Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Electroshock Treatment Record

This is the first document in the Arkham Sanitarium Project that I find genuinely disturbing. There's something deeply unsettling about the contrast between the neatly delineated rows and columns of a simple paper form and the physical violence of the procedure, even in it's most well meaning therapeutic incarnation.

It goes without saying that electroshock therapy (ECT) is controversial to this day, but I once again want to point out that H.P. Lovecraft's portrayal of Arkham Sanitarium was almost unfailingly positive. This particular piece of prop paperwork should be used sparingly unless you're going for the darker, grittier version of the sanitarium developed by later authors.

Electroshock was rare in the classic era of the 20's and 30's and highly experimental. Real research into the procedure wouldn't happen until the mid 30's, and it wouldn't see widespread adoption until the 50's. A treatment plan would begin with low voltages, the administered shock steadily increased until the patient went into convulsions. After that each session aimed to produce a seizure of at least 15 seconds duration and patients could undergo multiple treatments in a single day.

Voltages ranged from 70-450 volts, duration from .10 to .20 of a second.

You can download the full PDF from Google Documents over here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Arkham Sanitarium Letterhead

This is an example of the letterhead that would be used by the Sanitarium's administrators for any outside correspondence. The PDF includes an embedded typewriter font (the excellent "Chunk Type" from John Bruce) so the form can be filled out before printing. You can download the full PDF via Google Documents over here.

The address of the Sanitarium on East Derby Street is based on Gahan Wilson's interpretation of Lovecraft's original hand drawn map of Arkham. The street number (345) is taken from Butler Hospital in Providence (345 Blackstone Boulevard). Butler was the place where both of Lovecraft's parents were treated and it was a major influence, if not the direct inspiration, for Arkham Sanitarium.

The telephone number draws on John Singleton's excellent research into conjecturally accurate exchanges for the classic era and later. "1893" is the year Lovecraft's father began his stay at Butler Hospital.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Orphan Edition

Artist "Holy Orphan" brings us this Cthulhu idol cast in bronze. The depiction is pretty close to Lovecraft's sketch of the infamous idol from "The Call of Cthulhu".

Friday, August 27, 2010

Arkham Sanitarium Admission Questionnaire

Another prop document from Arkham Sanitarium, this time an admissions questionnaire. This two page form is based on vintage examples and contains a series of questions asked of patients and/or their families when they were admitted to a mental hospital. You can download the complete PDF from Google Docs over here.

This rounds out the core of the prop documents for the Sanitarium. By selecting from the various bits of paperwork you can tailor your prop presentation to the occasion, maintaining a high immersion factor while controlling your time investment. At the most basic level you can use the 5" x 8" Record File card as a quick and easy way to convey information and clues. A step up from that is the Patient Admission Form , perhaps dressed up with an off the shelf file folder. You can kick that up a notch and recreate a complete patient file by adding the questionnaire below, a Commitment Warrant and accompanying Certificates of Insanity, a patient Clinical Chart , and correspondence from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Diseases.

There are more documents in the pipeline to dress things up, but they'll be building on the foundation of the existing materials.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

From the Wasteland

After staring at period medical forms for hours last night I desperately needed a break. That's when I stumbled across these fantastically detailed props from the "Fallout 3" videogame created by Elvis Alexander.

They're certainly not Lovecraftian, but every time I see something like this I start thinking about doing an entire set of period food labels for the "At the Mountains of Madness" expedition.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Arkham Sanitarium Update

I just wanted to give a quick update on the status of the Arkham Sanitarium Prop Package.

The pledge period ended successfully on Monday night. Processing the payments through Kickstarter and Amazon will take, by their estimate, approximately 14 days. That means I'll be receiving the funds around September 6th.

The production files for the already announced items (the embroidered patch, lapel pin, postcards, and notebook) are ready to be sent to their respective manufacturers as soon as the payment arrives. The only item I'm considering fiddling with is the notebook design, but that should be taken care of next week. I'm optimistically assuming a two week production time, so I should have everything in my hands the week of September 20th.

I have a couple of ideas for additional items I'd like to include and would appreciate your feedback on what you would like the most.

