Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Arkham Sanitarium Project

With these new props, you can simply go mad.
Propnomicon has produced a number of interesting props for use on his blog.  Recently, he made a more modern Arkham Sanitarium logo.  Earlier he had an earlier style Arkham Sanitarium woven patch, which I used at a local convention as part of an understated costume.  It was simply a blue blazer with the patch, black pants, tie & etc.  You need not go overboard with a costume to make it effective.  With that getup, I was the head of the board of directors of the Arkham Sanitarium.  Please don’t ask about funding your project, it’ll be taken up at the next board meeting.

His more modern large logo works well as a magnetic sticker or adhesive sticker to put on vehicles such as ambulances, vans and official vehicles of the Arkham Sanitarium.  If you go with the magnetic signs, it can be removed easily and put on another vehicle.  You can drive up to your next convention in style with these signs on your car and sport your blazer patch in elegance.  In these days difficult days of high expenses, an inexpensive and versatile prop can go a log way.

Arkham Sanitarium Ambulance
I’m hoping Propnomicon will have some Arkham Sanitarium commitment papers made up for use.  They’ll go well with the suit.                                          CoastConFan

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Plague and Costume

The image of the plague doctor with his peculiar protective costume is well documented by period descriptions and engravings. The best known is Der Doctor Schnabel Von Rom by Paul Furst although there are several other images.  A quick image google of “plague doctor mask” will uncover a wealth of images from costumers and historical sources.

This is basically an early chemical warfare protective suit because during that period doctors believed that plagues were caused by bad or poisoned air, better known as miasma.  Starting in the 14th century, plague doctors began putting together protective costumes to try to avoid infection and over the years the costume stayed basically the same.

As may be seen on picture here,  
In Rome the doctors do appear,  
When to their patients they are called, 
In places by the plague appalled,   
Their hats and cloaks, of fashion new,  
Are made of oilcloth, dark of hue,   
Their caps with glasses are designed,   
Their bills with antidotes all lined,   
That foulsome air may do no harm,  
Nor cause the doctor man alarm,   
The staff in hand must serve to show  
Their noble trade where'er they go
The black hat is distinctive for doctors of the period and identifies the wearer as a practitioner.  The beak mask is a gas mask made of leather with the front end with strong aromatic herbs and spices to kill off or deter the miasma, the supposed origin of plague.  At best, the mask cut down on stench.  The eyes were protected with glass where could be clear or red which would filter out evil hopefully.  The long black overcoat was coated with suet or wax to make the suit waterproof, which actually functioned to protect the wear from respiratory spray in the case of pneumonic plague.  The other explanation is that the material would attract plague away from a living person.  The overcoat collar was tucked in under the mask to make a seal for the vulnerable neck area.  The wooded cane was used to pull back bed sheets, uncover the patient for inspection, push back crazed patients or relatives and otherwise be uses as a manipulator to keep from touching infected persons and keep victim’s relatives at bay.  Leather breeches were worn to protect against plague attack, because bubonic plague manifests itself in the armpits, neck and groin.  In some cases the breeches were made with attached feet like hip waders.  Leather gloves were also worn.  No part of the body was exposed to open air, keeping the doctor safe from infection.  The death rate among doctors was no better than the unprotected populace.

This terrifying costume is also associated with Commediadell Arte in a character called Medico della Peste and it remains a popular mask for Venetian carnival.  Sometimes the mask has a set of overlarge spectacles, which were rare and associated with learning.
The image of the plague doctor continues to intrigue costumers and gamers.  There have been a few modern imaginings produced by modern mask makers and costumers.  The specter image of the plague doctor has come down to us from the ages and takes shape again in carnival costumes, steampunk costume ideas, and science fiction convention costumes.

One of the most provocative mask makers I have run across is Tom Banwell who also makes a Plague Doctor mask as well as great tutorials about mask making.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

TinTin in The Dreamlands

A Call of Cthulhu RPG- Tintin crossover idea.

