Monday, October 31, 2011

Baron Samedi

Michael Locascio brings us this interesting depiction of Baron Samedi. He's creeped me out ever since I saw "Live and Let Die" when I was younger. Even learning some of the symbolism behind him hasn't been enough to shake that unease.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Aliaric is a fun little fantasy font created by Russian writer Anton Antonov. It has a rough, handwritten finish and enough variation in character density to make it handy for grimoire text and such. The superscript vowels can be a little distracting, but that's easily fixed with a quick search and replace.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Deep Ones

I think this is the future of propmaking, and I have mixed feelings about it.

Bryan Wynia "sculpted" this fantastic selection of Deep One concepts using Zbrush, a 3D modeling program.

And here's the final version with a complete skin.

The second picture is what lead me to the linked site. Even at high resolution it's difficult to tell that it's a totally digital object and not an actual maquette. It's not the first time I've been fooled by a good digital "sculpt", and I have a feeling it will be happening a lot more in the near future.

What I find really interesting about Mr. Wynia's work is that it could be transformed into a real bust in just a matter of days. The plummeting cost of modeling software has made creating digital objects and props easier than ever. Once those models are created they can be used to construct virtual items, for use in high definition video productions, as well as actual items. Tabletop 3D printers are still a few years away from being household items, but it's just a matter of time until they are.

When that happens it will revolutionize small-scale manufacturing, not to mention hobby propmaking. "Sculpting" isn't going to be any easier, but there are a lot of people, myself included, who are far better at creating three-dimensional objects than they are at making two-dimensional depictions. There's going to be an explosion of small shops cranking out obscure items like Cthulhu statues and Elder Thing star stones.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Whately's Patent Cures Match Books

Chris Huning sent over these nifty little prop matchbooks. You'll find the high resolution JPG here, and the PDF over here.

"Spent a while riffing on Raven's "Dr Whately's Energy Elixer" label and created some advertising matchbooks for the Elixer and a couple other Whately's products and figured I share :) I also used Alex Kaeda's Arkham Sanitarium matchbook pdf as my template."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Leather Cthulhu Mask

For the fashion conscious cultist, a molded leather Cthulhu mask from artist Eden Bachelder. I love the flowing, sinuous lines.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Collection of Dr. Cagliostro

A wonderfully evocative tableau from the collection of curiosities gathered by the eminent Dr. Cagliostro. Currently curated by Oskar Hejll. Students of the bizarre and the occult, not to mention masterful propmaking, will find a visit most rewarding.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Necronomicon, Milliput Mog Edition

An interesting take on the Necronomicon from "Milliput Mog". It seems to be a prop for a British television production. Anyone have an idea what show it was used on?

Monday, October 24, 2011

This is Not Cthulhu

This is a vintage stamped brass jewelry finding of an octopus. It costs $2.75 at the provided link and you can find it for significantly less at a variety of jewelry supply houses.

It is an octopus. A very nice octopus, to be sure, but nothing more.

It is not Cthulhu. Epoxying it to a gear does not make a steampunk Cthulhu. Putting it on the end of a chain does not make a Cthulhu necklace. Adding an earring mount does not make it a Cthulhu earring. Adding a backing pin does not make it a Cthulhu lapel pin. Gluing it to a barrette does not make a Cthulhu hair clip.

If you feel a deep and abiding need to pay $45 or more for this octopus and pretend that it is Cthulhu, please contact me. I'll sell you one for half that.

Snarky "Etsy is a scourge upon the Earth" McSnark

Update: Dr. Curiosity pointed out that others have trod this path before. Please check it out.

Stuff like this rarely sets me off. I'm normally a live and let live, do your own thing kind of guy. Love cute little crocheted Cthulhus? No problem mate, it's just not my cup of tea.