- A custom printed patient file folder. File folders are difficult to produce at home without a straight-line, large format printer. Since I'm a teenaged geek at heart I get all giggly at the idea of assembling complete patient files for Lovecraft's protagonists.

- Staff ID card. This would be a period accurate card (no lamination) with space for a photograph to be stapled or glued to it. Having this done by a professional printer would avoid the issues encountered trying to do accurate two-sided printing on a DIY basis.

Please chime in if there's anything else you would like.


I like everything Tom Banwell does, but I have a feeling his latest project will be particularly interesting.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

PDF Hosting

Mr. Remakre left a comment in yesterday's Arkham Sanitarium Update that I wanted to discuss:

"Will all of these paper props be made available for download...Scribd is less than helpful unless you sign up ect. I'd like to download these props without subscribing or signing into anything.... "

I use Scribd because it's the only free document hosting service I'm familiar with. If anyone has a better alternative that doesn't require signups I would be more than happy to use it. Heck, you don't need me to do it- the Creative Commons license gives you the right to copy and disseminate the files any way you want as long as it's free.

One alternative that I have considered is bundling everything together in a torrent. The only drawback I can see there is making sure the bundle is kept up to date as new documents are added.

As always, your suggestions are appreciated.

Update: I'm going to continue using Scribd for printable props for now, simply because they're free and I like the preview feature of their document viewer. To address the concerns of people that don't want to sign up for an account with Scribd I'll also be archiving the PDFs with Google Documents. Beyond that you're free to redistribute the files any way you like on a non-commercial basis.

Arkham Sanitarium Patient Admission Form

Another prop document from the Arkham Sanitarium Project, this is a basic admission form covering the patient's personal information, administrative contacts, and the history leading up to their stay at the sanitarium. The PDF includes an embedded typewriter font (the excellent "Chunk Type" from John Bruce) so the form can be filled out before printing.

A few notes on some of the entries:

"Next of Kin/Guardian" would be a family member or legal guardian.

"Personal Physician" is the patient's normal medical doctor and not their Psychiatrist at the Sanitarium, unless the two are one and the same.

"Agent" is the patient's legal representative. In an age of genteel madness it wasn't unusual for the family law firm to handle all the details of a stay for the well off.

"Tel." is the old-style telephone number where the contact can be reached. Consists of a word based on the letters of the exchange followed by the individual line number. Slaves to realism will find the Telephone EXchange Name Project a handy reference.

The various admission styles might be a little confusing.

"Voluntary" means the patient willingly checked in for treatment. This includes everything from the typical Lovecraftian vict...er, protagonist who wants to put his shattered mind back together to kindly old matrons suffering from hypochondria.

"Committed" means the patient was involuntarily put under the hospital's care. Two doctors swore Certificates of Insanity and a judge then issued a Commitment Warrant allowing designated law enforcement or health professionals to escort the patient to the facility and confine him against his or her will. If the admission form notes a commital copies of the commitment papers will be included in the patient's file.

"Transfer from" is used for patients moved to Arkham from another facility, be it a hospital, mental hospital, or jail.

"Criminal" means the patient committed a crime. As a private facility Arkham Sanitarium wouldn't normally handle criminally or violently insane patients from the state, except for emergencies or research purposes. Cases cared for at the behest of their families or private benefactors aren't unheard of.

Everything else shouldn't be difficult to figure out.

You can download the PDF from Google Documents.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Of Unknown Purpose

Russian artist "Santani" brings us this curious "Moth" artifact. I'm reminded of both the facehugger from the "Alien" movies and the Cronos device. Anything with that many sharp, pointy legs is bound to have a nefarious purpose.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hand of Glory

Artist Dmitri Arbacauskas brings us this "Arcanepunk" Hand of Glory constructed of real bone, leather, bronze, and brass. The accoutrements really kick it up a notch.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Last Isopod

Artist "nClaire" brings us this charming little beast from the depths of the sea. For some reason I have an urge to yell "This is Ceti Alpha Five!"