Put a twist in your gaming ideas and imagine if TinTin was to end up in the Dreamlands of H.P. Lovecraft with Capt Haddock and Snowy, his wisecracking dog.  The Dreamlands can be entered via dreams or physically by going down a certain staircase in a ruined city.  Both are fraught with great danger, both mental and physical.  Both you and your dream state self can be killed if you make a mistake or a misjudgment. 

TinTin in the DreamlandsThe Dreamlands can vary wildly from near normal to the utterly fantastic.  Generally people forget the Dreamlands when they wake from their dream, but those few, I dare not call them lucky, remember it all.  A very clever gamemaster might be able to blend a regular Call of Cthulhu RPG game and a Dreamlands scenario, but it takes a fine sense of judgment and a good deal experience. 
I recommend running this scenario either in the 1920s or in the early 1950s although the Victorian Era would not be impossible.  The setup might be:  a colleague of the professor (one of your party or a friend of one of your party) disappears leaving behind a locked room with a lot of odd electronic devices.  Upon reading the documents in a locked cabinet they find out that the doctor had originally been experimenting with sleep therapy.  Over several years, he found that a rare drug coupled with his invention would place a person in a state very far beyond regular REM sleep.  Boxes of radio electroencephalogram printouts show a huge amount of brain activity in subjects when in this state.  His records become quite erratic in the last few months and he hints at a great discovery.  Another box contains a peculiar bronze dagger and some coins that the origin or language cannot be identified, although the metal is electrum, which hadn’t been used in coinage in over 2,000 years.  There is also a common small cay pot that is empty, a few pebbles, and a feather that cannot be identified.  A pile of other papers have number of landscape drawings show quaint towns, strange ruined cities, and nightmare creatures.  Some of the sketches seem to be from patients and others might be the doctor’s works.

Mind you, I would have a couple of alternate possibilities:  (1) it is the dreamlands and you have to rescue the doctor, (2) the rare medications actually just made you crazy and the doctor is crazy himself, he disappeared on his own, (3) nefarious criminals, quasi-government or religious zealots want the equipment for themselves and they did away with the doctor or he has fled to the dreamlands to escape, (4) the doctor is a dangerous quack who is trying to get back at the professor for trying to find out what is going on, the upshot being that this is an attempt to kill or disable the group.  You take it from there, the point is to instill curiosity, and fear in the group, both of the real and of the imagined.  Keep them on their guard and not ever sure that this is a legit case of Cthonianism.

For more crossover fun see my post Call of Cthulhu RPG – Minions, Cultists, and Scooby-Doo, posted Friday April 29, 2011.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Guennol Lioness

A True to Life Treasure
 This is a very famous stone sculpture called the Guennol Lioness.  It’s not only one of the smallest, but also one of the world’s most expensive figures, selling for $57.2 million and it stands a whopping 3 ¼ inches tall.  Made of crystalline limestone, it is a tribute to the unknown master’s hand that created this diminutive tour de force.  It’s also one of my favorite ancient figurines. 

It was carved about 5,000 years ago in the  Proto-Elamite, Chalcolithic era, giving lie to the belief that earlier cultures were not as advanced aesthetically or artistically as modern people.  It was found in the middle 1930s in southwest Persia (now Iran) and sold to a private collector and displayed in the Guennol Collection, which was exhibited in various museums.  The lionesses’ powerful lines come through despite the small size, giving us a feeling that this anthropometric creature was imbued with great power.

The statue came to my attention several years back when it was put up for auction and new photos were made and released to the public.  Previously, there were only grainy pictures in archeological texts, now we can enjoy the figure’s magnificent lines in crisp, new photos and wonder in the power of an ancient stone carver’s art.  The holes at the top of the head may have been attachment points for a crown or some other embellishment and the holes at the base of the spine might have held the figure upright.  The lower legs and feet are gone and we may never know exactly how it was displayed.


