Thursday, June 30, 2011

Blomberg Style Vampire Killing Kit

Patrick Reilly brings us this nicely done vampire killing kit. I like that everything is restrained so the kit can be carried without spilling its contents all over the interior. Even the cork stoppered bottles are in compartments small enough to keep the corks firmly seated in the neck of the glass.

The one small quibble I would make is the machine cut Phillips head screws in the hinge, but that's a picayune detail. A reader with experience using vintage hardware has said that can be fixed by opening up the slots into more of a wedge shape with a Dremel. Screws with cruciform heads existed at least as far back as the 18th century. It's just the regularity of the Phillips pattern that's anachronistic.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On the Road

CoastConFan takes a look at driving in the classic era of the Mythos. The embedded videos are a glimpse at just how difficult getting around could be in the early 20th century. As he points out, there's a good reason period drivers carried so many spares.

From a prop perspective, you might find it handy to have a vintage road atlas for any areas you're going to be spending a lot of time in. They can be picked up surprisingly cheaply on Ebay, and you can't beat the level of authenticity they provide. Not to mention how gorgeous classic oil and gas company graphic designs are.

The one drawback to using original source material is that reality can vary considerably from the set-up of a published scenario. One of the segments in Pagan Publishing's "The Walker in the Wastes" takes place near my home in upstate New York. Without giving away any major spoilers, the poor condition of the roads and lack of train access has an impact on the story. In reality, the paved roads and railroad service between the segment location and New York city were among the best in the world in the classic era.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Amulet of Naga-Anjing

Artist William Sidmore brings us this intricately carved ivory amulet dedicated to the Dayak god Naga-Anjing.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Ancient Art of the Gaff

There truly is nothing new under the sun.

Gaffs and monstrous specimens are currently undergoing a bit of a renaissance. Some collectors enjoy the unnatural beasts because they hearken back to a time when the world was filled with uncharted territories and real mystery. Others get a kick out of the slightly sleazy atmosphere that surrounds objects that are effectively lies made real. A third group simply appreciate the artistry that goes into their creation. No matter what their motivation, they've all helped breathe new life into the art of the gaff.

What's intriguing about the current explosion in faux beasts is just how old many of the techniques are. One branch of the field draws heavily on what today is called "outlaw taxidermy", using real animal parts to create chimeras and fantastic mummified creatures. The hideous chupacabras, demon hands, and mermaids of today draw on methods that are hundreds, if not thousands of years old. Stretching a softened animal skin over a skeleton constructed of real bones or a carved armature produces an incredibly realistic effect, something that didn't escape the notice of our ancestors.

A good example of how old such gaffery goes back can be found in this article on the monster mummies of Japan. While the flim-flammers of the west concentrated on creating a multitude of saintly artifacts those in the east were producing an amazing variety of mummified supernatural creatures ranging from demons to kappas. It's no accident that the bizarre gaffs available today have more than a passing resemblance to the ones created hundreds of years ago.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Excavation

I always get excited when I see Florian Mellies post a new work on DeviantArt. His latest archeological tableau doesn't disappoint. He has a gift for taking an intriguing artifact and taking it to a whole new level with accessories and ephemera.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Innsmouth Taint

The talented Joe Broers brings us this faux-bronze resident of Innsmouth.

Friday, June 24, 2011

It Lives

Artist "nClaire" sculpted this disturbing example of a zombie prawn. The very idea of arthropods being vulnerable to the infection is absolutely terrifying. Flesh eating undead humans? No problem. Swarms of biting insects carrying the zombie virus? Nightmarish.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Hatchling

This toothy little specimen is brought to us by "garrapatacervecera". The level of detail is quite impressive for something around 3" in length.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Necromantic Fetish

Mr. Zarono created this nicely done necromantic fetish. The richly textured, multi-layer finish really brings it to life, no pun intended.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cthulhu Fhtagn! da Geb Edition

Solon da Geb brings us this dynamic Cthulhu maquette. It's a beautiful sculpt, but a bit too anthropomorphic for my tastes. That's a matter of personal opinion and shouldn't detract from the obvious skill that went into the piece. I just find myself enjoying more alien-looking depictions of Cthulhu as I get older.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Bakutis Edition

Artist Jason Bakutis brings us this bas relief of dread Cthulhu. It's an interesting interpetation that blends the traditional depiction of the great Old One with the look of a western demon.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Alien Specimen

Mitch Nah brings us this alien specimen from the 1800s. Follow the link and you'll see the surprising materials that went into its construction.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Auction, Part II

Continuing on from yesterday, here are more shots from the live action "The Auction" game in Rio de Janeiro. The props are extremely well done.

As an aside, one of the things I love about the Mythos community is its global nature. More particularly, for years we've seen an amazing variety of props and reproductions coming out of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, and the rest of Europe. Now Brazil is offering up its own unique take, as these pictures and the works of artists like Leo Dias attest.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Auction, Part I

Luciano Paulo Giehl was kind enough to send me some pictures from a live action "Call of Cthulhu" event held June 11th in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Over 35 players participated. Here's Mr. Giehl's introduction, with minor rewrites on my part for clarity.

