Monday, November 30, 2009

Necronomicon Tableau

From "Skeptical Beowulf" comes this very nice Necronomicon tableau. The dread book itself is surrounded by a collection of reference works and translation aids. No good can come of this.


This isn't directly prop related, other than a vague plan I have for coming up with a lead jug based on the description, but this passage from Lovecraft's "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" has been swirling in my head for a few days:

But what was this cold wind which had sprung into life at the very outset of the chant? The lamps were sputtering woefully, and the gloom grew so dense that the letters on the wall nearly faded from sight. There was smoke, too, and an acrid odour which quite drowned out the stench from the far-away wells; an odour like that he had smelt before, yet infinitely stronger and more pungent. He turned from the inscriptions to face the room with its bizarre contents, and saw that the kylix on the floor, in which the ominous efflorescent powder had lain, was giving forth a cloud of thick, greenish-black vapour of surprising volume and opacity. That powder - Great God! it had come from the shelf of "Materia" - what was it doing now, and what had started it? The formula he had been chanting - the first of the pair - Dragon's Head, ascending node - Blessed Saviour, could it be ...

The doctor reeled, and through his head raced wildly disjointed scraps from all he had seen, heard, and read of the frightful case of Joseph Curwen and Charles Dexter Ward. "I say to you againe, doe not call up Any that you can not put downe ... Have ye Wordes for laying at all times readie, and stopp not to be sure when there is any Doubte of Whom you have ... 3 Talkes with What was therein inhum'd ..." Mercy of Heaven, what is that shape behind the parting smoke?

Speculating about who subject #118 was is a popular pastime for fans of the story, but as far as I know his identity, and his fate after the destruction of the two other members of the Curwen cabal, remains unknown. That's despite the seemingly endless sequelization of Lovecraft's work by a plethora of authors of varying talent levels. Brian Lumley has written about the further adventures of Baron Ferenczy as part of his "Necroscope" series, but 118 doesn't make an appearance.

Does he still walk the earth, or did he opt to take his final rest? Did his vengeance against the cabal mark the end of his fight, or was it just a chapter? If he is still alive, or at least still undead, is he continuing his fight against dark wizardry directly? Or has he chosen to work from the shadows, assisting others with a tidbit of information or a conveniently timed donation when it would help most?

The fact that I'm still asking those questions days after I finished the story is a credit to Lovecraft's writing and, perhaps, my over-active imagination.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Elder Thing Sculpt

Artist Jiangzu has been working on an amazingly detailed sculpt of an Elder Thing.

Click through on the link and you'll find a build log detailing it's creation, from initial armature to final detailing. There are some minor details I might quibble about, but on the whole it has to be one of the best three-dimensional depictions I've seen.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Hazards Of A Miskatonic Education

From the immensely talented Leonardo Dias comes this "Zombie Walk" mask, a Miskatonic student that was caught in an unfortunate educational mishap.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Machine Infernale, Part Deux

Back in September I ran across this amazing device from a French LARP.

It's creator, ToNToN CoPT, posted a comment to that original story that gives some more background to the machine's creation. Here's what he had to say (with some minor formatting and spelling changes):

"For the front of the prop, it was built from many recovery stuff...A headboard for the "art nouveau" shape, an old cupboard, lamps, a beetle horn, old metallic switches, and, of course, metal, resin, wood, etc...In the backstage, there's a computer that control light and sound and even a coffee and smoke machine for the steam ;o)

It was made for two LARP games. One in the 20's (It was used as a revolutionary mad's machine, that can produce earthquakes ! It was prepared with pyrotechnical effects that can create the illusion that the machine explode, electric sparkles, stream's jet, etc...).

The second one was a Steampunk larp's game, this machine take place in a complete decor that act has an hexagonal mechanical and steam library... 3 wall was full of of books, 2 walls had lots of little brass riveted doors, and one wall with the machine itself... Players can used the machine to ask for a particular document, and after using it, the document was "blown out" by a random brass door..."

Even better, there's a video of the device in action. This is from one of the LARP events he mentioned. You'll find the machine at around four minutes in, but the rest of the video is equally entertaining.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Curwen Journal

I've been re-reading "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" this week. One of the thoughts that crossed my mind while working my way through the story was how friendly the plot was to a film adaptation. Dr. Willett's investigation into the mystery of Ward's madness is a handy framing device, and there are a number of scenes, including the raid(s) on Curwen's farm and the final confrontation, that lend themselves to action sequences.