But the insidious proliferation of this particular finding masquerading as Cthulhu is just too much. It's. Freaking. Everywhere.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Corpse Nails

"Fumsmusings" has posted hundreds of makeup and special effects tutorials on Youtube, including this one on creating the ragged fingernails of a corpse. It's obviously useful if you're doing any kind of undead costume for a live action event, but the technique would be ideal for prop use. Mummified hands are a perennially popular occult artifact. Most of them look less than convincing because the fingernails are added as an afterthought and look too flat. This approach would go a long way towards making a believable reproduction.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Four Years On

Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of Propnomicon. The first post back in 2007 featured a tutorial from Make on crafting your own vampire fangs. Since then there have been 1265 more posts, a number I never imagined I'd reach back then.

The basic focus of the blog is the same today as it was four years ago, but there have been some major changes. During the first two months of it's existence there were 22 visitors in total. Now the blog gets an average of just under a thousand hits a day. In total there have been 611,334 unique visits since the blog started, and 1,407,413 page views. Here's a look at the Sitemeter logs as of this morning.

That's all just a drop in the bucket to the traffic generated by one of the top tier tech blogs, but for one servicing a tiny niche audience it's pretty impressive. Here's a look at how the readership breaks down in terms of nationality over the last month.

Here are the most popular posts by subject over the same time frame.

While the growth in readership has been a real positive some other developments over the last year weren't quite so pleasant. I was slapped with cease and desist orders by two artists and received threats of legal action from a third. The first C&D was for linking to pictures of a prop being offered for sale that did, indeed, infringe the artist's copyright. I complied with that one and removed the link. The second was for linking to pictures of another prop that was in a private collection. I politely declined to comply with it and haven't heard a peep since.

The threatened lawsuit was a little more involved. The artist in question thought that the various "kits" I've featured infringed on his own work. I provided documentation for the existence of various vampire, werewolf, and witch hunting kits, not to mention embellished wunderkammer-style presentations of exotic creatures, stretching back into the early 20th century. When that wasn't enough I pointed out that his own work was simply a copy of those earlier efforts. That really set him off.

Eventually I had to drag the family lawyer into the picture. Helpfully, in addition to being an experienced advocate he happens to be a prop collector. Many of the items I've posted were destined for his own collection, and the first Antarctic expedition patch was created largely at his urging. Thanks to his efforts the absurd legal threats came to an end.

So that's where things stand with Propnomicon as it enters it's fifth year. I want to sincerely thank you for supporting not only the blog, but it's associated projects. It's been a real pleasure bringing it to you. I hope you'll find it even better in the year to come.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Don Simpson brings us this beautiful carved wooden piece.

I always feel a little guilty posting a genuine work of art because the creator might think I'm cheapening it by treating it as a prop item. My intent is just the opposite. An object like this seems genuinely alien and not of this earth, something even the best Lovecraftian props achieve with great difficulty. Clark Ashton Smith's sculptures are a good example of works that combine beauty with the otherworldly, serving equally well as artifacts and objets d′art.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


My apologies for the late post, but I had a rather busy day. My car had the misfortune to be crunched by a hit and run driver while it was sitting in my driveway. The next door neighbor watched the whole thing unfold from her front porch, which makes the fact that the driver sped off even more bizarre.

On the bright side, this has turned out to be just about the most perfect accident imaginable, at least from a liability standpoint. The damage is small, the car was parked, and the police caught the other driver within ten minutes. For some reason I found it inordinately cool when the cops completed all the paperwork on a networked laptop and were able to print out a copy, complete with pictures, right from the front seat of their cruiser.

The Taint of Time

From the talented Stacey Ransom, an excellent tutorial on reproducing the look of age fading and water stains. Her emphasis is on set treatments, but the methods are equally applicable to smaller items.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Hawanja Edition.

"Hawanja" brings us this primitive Cthulhu idol. The original sculpt was used as a master to cast the three statues in the middle of the montage.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Star Stone

Offero Jones brings us a star-stone from lost G'harne in a very nice presentation box.