Friday, August 20, 2010

Arkham Sanitarium General Record File Card

This would be kept at the ward desk during treatment and transferred into the permanent file catalog once the patient was discharged. It also happens to be a quick and easy handout for anyone that doesn't have the need or time to put together a full patient file.

You can download the PDF from Google Documents over here. The file includes an embedded typewriter font so that the card can be filled out before printing.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

X-Files Style FBI Badge

Artist Derek Frost brings us this nicely done prop FBI badge that's ideal for modern scenarios. Just follow the link for the full-sized, printable version. The usual caveats regarding imitations of contemporary official paper apply.*

* Because the world is filled with idiots that think flashing a fake FBI badge is cool. The only thing worse than those idiots are the ones that excoriate you for creating or linking to prop IDs or documents because they might be "misused". Because someday some crazy man might use a fake Miskatonic University ID card for nefarious purposes.**

** I wish I was joking. After I politely pointed out that Miskatonic University isn't real they presumably followed up on their threat to report me to Homeland Security. From the lack of dark suited agents at my door I assume that resulted, at best, in a footnote being added to my file.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Department of Mental Diseases Letterhead

From 1919 to 1937 the mental health efforts of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts were run by the Department of Mental Diseases. The massive bureaucracy needed to care for the insane, epileptics, and the "feeble minded" was truly stunning in it's scope. The DMD supported over a dozen mental hospitals and state "schools", spending up to one sixth of the Commonwealth's entire annual budget on direct care, facility maintenance, and administration.

Anything involving an involuntary committal, an incident of violence, criminal behavior, or the unusual would likely result in some correspondence from the Department being part of a patient's file at Arkham Sanitarium. Those conditions cover the circumstances of almost every mention of the Sanitarium in Lovecraft's work, so this letterhead should come in handy.

Click here and you can download the PDF from Google Documents. Open it in a forms capable reader and you'll find text fields for the date, address, and body text with an embedded typewriter font (the freeware "Veteran Typewriter" by Koczman Bálint). Just fill out the fields and print.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Demon Pendant

Artist Melita Curphy brings us this Demon pendant in resin. I love how the finish looks like charcoal, as though it had been scorched by terrible heat.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Arkham Sanitarium Clinical Chart

Today we have another prop document from H.P. Lovecraft's "Arkham Sanitarium", this time a patient clinical chart. It's based on a period chart from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, as pictured in the 1922 edition of "Modern Methods in Nursing" by Georgiana J. Sanders. Two versions are included in the PDF- the first page is customized for Arkham Sanitarium, while the second page is a generic chart usable with any other medical facility. Here's what the source looked like:

I used a Copperplate font for the Arkham Sanitarium chart for aesthetic and historical reasons. It themes well with the existing logo, and I came across a vintage (circa 1905) chart from the Louisiana State Board of Health that used it.

A few notes on filling it out. Patients under general observation were checked twice daily, in the morning and evening (hence the "M" and "E" in each column). Temperature, as in body temperature, should be self explanatory. The pulse rate for a healthy adult at rest ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute and can zoom up to 150 to 200 beats during heavy exercise. Respiration averages 12-20 breaths per minute. "Dejections" are the clinically polite way of describing bowel movements.

Just click here to download the full PDF from Google Documents.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Expedition Gear

Dr. Cagliostro brings us this wonderful tableau of vintage expedition gear.

Obviously, heading into the wilderness with antique camping gear isn't the kind of thing that appeals to every pulp era gamer, but it's not as over the top as you may think. There comes a time when roughing it in the Adirondacks with nothing more than the pack on your back gives way to an appreciation for truly relaxing in the outdoors. With vintage and vintage-style gear like camp chairs and wall tents a simple getaway can be transformed into a luxurious experience. Not to mention how atmospheric an old school camp is.

Collectors of period outdoor gear have driven the prices of some items through the roof, but with a little smart shopping for vintage pieces and the judicious use of reproductions it's surprisingly easy to put together a complete set of kit. In many cases you'll find buying antique equipment is cheaper than purchasing the shoddily made modern alternatives.

Friday, August 13, 2010

In the Land of the Dead

The very talented Leo Dias has launched his own blog- Sicksore. The text is in Portuguese, but his sculptures and props speak for themselves. I'd love to see his whimsical zombie sculptures as garden statues.