"The game was about an auction in Miskatonic University in mid-30's. The auction's focus was occult and supernatural items (some Mythos stuff, of course!)

The player characters were Mythos investigators, millionaire dilettantes, private collectors, academics, negotiators from museums, occultists, and cultists of the Old Ones (there were Yithians, sorcerers, a disguised member of the Serpent People, and even Asenath Waite using veils).

Beside the action, there were sub-plots and a great deal of intrigue. Nazi Spies (Thule agents), a serial murderer from Arkham (chased by police and Arkham Asylum doctors), and a Cult looking for vengeance against some Miskatonic professors. "

As you can see from the pictures this was an event with an emphasis on immersiveness. Because of the large number of shots I'm breaking them up into two posts, one today and one tomorrow. The props on display are quite impressive.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Bross Edition

Nils Bross is one of the artists helping Pegasus-Verlag, the German "Call of Cthulhu" publisher, produce some of the most beautiful supplements in the business. This Cthulhu statue is just one of his interpretations on display at his DeviantArt gallery, along with examples of his other artwork and props.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

From the Spun Sugar Towers of Deep R'lyeh

The talented Jason McKittrick has released a new line of Lovecraftian Lollipops as a followup to his chocolate Cthulhu figures. I'm deeply amused at the thought of cute little tykes enjoying a lollipop... without a clue that they're taking the sweet, sugary communion of Cthulhu and Nyarlathotep.

Update: And what should arrive in today's post, but some of Mr. McKittrick's wonderful work. The lollipops are a lot bigger than I expected, and they taste great. The girls both loved them and the resident tentacled horror seems quite fond of the "Deep One" lollipop.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cuneiform Tablet Tutorial

This tutorial on creating cuneiform tablets is intended as an educational exercise for kids, but it's equally useful for anyone looking to create reproductions of Mythos artifacts like the G'harne Fragments or Zanthu Tablets. For a few bucks you can pick up enough clay to produce dozens of tablets, and the level of authenticity can't be beat. Heck, you can bury the things in your backyard for a few weeks and they'll produce their own weathering treatment.

Here's another take on the process being used to create a reproduction of "The Descent of Ishtar".

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Fallen

It appears that Christian Matzke's Propping Up the Mythos is no more.

The site hadn't been updated in quite some time, but it was such an immense and useful repository of propmaking information that I just took for granted that it would be around forever. Mr. Matzke's work was one of the direct inspirations for my own humble efforts and the first place I received any kind of exposure. I'm genuinely saddened that it's gone.

If anyone has further information about the site's disappearance, or contact info for Mr. Matzke, I would appreciate if you dropped me an email.

Update: Many thanks to the commenters that pointed out the site has been archived by the Wayback Machine.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Thorsson Edition

Beware the home where a statue of great Cthulhu rests on the mantelpiece. This troubling bit of home decor is from artist and propmaker Shawn Thorsson.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Miller Edition

Artist Britta Miller brings us this unusual Cthulhu idol. One feature I really like is the multiple eyes, a detail present in Lovecraft's own sketch of the statue from "The Call of Cthulhu". For some reason the majority of depictions leave that out.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Malaysian Dragon

Ryan at the Mad Art Lab brings us this mounted Malaysian dragon skeleton . Even more impressively, he goes into considerable detail about how he crafted it. It's always nice to see someone willing to share their knowledge, as opposed to the artists that are loathe to discuss their techniques.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Curious Specimens

Zombie Squid brings us this intriguing tableau of items collected from the island of Ponape.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Harlow Edition.

Special effects makeup artist and sculptor Joel Harlow brings us this unique Cthulhu idol. It's about as far from the traditional anthropomorphic depiction as you can get. Browse around his gallery and you'll find some other takes on Cthulhu and his incredible effects work.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

For a Good Cause

I was recently approached by a reader to donate a few items to one of those "Art for Insert Cause Here" type events.* When I politely declined, since it was for a political cause I don't happen to support, I found myself being subjected to one of the most hateful, vituperative emails I've ever had the displeasure to read. What made it even more painful is that it was from someone I've corresponded with on a pretty regular basis in connection with propmaking and Lovecraft scholarship.

Things like that are why I never, ever bring up the subject of politics here.

I understand people are passionate about issues they care about. I'm very politically active and regularly contribute to causes and candidates I support. If you're so inclined you could probably dig up my history of donations, although I try to keep them all below the $200 Federal reporting threshold for privacy reasons. I love discussing politics, and there are a few regular readers with diametrically opposing views to mine that I've exchanged polite emails with on various subjects.