I'm not the first person to think this, of course, and last night I finally had a chance to see "The Resurrected", the 1992 film based on Lovecraft's story. I wasn't expecting much, so it was a pleasant surprise that the movie was suprisingly good. Well, one third of it was. The first two thirds of the film have some god-awful exposition and terrible acting, to the point that I almost gave up, but by the time the final third rolls around it's as if the cast and crew suddenly kicked up their game. I'd speculate that there were some "issues" with the location shooting, since the best parts of the film are all interiors that were presumably shot in a studio.

One of the things that caught my eye during the film was the depiction of Curwen's journal. It's an important plot device, and it looks like the creator put a lot of work into producing a quality piece of work. Here are the screencaps of the interior pages that I rounded up:

If anyone has information about who created it I'd love to hear about it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tempus Omnia Vincit

Tom Banwell has a helpful post on aging a pressure gauge. Or any physical prop, for that matter. One of the great advantages of the wet'n'wipe wood stain technique is that it produces excellent results with a minimum of fuss.

Which isn't to say that there's anything simple about Mr. Banwell's work. When you're working up at that level it just looks easy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

House Of Cards

Following up on yesterday's post regarding Rev. Marx's adventures with the Bag of Cthulhu, here's another item from Fantasy Flight Games that might be of interest to Mythos collectors. It's the "Kings of the Sea" expansion for the "Game of Thrones" living card game based on George R. R. Martin's epic saga. I don't play the game, but the "Arms of the Kraken" resin house card that comes with the expansion is something I wouldn't mind owning:

Unfortunately, getting a hold of that single slab of plastic would require dropping $29.95 for the entire set, something I'm loathe to do.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Small Gods

Rev. Marx has discovered the seductive charms of the infamous "Bag of Cthulhu". I blame the hoarding impulse. There's something about running dozens of the little buggers through your fingers that's supremely satisfying.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Cultist

From artist Andres Feliciano comes this well executed cultist costume. A lot of smaller groups have to settle for off-the-rack occult gear, but this is what the truly dedicated minions of the dark powers are wearing. The robe is quite nice, but as with so much else in fashion it's the accessories (the mask and tentacled pendant) that really kick this up a notch.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Last Expedition

Steve Ludnow of the Dark Door LARP group in the UK has posted a gallery of photographs from their latest event:The Last Expedition. After seeing the pictures and reading a description of the plot, I wish I'd had a chance to be there. What better way to spend a weekend than fighting Nazis and the minions of Ithaqua on board a ship bound for the Antarctic?

The ship was by far the greatest prop of them all. It is actually the residential and organisation HQ for a water activity centre in the heart of the London Docklands, run as a B&B by the Scout Association. It was built in 1933.

Browse around the rest of the gallery and you'll find some impressive ice zombie makeup and a scratchbuilt diving suit that really deserves a write-up of it's own.

Mr. Ludnow and his cohorts also produced some great paper props, including maps, diaries, and documents like this boarding pass and an expedition newspaper.

This is exactly the kind of high-immersion game I'd love to see more of, but for some reason this style of event seems relatively rare. Based solely on the coverage available on the web it also seems to be a very European thing, despite it being a style of play that was, if not invented, at least popularized in the United States by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society.

One possible explanation is that the largest and most immersive LARPs in the US aren't part of the conventional LARP community at all- they're airsoft and paintball games. Do a little Googling and you can find dozens of high-end scenario games featuring custom built sets, props, and costumes in support of detailed, multi-day storylines. There's a clear bias towards plots in the action-adventure vein that don't require much in the way of role-playing, but there seems to be a core group of players that take storytelling and characterization seriously.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cthulhu Christmas Ornaments

Pwyll sent over a link to this felted Cthulhu Christmas tree topper from Thinkgeek. I'm normally not a fan of "Cute-thulhu" merchandise, but I have to admit the smaller ornament would make a nice addition to my Mythos-themed tree this year. That said, you can rest assured that I won't suddenly start posting page after page of knitted Cthulhu hats, Cthulhu cup cozies, or plush Cthulhus anytime soon.

