Episode 154: The King in Yellow part 1

We’re back and we’re taking a look at this odd play that’s appeared on our shelves. The King in Yellow? That’s not a volume we remember buying, but we do have so many books. The yellow snakeskin cover is rather appealing. Sure, we’ve heard dire warnings about its content, but we’re made of sterner stuff. The first act seems rather banal, after all. Nothing to worry about!

Main Topic: The King in Yellow part 1

This is the first of a number of linked episodes looking at different aspects of Robert W Chambers’ most enduring creation, The King in Yellow. Confusingly, this is the title of the book he wrote, the play within it and an entity described in the play. Given the maddeningly vague nature of the Carcosa Mythos, this seems entirely appropriate. (We’ve borrowed the term “Carcosa Mythos” from The Yellow Site — a comprehensive and useful site for anyone interested in The King in Yellow.)

In this first episode, we set the scene with some background on Chambers, an overview of The King in Yellow collection, and a look at some of the works that may have influenced it.

In particular, we discuss:

We also make passing mention of the Carcosa board game.


Larry DiTillio

Shortly before we recorded this episode, we received the sad news of Larry DiTillio’s death. While most of his writing career was spent in television, working on such programmes as Babylon 5, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and The Real Ghostbusters, it was his work as an RPG author that affected us directly. DiTillio’s most famous RPG creation, Masks of Nyarlathotep, still looms large over the field some 35 years later. And, given that he created Jackson Elias, we partly owe the existence of this podcast to him. Our condolences go out to his family, friends and everyone else who knew him.

Pad’thulhu Auction

We recently loosed a most adorable horror upon the world. The charity auction of Pad’thulhu raised £186 for Cancer Research UK. Thank you very much to everyone who bid on him, to Evan Dorkin for creating him, and to David Kirkby for rendering him in clay and donating him to such a wonderful cause!

Visceral and Emotional Damage

Back in episode 143, we discussed the role of violence in Call of Cthulhu. This inspired Jon Hook to create a mini-supplement called Visceral and Emotional Damage, which does an amazing job of turning trauma into more than a mere bookkeeping exercise. He has released it via the Miskatonic Repository for a very reasonable $2. Jon has also generously offered it free of charge to our Patreon backers. If you sponsor us, check our Patreon feed for details.

Other Stuff


As well as the usual horror of our songs of praise to new $5 Patreon backers, listeners to the unedited version of this episode can “enjoy” a fresh abomination. Good friend of the Good Friends, Symon Leech, suggested that we introduce the raw recording by singing The Japanese Sandman (YT: “The Japanese Sandman” (Nora Bayes, 1920))

. Mercifully, we only sang one verse of it, although we did have a couple of attempts. If you are a Patreon backer, check your special RSS feed. It waits for you there.

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4 comments on “The King in Yellow (part 1)

  1. Ryan Hanson Apr 18, 2019

    In the story The Repairer of Reputations, it seems to me that the narrator is completely delusional and is an example of an unreliable narrator. We are told that he suffered a head injury that caused drastic personality changes and was subsequently committed to an asylum. Every aspect of everything described is completely distorted, for example the description of the imperial crown and the safe that it is kept in, cheap costume jewelry kept in a biscuit tin, and the suicide chambers could be subway entrances. The exaggerated nature of everything described seems off, the sentries, the warships, the state of the world, and in the end we are told the he died in the Asylum for the Criminal Insane.

    With The Mask, why is a story about a petrifying solution called The Mask? The only element dealing with a mask is the excerpt from the play at the beginning of the story. Although, it does remind me of an episode of Tales from the Crypt, season 6 episode 2, Only Skin Deep, where a man meets a woman at a Halloween costume party and goes back to her apartment with her, later to find that she is not wearing a mask at all.

    When reading In the Court of the Dragon, I get the impression that the narrator is not seeing reality as it actually is. The organist that he thinks he is seeing repeatedly could actually be different people. That would explain odd sightings such as seeing him pass by the same way from behind the organ, and later seeing him coming and going in different directions on the street. This story actually reminds me of many odd stories told to me by a dear friend of mine that has schizophrenia where he sees the same car or person repeatedly throughout the day, as if he is being followed or watched.

  2. Christopher Moore Apr 23, 2019

    Don’t forget: The late, great Robert Anton Wilson made “The King in Yellow” the central MacGuffin in his wonderful book, “Masks of the Illuminati.”

  3. In case listeners are interested, Cadabra Records put out an LP of The Yellow Sign. I haven’t listened to it, but I own a couple of their other recordings and they are absolutely brilliant. Worth checking out: https://cadabra-records.myshopify.com/products/robert-w-chambers-the-yellow-sign-lp-read-by-anthony-d-p-mann-score-by-maurizio-guarini-transparent-yellow

  4. The King in Yellow Apr 26, 2019

    Don’t forget that Blue Oyster Cult gave me a shout-out in their excellent song, “E.T.I.” Sandy Pearlman was always one of my most loyal if subjects.

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