The Necronomicon: Reid Edition

Carter Reid, of the Zombie Nation site, has posted an excellent tutorial on crafting your own "Evil Dead" style Necronomicon out of an off-the-shelf photo album.

1. Step One: Wait until your overly trusting wife is not looking, then betray said trust by stealing one of her photo albums. Remove and discard all the sentimental stuff.. i.e. Irreplacable pictures of your “loved ones.”

His breezy writeup of the build is entertaining in and of itself, but he also does a fantastic job of detailing the step by step construction process. This is just the kind of thing you want to bookmark with Halloween approaching.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Commitment Warrant

A legal commitment warrant for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This, along with two copies of the "Certificate of Insanity" I posted earlier this week, would comprise the "commitment papers" used to send a patient to a mental hospital in the 1920's.

Print both sides of the warrant on a light blue or gray heavy bond paper, and the two certificates on heavy bond white paper. Fill out the forms, preferably with a fountain pen. Stack the sheets with the warrant on the bottom, seal side facing down, topped by the certificates, and then fold the stack into thirds.

You can download the PDF from Google Documents by clicking here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Ring of Al Azif

Artist "Erika D" brings us this "Al Azif" inspired ring. I can only imagine the amount of patience and skill required to sculpt detail at this scale.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Certificate of Insanity

This is a bit of a kludge. It's based on a vintage certificate used by the probate court, but the original was a 17" by 14", four page, legal sized document that would be impossible to reproduce without a large format printer. I've chosen to break the overall commitment document into pieces for the sake of convenience. It's not absolutely historically accurate, but it's far more usable this way. The "commitment papers" used to send someone off to an institution would consist of two of these certificates and the actual warrant authorizing an involuntary confinement. I'll have the warrant finished up later this week.

You can download the PDF from Google Documents over here.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sanitarium Update

As of this morning the Arkham Sanitarium project is fully funded. Once again, my sincere thanks for making it happen.

Since the Kickstarter model is time based the project will continue to accept pledges until the funding period ends in two weeks. As of now everything in the original pledge description (patch, lapel pin, postcards, notebook) is ready to be sent off for production. Now I can start working on the lagniappe.

Dragon Embryo

Artist "magna-est-veritas" brings us this bottled dragon embryo. The body is constructed of polymer clay over a tinfoil armature. The shredded skin effect was created with a thin layer of liquid latex.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

This is Spinal Wrap

The good Rev. Marx has Part 1 of an excellent tutorial on re-binding books up on his blog. Apply his techniques to a text block of arcane notes and you would have yourself quite the prop tome.

After the basic case pieces were assembled, I decided to add some embellishments. Since this is an herb book, I cut out some leaf designs with a hobby knife and a stencil out of some chipboard, and glued them to the front and back boards. I used my usual wrinkled kraft paper and glue covering technique, which I gave my usual three layer painted finish, which I have become quite fond of. After the glue is dry, I give it a base coat of black tempura paint (because it's cheaper than acrylic), then a sea sponge daubed coat of a darker, and then a slightly lighter green acrylic paint, and finally I dry brush it with antique gold acrylic paint. The gold dry brushing really picked up the edges of the chipboard appliques, as well as the wrinkles in the paper, and makes them stand out nicely. Afterward, I gave it a coat of clear matte spray sealer.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Crow Edition

Titus Crow brings us this broken idol display. The swirling pattern of the oak burl backing sets off the angularity of the central sculpt quite nicely.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sanitarium Update

Wow. With over two weeks to go the Arkham Sanitarium project is already over three quarters of the way to full funding. I can't thank you enough for your support.

Today I have the first of the paper props, a ward leave card. In the pipe I have a clinical file card and a legal commitment form that should be done in the next week. After that I'll be tackling the kind of official paper (like incident reports and therapeutic evaluations) that you would find inside a patient's case file.

One thing that I did want to touch on is the possibly misleading graphic I used for the "Arkham Sanitarium Prop Package" banner. From that you might get the impression that everything included in the package is going to be aged and grunged up, but that's not the case. The paper items will reproduce the look of vintage printing with a slightly rough print quality, but they won't be physically distressed.

