my books to post a mini-review of any of them at Amazon. Just a few sentences will do. I noticed that people don't do this unless you reach out and ask them. So I'm asking you now. Pretty please?

E-books Spreading like E coli
I'm taking a breather from e-book publishing to dedicate myself with a little more energy to print media first. So any e-books that come out in the future will likely be subsidiary rather than initial releases. But I purposefully have published Sportuary in e-book form only, just to be different, so I encourage you to check that title out. You can also now get Arnzen e-books at Palm Digital Media in addition to And speaking of Fictionwise, an anthology about daughterhood I'm in called “Julia, Daughter of…”, has returned from the grave at and – what with all the December discounts they're offering for the holidays – you can get it now for just $1.50! That's less than a beer at most bars! Come now, give a little, will ya?

Hocus Stoke-us
Did you know that the newsletter you're reading is among the top candidates presently in the running for the Bram Stoker Award in Alternative Forms? I'm very happy and excited about this, given all the energy I put into this newsletter (for free!). If you're a member of the HWA, affiliate or active, you can also nominate texts for this award, so please keep me in mind for this. But I'd really like to call more attention to my recently published book, Gorelets: Unpleasant Poems, published by Fairwood Press early last month. It's only received one recommendation in the Poetry catagory so far and I think it's probably worthy of a few more, if only to alert others to its existence. So if you're an HWA member, write to Patrick at Fairwood Press ( ) and he'll send you a free electronic review copy of the Gorelets galleys to consider for this award.

The Sportuary Clinic
Sportuary – my collection of 30 poems re-imagining sports in all sorts of twisted ways – hit #5 on the CyberPulp Bestseller list this month. The only way to get this collection is in e-book form. Tim Curran recently wrote a fantastic review at The Dark Krypt about this book, so I'll turn it over to him: “Employing haiku and free verse, Arnzen plumbs the depths of his aberrant, wonderful imagination and offers biting, metaphorical commentary on the shadowy side of athletics: swimmers mesmerized by hungry undertows and ping pong played with staring human eyes, referees getting their gruesome reward and badminton as played by lunatics. These poems are good. Not only are they good, they’re great and if you think they’re fun to read, try reading them out loud with a friend.”

New Appearances next Month

Terror Tales:

Yellow Bat Review:


Sick: An Anthology of Illness:

Your Best Gift
Your best gift for me this holiday season would be to send a copy of this newsletter to a friend who has a sick sense of humor. It will help me reach a wider audience and sell more books.



It actually pays to scroll this far down.

FICTIONWISE END OF YEAR SALE! – the web's best sci-fi and horror e-book seller – maintains a special 15% off page for Goreletter subscribers, which is updated weekly. But they are also currently running a great “year end sale” where every book in the store is on sale at 20% off until the end of the year – PLUS they're giving away ebooks of Charles Dickens' Christmas stories for free! Now's a great time to check out Fictionwise (especially if you got a PDA or other handheld device as a gift over the holidays!).

They also sell e-book versions of my collection, Fluid Mosaic, as well as Paratabloids (and a number of my short stories under fifty cents each!)

Fairwood Press is offering an exclusive discount to Goreletter subscribers. You can get a $1.50 off the standard edition of my shiny new chapbook, Gorelets: Unpleasant Poems – or $3 off Gorelets with the purchase of any other title! To get the discount, browse around Fairwood's website and when you have your picks, PayPal your payment to publisher Patrick Swenson at and include the codeword “GoreWood” in your order. Note that Fairwood Press' onine shopping cart will NOT work for this discount and that it doesn't count for the Lettered Edition of the book.

Until March 1st, 2004, you can get $3 off Harold Jaffe's new book, 15 Serial Killers, from bookseller Just enter the coupon code “GORESERIAL3” when you checkout online. 15 Serial Killers – the debut title from Raw Dog Screaming Press, the publisher of my forthcoming book, 100 Jolts – is a seriously disturbing revision of the “true crime” genre, offering fictionalized biographical sketches of famous serial killers like Bundy and Gacy, in what Jaffe calls “Docufictions.” Highly recommended for those with cast iron stomachs and a morbid curiosity. Includes great art by Andi Olsen and Joel Lipman. This book is everything true crime fiction ought to be: truly disturbing.

Mention “The Arnzen Special” to publisher James Cain when you subscribe to Dark Animus magazine, and you'll get a 5 issue subscription for a 4 issue price. Subscriptions costs $25 US and can be paid via PayPal to This weird Aussie mag has just released a special “puppet” issue that's sure to creep you out…and a new writing award with a prize that's wonderfully twisted!

Like gruesome artwork? Bernie Wrightson, Chanting Monks Studios, and the crazies at Boneyard Press are offering Goreletter subscribers 20% off your order (good on the first $50 you spend). You might have seen Wrightson's pen and ink in Stephen King novels; you might have heard about the notorious and repulsive Sex Crimes anthology; you might even be a fan of Chiller Theater magazine. This is the place to get them all. Enter coupon code “GORELETS” on check out. Coupon expires 12/31/03, so now's the time to act!:

Get 10% of the writer's submission tracking software, WriteAgain! Just tell Asmoday Enterprises that you heard about it from The Goreletter when you register to get your discount!


All material in The Goreletter is © 2003 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

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A Good Man is Hard to Find

“A murderer is regarded by the conventional world as something almost monstrous, but a murderer to himself is only an ordinary man. It is only if the murderer is a good man that he can be regarded as monstrous.” – Graham Greene (died 1991)

* Due to the temporary nature of internet URLs, some websites mentioned in back issues of the Goreletter may no longer be live, or may also point to unscrupulous web servers. I will denote these with overstrikes as I discover them, but if you encounter a dead, changed or unscrupulous link, please feel free to inform me.
* “Boo Coupons” are expired in all but the current issue.
* If you are seeking a particular book by Arnzen mentioned in The Goreletter, try
* Arnzen's blog is now located at Visit it for breaking news and extras not appearing in The Goreletter.

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