For Call of Cthulhu RPG players, this is just an example of rare treasures that were found in the 19th and early 20th century.  Imagine a power play for possession of such an artifact that could be hidden nearly anywhere and in anything.  It is easily concealable on a person and transported, making everyone not above suspicion.  It could be hidden in a child’s doll, a box of candy or carried by an unsuspecting mule a treasure like this men would kill for, museums would bid for and people would spend their lives digging in the ends of the Earth just for the hope of possession.  A scenario could easily be written about this real-life "Maltese Falcon" for RPGs.  Truly, it is "the stuff dreams are made of."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Peter Saxon: Guardian, Author and Figment

I didn’t know that I didn’t know

The other day I made a comment to a post on Propnomicon’s blog site.  It was about a neat prop pen made from a bone and steel nib.  Anyway, I got thinking about Peter Saxon and the series of books he wrote about a group called Guardians who protected the world against sorcery and black magic.  I had read several of his works back in the 1970s but just didn’t know much about the author.

I was surprised to find out that there was no author by the name of Peter Saxon and that it was a house name.  That is to say, it was a pseudonym used by a variety of authors writing a series of books issued by a publisher.  From what I could find Peter Saxon was actually, W. Howard Baker (who was also known as W. A. Ballinger) Rex Dolphin, Stephen D. Francis, Wilfred McNeilly, Ross Richards, and Martin Thomas.  Not all of these authors wrote books for the Guardian series, but did publish through the same house.

Here is a list of books that appear under the house name Peter Saxon although not all of these were of the horror genre nor of the Guardians series.  A few of them were made into movies such as The Disorientated Man, which came out as Scream and Scream Again with Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing.  How can you beat that combination!  Black Honey and Corruption were also made into films, although I haven’t seen them:

 The Curse of Rathlaw
Dark Ways to Death
The Haunting of Alan Mais
The Killing Bone
Through the Dark Curtain
The Vampires of Finistere
The Torturer
Satan’s Child
Vampire’s Moon
The Disoriented Man
Black Honey
Other titles by Peter Saxon, but not horror
The Enemy Sky
The Warring Sky
The Unfeeling Sky
Panky in Love

I read the Killing Bone back in the 1970s as well as Dark Ways to Death and Satan’s Child, but I understand The Vampires of Finistere and The Curse of Rathlaw are some of the best of the Guardians Series.  I suggest to Call of Cthulhu RPGers that these Guardian series books by Peter Saxon would be good scenario ideas for a game master.  While doing research I was utterly horrified (pun intended) to find no Wikipedia entry for Peter Saxon.  I hope some enterprising fan of detective horror fiction would type up an article.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Byzantine UFOs?

All is explained forthwith

Funny how the default state of most mysteries is to blame it on extraterrestrials. No matter how simple the conundrum, how easy the research, the fall back is aliens. Then again, there is a lot of money in huckstering ETs and not so much for dry old history, so it’s no wonder that genuine research on possible extraterrestrial life is muddied by popular books sellers and mystic personalities. I love a mystery as much as anyone else, but then again I like research, education, and an open mind.

I ran across this enjoyable video on YouTube explaining the iconography of, uh, ikons. I hope you will enjoy the scholarship as much as I did.

Cthulhu IconAnother good source of art history and UFOs is: . I can’t say I am any expert on medieval ikons, but I have looked a few thousand over the years and watched in Athens as they were painted. A good friend of mine, Michael W. Moses is also quite familiar with ikons and paints them, although they don’t follow the strict rules of Greek or Russian ikons. .

Alien Annunciation IkonNow for a little fun. To the right is a Cthulhu ikon made by Michael W. Moses with reverse glass painting and gilding on a slightly convex pane. The photo doesn’t show all the detail.  The other ikon, to the left, is another Michael W. Moses work called Alien Annunciation.

 Truly I would love to find life in the universe and even more so, find that it is reachable or has reached us, but through the haze of twaddle-mongers, book hucksters, popular luminaries and the like, I don’t see genuine research having a clear field with all the static generated.