Yellow Sign

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Yellow Sign is a fictional symbol or glyph, first described in Robert W. Chambers' book of horror short stories The King in Yellow (1895).

Interpretation of the Yellow Sign created by Kevin Ross for Call of Cthulhu.

The King in Yellow[edit]

The King in Yellow never fully describes the shape and purpose of the Yellow Sign. Nonetheless, "The Repairer of Reputations", one of the stories in the collection, suggests that anyone who possesses, even by accident, a copy of the sign is susceptible to some form of insidious mind control, or possession, by the King in Yellow or one of his heirs. The stories also suggest that the original creator of the sign was not human and possibly came from a strange alternate dimension that contains an ominous and ancient city known as Carcosa.

The Cthulhu Mythos[edit]

H. P. Lovecraft and many of his imitators were great admirers of Chambers' book and incorporated many of his characters and symbols into their own works. In the latter-day Cthulhu Mythos, developed by August Derleth and other Lovecraft imitators, the Yellow Sign is the sign of Hastur and is used by members of his cult to identify one another. In addition, according to many of these works one of Hastur's avatars is known as the King in Yellow.

Call of Cthulhu[edit]

In 1989, Kevin Ross designed a Yellow Sign symbol for the Chaosium roleplaying game Call of Cthulhu. Ross created the symbol for an adventure scenario entitled "Tell Me, Have You Seen the Yellow Sign?" in the supplemental book The Great Old Ones. The symbol resembles a yellow triskelion, and is also believed to resemble a tentacled creature, since Hastur is often described as an aquatic tentacled being similar to Cthulhu.[1][2]

Ross later stated in an interview that the image used is actually a corruption of his original drawing; apparently, Chaosium printed the image both upside-down and backwards. Flipping the image horizontally and vertically reveals Ross' original conception of the Yellow Sign, which resembles a coiled body or tentacle with two tentacles branching upward. Fans have pointed out that this image bears a resemblance to the "Kronos" symbol used by the band Blue Öyster Cult. When asked, Ross admitted to being a big fan of the band, but could not remember if the resemblance was deliberate.[3][better source needed]

Other media[edit]


In Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! trilogy, the Cult of the Yellow Sign is offered to one detective as a concocted explanation of human history. The cult supposedly worships cthulhoid entities known as lloigor, commits human sacrifice, and has striven throughout history to suppress rationalism. The cult is opposed by the rationalist Illuminati.

In S. M. Stirling's Emberverse series, the Yellow Sign appears in the novel Prince of Outcasts, in multiple locations, as the symbol of the "Yellow Raja" and the "Pallid Mask".


Independent film director Aaron Vanek shot The Yellow Sign in 2001, inspired by the Robert W. Chambers story of the same title. Vanek, with colleague John Scott Tynes of Pagan Publishing, took the sketchy plot of Chambers' story and built a more complete screenplay around it.

The film was distributed by Lurker Films at the end of 2006 as part of The Weird Tale Collection: Volume 1.


In the 2014 TV series True Detective, the victims of the serial killer "The Yellow King" are marked by a sign, similar to the sign for the sun seen at Newgrange, which has prompted speculation on blogs that it is actually the Yellow Sign. This swirly sign is also seen in a vision towards the end of Season 1, Episode 2 of the series. Note this artistic interpretation of the yellow sign is different from Kevin Ross's for Call of Cthulhu. The sign in the series appears as an uneven circular spiral regularly flattened on approximately one third of the circumference. Other theorists describe the pyramidal twine-and-stick macrame devotionals left by the killer in the show as the Yellow Sign.[citation needed]


  • The Yellow Sign is the symbol used to designate the Hastur Faction in the Call of Cthulhu Collectible Card Game.
  • The Yellow Sign is a faction in the board game Cthulhu Wars, which contains both The King in Yellow and Hastur.
  • The Yellow Sign is also a "tome of magic" in the Old World of Darkness of White Wolf.
  • The Yellow Sign is depicted on the cover of the Unknown Armies supplement Postmodern Magick.
  • The Yellow Sign is used by cultists in Green Ronin's Freeport d20 System setting, and a similar cult in the same company's Freedom City setting for Mutants & Masterminds.
  • In the 134th issue of Dungeon Magazine, the adventure "And Madness Followed" features the Yellow Sign on the flyers distributed by sinister bards prior to their performance of The King In Yellow.[4]
  • The Yellow Sign is used by the country Carcosa in the Darkon Live Action Roleplaying warclub as their country's symbol.
  • The Yellow Sign is used in the custom dice game Cthulhu Dice by Steve Jackson Games. When the Yellow Sign is rolled the targeted player must give up a sanity token to Cthulhu.
  • The Yellow Sign appears as the name of a fish and chip shop in the fictional area of Eadwic, London in Funcom's MMORPG The Secret World.
  • The Yellow Sign can be seen in the video game Dragon Age: Inquisition on a banner in the Fortress Skyhold before it is restored.
  • The Yellow Sign, as well as other references to The King in Yellow, are used in the trading card game Force of Will.
  • The video game Bloodborne, heavily inspired by the Cthulhu mythos, features "Caryll Runes" which seem directly inspired by the Yellow Sign.


A group called "The Cult of the Yellow Sign," claiming to worship the gods of the Lovecraft Mythos, performs interactive theater pieces in the city of Phoenix, Arizona. They regularly reference Robert W. Chambers and H.P. Lovecraft in their poetry, performance, and music.[5]


In March 2015, public radio station KBIA, an NPR affiliate in Columbia, Missouri, broadcast a radio adaptation of "The Yellow Sign" on its Maplewood Barn Radio Theatre program. The adaptation, set in modern times, also incorporates characters and plot elements from "The Repairer of Reputations."[6]

F. Tennyson Neely monogram[edit]

The first edition of The King In Yellow was published in 1895 by F. Tennyson Neely, and featured a picture of a lizard on the cover with a stylized symbol in the upper left corner. The symbol has mistakenly been cited as the Yellow Sign, but it is a monogram of F.T.N. - the publisher's initials. The same monogram and lizard appear on other early editions of books published by F. Tennyson Neely as part of their "Neely's Prismatic Library" series.[7]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Tell Me, Have You Seen the Yellow Sign?". The Great Old Ones. 1989. Chaosium Inc.
  2. ^ An actual ancient three-tentacled creature, Tribrachidium heraldicum, has been discovered: Westerholm, Russell (30 November 2015). "Ancient 3-Limbed Sea Creature Reveals Complexity of Early Ecosystem". University Herald. Compare the fossil to the Kevin Ross design.
  3. ^ "The Yellow Sign". 2 October 2003. Archived from the original on 27 July 2007.
  4. ^ " - Dungeon Issue #134". Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  5. ^ Leatherman, Benjamin. "The Cult of the Yellow Sign on Their Doomsday Plans, Potluck Orgies, and Birthday Party for Horror Author H.P. Lovecraft". Phoenix New Times. Kurtis Barton. Retrieved Aug 17, 2012.
  6. ^ The Yellow Sign radio adaptation. Retrieved 08-20-2016.
  7. ^ "Hunting the Yellow Sign" K. M. Alexander, June 20, 2017 - Details the Neely monogram and other associated symbols.

External links[edit]

The Yellow Sign – via Wikisource.