The King in Yellow (first published in 1895) is a collection of short stories written by author Robert W. Chambers. Most of the tales in the collection are supernatural, and the first four ­­— “The Repairer of Reputations”, “The Mask”, “In the Court of the Dragon”, and “The Yellow Sign” — all deal with the King In Yellow and his Yellow Sign. Who (or what) is the King in Yellow? In some tales, The King in Yellow is the book of a popular play spreading like a virus through the cities and destroying the sanity of all who read it:

“Have you never read it?” I asked.

“I? No, thank God! I don’t want to be driven crazy.”

I saw he regretted his speech as soon as he had uttered it. There is only one word which I loathe more than I do lunatic and that word is crazy. But I controlled myself and asked him why he thought The King in Yellow dangerous.

“Oh, I don’t know,” he said, hastily. “I only remember the excitement it created and the denunciations from pulpit and Press. I believe the author shot himself after bringing forth this monstrosity, didn’t he?”

“I understand he is still alive,” I answered.

“That’s probably true,” he muttered; “bullets couldn’t kill a fiend like that.”

“It is a book of great truths,” I said.

“Yes,” he replied, “of ‘truths’ which send men frantic and blast their lives. I don’t care if the thing is, as they say, the very supreme essence of art. It’s a crime to have written it, and I for one shall never open its pages.”

The concept of a madness-inducing book will seem familiar to anyone who has read much H.P. Lovecraft.  Chambers’ The King in Yellow was a clear and considerable influence on Lovecraft’s work, particularly his fictional, forbidden Necronomicon, which was first seen in his 1924 short story “The Hound” and which has been used as a horror trope in countless works by different authors and filmmakers since then. Lovecraft has been such an influential and popular author that the King in Yellow mythos is retroactively considered to be part of the Lovecraftian mythos.