An Inhabitant of Carcosa

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"An Inhabitant of Carcosa" (also printed as part of “Can Such Things Be?” in the San Francisco Newsletter of December 25, 1886)[1][2] is a short story by 19th-century journalist, short-story writer and occasional horror-story author, Ambrose Bierce. The story concerns a man from the ancient city of Carcosa who awakens from a sickness-induced sleep to find himself lost in an unfamiliar wilderness.

Carcosa was subsequently borrowed by Robert W. Chambers as the setting of his fictional play, The King in Yellow, and features heavily in many of the stories in the book of the same name. These concepts were further expanded upon by H. P. Lovecraft in his Cthulhu Mythos stories.

The influence of Bierce's short story is still felt today as modern authors continue to contribute to the Cthulhu Mythos. The story is told in first-person narrative, and includes a rather interesting footnote at the end.

It was included in the anthology, The Fantasy Hall of Fame (1983), compiled by Robert Silverberg & Martin H. Greenberg from stories selected by members of the World Fantasy Convention in 1981 and 1982.


A man from the city of Carcosa, contemplating the words of the philosopher "Hali" concerning the nature of death, wanders through an unfamiliar wilderness. He knows not how he came there, but recalls that he was sick in bed. He worries that he has wandered out of doors in a state of insensibility. He calms himself as he surveys his surroundings. He is aware that it is cold, though he does not exactly feel cold. He comes across a lynx, an owl, and a strange man dressed in skins and carrying a torch. For the first time, the man becomes aware that it must be night, though he can see as clear as day. Exploring further, he discovers a corpse in what was evidently a graveyard of several centuries past. Looking at the stones that once marked graves, he sees his name, the date of his birth, and the date of his death. He then realizes that he is dead, and is amidst the ruins of the "ancient and famous city of Carcosa." A footnote at the end of the story states, "Such are the facts imparted to the medium Bayrolles by the spirit Hoseib Alar Robardin."


  1. ^ Jess Nevins. "Fantastic Victoriana: R". Archived from the original on 2009-10-25. 
  2. ^