Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Museum of Historic Torture Devices

This summer my family went to the Wisconsin Dells. The Dells, in case you don't know, is full of water parks, go-cart tracks, water-ski shows, fudge shops and interesting museums - basically a bombardment of kitsch. But a fun kind-of kitsch.

One of the places I checked out (sans wife and kids) was the Museum of Historic Torture Devices (or the TORTURE MUSEUM, as the sign says out front).

It's not huge, but big enough, and the cost of admission is reasonable. They even have group rates, so if you want to take your local scout troop there...

Torture Merit Badge!
There are informative and illustrated placards above the items to show how they were used, most also accompanied by a Spanish translation. (Nobody expects the Spanish Translation!)

"Hey, Dave - I can smell my boogers."
The device below, called a Judas cradle, is used by lowering a suspended victim's butt onto the pyramid, using the weight of the body to inflict pain and damage. Probably not the kind of 'pyramid power' they'd hoped for.

As I strolled through the museum, a feeling of nausea crept over me. The museum is well done, very informative, and certainly worth going to, but around every corner was another reminder of the cruelty of our species.

Heretic's Fork - later replaced by the Heretic's Spork
Also, it's hard to ignore the number of devices intended chiefly for women - like the various 'scold's bridles' pictured below. The bridle wasn't a punishment for murder or adultery or burglary; it was used for over-talkative women. Too bossy? Gossiping too much? Here, put this over your head, dear...

Below is a brindle. Another device to punish women. The head went in the large hole and a hand went through each of the smaller holes. You realize as you walk through the museum just what a load of dehumanizing shit women have had to put up with over the centuries.

There were a lot of other items on display. A torture rack, a cucking chair, various nasty looking whips, iron gags, crucifixion nails, an electric chair, thumbscrews, reruns of the Teletubbies...

There's also a display on John Wayne Gacy. Below is one of his paintings.  

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to the crawl space I go...

Like I said, humans can be a cruel species. I'm just glad this torture stuff is all in the distant past.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bedtime Stories for the Apocalypse III

You survived the first two volumes of Joel Arnold’s BEDTIME STORIES FOR THE APOCALYPSE…barely. Are you ready for volume 3?


In this collection of 10 short stories you’ll meet:

A herd of cows protecting a dead woman from her abusive husband.
A beached mermaid on the shores of Lake Superior.
A group of friends whose love of Halloween keeps them together for a long, long time.
A little girl who deals candy – and something far more sinister – from her bright red wagon.
A teenager who must embrace the very dark side to survive a fate worse than death.
A mysterious visitor who drives a man mad with a strange smelling package.
These, plus four other stories, will keep you up late at night with a light on and your teddy bear screaming for mercy.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

New Release! A Wrinkle in Crime; 10 Stories of Foul Play, Murder & Revenge

My newest release!

In the Midwest, the saying goes, “Revenge is a hot-dish best served cold” – or something to that effect. In Joel Arnold’s new short story collection A WRINKLE IN CRIME, revenge is also served at a lakeside resort, in an outhouse, at a state fair, on a camping trip in the Gallatin Mountains, and along a snow-swept lonely highway.

In these 10 stories of foul play, murder and revenge, you’ll meet:

A man who takes advantage of an unfortunate accident to pull off a perfect crime.
A woman whose only refuge against a knife-wielding assailant is a fiberglass outhouse.
An elderly gay couple who come face to face with murder – and their past – at a cozy lake resort.
A sister whose dark secrets reside in a beautiful pearl.
A man who poses as an old woman’s personal assistant in order to murder her at the Minnesota State Fair.
These plus five more stories will keep you up late at night, turning the pages!

"Joel Arnold is, hands down, one of my favorite short story writers.  This collection is impressive, diverse, and always great fun!” - Ellen Hart, author of the Jane Lawless and Sophie Greenway series. 

Available on:

The Opportunity
Taking Care of Katrina
Hole in the Fence
Leave No Wake
White Crosses
The Cheater
Blue-Eyed Mary

Mississippi Pearl

Friday, November 14, 2014

Things I Learned While Watching Forensic Files

Melissa and I have enjoyed the show Forensic Files for many years. It's sort of a guilty pleasure, and when there's a Forensic Files marathon on (which seems to happen a lot) we'll leave it on late at night and fall asleep to the awesome narrator Peter Thomas's voice. His delivery and tone is a perfect match for the show.

After watching so many episodes of the show, I've learned a number of things not to do while trying to get away with murder.

1. Don't plan out a murder on your personal computer and then label that file "The Plan."

2. Don't claim innocence while sitting in jail and planning a hit on the case's prosecutor.

3. Don't pull up a lawn chair and sit with a cooler of beer while watching the forensic team comb through your house containing your recently murdered wife.

