Wednesday, June 30, 2010


The latest from Ross MacDonald's blog is an in-depth look at what went into the creation of a wanted poster for the new "Johah Hex" movie. The amount of work put into the final poster, featuring hand-set vintage type and a custom carved linocut, is simply amazing. The article also includes some interesting historical research:

"Wanted posters are a form of Public Notice. We tend to think of public notices as 'lost cat' posters these days, but originally they were much more formal documents. Think of the town crier gathering the citizens of the village, and reading the proclamation from the King, before nailing it to a post for all to read - that's a public notice. A Public Notice was the Law. Wanted Notices are legal contracts, and were almost always issued by a Sheriff or other duly-appointed lawman, whose name and location were printed at the bottom. If you produced the 'wanted' person, the sheriff was legally obliged to give you the reward offered, no questions asked.

Wanted posters were mostly intended as circulars - sent to other lawmen in surrounding communities - and weren't often tacked up all over town, as shown in most movies. Rewards were a source of extra income for deputies. However, a few posters would also be posted prominently at strategic locations - the post office, general store, etc. - in the hopes that a citizen might have information about the fugitive."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Curwin's Legacy

Mr. Able of The Able Workshop was kind enough to send over a look at his latest project: The Joseph Curwin Thesis field box.

Not long ago, a student at Miskatonic University researching trans-dimensional vampirism came across a singular artifact while excavating the ruins of what was once the house of the infamous Joseph Curwin. The box seems to be a field case of some sort, most likely used by Curwin in his travels and research when not at home. The box contains most notably a partial mummified skeleton of what appears to be an infant male (most likely used as a reagent to aquire mumia, which is a key ingredient in the processes of revivification that Curwin pioneered.) There are two types of salts, custodes and materia, and several vials of liquids, powders and other curious elements that can only be guessed at as they are sealed.

A drawer in the box reveals a Simon edition of the NECRONOMICON, however the book itself (owing to the cover) was known as "The Scarab Occult" and thought long lost. The function of the rod (wand?) in the drawer is not known.

An overall look at the field box. The central compartment contains the fetal skeleton and a variety of vials, while the lower drawer holds "The Scarab Occult" and a wand of suspiciously familiar hue. I've always suspected that Herbert West was more than a little familiar with Curwin's work.

The very nicely done fetal skeleton. The weathering really captures the look of dessicated flesh.

A lightly wider angle showing the storage box for the skeleton. I believe the corner pieces are custom etched, which is a nice touch.

Vials sealed with wax. Mr. Able handily avoids one of my pet peeves- storage containers that would promptly spill their contents all over the place if the prop was actually used. See the numerous vampire hunting kits on Ebay for examples.

Essential salts, with properly seated corks. It's probably for the best that there isn't an example of "ye liveliest awfulness" visible.

Monday, June 28, 2010

"At the Mountains of Madness" Expedition Gear

In 1930 an expedition from Miskatonic University arrived in the Antarctic. Shortly thereafter a remote survey camp began exploring a newly discovered chain of mountains and radioed back the details of an incredible discovery.

Hours later, every man in the camp was dead.

The controversy over what happened to the poor souls in that isolated outpost still rages today. Where they killed by a freakishly powerful storm, as the official inquiry ruled? Or were they the victims of a mass, homicidal rage induced by tainted food, as some have suggested? And what of the mysterious discovery they claimed to have made shortly before radio contact was lost?

Those questions may never be answered, but now you can own a small piece of that ill-fated expedition's history.

"Wings Over Antarctica" Miskatonic University Antarctic Expedition Patch

The 4" (10 cm) patch is embroidered on a tough cotton twill backing that will last for years of use, and the heat-sensitive adhesive makes it easy to iron it on to the garment of your choice.

The "Wings Over Antarctica" logo is as historically accurate as possible. The deco-influenced design features a stylized Dornier Wal (or "Whale"), the aircraft actually used by the expedition in the story. The silhouette of Antarctica is correct for 1930, before the true boundaries of the ice floes had been mapped, and the font used was first available commercially in 1928. Readers of the story should also appreciate the symbolism of using a five-pointed star to mark the expedition's ultimate destination.

"Wings Over Antarctica" Miskatonic University Antarctic Expedition Lapel Pin

This handsome reproduction of the "Wings Over Antarctica" logo is 1" (2.5 cm) in diameter. Constructed of solid brass with an antiqued finish and a butterfly clasp backing.

Miskatonic University Antarctic Expedition Notebook

The expedition notebook is patterned after the pocket journals used by scientists and researchers in the field to record observations. The front cover features the expedition logo, while the back includes observation instructions and a specimen ruler. The notebook measures 3.5" by 5" (8.89 cm by 12.7 cm) and has a saddle-stitch binding, 1/4" rounded corners, heavyweight cover, and 32 pages of high quality lined paper. All materials are 100% recycled and the cover designs are printed with environmentally friendly soy ink.

