Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Astral Gyroscope

From artist Stephen Fitz-Gerald comes this Astral Gyroscope crafted from welded stainless steel. Any device that can help you navigate the astral plane and inflict lethal blunt force trauma is a win in my book.

The Cthulhu Key

Filmmaker Jason Heath, one of the earliest supporters of this blog, has started production on "The Cthulhu Key: Legacy". You can find out more about the project, and it's non-traditional take on the Mythos, at the film's website.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Finger In A Jar

From Andrea Falaschi, a finger in a jar. Call me sentimental, but sometimes it's the simple things in life that give us the most pleasure.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Convergent Evolution

The world is a funny place.

I've mentioned my interest in "bizarre" magic and it's potential for use in live action games before. Both styles of performance place an emphasis on storytelling and immersiveness as a means to involve the audience, and an argument can be made that the very best bizarre magic routines are effectively LARPs with the audience serving as willing participants in the evolving story. Conversely, many of the best horror LARPs differ from a magic routine only in the lack of any obvious illusions.

Given that overlap I'm surprised there aren't more hybrid performances incorporating aspects of both. The closest thing I've seen are private seance shows with a medium or magician, depending on the woo woo factor, performing for a small room full of spectators. The standard template features an overarching storyline about a haunted object or the location where the party is being held, with a variety of mentalism routines involving the audience interspersed between plot revelations. When it's done well this kind of show is amazing. I've never not been entertained, and one in particular was the only time I've seen a performer move an audience to tears.

With my interest in that style of magic, and obvious preoccupation with Lovecraft, imagine my surprise when I learned a theatrical-style performance mixing the two has been available for over a decade. I was even more shocked to find out it isn't just a Mythos-influenced routine, but an entire show based on "At the Mountains of Madness". The icing on the cake? The fact that I've been supplying props for those performances without knowing about it.

The only reason I know about it now is because a magician Googled "At the Mountains of Madness" and "props", stumbled across my recreation of the Dyer materials, and thought it was a prop set specifically designed for the show. After exchanging a few emails I learned that my expedition props, both the physical ones like the patches and pins and the downloadable paper props, have been incorporated into the routine by quite a few magicians. Which isn't surprising when you read the list of recommended props from the show's creator- it's almost identical to what I've assembled for my own collection. Through two different thought processes, and a time span of over ten years, we both converged on a nearly identical final product.

I don't want to say too much more, since the people reading this are the ones that would enjoy the "At the Mountains of Madness" show the most and I don't want to spoil it. That said, I would suggest seeing it if you're a Lovecraft fan. If the performers contact me I'll post the details of any upcoming shows.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Vintage Aviation School Ad

Another adventure-themed vintage ad, this time for the Aviators Preparatory Institute. This was scanned from a 1926 almanac and would make a good filler for a faux newspaper clipping or magazine page. Click through for the high resolution version.

In case you were curious, here's what 475 Fifth Ave in New York City looks like today. The building faces the front steps of the New York Public Library.

View Larger Map

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Burruss Edition

Artist Keith Burruss created this fantastically detailed wall sculpture of Cthulhu. It measures in at five feet in height, easily making it one of the largest depictions of the dread elder god ever done.

You'll find more pictures of the massive work taken from multiple angles in his gallery, as well as some other disturbing sculptures.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Vintage Adventure Gear Ad

I've written about Marbles and their outdoor gear before. Here's a period advertisement for a selection of merchandise that would be perfect filler for anyone putting together some prop newspaper clippings. Just click through for the high resolution version.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Nemesis Now Edition

A kind emailer brought this Ebay UK auction for a Cthulhu statue from "Nemesis Now" to my attention. It's a wonderful piece of work, but there doesn't seem to be a US distributor available.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Tank

This impressive prop water tank was created by Lone Wolf FX for the short film "That's Magic". As much as I love small props and ephemera, something like this would be awesome as a set piece in a live action game. It just screams "mad science".

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Seas Edition

Artist Michael Seas created this wonderfully Lovecraftian mixed-media work, "Destruction of Hyperborea by one of the Great Spawn of Cthulhu", currently available from the Hyaena Gallery. It's one of the best takes I've seen on the clay bas-relief from the first chapter of "The Call of Cthulhu".

Monday, March 22, 2010


Artist David Richardson created this disturbing bronze sculpture, entitled "Monolith". I quite like the contrast between the corrupted, flowing organic forms and the rigid regularity of the pillar.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Innsmouth Wharf

A photograph of the decrepit South Wharf in Innsmouth, looking East/South East. Devil Reef is barely visible along the horizon line in the right-hand side of the picture.

