It’s well-established here that I’m an avid geek so it should come as little surprise that I’ve always wanted to make my very own necronomicon prop. In one of my most fortuitous roles of all time, I got cast as the Necromancer for Quest Night: The Glory and Gold’s Hunt for the Lich King installment and have a perfect chance to make one! Seriously, Jarrett and the people behind Quest Night and Scare for a Cure know how to make a geek’s dream come true.
To start, I did a little research. First I needed a design, so I thought back to all the different necronomicons I’ve ever seen and I really liked the distorted face from the original Evil Dead. It was made of latex and the paint job left more than a little to be desired, but the concept was solid and I decided my necronomicon would definitely need a face. I also knew that books had been bound with human skin, so I wanted to make sure that my book would have that air of authenticity so I would need to match the coloration from extant anthropodermic biblioplegy. I also wanted to try to include some Lovecraftian mythos into my finalized design because the whole idea of a necronomicon was popularized by his works.
My research, as it turned out, ended up being creepier than I thought as I found out that the face on the necronomicon in the movie was based on A True and Perfect Relation of the Whole Proceedings Against the Late Most Barbarous Traitors, Garnet a Jesuit and His Confederates, a book purported to have been made from the facial flesh of Father Henry Garnet, a clergyman who was a part of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. I also found out that several different books have been traditionally bound in human flesh, including Anatomy texts and supposedly copies of the Marquis de Sade’s Justine which supposedly has had several editions bound with human breasts as the spine. While all of this was fascinating, the biggest takehome here was that there is a definite look and color to books bound in human flesh. It also apparently looks a fair bit like sheepskin as several books that people thought were bound in the former were actually bound in the latter. I also found out that Henry Garnet’s facebook also had a nifty inscription of “severe penitence punished the flesh” in Stewart era Latin.
This pushed me to make my design one of a face with a facsimile of a very roughly translated Latin inscription like Garnet’s book, I also thought that including a raised breast and nipple would be a neat feature and then began to research the Lovecraft backgound to find the name of the Mad Arab, the purported Middle Eastern name for the necronomicon, and the maddeing symbol of the necronomicon, all of which I would go on to include in the final design because why not?
Now I needed to figure out fabrication. I figured the prop needed to be big enough to be seen by guests, which led me to look for a leatherette or leather bound photo album. I found one at Target for $10 in the bargain bin. It had a few scratches which I didn’t care about because I was going to cover them with the face. To create the shapes I wanted, I actually used Crayola’s air dry clay because I had a bunch I bought for another project and had leftovers on hand. Did I mention that I was on a time crunch, that was also a factor here. Having used the clay before, it dries out and cracks badly, so my work needed to be a) a little thick, b) able to be reinforced with an overlay of clear finish after the paint dried.
I surfed the internet to see what kinds of designs other people had come up with to get a nice and creepy look for my face. I decided the eyes needed to be distorted and offset from one another. I also opted for a massive nose-hole that was not realistic because it provides visual movement and really drives home that this is a face. The thickest work was the mouth, which I made a fun shape so it looked twisted in agony, as you see above.I tossed an ear and a nipple on the back and carved in the Mad Arab’s name and my ridiculous non-literal translation of the Garnet quote on the back, too.
I then used a white Gelly Roll pen to create the spine. I hand-drew the necronomicon symbol at the bottom and then used period-esque calligraphy for my mildly Latinized translation of the Lovecraftian name for the necronomicon, the Kitab al-Zif. In the pic above you get a glimpse of what everything looked like as soon as I finished the spine, and you can see that the clay is not dry. Having completed this, I laid the book out, turned on the fan, and hoped it would dry quickly overnight.
I accepted that there would be lots of cracks because of the efforts to make the drying go more quickly. However, I used several layers of Elmer’s School glue to fill in the cracks the next morning. I used two very liberal coats of glue and then went back in to fill in the particularly big ones to make sure my clay wouldn’t just pop off.
The thicker the clay is, the bigger and deeper the cracks are so I had to use many layers of glue on the mouth. The mouth also wasn’t completely dry when I had to start reinforcing it so if you look closely at the pic above you can see teeny tiny bubbles that popped up. My audience would be seeing this bad boy from 20 feet in a room with sketchy lighting so I didn’t sweat the small stuff.
I picked up some acryllic paint from my local craft store which happened to be perfect for the tanned human skin look I saw on all the books and Eva Braun’s lampshades and went to town painting my clay “skin”. It didn’t take long before I realized that there were going to be lots of brush strokes and that I would need at least one more coat.
Here’s what the whole thing looked like after a single coat. Neat, but not exactly impressive yet. I went on to do a second coat to get rid of brush strokes.
I then lowlighted with a darker brown that was more true to the leather on the book, then I highlighted with a color I made by mixing the light brown with yellow and a touch of green. I also painted a thin layer of black over the internal face holes to make it just a little more menacing. I also filled in with red and black paint the name and quote on the back and made the nipples a little more noticeable with just a touch of pink.
Because I was a little worried about how well it would stand up to being thrown around, I went ahead and gave it two thin coats of polyurethane (Rustoleum Ultimate Polyurethane, of course). And there you have it folks, my first necronomicon (excuse my hair, it was just as excited as me).
Everyone involved with the end product was pleased with it. I did have to put a little superglue in one of the huge mouth cracks after a solid week of use being thrown around, but it stood up rather well. I would definitely use this Crayola method for cosplay parts of I needed them done at the last minute and wanted to be cheap about it.