All Hail The Queen

An interesting take on the Hasturian side of the Mythos from artist Joe Broers: the "Queen in Yellow". I think this is the first sculpt based on Chambers' work I've seen, outside of the "King in Yellow" figure from the RAFM miniatures line for "Call of Cthulhu".

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mea Culpa

If you ordered an Antarctic expedition prop set on Saturday you paid too much for shipping.

Not surprisingly, it's my fault this happened- I had set up the charges as though each package included three notebooks, which are surprisingly heavy, instead of the lighter shipping weight of one notebook, a patch, and a pin. To make up for the problem, which was totally on my end and resulted in an overcharge of $1-$1.50, I'll include an extra Miskatonic University notebook in every order made before 2100 PDT on Saturday (when I finally determined what was going on and fixed it).

I sincerely apologize for the error and hope everyone caught by it finds the extra notebook an acceptable way of making up for it. As a small operation serving a very niche market I take customer service very seriously, so I'll be happy to refund the overcharge amount to anyone that prefers that form of compensation. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you ever have a issue with an order.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

More Paper

Florian Mellies was kind enough to send over two more paper props: an autopsy report and a German Master's certificate from the 1930's, based on the one his own great-grandfather obtained. Just click through to download the full sized graphics from Picasa.

From Florian Mellies Police Paper Props

From Florian Mellies Police Paper Props

From Florian Mellies Police Paper Props

Friday, June 25, 2010

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Arnold Edition

Artist Mark Arnold was kind enough to send over these snapshots of his latest project, a Cthulhu idol entitled "Cthulhu Waits Dreaming".

"I've just completed another Statue of the "Legrasse Statue" from Lovecraft's "Call of Cthulhu"...I wanted this version to be covered in texture so that when you had it in your hands you just wanted to run your fingers all over. Cthulhu likes to be stroked.

I hope you like the new version."

I most certainly do. You can more of his work at his website.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Obsessed by the Ice

It's no secret that I consider Chaosium's "Beyond the Mountains of Madness" the greatest "Call of Cthulhu" campaign of all time. It's arguably the single finest achievement of the entire tabletop gaming hobby, and one of the direct inspirations for Propnomicon's existence. Christian Lehmann has been posting a detailed recap of his experiences running it over at Yog-Sothoth. It's an an entertaining and enlightening view of why BTMOM is such a treasure. There are spoilers galore, but anyone considering giving it a try in the future will find tons of helpful advice and resources.

Criminal Intent

The Mythos photography of artist Florian Mellies has been featured here before. Today we have something a little different. He was kind enough to send over the paper props from IO Interactive he used in this homage to the "Kane and Lynch" video game:

The set includes a fingerprint sheet and two police crime reports, one with NYPD and the other with LAPD markings. The preview images below link to the full sized 8.5" by 11" graphics at Picasa, where you can download them to your hard drive.

From Florian Mellies Police Paper Props

From Florian Mellies Police Paper Props

From Florian Mellies Police Paper Props

My thanks to Mr. Mellies for making these available. You can see more of his wonderful photography and prop work at his DeviantArt site.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Arkham Seal T-Shirts

Just in time for summer vacation, I've added a T-shirt featuring the official seal of Arkham, Massachusetts to the Zazzle lineup. Just the thing to wear on the ferry to Amity Island.

Across The Waves

One of the allures of the classic Lovecraft era is that it was the "Golden Age" of international travel. Magnificently appointed passenger liners were sailing the seas, luxurious trains puffed their way across continents, immense airships cruised the clouds, and the very first airliners were taking to the skies. Our romantic view of period travel owes more than a little to selective memory, giving far more historical weight to the experiences of the relatively few passengers traveling in style than the thousands making transits under far less glamorous conditions, but that tunnel vision is certainly understandable. Who wouldn't want to live in a world of velvet and mahogany?

You'll find a wealth of material for recreating that stylish experience at the Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives.

One of the largest collections of historical documents from the 1800s through 1954 with concentrations in Steamship and Ocean Liner documents and photographs, Passenger Lists, U.S. Navy Archives and additional materials covering World Wars I and II, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Immigration documents from Ellis Island, Castle Garden and other Immigration Stations.

The majority of the online materials are ocean travel documents and ephemera from the late 19th and early 20th century, ranging from copies of tickets and boarding passes to period articles describing the idealized world of the great liners. One of the most useful sections features vintage brochures complete with pictures and deckplans of the accommodations. Not surprisingly, grand salons and paneled smoking rooms get far more attention than the benches down in steerage.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Moreno Edition

Artist Pablo Moreno brings us this diminutive Cthulhu idol. I love the heavily textured organic look used in many depictions, but there's something to be said for a very clean minimalist approach.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Crass Commercialism

I've finally ordered new runs of the Miskatonic expedition swag.

