Hellboy corpse finder


Active Member
I've been encouraged by a friend to share this prop story that might be interesting to some Hellboy fans.
I was hired by a good pal of mine to make a few props for the first Hellboy movie back in 2003, and I did just enough work on the film to score a crew jacket. ;)
A few things I did were featured pretty clearly, which is nice. It always feels good to see your work in a good movie, instead of barely glimpsed in the shadowy corners of a terrible movie.
So there was this one prop that I was asked to design and build... the "Corpse Finder" for the scene in the old graveyard where Hellboy says, "Find me a talker." Originally it was going to be based on a Mike Mignola design. I built a few prototypes using a drawing he did, but we couldn't get it to look enough like a "locator;" something that might point towards something or somehow indicate proximity, etc... It was decided that it should be some kind of ancient compass type of thing. Like 8,000 years old. Something that was ancient technology, but predating anything else like it - sort of like the Antikythera Mechanism. Hinting at an early, advanced civilization that disappeared. We figured the compass (I always like to have a backstory for the stuff I make) was unearthed and repaired by HB who discovered it had the ability to point towards corpses with greater resurrection potential, then a resurrection amulet would be used to wake them up.
I spent some time doing drawings, making a couple of prototypes and sending them to the location in Prague where the crew was enduring freezing rain and other issues related to being very far away from the Hollywood Infrastructure.
After everyone was happy, I made multiples and sent them off to Prague. If I'm remembering correctly I made 2 "static" versions. These were lighter and more durable than the hero ones, and they didn't open or do anything. They were made just in case they decided they wanted it hanging from HB's belt or tossed around or rough stuff. The other ones were a bit more delicate, but could open and the center dial could rotate, etc... According to rumor, of the 2 functional hero versions, one was kept by the director, and the other was given to the "Ain't It Cool News" guy.
I've see one of the static ones online in a prop collection. It's being called "Hellboy's Mystic Compass."
Sadly this mysterious prop isn't seen very clearly in the film. You can barely spot it in HB's hands, but it does manage to locate a "talker" for him.
So anyway, I was compelled by a hypnotic demon (prop collector friend) to break out the ancient molds and make one for him after all these years. It's made exactly the same way I made the ones for the film - at least as close as I could get from memory. And I figured some folks here might want to see it. Sort of a "first look" at a prop from the shadowy corners of a cool movie.



My "Corpse Finder" compass didn't make it into the Art of Hellboy book, but Mignola's drawing of the other one I attempted to make is in there... It's round with two fang-like shapes that pop open revealing the rest of a tiny Byzantine-style icon painting. I didn't have a whole lot of time with it, but managed to engineer a way for it to pop open with a trigger. I hated the big, clunky-looking brass screw at the bottom, and when it popped open it was tough to get both sides to land symmetrically while it was in a person's hand. The whole rig had to be the size and depth of a pocket watch, too. I did the little painting in oil paints then added gold leaf and clear gesso to a copy of it. They went with another prop maker's "resurrection amulet" (very cool eye-in-pyramid design) for the scene where he wakes up the corpse. For the curious, here's a couple of pics of my failed resurrection amulet prototype:


Very cool design on the compass :)

You did a great job on it, it really does look like it's made out of some sort of metal. Nice eldritch design to it as well.

I am also a huge sucker for things that light up :p

Very nice!

I still wish I could have gotten a hold of one of the production pieces that Revolution auctioned off after the film opened.

That was an important scene for me as well - I'm the "other prop maker" who made the corpse reanimating amulet. (I have a rather interesting story about that, myself). Anyway... sorry dude :lol I think your resurrection amulet is pretty darned cool, personally.

So... any possibility of either of these being made available?
Thanks for taking the time to post, Phelyx.
I'm a huge Hellboy fan. As such find anything like this very interesting.

One can only hope you feel an unwavering desire to to produce a run of "compass's" in the not too distant future. :angel
Is Adam Savage your prop collector friend? :p

I have a theory that every time Adam shows Jamie one of his Hellboy props and enthuses about it that Jamie has them do a Mythbusters episode debunking part of a Hellboy script.

Seeing all the props kinda makes me think that I should maybe watch the movie.
@D48thRonin - Very cool! Your prop work is awesome. I always loved that shot of HB lowering the eye-in-pyramid amulet towards the corpse... For Hellboy, I didn't do as much as I have on other projects, but what I did was fun work. It's the kind of stuff I really enjoy concepting and making. I made a lot of old paper things, ancient relics and various bits of arcana, designs, graphics, etc.. I made the gold ingots and a few other small items. Of course there's never enough time to do it exactly right, but I had fun being involved.

@Contec - I don't know Adam Savage, but his show definitely reminds me of my days working in the prop department.

@juno, hydin, Trilogy, 1000Faces, et al - Thanks for the very kind words - but I don't think I can handle doing a "run" - they each take way too much time and hand making, painting, etc... to make it worth it for anyone. :)
@Contec - I don't know Adam Savage, but his show definitely reminds me of my days working in the prop department.

@juno, hydin, Trilogy, 1000Faces, et al - Thanks for the very kind words - but I don't think I can handle doing a "run" - they each take way too much time and hand making, painting, etc... to make it worth it for anyone. :)

Maybe a Kit then? no need to paint or build them. Im just saying that IF you do make a run in the future, be sure to send a PM about it to Adam Savage (He is a member here on the forum and a huge Hellboy propcollector)
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