This is a mildy retouched photograph of the Gloucester wharf taken in 1922. The wear and tear on the buildings might be too subtle, but I'm happy with how it came out. Based on the geography given in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" the narrator's conversation with Zadok Allen occurs just south of this point, at the foot of an even more decayed dirt and brickwork wharf. The "ruined warehouse" that shelters that talk from prying eyes is the building on the far right of this picture, complete with tilted walls and missing boards.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Prelude To Innsmouth

A photograph of an unidentified crewman and Lt. John Singleton, executive officer of submarine S-8, a week before the raid on Innsmouth. Singleton would be promoted to command of his own sub in April of 1928.

This is actually one of the better historical photographs I've been able to obtain, showing the real executive officer of the S-4 in 1927.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Building A Low Budget Alien Queen

What do you do when you want to have a big monster for your live-action game, but you have a limited budget? You get creative.

For something cobbled together out of PVC pipe and upholstery foam, this Alien Queen from Mandala Studios is pretty damn impressive. From the pictures posted to their gallery it looks like the fully articulated puppet-slash-costume stood close to twelve feet high at full extension and was close to twenty feet long. Follow the link for a detailed look at the buildup.

I almost wish they hadn't posted pictures of the queen in full daylight, since they serve as a good example of why darkness is the best friend of anyone working on a low budget. That's not to take anything away from the builders. It's still a bang up bit of work, but it goes from looking good to looking great once the sun goes down.

One of the lessons I learned from working on Halloween haunted houses is that everything is scarier, and looks better, in the dark. Props that might look ridiculous in full daylight can be terrifying once you turn down the illumination, add a little colored lighting, and give the scene some mist from a fog machine.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Sword Of Sneferu

Vonmeer returns with a companion piece to the dagger I posted last month: a Mythos hunters sword. The weathering on both the blade and handle is quite nice.

Browse around his gallery and you'll find some cool artifacts and an absolutely stunning pulp armory. The cold steel of a sword might be nice, but a hail of bullets sure cuts down on the minion population.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Play's The Thing

I've added a listing over there in the right-hand column for "Live Action Groups". I occasionally mention my love of high-immersion live action scenario games as a motivator for my prop efforts, so I thought it would be helpful to offer up a few examples. My basic criteria is that the group have a history of producing events with high production values, strong storylines, and an emphasis on horror and the Cthulhu Mythos. Not surprisingly, I give extra credit for killer props.

The first group I'm adding is The Dark Door. I've already featured their "Last Expedition" game and I'm consistently impressed by the high quality of their efforts. The website formatting is a bit wiggy, but there's some amazing work on display there.

The second is Green Abyss, a German group that was first brought to my attention by a fan. After browsing around their archives I began to see why they had such a devoted following. They not only tackled a variety of wildly different takes on the Mythos, but they did it with style. Even if you don't understand German a trip through their gallery should give you a feel for the level of immersiveness they aim for.

These are the kinds of games I'd like to see more of. If you're aware of other groups putting the same amount of effort into their productions don't be shy about dropping me a line.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Devine Edition

Artist Jeff Devine brings us this Cthulhu idol lovingly carved from mahogany. At roughly 3" in height I can only imagine the kind of patience needed to complete the detail work.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Victorian Drop Side Casket

Here's something you don't see everyday- a Victorian-style drop side casket for sale.

This full-sized reproduction was built for a photo shoot, and the amount of work that went into crafting the woodwork and the detailed silk interior is impressive. Now it's available to anyone that may be in need of a unique prop for home or professional use. Sadly, my significant other has put a firm limit on how much space my prop collection can take up, so I'm out of the running.

If you're interested in obtaining more information about the casket please contact marianstlaurent-at-hotmail-dot-com.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Innsmouth Raid

A photograph of bootlegger Giles Upham taken the day after the federal raid on Innsmouth, Massachusetts. He was captured by United States Marines and agents of the Department of Justice in the hidden tunnels beneath the town on February 3, 1928 and later convicted of multiple crimes. Like many of the conspirators taken into custody he displays the signs of generations of inbreeding- bulging, watery eyes, humpbacked posture, and wattle-like growths on the neck.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Innsmouth Submarine : Aftermath

This photograph of submarine S-8 was taken at the Norfolk shipyard February 9th, 1928, six days after the raid on Innsmouth. According to the official record the ship is undergoing repairs for minor damage suffered after an underwater collision with a toothed whale. The panicked animal attacked the upper hull and conning tower after it became entangled in the deck rigging, causing scrapes and scratches to the plating and portholes before it was ripped free and pulled into the propellers and steering vanes.