Specimen Jar

From artist "carlcom66" comes this unusual preserved specimen. I quite like the sculpted details of the preserved fetus.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Conquering the Ice

The always helpful Alban sent over this link to Ohio State University's collection of material from Byrd's flight to the South Pole: Conquering the Ice. H. P. Lovecraft based many of the details of the Miskatonic University expedition in "At the Mountains of Madness" on Byrd's efforts, so it's not surprising that the online archive is filled with photographs and documentation of interest to fans. They're even more valuable to Keepers running Chaosium's epic "Beyond the Mountains of Madness" adventure, providing a handy source of potential paper props.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Mark Arnold Edition

From sculptor Mark Arnold comes this traditional-style Cthulhu statue.

I based the sculpt on Lovecraft's short story 'The Call of Cthulhu.' In it Lovecraft describes a statue found by Inspector Legrasse who had taken it from a dangerous cult. The original was sculpted from Super Sculpey then molded in silicone and cast in resin. Primed with a light grey primer and then sprayed flat black. Next I dry-brushed a combination of Forest Green, black, and Hunter Green, what I call Cthulhu Green, onto the figure. Then I added a protective coating of DullCote and that ended the process.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Replica Prop Forum Registration Now Open

New registrations for The Replica Prop Forum are being accepted now until November 30th. If you enjoy making props, or simply admiring the creations of others, I highly recommend taking advantage of this opportunity.

The RPF is, quite simply, the premiere community for the discussion of replica props on the internet. Most of the postings deal with items from franchises like "Star Wars" and "Star Trek", but fans of lesser known media and literary sources will find like-minded people working on a variety of projects. Of particular note is the new "Paper Props" sub-board, which is filled with items from dozens of films.

Update: Here's Adam Savage of "Mythbusters" with a celebrity endorsement for the RPF, based on his insane quest to create an absolutely authentic reproduction of The Maltese Falcon. The entire presentation is immensely entertaining, starting with Mr. Savage's interest in dodo birds and careening into the production of the original falcon and it's connection with the Black Dahlia murder. The discussion about the RPF begins at 13:20.

This Week's Crass Commercialism

I have some more items up on Ebay this week, but I would strongly encourage anyone who can to wait until after the first of the year. Yes, I'm telling you not to bid, yet again demonstrating my incompetence in matters of business. It pains me to no end to not have anything new for the holidays, but it's simply unavoidable.

If you have some patience I'll have everything back in stock by the end of December or early January. That should include the "At the Mountains of Madness" Antarctica map and a few other items that will be the basis of the ATMOM prop set, Mk. II. I'm in the process of budgeting the project and trying to strike a balance between increasing the run size and including as many plot-relevant items as possible.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Necronomicon: Chodaczek Edition

From artist Adam Chodaczek comes this beautiful all-leather Necronomicon .

The cover is formed from hand-sculpted leather, an involved process that Mr. Chodaczek was kind enough to fully document on his website. Browse around over there and you'll be stunned at the quality and variety of his work.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Retro-Tech Stasis Tube

From Flickr user "ahoog69" comes this massive stasis tube prop from this year's Maker Faire.

I haven't been able to find out who actually built it, but it's an impressive piece of work. The heavy-duty bolted steel construction and gray paint job immediately made me think "Navy". Perhaps they needed something a little stronger than steel bars and prison cells to hold the more...extreme...survivors of the raid on Innsmouth?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Held Action

Held Action has posted a very nice writeup about my humble efforts. More importantly, they continue the tradition of posting photographs of my swag that are better than the ones I take. Heh.

Be sure to poke around while you're over there. You'll find a rich vein of gaming goodness, including this very cool posting about using prop pamphlets in tabletop RPGs to crank up the immersion a notch.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Miskatonic Expedition Cigarette Card

One of the most troublesome aspects of exploration is the incessant need for funding. While the vast majority of the Miskatonic University expedition to the Antarctic was payed for by the Nathaniel Derby Pickman Foundation, there were still opportunities to stretch the available funds further with sponsorships. This wasn't a practice unique to the Miskatonic effort. Almost every Arctic and Antarctic expedition of the early 20th century received money and supplies from commercial sponsors eager to take part in the adventure of exploration while promoting their products.

One of the expedition's lesser known sponsors was DeVost Tobacco, which not only supplied a cash payment and supplies of cigarettes and pipe tobacco to the party, but also featured it in the "Exploring Our World" collection of cigarette cards. This was card number 14 in the series of 50. The front is a painted color photograph of a Dornier Wal amphibious plane undergoing flight tests on the open ocean, while the back featured the title "Wings Over Antarctica" and a description of the aircraft's role in penetrating the icy continent's interior. The card was available in random packs of DeVost brand cigarettes from July of 1930 to January of 1931, when news of the expedition's tragic end resulted in it being pulled from circulation by DeVost. As a result, both the card and complete sets of the full collection are incredibly rare.