"Star shaped carving of undetermined mineral. Recovered from the body of an unidentified dead European by local tribesmen in the African rain forest. Purchased by a local white farmer, Karl Mollers, it was eventually sold into the private collection of Charles Marshall of San Francisco, California. Given the estimate time of its recovery and the known expeditions in the region, it is conjectured that the body was that of a member of the ill-fated Wendy-Smith expedition in search of the lost city of G’harne. The carving closely resembles descriptions of the “Elder Sign” and the “Star-stones of Mnar” that are purported to have protective qualities against certain ‘evil’ deities/spirits/demons. The carving is currently on display at the Marshall Foundation Library in San Francisco."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Magnetic Cthulhu

I don't normally do tchochkes, in the original Ukranian sense, but I love the sculpting for this Cthulhu magnet. Crafted and cast in solid pewter by Daniel Ritthanondh of Teptec Studios.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Washable Blood

Following up on this week's post on formulas for scenic blood, Ryan Voss of Dubious Creative Studio sent over a fantastic tutorial on creating washable stage blood. This would be ideal for live action events and performances, including Halloween parties.

I am half of a theatre props/effects team, my wife being the other half, and not that long ago we were called upon for a show that used copious amounts of blood and gore. Unfortunately, the director had a very difficult requirement; one of the characters was to be stabbed, onstage, while wearing a real white wedding dress that had to be spotless at the beginning of the next show. Having yet to find a commercial blood that both looks acceptably real and doesn't stain everything it touches, my wife set out to invent one. The results were nothing short of spectacular; her mother actually fainted during the show, and at MOST the recipe requires soap and water to completely wash out. Washable blood is a niche product, but very useful for actors who want to wear their own clothes without ruining them. It is also non-toxic enough to put in your mouth, although it tastes terrible, and if you buy the bulk marker packs it's almost as cheap as the McKormick's and Karo syrup recipes.

Realistic Washable Stage Blood - Recipe by Lauren Vork
2 Cups Water
12 Red Crayola washable markers (Brand is important, other brands aren't as washable. You can buy packs of just red ones at Nasco.
1 Blue or green Crayola washable marker
1 Brown Crayola washable marker
1.5 Tbsp Cocoa powder
Corn starch

Put the water in a saucepan. Crack open all the markers and remove the felt ink reservoirs from inside them; squeeze as much of the ink as you can from all of the red markers (pliers help) into the water. Squeeze a couple drops of blue or green ink in, and a couple drops of brown. Stir in cocoa powder. Adjust the mix as you desire for color (the amounts given here should give you approximately the right color, but are not exact). Put the saucepan on the stove over medium heat. When the mix begins to boil, whisk in corn starch a little at a time until you achieve the desired thickness (you can make it more gelatinous for scabbing wounds and such, or leave it relatively thin for blood), then remove from heat. Once cooled, it is ready to use.

I've attached a production photo from an indy film we worked on a while ago that used this blood.

Sweet fancy Moses, that looks incredible. All the picture needs is a straight razor in the background hand to really sell the effect.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Dwellers in the Depths

Wesley Remory has been doing some amazing work putting together a hand illustrated tome. His latest pages feature the Deep Ones. Because of the amount of work required creating a tome from scratch is probably the pinnacle of Lovecraftian propmaking. Sculpting a Cthulhu idol comes a close second, but dozens of artists have done that. Complete tomes? There are vanishingly few of them, and the majority were done by professionals for film work.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Book of the Spirits

JRR Bookworks crafted this luxurious tome. The hand tooled leather binding is a perfect complement to the contents, the classic occult text "A True and Faithful Relation of What Passed For Many Years Between Some Spirits and Dr. John Dee".