Click through for the high resolution JPG.

A closeup of the deck area showing an officer and crewman outside the conning tower. The porthole used by the steersman, unique to the S-series, is visible in the front of the structure.

This is a mildly retouched and cleaned up version of a period snapshot that I picked up from an estate sale on Ebay. The original is dated to 1929 and actually shows the S-18 in dock, making it wonderfully easy to adjust the ID number.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Kimberly Simon Murder Information

Following up on my earlier post about the Kimberly Simon murder, "America's Most Wanted" has now added a brief about the case to their website. The writeup includes the major details and photographs of various locations involved in the killing. I believe full video of the report will be added after the segment airs Saturday night.

In response to several emails, I also wanted to mention that I take this killing seriously, despite the admittedly lighthearted nature of Propnomicon's usual subject matter. I've posted about it for two reasons: it happened in the area I happen to live in, and the rumors about it I've heard for two decades have explicitly involved a copy of the Necronomicon. I'm very curious about how that aspect of the story will be portrayed, if it's mentioned at all. The so-called "Book of Death" appears to be a corroborated feature of the investigation. If it is a copy of the Necronomicon, as the oft-told tales claim, is something that won't be revealed until tomorrow night.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Poirier-Morissette Edition

Artist Tommy Poirier-Morissette brings us this rough-hewn Cthulhu idol.

1920's Antarctica Map

Fleshing out my collection of props based on Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" is a process that never really ends. Here's a nicely done map of Antarctica from a period atlas, featuring extensive markups of exploration routes and a wonderful "Unexplored Regions" header for the interior of the continent.

Click through for the high resolution JPG.

Here's the same map in PDF format.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Horde

Shane Magnus has posted a look at his collection of Cthulhu idols.

As happens far too often, the sculptors behind some of the statues are totally unknown. That's not a criticism of Shane in any way. I'm a die-hard collector of props like this and I couldn't tell you who created half of my idols, much to my chagrin. That's one of the motivations behind my efforts to post about any Cthulhu statuettes I come across- so that the artists can receive proper credit.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Necronomicon: America's Most Wanted Edition

Twenty years ago a group of crazed cultists inspired by the Necronomicon raped and murdered a young woman just a short drive from my home.

No, this isn't fiction, but it's also not the whole story. I wanted to talk about it a bit because the case will be featured on Fox's "America's Most Wanted" television show this weekend. I'm not sure how much the Necronomicon angle will be played up, but the book, presumably the Simon version, has been a feature of whispered rumors for years. Now it appears there might be a grain of truth to it.

In the fall of 1985 the body of Kimberly Simon was discovered in a wooded area near the Mohawk River in the village of Whitestown. Eventually, after a long investigation, 19 year-old Steven Barnes was arrested, tried, and convicted of killing her based on circumstantial and some physical evidence. A man matching his description was seen with Simon the night of the killing and an imprint that allegedly matched her jeans was found in the dirt in the bed of his pickup truck. During the trial, and in the decades he spent in prison, Barnes continued to insist he was innocent.

In the years since the murder rumors have floated through the area that Simon's death was the culmination of a Satanic ritual. Not suprisingly, the details of the "ceremony" and the people involved varied in the telling, but that just added to the story's novelty as it made it's way back and forth through the small towns of upstate New York. Keep in mind that the killing occured at the height of the 80's satanic cult scare when a plethora of horrific crimes, including the high-profile McMartin preschool case, were filling the media with nightmarish scenarios involving a massive cult conspiracy.

When you're a kid a story like that is pure gold, just the kind of spooky tale that's perfect for sleepovers and campfires. I've probably heard it told two dozen times over the last 20 years, and the versions that mentioned the Necronomicon as some kind of dark bible never struck me as a particularly believable part of the tale. Dark rituals from a fake book of forbidden knowledge? Crazed satanists offering up human sacrifices? A hidden cabal of killers that are still loose?

Who could believe an outrageous story like that?

Then it turned out that Steven Barnes was telling the truth all these years. During the original trial the primitive tissue testing technology of the time was inconclusive in identifying samples collected from Simon's body. That changed in the fall of 2008, when modern DNA tests sponsored by The Innocence Project proved Barnes was innocent. Not only was he exonerated, but investigators reopened the case when the testing revealed that the samples collected back in 1985 came from two men and one woman.

For the first time there was actual evidence showing that multiple people had contact with Simon's nude body. That generated a whole new series of ritualistic murder stories, and the rumors started to feature identifiable names.

Yesterday, the other shoe dropped. Not only do investigators think that self-styled Satanists were involved in the killing, but one of the men rumored to be part of it, Richard W. Miller Jr., appears to have taken his own life as he became their focus.