Click through for the full-sized graphic. It's sized to fit on a standard 3.5" by 2" business card.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pickman's Model, Redux

Chris Perridas has posted a high quality scan of the TV Guide article about the "Pickman's Model" costume. It's much cleaner than the one in this post.

In The Wild, Part Deux

Even with his phone camera, Ed Webb manages to take better pictures than me. And reading the rest of his blog reinforces my belief that the Mythos community is scarily well-educated. It can't be a coincidence that so many Lovecraft fans mirror his protagonists- antiquarians, librarians, historians, academics, doctors, artists, and journalists.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Postal Brushes

The always helpful Alban sent me a link to these useful Postage Brushes featuring modern and classic postal embellishments. The set is usable with both Photoshop and GIMP. There are few better ways to start a scenario than to have a mysterious package delivered to the player's door.

Out In The Wild

Miskatonic University swag out in the wild. Everybody can take better pictures of this stuff than I can. Heh.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fantaspoa Awards

Artist Leonardo Dias of Brazil sculpted these horrifically nice awards for his local Fantaspoa fantastic film festival. The detail and fluidity of the work is outstanding, and I love the imagery of a tentacle crushing a blackened human heart.

You can see more of Mr. Dias' amazing work at his MySpace page. Just as a heads-up, there's some potentially NSFW imagery on display.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Miskatonic University ID Badge

This is a basic, modern-era Miskatonic University identification badge. It should fit most badge holders, but if you're using the Avery brand you may have to shrink it about 5%. Click through for the full sized graphic. After printing just trim along the crop marks with scissors or an X-Acto knife.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Eldritch Coffee

From artist Joe Broers comes this amusing mockup for H.P. Lovecraft's Eldritch Coffee. Click through for the full sized version suitable for printing on cardstock.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Abubuju Statuette

I just ordered one of these wonderfully creepy Abubuju statuettes from Nethercraft. Most of their sculptural works are in the traditional sword and sorcery vein, but a few would make great occult artifacts.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Blank Night Letter Telegram

This blank Night Letter Telegram was created for the "Women in Technology 19th Century" project and was sent to me courtesy of Maureen Hennessey, Caillean McMahon, and Francesca Tronetti (the curator). Click through for the full sized version.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Mystery Of The John Closson Necronomicon

Ned Brooks contacted me about a version of the Necronomicon that may have been created in the late 60's or early 70's. There were several artists that produced tomes in that time period in Los Angeles and New York, but this is the first time I've heard this particular story:

Back in the 60s I was told that a NY-area calligrapher named John Closson had made his own Necronomicom and then died in a mental asylum - has this book ever come to light?

Closson was apparently in the first wave of NY Tolkien fandom, and did two beautiful pin-buttons - one with "Frodo Lives" in Tengwar and the other with "Go Go Gandalf" in Angerthas with the fire-lighting spell around the edge in Tengwar. I got these at a convention in the 60s, and lost one on a trip to Australia in 1975. So then I thought they should be printed - and I borrowed a the lost one to copy, and did have new ones made in a different color scheme. At that time I tried to reach Closson for permission (though under the law at the time the images were public-domain as having been published without copyright notice). That was when I was told about his Necronimicom and him being in an institution. Much later I was told he had died - but I never got any details, and none of the sources could be verified. The button images are on my website -

I find this interesting for a couple of reasons, chief amongst them the Lovecraftian implications of an artist going mad while working on a reproduction of the Necronomicon. On it's surface it seems like the perfect setup for a work of Mythos fiction or an ARG, but some cursory Googling demonstrates both that Mr. Closson was a real person and that he was heavily involved in fandom in the time period given. That same search uncovered this information from issue 19 of the "Entropy Hall" newsletter:

Just one more note about John Closson. Bob Foster, Ian Ballantine, and I appeared on a TV talk show in Philadelphia. I know I got flustered and made a poor show of it, but one mistake was something I didn't even think of. The station used as a backdrop big blowups of John Closson's Frodo Lives and Go Go Gandalf buttons. When we got back John was really pissed off at us because we didn't mention him in connection with the designs. Shortly thereafter I heard he had to go underground in connection with dealing acid, and I never heard anything more about him. [I had heard no rumors about drugs, but had heard at the time a rumor that he had had himself committed because of certain tendencies in his behavior which he could not control.-erm]

Which led to this exchange in issue 26:

Dear Edmund: I found references to John Closson in your recollections of Tolkien fandom. I was an old friend of his, and was wondering if you might know what has happened to him. David

[I wrote back that I had heard conflicting rumors of self commitment because of problems in dealing with children and arrest for drugs, and that he had since passed away, but knew nothing for sure. David replied as follows. ERM]

How sad. Actually, John was a camp counselor of mine in the '60s and he was something of a mentor for me for some years afterwards. A predilection for small children? I guess I was one when I first knew's quite a strange thought that this might have been going on. I just recently started thinking of him and wondering what had become of him.