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Forbidden History

Jason Colavito brings us a collection of historical images of Cthulhu. Sadly, he takes the time to point out they're not real instead of mining the rich vein of potential comedy material they could provide.*

*Back when I was heavily into R. Talsorian's "Cyberpunk:2020" I posted a detailed writeup of a benthic mining platform (think Cameron's "The Abyss") to the web. About two months later I received an email from a South African mining company looking for more information about its construction details and operating parameters. I was tempted to reply and see how long I could milk it for, but common sense prevailed.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Blood Will Tell

The talented Allen Hopps brings us an in depth look at creating scenic blood. This is the kind of project I love to see- testing multiple formulas to find the best final product. Even the failures are interesting, since there are other applications where they might be ideal.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cup of the Wolf

Phillip Montgomery brings us this fantastic wolf's head drinking horn. It's carved from a deep black horn and adorned with inlaid ruby eyes and bone teeth.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Call of Duty: From Beyond

A new piece of concept art for "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3" was released a few days ago. While I'm a big CoD fan it's obviously not something within the normal purview of Propnomicon- except for the curious warning sign in the lower right hand corner of the preview shot.

Here's a closer look.

It's my Tillinghast Field warning sign . That's pretty cool, even if it's just something the developers used to jazz up the shot.

It would be even better if a Tillinghast Illuminator actually figures into the storyline in some way. The Modern Warfare series has had a very Tom Clancy-ish techno-thriller vibe up to this point, consciously avoiding the survival horror and and outright science fiction plotlines used by some of it's fellow first person shooters. Given that the warning sign appears in a ship's engine room I wonder if the scene is connected with the Philadelphia Experiment ? I'm geeking out at the thought of being able to travel in time from a Modern Warfare scenario into a Call of Duty mission involving the WWII Tillinghast experiments at the Philadelphia Naval Yard and the Nazi "Black Sun" installation.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

From the Wasteland

Justin Mislivets brings us this impressive sample of wasteland memorabilia from the "Fallout" videogame. It's a tiny part of his complete collection, which is well on it's way to reproducing every single item from the game.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Demon Knight Blood Key

I've never been a fan of the "Tales From the Crypt" franchise, but the spinoff film "Demon Knight" is a great little B-movie. The story is surprisingly inventive, the acting is appropriately hammy, and the film features a wonderful prop, the Blood Key, as a major plot point. It's one of the most interesting occult artifacts ever created. Derek Marsh of Oblivion FX was commissioned to create a reproduction of the Key, and he documented the entire process. The final result is a beautiful piece of work.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Realistic Skin Texture

This tutorial on sculpting realistic skin texture would be helpful to anyone looking to create a creature specimen. If you're working with polymer clay I'd suggest applying a texture, any texture, to the skin of your creature. It doesn't take much effort and helps avoid the fake looking finish of raw, hand-sculpted Sculpey. Even something as simple as using a crumpled up ball of aluminum foil to impress a pattern into the clay will add an immense amount of realism.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Maps of Madness

Robert Olmstead over at Innsmouthmania sent a heads up about this collection of vintage insane asylum plans at Oobject. It's interesting to compare the varying approaches to design and patient management before the rise of humanist treatment in the early 20th century.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Arnold Edition.

Sculptor Mark Arnold brings us this trio of small Cthulhu idols cast in pewter. You can't beat the heft and finish of real metal.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Carved Wooden Cthulhu Idol

I finally completed the wooden Cthulhu fetish I first mentioned back in July. While I didn't fiddle with the idol's finish I did try a new treatment for the accompanying storage box.

To get the grungy effect of accumulated dirt and grime the box received a rubdown with "schmutz". The base for that is furniture paste wax and some shavings from a brown and burnst sienna crayon melted together in a double boiler. You then abrade some fine powder from earth-toned chalk pastels with fine grit sandpaper, add it to the liquid wax for a little color variation and texture, and stir well before decanting into an old Altoids tin and letting it harden. Apply it with a rag to anything in need of some age and you get a wonderful accumulation of grime in all the crevices.

If you like it, the idol is currently available on Ebay.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Worms

Artist Amy Rawson brings us this specimen jar filled with squirmy fellows. There are few things with a higher squick factor than parasitic worms.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Jiggly, Wiggly, Gummy Edition

Jason McKittrick has almost single-handedly taken my annual Mythos themed Halloween party to new heights. Fresh from the molds at Cryptocurium comes... Gummy Cthulhu. With these and a few gallons of Nog-Sothoth Punch my success is assured.