The Antarctic sets inspired by "At the Mountains of Madness" are scheduled to arrive this week. The Australian patch and pin sets based on "The Shadow Out of Time" should be in my hands in two weeks. I've ordered 100 of each, and if sales go well (despite the current economic climate) I'll follow up with a new edition of the Miskatonic University gear in July. Everything will be available here on the blog with payments accepted through PayPal.

After that I'll be attempting to get back to my original concept of offering a short run, low-cost prop or memorabilia item every month. And by "low cost" I mean $10 or less for a single item, or a themed set for under $20. Here's the tentative schedule:

June/July- Reissue of the Antarctic and Australian expedition items (patch, pin, notebook). Already ordered or in transit.

July- Reissue of the Miskatonic University items.

August- New issue of Arkham Sanitarium patches and pins, along with a few extras to be determined. I'll also be working on some documents and resources that will be released at the same time under the usual Creative Commons license.

September- A set of postcards depicting locations in and around Arkham, Massachusetts. Out of the five card set three are already done, and the remaining two just need to be sent to the printers. I'd also like to include a sheet of faux-postage stamps if I can get them for a reasonable cost.

October- A set of vintage luggage labels based on Lovecraft's works. I'll be revising the designs I've already done for Innsmouth's Gilman House and the Hotel Miskatonic and adding three more.

November- A resin reproduction of the Elder Thing starstones from "At the Mountains of Madness". Ideally, this will include a vintage-style shipping crate complete with appropriate expedition and shipping markings. I looked into getting them carved from green soapstone, but the cost was well outside my $20 limit.

Again, this is a tentative schedule that may change over time. I'm planning on having 100 of each item available because that seems to be the sweet spot for these kind of projects. If the reissues for this month sell out I'll increase the subsequent run sizes appropriately to keep up with demand.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Yellow Sign, Redux

I fiddled around with the "Yellow Sign" sigil and made a few changes to the design. The whole discussion about it's symbolism and history can be found over here. Click through for the full sized version.

And here's a look at it out in the wild, so to speak.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Firefly LARP Paper Props

It's certainly not Mythos related, but this Flickr collection of "Firefly" paper props for the Dropzone 2010 event has to be one of the best immersion aids for a live action game I've ever seen. There are already a plethora of outstanding licensed props available for "Firefly" and "Serenity", but this event has gone a step further with an array of custom-themed items. There's a little of everything in there- bottle labels, identification cards, and even an in-game newspaper.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cultist's Amulet

Andres Feliciano brings us this cultist's amulet cast from solid silver. The piece was aged using an egg solution, then burnished with a jewelry cloth.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Arkham Death Certificate

Here's a vintage-style death certificate from Lovecraft's Arkham. Opening the PDF with Adobe Acrobat Reader or a forms compatible viewer will allow you to fill in the blank fields with typewritten text using an embedded Freeware font.

This is the first time I've used form fields in a printable prop, so it would be helpful if you could leave a comment mentioning any problems. I also opted to use a light dotted outline to mark where the paper should be trimmed instead of using crop marks. If you find the marks easier to use I can make sure they're included in future projects.

You can download the PDF over here. Here's the JPG version:

Here's the original document the prop is based on:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Maurer Edition

Tim Lonegan sent over a link to this well done Cthulhu idol by artist Nathan Maurer. Browse around his site and you'll find a variety of occult-related items, including a Necronomicon medallion featuring two versions of the Elder Sign.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Expedition Gear

My thanks to Surreality Watch for the very nice writeup about the Miskatonic expedition shirts.

Map Brushes

Jon Decker was kind enough to send over an updated link for his map brushes I posted about last year. You can find the brush set, and some great examples of what you can do with them, over here. While you're at his site be sure to check out this take on incorporating the events of "At the Mountains of Madness" into current exploration efforts.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Making A Magic Potion

I wish I could think of a better title for this than "Making a Magic Potion", since there's blessedly little potion swilling in "Call of Cthulhu". Putting that aside, this is a quick and easy technique for creating a swirling, iridescent liquid that looks great as a potion, bound spirit, or fuel inside the reaction chamber of some infernal mechanism. Just shaking the bottle produces a wonderful pearlescent turbulence, and the effect is considerably enhanced if you can illuminate the liquid.

You'll need a bottle or container of some kind, regular kitchen food coloring, water, and the magic ingredient- mica powder. Have you ever seen an iridescent paint job on a car? Where the color shifts as it drives past you? That's the same effect produced by mica powder.

For this project I'm using "Pearl Ex Powdered Pigment", a very fine grained mica powder available at your local craft store. A single small jar runs $3-$4, but you can pick up a twelve pack for around $1 a jar if you take advantage of the ubiquitous 40% off coupons offered by craft retailers. If you don't happen to have a craft store nearby you can order the powders through Amazon. You'll only need a small amount, so a single jar should be good for a number of bottles.