John seems to have been around relatively recently. An AltaVista search turns him up as part of the staff of LA con III in 1996. So reports of his death may be exaggerated. [Anyone know if the Closson on the LACon 3 staff is the same as the NY fan of the '60s? ERM]

I remember meeting Dick Plotz around that time as well, in the TSA. A small group of us came to a few meetings from Flushing, Queens.

Thanks for the info/rumors.

After reading that it occurred to me that perhaps I had heard something related to the story after all. Mind you, I'm relying on memory for this, but I seem to recall that there was an incident involving a prop Necronomicon that had been commissioned by a New York bookstore owner (or patron?) in the appropriate time period. Allegedly, the book was never finished because of a "curse" on the project.

Again, I want to make it perfectly clear that this is just a vague memory of a story I read or was told. I have absolutely no sources for it. That said, I also associate the incident with Gahan Wilson, Robert Shea, and Robert Anton Wilson, but I can't for the life of me think of why.

If anyone has any insights or more information about any of this your thoughts would be most welcome.

Update: A kind emailer suggests that I might be confusing Gahan Wilson with Colin Wilson, the creator of the Hays Necronomicon. That's certainly possible, but my memory of the incident specifically includes the involvement of an artist that was physically producing a prop copy of the book.

Update: Another kind emailer suggested that Mr. Closson may have been the "Khem Set Rising" behind the pseudo-arabic writing used in the Simon Necronomicon . Both were calligraphic artists working in New York in the right time frame, but the differences between the style of the Tolkien buttons and the glyphs in the Simon book are pretty significant.

I'm going to try and contact Daniel Harms to see if he might have any insights. If that doesn't pan out someone with more information may stumble across this post thanks to Google.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Goominet, Reloaded.

Francois Launet has relaunched Goominet, the online home of his horror and Lovecratian artwork. Here's just a sampling of the dozens of artworks on display:

I'm a huge fan of Mr. Launet's work, particularly his incredible depictions of the Necronomicon. As I've said before, from the hundreds of different takes on the material I've seen his depictions come closest to my idealized view of Lovecraft's dread tome. Other artists have portrayed a more scholarly and historically accurate version, but no one has come close to the sheer creepiness of his disturbing images.

Monday, November 2, 2009

"Call Of Cthulhu" Paper Props

I've linked to artist Joe Broers' work a few times before, and he was kind enough to send me over some extra material that he includes with his Cthulu Cultist's Dagger. This is a beautiful set of paper props based on Castro's arrest in "The Call of Cthulhu". Just click through for the full sized picture.

It's little touches like this that turn a good prop into a great one.

This Week's Crass Commercialism

Thanks to the kindness of the postal gods I have a few Miskatonic University items up on Ebay this week.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Great War

Sweet fancy Moses, I'm in love.

A kind emailer sent over a link to Tommy's Pack Fillers , a company that specializes in reproductions of almost everything related to World War One. You name it and they probably have it- documents, ration labels, weapons, booklets, military ephemera, and the list goes on and on. The usefulness of props like this for WWI "Call of Cthulhu" games is obvious, but even post-war scenarios could benefit from their use.

A selection of paperwork and military ephemera that would be perfect background material for characters that fought in the war. Look no further than Lovecraft's "The Temple" and "Herbert West: Reanimator" for how the Mythos touched on the conflict.

Period matchboxes. I love small props like this not only for their immersive value, but for the attractiveness of the designs.

I know that fighting the Mythos isn't a matter of firepower, but there are times when a case of surplus grenades would certainly come in handy. Just imagine the glee of players stumbling across a crate like this during a game.

Browse around the site and you're sure to find something useful. Personally, I'm going to be ordering a few of the "Fitzroy Compressed Corned Beef" labels for my "From the Mountains of Madness" project. And a grenade or two. And some paybooks. And some weapon's manuals.