That said, I also think those kind of discussions don't have to be interjected into every single facet of life. There are a few websites I used to frequent on a daily basis that are now unreadable because they've become infested with true-believers. There is no shortage of sites devoted entirely to political discussion, but for reasons that escape me the most die-hard tribalists feel the need to not only slurp up the kool aid themselves, but relentlessly press anyone passing by to take a deep drink from the punchbowl.

There's an old tradition that gentlefolk refrain from discussing politics and religion in polite company. I think that's a pretty good rule to live by.**

*As an aside, what self-respecting political cause would want to have anything to do with my work? As entertaining as I, and by extension you, might find these things they're not exactly mainstream. Half rotted parasitic worms? Mummified body parts? Murderous cult fetishes? Sweet fancy Moses, I'm an attack ad just waiting to happen.

** At least until the end times. That's when I'll merrily try to convert you all to my cultish minions. If I'm lucky I'll be able to enjoy some some truly epic drunken debauchery featuring gallons of absinthe and dozens of scantily-clad goth chicks before the Dark Lord devours my soul. Oh, and I want to work an opium den in there somewhere. Come to think of it, I really just want to live like a pulp-era villain when the end of days rolls around. A sentimental traditionalist, that's me.

The Eye Behind the Gate

Mikhael Zaitsev brings us this curious item seized from a cult of Dagon worshippers. This may well be one of the lost artifacts from the Innsmouth raid.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Artifacts from Atlantis

Fedora Smith brings us this collection of artifacts from the "Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis" videogame. It's amazing how well artisans have been able to translate the pixellated images from the game into realistic props.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Horror Begins

The very talented Mark Arnold brings us this piece entitled "The Death of Wilbur Whately". The faux bronze finish is wonderful.

"Based upon the description in Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror," this is a plaster cast, hand painted to resemble bronze, it is seven inches square, and four inches high, and comes in at four pounds."

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Size Matters

I've been puttering around with some PDF scans of vintage document and noticed something odd. The margins. All of the pages were surrounded by what looked to be a quarter inch of empty space, as though they were shrunk down after they were scanned.

It turns out I was misinterpreting what I was seeing. The documents weren't shrunk, but were universally smaller than the scanning platen sized for 8.5" by 11" "Letter" sized paper. That's because back in 1921 two different Federal committees came up with two different paper standards .

Not until World War I or shortly after was a standard paper size agreed to in the United States. Interestingly enough, within six months of each other, two different paper sizes were set as the standard; one for the government and one for the rest of us.

1. In 1921, the first director of the Bureau of the Budget established an interagency advisory group with the President's approval called the Permanent Conference on Printing which established the 8" x 10½" as the general U.S. government letterhead standard. This extended an earlier establishment made by the former President Hoover, the Secretary of Commerce at the time, who established the 8" x 10½" as the standard letterhead size for his department.

2. Now, during the same year, a Committee on the Simplification of Paper Sizes consisting of printing industry representatives was appointed to work with the Bureau of Standards as part of Hoover's program for the Elimination of Waste in Industry. This group came up with basic sizes for all types of printing and writing papers. The size for "letter" was a 17" x 22" sheet while the "legal" size was 17" x 28" sheet. The later known U.S. letter format was these sizes halved (8 ½" x 11" and 8 ½" by 14").

I vaguely recall coming across the idea of a minuscule size difference between "government" paper and regular paper before, but I wrote it off as an urban legend or waggish commentary on government efficiency. Personally, I'm not going to get too bent out of shape that my few reproductions of Federal paper are slightly oversized. It's a legitimate concern for anyone worried about the absolute authenticity of prop documents in the classic era. For casual game use the hassle of resizing document templates and hand trimming paper to size is too much effort for too little reward.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Phil Bolton brings us an example of a variant paper aging technique that produces a wonderfully warm, buttery finish.

"It started life as am old pad of drawing paper that was folded, tediously brushed with steel wool dissolved in vinegar, and even more tediously stitched together. My only regret is I should have weathered the edges of the pages a lot more."

I've run across mentions of the steel wool and vinegar technique being used to age solid wood, but I never considered using it for paper. In hindsight it makes perfect sense. It's just wood of another sort, after all.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

We're Here For You!

I apologize for the lack of content yesterday. My internet connection went down Tuesday and the fine folks at Time Warner Cable scheduled a technician to fix the problem sometime between 8 AM and 9 PM. When 10 PM rolled around, after I spent an entire day twiddling my thumbs, I called customer service to see what was up. The very pleasant representative informed me that, gosh, the problem was area-wide and my appointment had been canceled. Sadly, the skilled technicians in the service department didn't have time to, you know, call me.

Bravo, Time Warner! Thanks for wasting my time. I'd lash out at your incompetence, but your monopoly service agreement with my municipality means you're immune to any repercussions for another two years.

But I'm sure you already knew that.

The Emperor's Mark

The talented Mr. Able brings us this Warhammer 40k Inquisitor badge. The level of detail he's been able to produce with the etching process is quite impressive.