Shedding more light on what might have happened is attorney Edward Kaminski, who described in an interview his talk with Miller Jr. in the late 1980s. Kaminski was representing Barnes at the time, the Marcy man who was wrongfully charged with and convicted of killing Simon. Barnes would serve nearly 20 years in state prison before being freed in November 2008.

On Monday, Kaminski recalled talking about Simon’s death with a morbid Miller Jr. while they stood in the dark outside a Utica supermarket. As Miller Jr. repeatedly fingered a butterfly knife, he seemed to laugh as he spoke of boiling cat skulls on the stove and strangling a man with piano wire, Kaminski recalled.

“All he started talking about was death and killing, and he was consumed with the thought of killing as a general premise, and he carried around this ‘Book of Death,’” Kaminski said. “All I knew is that I was checking all my locks twice at my office and my house.”

I think the "Book of Death" in the above quote is quite likely the Necronomicon that appeared in the whispered campfire tales of my youth. Was it an actual copy of the Simon Necronomicon, or some kind of home-made version? Frankly, I have no idea, but I'm amazed that the fantastic story I've heard all these years turns out to have a basis in fact. A bunch of kids playing at the occult end up committing murder and keep it a secret for twenty years? That's the kind of thing that only happens in movies, not in real life. Miller's rumored suicide is right out of the final act of a horror film, the kind of thing that happens right before a montage of weeping, middle-aged suspects being led away from their homes in handcuffs.

The "America's Most Wanted" segment about the Simon killing airs this Saturday night.

The Tome Of Steel

From artist Joey J comes this rugged tome, handcrafted from steel, copper, linen, and paper.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I Knew Him When

Congratulations to the extremely talented Tom Banwell. One of his steampunk leather top hats will be appearing in an upcoming television series. Given the outstanding quality of all his work, particularly his masks, I expect we'll be hearing more such announcements. It's nice seeing a craftsman and artist of his caliber getting the attention he richly deserves.

Infernal Devices

Artist Jacob Petersson created this wonderful mechanical womb, along with a host of other great props.

Browse around his site and you'll find some real gems, including the amazing retro-tech genetic engineering kit I first stumbled across last year. A tip of the hat to Laura C for sending over a note about his latest work.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Yucay Valley, 1921

An archeologist and his local assistant survey the ruins of Pisac at the head of the Yucay Valley in Peru, circa 1921. The massive Machu Picchu complex is located a short distance away down the Urubamba Ravine.

Two descendants of the Incas stand upon the ruins of the Intihuatana, a temple building at the edge of Pisac.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


From artist "Spooky 777" comes this recreation of an occult investigation. It's a perfect blend of photography, props, and photomanipulation that I quite like.

Browse around his gallery and you'll find some other cool stuff, including this outstanding collection of paper and physical props based on the "Kane and Lynch: Dead Men" video game. The attention to detail and sheer comprehensiveness of the faux case folder is quite impressive.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Insanely Cheap Victorian Era Resources

Raven, bless his soul, sent over a couple of real gems being offered by DriveThruRPG. March 4th has become "GM Day", a commemoration of the tireless work of gamemasters everywhere. Imagine my surprise when I learned my old Cyberpunk/Traveller: 2300 campaign, the last tabletop game I actually GM'd, entitled me to some insanely cheap PDFs from the DriveThru store.

Well, technically everyone is entitled to the sale prices, but I still think my campaign was crazy awesome.*

Two products from Adamant Entertainment caught Raven's eye because they incorporate some handy period resources from the Victorian era. Even if you're not particularly interested in gaming, much less D20 tabletop gaming based in that time period, these would still be cool to have.

The first is "The Imperial Age: London", a guidebook to the greatest city of the British Empire at it's height. In addition to all the world-specific fluff and gaming crunch there's this:

Included within the pages of this supplement is a genuine Imperial Age document -- the 1899 edition of Bartholomew's Pocket Atlas & Guide to London, featuring detailed street-level maps of every corner of the city, as well as a reference index to streets and places of interest.

The second is "The Imperial Age: British India":

...A regional supplement for Imperial Age campaigns, covering the history, cultures, and governments of British India during the 1880s and 1890s.

A complete guide to the subcontinent is included, detailing the territories that made up the British Raj and its surrounding neighbors. Reprinted in full is a genuine Imperial Age document, the 1893 edition of Constable's Hand Atlas of India, featuring 16 pages of detailed period maps.

Both products are $1. That's right, a buck apiece. You can download both for less than the price of a good cup of coffee. Sale prices are good till March 8th.

