Projects: H.P.Lovecraft Tombstone - From Beyond

This was my entry for the annual Haunt Forum's $20 Prop Building Contest.

I've always wanted to do a H.P.Lovecraft tombstone to add to my cemetery and have had this idea brewing for a while. The back-story is that someone, using pages from the Necronomicon, tried to raise H.P.Lovecraft from the dead. Instead they called up something unspeakable from beyond, that broke out of the tomb to gain access to our world. Making this for $20 was certainly a challenge but it was a great excuse to get building and finish something early for a change. Here is my parts list/costs along with construction details.

Materials

Most materials were sourced from Dollarama, Goodwill and the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. My scrap foam was given to me by a friend who rescued it from a construction site. Because of the contest restrictions I had to modify my usual methods and make do with what I had. For example, the main foam sheet I had was too short for what I had in mind so I had to glue a 2" shim strip on the bottom to bring it up to size rather than using a new sheet the right size. I also usually make my tombstones at least 4-6" thick but this one is only 2". This is disguised somewhat by the additions of the pillars and top cap to make it more imposing than it actually is. The piano legs for the pillars were my big score - I found them in an antique store at a country market and couldn't believe they only wanted $5 for the pair. It never hurts to constantly be on the lookout for prop building materials!

Parts List

  • $5.00 - antique piano legs
  • $0.40 - scrap plywood
  • $3.00 - assorted "oops" paint
  • $1.00 - assorted craft paint
  • $0.75 - 1/8 can polyurethane
  • $0.50 - masking tape
  • $3.00 - scrap foam (2"-10.34 sq.ft)
  • $0.29 - scrap foam (1"-2.1 sq.ft)
  • $0.10 - 1/4 sheet black bristol board
  • $0.40 - 1/16 can foam contact cement
  • $2.60 - 3/4 tube construction adhesive
  • $2.00 - white glue (for mache)
  • $0.50 - Froot Loops (1/4 box)
  • $0.25 - 4" styrofoam ball (1)
  • $0.24 - 1" styrofoam balls (2)
  • $0.50 - 1/2 roll paper towels
  • $0.05 - print outs (eyes & book page)
  • $0.20 - bolts, nuts & washers (3)

  • Free - plastic bags
  • Free - assorted wire
  • Free - newspaper
  • Free - cardboard

  • Total: $20.78 CAN = $20.52 US

If you like the design and would like to make one for yourself here is a PDF for download.

ARTWORK PROVIDED FOR PERSONAL NON-COMMERCIAL USE ONLY.

  H.P. Lovecraft Tombstone Design (48 KB)

Construction - The Tombstone

Tombstone construction I followed my usual tried and true methods. I started by sketching out some ideas and playing around with the pillars and some scrap pieces of foam until I came up wit a design I liked. I then first cut out and dry-fit assembled everything to make sure it would fit and then started gluing it all together using foam-safe contact cement and construction adhesive. Any small gaps were filled with adhesive but I don't really worry about getting a smooth surface. The epitaph was carved using a woodburning tool along with cracks and other weathering/distressing and the 4" foam ball was inscribed with a version of Lovecraft's Eldar Sign. During construction I had cut out the large crack/fissure in the face of the tombstone and carved it to look broken & shattered including numerous circular sucker scars. I kept the pieces I had cut out to use as rubble and broken bits. For painting I used a base coat of general grey paint I found in the "oops" section, making sure to get into all the nooks & crannies. I then followed up with a sponge application of a lighter grey and some dry-brushing of brown craft paint to further weather it. I also made sure to paint the broken scraps that would become the rubble.

Click on any of the thumbnails below to view the full-size image in a pop-up window.

Construction - The Tentacles

The tentacles were something new for me. I had done some paper mache before but not much and not like this. I cut lengths of reclaimed advertising sign wire (quite heavy gauge - about 1/8" thick and hard to bend) and bent it into a twisted tentacle with a loop at the bottom for attaching to the plywood base. Pieces of cardboard were cut to shape and taped to the tip of the tentacle with a 1" styrofoam ball cut in 1/2 glued in place for an eye. The bulk of the tentacle was made up of plastic bags wrapped around the wire armature and secured with masking tape. I then used paper mache and newspaper/paper towels to cover and build up the skin. Rolled newspaper & tape was used to create the spikes coming out from the sides and around the tip/eye area. Once happy with the shape I turned to the suckers - I actually used rows of Froot Loops glued in place! I wish I could take credit for this but got the idea off a guy on the internet who made a great diorama of the squid attack from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. One a side note I have to say that the froot loops are a neat idea and look great BUT were incredibly finicky to apply!! I could only put a few on at a time and then once they were dry figure out a way to rotate and prop up the piece so that I could apply more without them sliding off. Finally everything was then painted and sealed with a layer of polyurethane to give it a wet and slimy look.



Final Assembly

Once the tentacles were done I positioned and glued the tombstone in place with more construction adhesive. Later I might re-enforce the joint with some 12" nails through the bottom of the plywood and up into the body of the tombstone. I find this really helps them withstand any wind when set up in the yard - but they would have put me over budget so it will have to wait. For final assembly I positioned the few scraps of broken tombstone that I had painted to make it look like the tentacles had shattered the stone and were coming up from within the tomb. Also as a last minute addition, I added a scrap page torn from the Necronomicon. I scanned a hand-drawn illustration I had done and then added text, textures and blood in Photoshop. It was then printed and crumpled up with coffee ground ageing on it to give it a old yellowed parchment look.


That's it. Once the prop was finished and submitted for voting the pressure was really on! It was a very close 3-way race right up until the end - a real nail-biter! I was very pleased to come in 2nd by an extremely narrow margin and won a cool Webcaster Gun from Monster Guts and other prizes from Haunt Forum. It was lots of fun for my first contest entry and I'm looking forward to more in the future.

UPDATE! Beware of Mice!

So it finally happened! Since making the tombstone I had been worried about the possibility of damage by critters - especially since I had used the Froot Loops in construction. It seemed I was safe for many years - even stored out in the open in the garage last winter, however my luck finally ran out and I came out one day to discover the mice had chewed through all the varnish and paint coatings and eaten almost all of the cereal right off! Nooooooooooooo! It happened fairly soon after Halloween and I suspect that since it was so wet this year and everything getting thouroughly soaked it must have softened the coatings enough for the mice to chew through.

The use of the Froot Loops was a necessity due to the cost constraints of the contest but I certainly wouldn't recommend it and wouldn't use them again if given the choice. I plan on doing some reconstructive surgery to remove the remaining Loops and replace them with either small rubber o-rings (which I'll try and buy in bulk) or make a silicone mold of a number of Froot Loops and cast them in resin. I will post photos here once complete.