"Just try and prove it, coppers!"

4. Don't misspell words in a ransom note and then give police a writing sample with those same words misspelled.

5. Don't immediately sanitize your house right after the police take the body away and claim that the place was simply due a cleaning.

6. Similar to #5, getting your car detailed immediately after reporting your spouse/significant other missing is not recommended.

Bleed, rinse, repeat.

7. Don't use the victim's bank or credit card at an ATM machine while grinning evilly at that same machine's security camera.

8. When your spouse or significant other or other victim washes up on shore, don't offer up an alibi of being out on that same lake fishing.

And last, but not least:

9. Probably just don't murder anyone.

"Not even the cat?"

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Weepy Old Man Syndrome

Over the last decade or so, I've been experiencing what my wife likes to call 'weepy old man syndrome.' I get teary eyed at the simplest of things, whether they're inspirational videos, sad movies, happy movies, sappy stuff...even some (ack!) commercials. I never thought I'd be one of those people, but I guess I am.

There's a particular song that gets me going a lot lately, and it's this Sesame Street song:

The reason is because I sometimes catch my 12-yr old son Zachary singing it. Zach has autism, and I often wonder if he's lonely. When he sings this song, perhaps he just likes the tune; he doesn't seem sad or melancholy while singing it. But still - to me it feels like a punch to the gut.

Zach's pretty non-communicative, so it's hard to tell what's going on in his mind. Sure, you can tell when he's angry (he screams and/or hits) or excited (he practically bounces from one end of the room to the other) but the reasons are often unclear. And overall, he's a sweet kid.

But this song. Geez. It's so melancholy - someone just wanting friends to play with, the longing, the loneliness...I wonder if Zach feels that. Maybe he's perfectly fine without friends, or without others his age who get him. I don't really know how much peer interaction he gets at school other than that it's pretty limited.

And so when I hear this song, no matter who sings it, I get a bit teary and wish so badly that Zach was able to have friends, just regular friends like so many of us had growing up.

And damn, there I go again...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Toyol

My short story, The Toyol, which originally appeared in Black Static, is now available in ebook format. It's currently only available through Amazon, but will expand to other platforms in a couple of months. Meanwhile, you can get it here. (Plus, it's currently free for Amazon Prime users.)

It's one of my darker stories, and is based on a creature of Malaysian folk lore.

Sometimes your only hope is to embrace the darkness.

"It’s pretty much a guarantee that every issue of Black Static is going to house at least one powerhouse story, and this one is no different with the inclusion of Joel Arnold’s ‘The Toyol’." - Dread Central

After cyclone Nargis destroys Zeya’s home and family in Myanmar, she accepts an offer to work housekeeping in a hotel in Kuala Lampur. After arriving, she realizes she’s been tricked, and has instead been sold to a sex trafficking ring. Bars caver her windows and cruel guards keep watch. But when she learns of a mystical creature known as a 'toyol' she wonders if it may be her ticket out of this hell on earth.

"This incredible Toyol vision is only for those readers both soft-hearted and hard-hearted enough to be able safely to absorb the intense pain as well as appreciate the deep wide-spread poignancy of such a storm-visit of a vision. This is a helluva work." - D.F. Lewis

"It is a skin-crawling little story, well written and managing to use the alien elements to emphasize the desperation." - A Mad Man with a Blog

Originally appearing in Black Static magazine, this short story contains graphic violence and is not for the faint of heart.

It was a hard story to write, but one I'm rather proud of. Give it a read, and if you're so inclined, consider leaving a review!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

At the Anthills of Madness - a drabble

A drabble is a 100-word story, no more or less (though the title and byline don't count). They're a fun exercise to get the creative juices flowing. So here's one I did with my neighbor H.P. Lovecrabbe.

At the Anthills of Madness
By H.P. Lovecrabbe (with Joel Arnold)

Every day, small mounds of sand appear on my driveway.


The ants clutch grains in their ochre mandibles, depositing one atop the other in an eldritch precision.

I sweep the hills away, only to see them return the next day.

I crush the ants with gore-caked sneakers, poison them, set them aflame with a magnifying glass.

But always, the hills return, bigger than before.

Alas, I can no longer take it. I lay on my stomach. Talk.

We reach an agreement, the ants and I; a human sacrifice of a former virgin.

I invite a neighbor over for tea.

# # #

If you'd like to read the other collaboration I did with my esteemed, yet agoraphobic, neighbor, you can check out The Reeking - a short story for your ebook - at the following venues: