Sunday, February 28, 2010

Inky Darkness

Rev. Marx has an interesting post on creating your own inks out of walnut hulls and pokeweed. His detailed look at the process even has a death defying climax involving potential pokeweed poisoning.

Black Walnut Ink is a deep brown almost sepia tone water based ink made from the rotted hulls (the green fleshy casing around the nut) of black walnuts. There are plenty of web sites out there that talk about how to make Black Walnut Ink. And most of them do it slightly differently. Most advocated collecting black walnuts (still in the hull) off the ground and allowing them to rot and soak for several weeks. While I do have black walnut trees in my area, I did not want to wait several weeks, endure the smell of rotting hulls, or ruin a large pot to have them soak in (it is recommended that you not cook in a pot after using it for this as it is poisonous to humans). It just so happened that I had recently purchased some dried and powdered black walnut hulls from my herb supplier. I don't even know why I had ordered them. Call it kismet.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cutting Edge

Vonmeer brings us this Mythos Hunters Dagger featuring both the Lovecraft and Derleth versions of the Elder Sign.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Something Fishy

Artist "Dark Wraith" sculpted this very nice interpretation of a Deep One that he calls "The Innsmouth Look". The detail work on the base is very shoggothy, if you know what I mean.

You Are Not Running Your Blog The Way I Think It Should Be Run

One of the pleasures of running Propnomicon is the opportunity to highlight sculpture and artwork I enjoy. Anytime I can throw some attention towards a deserving artist creating fantastic art, in every sense of the word "fantastic", I'm happy to do so. That said, I also have rather particular tastes. Because Propnomicon focuses on occult artifacts in general, and the Cthulhu Mythos in particular, I'm just not interested in works outside of those general parameters.

Why do I bring this up?

Because, apparently, I'm not giving enough exposure to truly deserving artists.

There have been a few incidents over the past year where artists or their advocates have become upset that I'm not interested in their work or, heaven forbid, "not giving it the attention it deserves". Normally I don't let that kind of thing get under my skin, but it's recently escalated to the point of aggravation and it has to stop.

So, to prevent any further problems, I'd like to make everyone aware that I have no interest whatsoever in knit Cthulhu hats, chibi Cthulhu, plush Cthulhu, felt Cthulhu, cartoon-style Cthulhu, or anime Cthulhu. Feel free to substitute the name of any other Mythos entity for "Cthulhu" in all of the above and rest assured that I couldn't care less about them either. That doesn't mean your work isn't wonderful. I'm sure it is. It's just not something I want to cover here.

If, on the other hand, you've created a cool grimoire, sculpted a nasty critter, reproduced an interesting historical document, discovered a cool historical resource, or have a helpful tutorial related to propmaking I'd love to hear from you. 'Cause, you know, that's what my blog is about. All I ask is that you take a few minutes to browse around and get a feel for what I think is nifty before emailing me. Believe me, I love when someone emails me something cool, but I'm just not into the "cute" Mtyhos stuff.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Of Unknown Origin

Artist William Nezme Zardain brings us this curious specimen. I can't escape the feeling that those horrifically long fingers would be ideal for probing inside the creature's chosen prey.

Update: This is so horribly, horribly wrong on so many levels. Raven gets all the, credit.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Miskatonic University Hazard Labels

Raven sent over this collection of hazard labels for specimens in the special collections section at Miskatonic University. Here's how they look along with his earlier specimen labels.

The tags can be trimmed out as-is for rectangular labels, or you can use a circular punch and grommet for string-tied warnings attached to the bottle neck. You can download the PDF from Google Docs over here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hellraiser Elysium Configuration

Much like H. P. Lovecraft's works, the "Hellraiser" series has been saddled with a series of films that aren't nearly as good as their background mythology. One of the more interesting parts of that mythos is the "Elysium Configuration" from "Hellraiser: Bloodline", the fourth film in the series. Plotwise, it's a three-dimensional representation of the Lament Configuration panel activation sequence needed to close the gateway to Leviathan's realm. A parchment featuring the design appears early in the film, and it features prominently in the climax. Here are some screencaps of the original:

Here's a recreation of the design I did over a decade ago, back when VHS tapes were the only source material. Considering the low resolution available at the time it holds up pretty well, with only a few tweaks needed to bring it up to being screen accurate. I'll leave that work up to you.

Click through for the high resolution JPG file.

You can also download the PDF file from Google Docs over here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

1912 British Postal Telegram

This was a fun little project I did for a friend's daughter working on a report about the sinking of the Titanic. It's a reproduction of one of the telegrams sent out immediately after the disaster, recounting the number of passengers saved. Here's the original source file:

Here's the blank reproduction of the above, in both JPG and PDF formats. Click through for the high resolution JPG.

You can download the PDF from Google Docs over here.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Miskatonic Specimen Tags

The always prolific Raven created these Miskatonic University collection tags for use with the "Marvy Uchida Clever Lever Giga Craft Merchandise Tag Punch", available in the scrap booking section of most arts and crafts stores. Beware- once you start browsing around you'll likely find yourself buying far more than you had originally planned. The PDF file for the front is here, while the back is over here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Making The Magic

I've long thought that both tabletop and live-action games could benefit from embracing the techniques used by magicians, particularly the parlor and "bizarre magic" branches of the craft. Parlor magic, with it's emphasis on close-up illusions suitable for a small group around a table, seems tailor made for the typical game environment. The more theatrical and storytelling driven style of bizarre magic takes much of what makes parlor magic a useful resource and kicks it up a notch, putting the illusions in service to the narrative.

Props play an important part in both branches. At one level the objects used by a magician are just the tools of the trade, the mechanical parts needed to perform an illusion. At another level they're a way of bringing more immersiveness and entertainment value to the performance. When a magician pulls three plastic beer cups and a handful of rubber balls from his jacket you're going to get one kind of show. When he removes three Egyptian embalming vessels carved from alabaster from a mouldy, age-stained trunk, followed by plucking an assortment of dessicated and preserved baboon hearts from a funerary box, you're getting a very different show.

All other things being equal, from the quality of the patter to the execution of the illusion, I suspect most people would rather watch the guy doing the freaky trick with the baboon hearts. At a fundamental level it's still the ol' cups and balls gag, but the presentation is far more memorable.

All that is my long-winded way of saying why you might want to spend some time over here at the Dragonskull bizarre magic site. The section I'm linking to is all about props, from advice on turning ordinary objects into extraordinary props to directions for crafting gaffed items that anyone can use to produce some truly memorable effects. Some of the work pictured is cruder than the occult art objects I normally feature, but the DIY information and construction tips are invaluable.

If you don't have time to browse the entire collection of articles there are a few in particular I would recommend. The first is this one on using epoxy putty to tart up simple, off the shelf items into something more impressive.

The second is this one on crafting storage books and boxes. It's amazing what can be accomplished with a little epoxy putty and some paint.

Finally, this article on making a self-opening box should set your mental gears a turnin' with possibilities.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

On The Ice

Massive Snowstorm + Lovecraft Fan = a trip to the Mountains of Madness.

This isn't the first time I've featured Jared Axelrod's prop and costume work. Browse around his website and you'll find lots of drool-worthy work.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Classic Era Forensics And The Lindbergh Kidnapping

While doing some research on the Lindbergh kidnapping I came across two interesting investigative techniques, at least from the standpoint of propmaking.

The first involves how physical evidence at a crime scene was collected and stored. The science of forensic investigation was just developing in the 20's and 30's and it was common for items to be "bagged and tagged" in regular brown paper bags and cardboard boxes. While my familiarity with period police work is admittedly limited, the Lindbergh case is the first one I've come across where evidence, in this case human remains and items from the immediate scene, was stored in glass bottles:

The second involves the use of silver nitrate to highlight fingerprints that were unrecoverable using traditional powder techniques. It sounds like something from "CSI", and a refined version of the technique is indeed used today, but it dates back to the start of the 20th century:

Early documentation reveals that the silver nitrate process was developed in the 1910's. In 1918, the IAI Conference gave a presentation on this process. Different people were experimenting with it but it's development is historically credited to Dr. Erastus Mead Hudson. The silver nitrate process became well known after Dr. Hudson recovered latent prints on a ladder used in the Lindbergh kidnapping case (1932). In later years, Dr. Hudson did additional research with the New York Police Department exploring other possible uses for the silver nitrate process, such as recovering latent prints from cloth and gloves.
Finger Print and Identification Magazine, Vol. 17, No. 3, September 1935. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has also taken credit for the development of silver nitrate. They claim that it was first used in 1933 in the William Hamm kidnapping case (the president of the Hamm Brewing Company).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Aged Newspaper Clippings Tutorial

Cephalopod Productions has posted an excellent tutorial on creating aged newspaper clippings.

As you probably know it, newspaper clippings are the most common prop used in call of cthulhu scenarios. And almost every published scenario will include some of them to hand to your players. But, most of the time these are simple, one article clippings with a very simple design and once printed they will only look like a piece of standard white paper with an article printed on it and a blank back. I never figured why people forgot so often that newspapers were printed recto-verso…

One of the subjects explored is the use of tea staining in combination with iron buff to produce varying levels of aging in a controlled manner. I had never tried using iron buff before one of Cephalopod's earlier articles, but now I'm a convert. It's a fantastically useful technique that can produce almost any degree of aging in paper and wood.

Western Union Clockface

Caillean McMahon, Maureen Hennessey, and curator Francesca Tronetti of the Women in Technology Project have been producing an amazing number of useful telegram and telegraph related paper props. Their latest is a Western Union clockface for the synchronized wall clocks found at every office.

Applied to a cheap clock from a big box store or the Goodwill this would make a nice background prop for your gaming room.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Perna Edition

Professional sculptor Gabe Perna created this 17" high depiction of Cthulhu. It's available as a resin kit, and his other models are equally impressive.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Even More Mythos Stuff

Raven sent over some more interesting labels over the weekend. First off, in honor of "The Wolfman" debuting this weekend, a sample of wolfsbane.

Next, a fully Arabic label for the "Powder of Ibn Ghazi", in both black and white and sepia.

And finally, an entire page of small Miskatonic University labels in PDF format.

Zeppelin Goldmine

Kurt Hockenbury sent over a note pointing out this fantastic period resource on Zeppelins- "Zeppelin: the Story of a Great Achievement". The public domain book is filled with information and pictures that would be invaluable for anyone running a pulp-style adventure or event. Some absolutely massive scans of airship deckplans from the book are also available on Flickr, courtesy of "Fings":

You'll find the full-sized version of this deckplan over here.

And this one can be found here.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Patent Mythos Medicines, And More!

Raven generously sent over this collection of labels and specimen tags. They're based on some that I posted before, but he's taken them to a whole new level with a full color treatment and some very well researched touches I think you'll enjoy.

First off, the colorized version of the Whately's Vitalizer label.

Here we have the front label for a bottle of "Powder of Ibn Ghazi", an alchemical preparation used to reveal the invisible.

And the back label for same, with some wonderful flavor copy.

Next, a sheet of Miskatonic University specimen labels in .jpg form. After seeing these I'm rethinking my policy of doing everything in black and white. Just click through for the full sized version.

Last, but not least, a densepacked set of the labels in PDF form. The tight spacing means less waste if you choose to print them out on sticker paper. You can download the file from Google Docs over here.

My sincere thanks to Raven for his work and generosity in sharing these. They're free to use under the standard Creative Commons license linked to the right and at the bottom of the page.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Going "Beyond The Mountains Of Madness"

Propnomicon owes it's existence to "Beyond the Mountains of Madness", the classic mega-adventure for Chaosium's "Call of Cthulhu" role-playing game that serves as a sequel of sorts to Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness". Most of the early material posted here was done in support of that adventure, which rekindled both my fandom for Lovecraft and my love of propmaking. Click on the "At the Mountains of Madness" and "From the Mountains of Madness" labels over there on the right and you'll see just how much of an impact it had.

Beyond my own interests, BTMOM is arguably the best adventure ever created by the RPG industry. It's epic scale, historical detail, and numerous prop handouts combine to make it one of the most immersive scenarios ever published, and the final, chilling decision that confronts the party near the end of the story is the one time I've been genuinely emotionally involved by a tabletop game. Janyce Engan, the driving force behind the authors that created it, is now recounting the equally epic story of how it came to be over on Sadly, it's not a tale with a happy ending, but the look behind the scenes is fascinating.

Bronze Scorpion Phurpa Statue

I don't usually feature items on Ebay, but when Nick Storm sent over the listing for this Bronze Scorpion Phurpa Statue I was immediately struck by just how creepy looking it actually is. It's so...alien. I couldn't get past the impression that as soon as you wrapped your hand around it all those segmented legs would wrap themselves around you.

I was also a bit uneasy at the idea of using an actual religious article as a prop. Followed immediately by the realization that although I felt discomfort with the idea of using a Buddhist item as a faux artifact I've never given a second thought to using crucifixes, holy water bottles, or communion wafers in the same way. I adore vampire killing kits filled with all kinds of Roman Catholic paraphernalia, despite that particular use of those symbols being potentially offensive to followers of the faith.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Arkham Train Ticket

Yet another set of paper props from Caillean McMahon, Maureen Hennessey, and curator Francesca Tronetti of the Women in Technology project- Boston Line train tickets for both Arkham and Miskatonic University. As always, just click through for the high resolution versions.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Trans-Antarctic Telegram

Today we have another wonderfully creative pair of items from Caillean McMahon, Maureen Hennessey, and curator Francesca Tronetti of the Women in Technology project. These blank telegrams from the famed Imperial Trans-Antarctic Telegraph Company are more of an alt-history item than a purely Lovecraftian prop, but I like the whimsical concept and period presentation. Just click through for the full-sized versions.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Blank Telegrams From Great Britain

These telegrams from the 30's and 40's come to us via the kind generosity of the Women in Technology Project, with special thanks to Caillean McMahon, Maureen Hennessey, and curator Francesca Tronetti. They previously donated a Western Union Night Letter, and I'll have more of their work later in the week. Just click through for the high resolution versions.

Monday, February 8, 2010

End Time Clock

Soon the stars will be right and the end of days will begin. The talented Jason Soles, no stranger to these parts, created this wonderfully disturbing End Time clock.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Dark God Uzugga

Artist Christian Hartmann brings us a statuette of the dread Uzugga. I wouldn't have thought to use a use a blue and white color scheme on something like this, but it really works.

Getting The House Of Cthulhu In Order

There may be some temporary dead links over the next week as I try to impose some better organization on my old posts. Both the "Paper Props" and "Physical Props" categories are too crowded, so I'll be setting up some new, more appropriate categories to make finding things easier. "Creatures and Specimens" will be getting their own header, along with "Postal Props" and "Telegrams". Beyond that I'm going to play it by ear.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Molding Cthulhu

Noadiart has posted a helpful series of videos on Youtube showing how to use silicone putty and polymer clay to mold a Cthulhu cameo. It's an inexpensive and surprisingly easy technique with a variety of applications for anyone interesting in making small physical props.

Friday, February 5, 2010


Artist Santani brings us this horrifically detailed monstrosity entitled "Newborn".

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Miskatonic Ink

The very talented sculptor Leonardo Dias has taken his dedication to Miskatonic University to new heights.

Hello buddy, remember some time ago I mentioned a plan to have your Miskatonic seal tattooed? Well,there ya go. I only used the centerpiece,not the words. I hope you understand I adapted the sun rays to an old illustration style that fits well with my pre-existent tattoos. Really thanks man, I'm really proud of carrying this with me forever! He he.

The tat-style Miskatonic seal after inking:

The Miskatonic Class of 2010 flashin' the horns:

How cool is that? It's not often you get to see your artwork on human flesh. Heh.

As an aside, I'm continually amazed at how broad Lovecraft fandom is, both in terms of geography and lifestyle. One of the real pleasures of this blog has been the sheer variety of people I've had an opportunity to come in contact with, from scholarly researchers that wouldn't be out of place in one of Lovecraft's stories to hardcore bikers and punks. I've discussed the flight characteristics of Dornier Wal amphibious planes with a vice cop overseeing brothels in Amsterdam, received invaluable help finding out when spiral binding was invented from a French librarian, and swapped emails with a survivor of the absolutely insane New York occult and fringe scene of the 70's.

It's a funny ol' world.