From a propmaking standpoint this is the kind of authentic period material that can really flesh out a vampire hunting kit or steampunk project. One of the reasons I post so many photographs, documents, and maps is because they help bring a world to life and make it more believable. Benchmark props like the Grail Diary from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" or The Book of Secrets from "National Treasure" are good examples of conceptually simple props taken to a whole new level by the incorporation of extensive ephemera. These two gaming sourcebooks look like a rich source of printed material for anyone working on Victorian era projects.

* It was epic. A simple street-level murder investigation in New York turned into a three year run from the law that ended with an "Outland" style showdown on an asteroid mining station light years from Earth. My one and only professional game writing credit is for a slew of bioware from that campaign that ended up in the third Chromebook for Cyberpunk:2020.

Yo, I'z got mad geek cred.

Update: It appears the description of the "The Imperial Age: British India" book, claiming the supplement includes "Constable's Hand Atlas of India" reprinted in full, is not true. The supplement only contains 16 pages of maps from the atlas, all of which are direct scans of public domain materials without any cleanup or geometry correction. Meh. As Doc points out in the comments, a full copy of the atlas is available through Google Books at It's still a rough scan, but it's free.

I'm also a little disappointed with the "The Imperial Age: London" guidebook. It does indeed include a large portion of the 1899 Bartholomew's atlas, but the resolution and cleanup of the document scans is minimal. Some high resolution scans of the functionally identical and complete 1900 guide are available over here.

Mind you, my criticism is only based on the included period documents. From the standpoint of useful information about London and India in the Victorian age both books are still a bargain. From that perspective the $1 for each PDF is an investment you'll get an outrageously high return from.

The Jersey Devil

From artist Jason McKittrick comes this nicely done Jersey Devil skull.

My one minor quibble is that the pristine velvet seems out of place with the overall weathering applied to the rest of the piece.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Angkor Wat, 1921

A trio of proper archeologists at one of the approaches to the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia, circa 1921. To this day it's unknown why the massive city surrounding the complex was abandoned. Well, conventional theorists can't explain it. Those familiar with the corrupting influence of certain Mythos figures have no trouble at all imagining why the entire population would flee the largest pre-industrial city in the world.

Just click through to download and save the high resolution version.

This Is The World You Do Not See

Alban sent over a link to this wonderfully creepy collection of shots from photographer Mark Da Cunha Lopes. The reason why should be obvious once you browse the set.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Tropical Paradise Edition

Shane Mangus of the excellent "Swords Against the Outer Dark" site solved a mystery when he sent over this snapshot from the Wikimedia Commons yesterday. I've seen variations of this image dozens of times while filtering sites like Flickr for Lovecraftiana, but until now I didn't know it was an actual sculpture on display in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Learning where it was eventually led to this writeup in Wired about the piece in question, as well as the larger installation it's a part of.

(Puerto Vallarta) is actually very nice, by and large, though for whatever reason it did not agree with my constitution. One day I strolled the lengthy beach-front boardwalk (the “Malecón”) in an effort to adjust and take in local color. I was pleased with the non-touristy things, mostly disgusted with the tourist-targeted nonsense, and greatly impressed and surprised with the copious amounts of statuary dotted along its length.

And then I reached a particular installation, and was simply flabbergasted…

Known as “La Rotunda del Mar” (”The Circle of the Sea” in my poor, poor Spanish), this installation by artist Alejandro Colunga features creatures/beings straight out of Innsmouth and Lovecraft’s imaginings. Fabulous!

By any standards it's an amazing bit of work, but the depiction of towering tentacled forms arranged like an altar makes it one of particular interest to Mythos aficionados. I can't help thinking of Fritz Leiber's "The Terror From the Depths", probably the best story involving modern artistic and architectural interpretations of the Mythos ever written, while looking at it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Land of Nyarlathotep

For your viewing pleasure, a period map of Egypt featuring most of the major archeological sites, including insets of the Giza Complex, the major pyramids, Thebes, and the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

You can download the PDF from Google Docs over here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

More Ink

Javier sent over this photo of his brand new Elder Sign tattoo, based on the design over here.

I've been surprised at how much interest there is in Mythos tattoos. I have two flash designs available over on Tattoodles that have been downloaded quite a bit, and more than a few of the clip art style designs here have been inked. Ironically, I can't get tats because my skin scars so easily.

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Snowstorm Edition

When the skies opened up and dropped four feet of snow, Snipe didn't let the opportunity go to waste.

Having been subjected to 20 inches of snow last week I'm now kicking myself for not taking advantage of the situation.