Here's what the gold powder looks like inside the jar:

Fill your bottle with water and add a few drops of food coloring. You won't need much, since the mica powder will add more color to the liquid.

Then use a coffee stirrer or straw to scoop up a small amount of the powder and dump it into the bottle. Put on the cap, either a screw top or cork depending on what kind of container you're using, and give it a shake. Tada! You're done.

Turbulence in the water causes the mica fragments to swirl around. As they spin light is reflected from the short and long faces of the particles, producing two bands of color as the phase of the wavelength is alternately reinforced and damped.

Here's a bottle without any food coloring, just mica. The red and gold coloring is produced solely by light reflected from the powdered pigment.

Here's a short video clip demonstrating the swirling effect in motion:

Sadly, the iridescence will slowly disappear as the mica particles settle to the bottom of the container under the pull of gravity. You can delay that by using a more viscous fluid like glycerin or mineral oil instead of water, or by providing an outside source of energy.

Ideally, you could mimic the technique used in some novelty lights with a glass container filled with mica impregnated fluid suspended over an incandescent lamp. The direct illumination will produce a more intense swirling effect because more light is being reflected, and the heat from the lamp will set up eddy currents that keep the particles suspended. My sensitivity to legal liability compels me to remind you that such a project could easily set your home on fire and cause a massive explosion if you're not careful, so use your head and assume I'm a bloodthirsty maniac hell-bent on leading you into misfortune.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Infinity Circuit

From the Able Workshop comes this cleverly crafted example of a retro-futurist zero point power source: The Infinity Circuit.

What really makes this prop is the etched brass panels and the lighting effects. Computer modders may be guilty of a multitude of sins against good taste, but they've driven the creation of easy to use, low-cost, low-power light sources that are ideal for propmaking.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


A selection of period generators and power equipment from the 1922 Montgomery Ward mail-order catalog. Something has to be powering all those labs filled with mad science. Click through for the high resolution version.

Friday, June 11, 2010

It Bites

From the very talented Jason Soles, the Carnivean Mask. When a cultist is wearing this, you know he means business.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Handwritten Fonts

ToNToN CoPT, proprietor of the Cré'à'Vapeur site, has put together an excellent collection of 16 handwriting fonts suitable for prop use. There's a nice mix of styles, and the selection is a useful change of pace from what you'll find at the major free font sites.

While you're there be sure to browse around check out some of the outstanding steampunk and Victorian mad science projects. ToNToN CoPT is the artist behind the impressive "Machine Infernale" prop and video from last year, and his other works are equally impressive.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ross MacDonald, Master of the Craft

I'm a huge fan of Ross MacDonald's prop work, so you can imagine how I felt a few weeks ago when he Tweeted he was working on a new book prop. Yesterday he not only revealed what the project was, but posted an in-depth look at it's creation. The massive tome measures roughly 12" wide, 17" wide, and 5" thick and weighs in at close to 20 pounds.

"The interior is filled with collages of images and text from period books. Most of the text is German, taken from 15th century books. Many of the images are from the same period, for the sake of authenticity. But for the sake of what looks cool, there are images from other periods as well. The ones on this spread include 2 diagrams from Georg von Welling's 1735 Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Theosophicum, a number puzzle designed by Ben Franklin, a Celtic knot, a diagram of a microbe and a heraldic device. One other pages, there are bits of electronic schematics, some diagrams and handwriting from George Washington's school notebook, and diagrams of crystals and fungi from a 19th century dictionary."

It's a beautiful piece of work, and Mr. MacDonald's generosity in providing a look at it's creation is much appreciated. You can find more examples of his prop and illustration work at his personal site or his Drawger blog.

On a peripherally related note, one of the things I like about this prop is that it doesn't go overboard with the cover embossments and spiky bits. I love sculpted detail as much as anyone, but a prop tome covered in decorative resin or metal flourishes can never be put on a bookshelf without risking damage to the prop or the books around it. The space required to store the tome, along with a dedicated display stand or storage box, can quickly turn the most lovingly hand-crafted work into a white elephant.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day of the Tentacles

I was pretty happy with how my quick and dirty tentacles came out last year, but now I find myself suffering from feelings of inadequacy. The proprietor of the "Primatoide Futile" blog took my basic technique and super-sized it. Really, really super-sized it.

"We decided on a length of 1.5m, plus a few dozens of centimeters wire free at the end. We made a few changes to method described in the tutorial, but it is a great and easy method to make tentacles."

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but where I grew up you didn't come into a man's house, admire his tentacles, and then build one three times larger. That's like rustling his cattle or leaving him gut-shot after a gunfight. It's just not done.

Just wait till I get my hands on some industrial cling wrap. Then you'll see what "escalation" is all about. Bwahahahahahahahahaha!