Arkham Sanitarium Ward Leave Card

At private facilities like Arkham Sanitarium patients suffering from mild disorders were frequently allowed to leave the confines of their treatment ward and roam the grounds relatively unsupervised. Watchful eyes would still be upon them, but walks and general lounging in the outdoors were viewed as useful exercises that physically and mentally refreshed residents. The freedom of a ward pass would never be bestowed on anyone violent unless, of course, they were consciously concealing their capacity for mayhem.

This pass is sized to fit on a standard 3" by 5" index card, preferably colored cardstock. The easiest way to print it is to adjust your printer's custom document sizing to 3x5, print one side, and then flip the card and send it through a second time to print the opposite side.

I tried a slightly different technique for reproducing the look of vintage printing on this and would appreciate any feedback.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wizard's Diary

Tóbal over at the Albino Dodo has posted some work-in-progress shots of a very nice wizard's diary based on excerpts from the Voynich Manuscript.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


The Arkham Sanitarium project is now live on Kickstarter. You can pledge through the widget over to the right or by visiting the project page directly.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Elder Wand

Andres Feliciano brings us this be-tentacled wand crafted from a lowly chopstick and some polymer clay.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Arkham Sanitarium Prop Package

The long development process that started back in late May is now heading into the home stretch.

First off, this is the revised Arkham Sanitarium logo in it's monochrome and color versions. You'll notice that it's not all that different from the previous iterations, but my stubborn ego finally accepted that those of you suggesting a more traditional shield shape were right. As always, your suggestions and comments are most appreciated. If I'd listened to you more in the first place this would have been done a month ago. Heh.

That brings us to the next part of the project- production. In the past I've gone ahead with ordering everything and then hoped for the best. That approach has worked thanks to your good graces, but it's also limited what I can do because of the significant up-front investment required.

For this project I'm going to be doing things a little bit differently by funding the project through Kickstarter. In case you're not familiar with them I'll quote from their FAQ:

What is Kickstarter?

Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors.

We believe that...

• A good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide.
• A large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement.

Kickstarter is powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands.

All-or-nothing funding?

Every Kickstarter project must be fully funded before its time expires or no money changes hands.


1. It's less risk for everyone. If you need $5,000, it's tough having $2,000 and a bunch of people expecting you to complete a $5,000 project.

2. It allows people to test concepts (or conditionally sell stuff) without risk. If you don't receive the support you want, you're not compelled to follow through. This is huge!

3. It motivates. If people want to see a project come to life, they're going to spread the word.

In essence I'm going to be looking for pledges to fund the project to the tune of around $1250. That breaks down to 50 pledges of $25, which I think is more than doable based on past efforts. You can donate less or more than the targeted $25 amount, but everyone that donates at least $25 will be rewarded with one of the Arkham Sanitarium prop packages.

So what exactly will be included in the package? At a minimum there will be one Arkham Sanitarium embroidered uniform patch, one cloisonne lapel pin, two different vintage-style postcards, and a pocket notebook. As the project develops I'll be adding more items like patient file cards, photographs, and ward passes based on period examples.

Please keep in mind that those are just the items planned for the reward package. Straight paper props like patient admission records, treatment charts and the like will be part of the project, but they'll be released for free as PDFs under the usual Creative Commons license. Printing out documents on plain paper is easier and cheaper to do yourself. I want to concentrate on items that aren't easily reproducible at home.

So there you have it. I'm really excited about the possibilities this approach offers. If you have any thoughts or suggestions please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Hartmann Edition

Hungarian artist Christian Hartmann of the Darklight Fantasy Ceramics Gallery sculpted this wonderful Cthulhu idol for a customer. I couldn't find any pictures of the finished piece at his site, but the works on display show off an incredible variety of glazes.

Please take some time to browse around the site and check out more of Mr. Hartmann's work. It's interesting how easily he moves between "cute" and "serious" fantasy sculpts. In my limited experience most artists lean toward one or the other and rarely show such outstanding ability at doing both.