The Yellow Sign by Robert Chambers
(The King In Yellow Collection, 1895 first published by F. Tennyson Neely.)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror August 11, 2015
[The King in Yellow (known for its legendary kingdom of Carcosa, an ancient, cursed city beyond time on the shores of Lake Hali), was a forbidden play, which was said to induce despair, strange visions, and madness in those who read it.]
Stories have great effects on our minds, our dreams, perhaps even our very lives. Do symbols have real power or are they just harmless images?
In The Yellow Sign, artist Scott spies a figure in the churchyard below his studio window.
“At the same moment he raised his head and looked at me. Instantly I thought of a coffin-worm. Whatever it was about the man that repelled me I did not know, but the impression of a plump white grave-worm was so intense and nauseating that I must have shown it in my expression, for he turned his puffy face away with a movement which made me think of a disturbed grub in a chestnut.”
His model, Tessie, sees the churchyard figure too. She recounts a dream she had about a hearse with a driver who looks much like the figure in the churchyard. Finding affection for Scott, Tessie gives him an amulet, the “yellow sign.” Did she know this symbol was said to represent disease and decay or worse, insanity?
Did Tessie know that when she found a book on Scott’s shelf, The King in Yellow and read it, that she might be in danger?
“Song of my soul, my voice is dead;
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
This is probably one of the most disturbing stories yet on this blog. H.P. Lovecraft read this book in 1927 and used the motif in his Whisperers in the Dark story (Cthulhu Mythos). Countless authors (Raymond Chandler, Stephen King, Robert Heinlein to name a few) have been inspired by Chamber’s King in Yellow stories. And the highly successful True Detective HBO series ( 2014 ) had several references to The King in Yellow and Carcosa.
You can read The Yellow Sign here at EastOfTheWeb.com.
The King in Yellow is Robert Chamber’s masterpiece and most famous story. He wrote over 70 novels and other collections of short stories. Chambers took the name Carcosa from Ambrose Bierce’s story An Inhabitant of Carcosa (originally published in 1886). Some say the term “Carcosa” is a magically charmed name.
Listen to the audio of Bierce’s An Inhabitant of Carcosa
at Librivox audio at YouTube.com.
Or read it at South San Francisco Library at SSF.net
For those who wish to read short stories in The King in Yellow, go to Gutenberg.org .
Other Reading Web Sites to Visit
For Authors/Writers: The Writer Unboxed
Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror classic authors.