Carcosa is a fictional city in the Ambrose Bierce short story "An Inhabitant of Carcosa" (1886). In Bierce's story, the ancient and mysterious city is barely described, and is viewed only in hindsight (after its destruction) by a character who once lived there. Its name may be derived from the medieval city of Carcassonne in southern France, whose Latin name was "Carcaso".

American writers Robert W. Chambers and H.P. Lovecraft borrowed the term Carcosa for their stories, inspiring generations of authors to similarly use Carcosa in their own works.

The King in Yellow

The city was later used more extensively in Robert W. Chambers' book of horror short stories published in 1895 entitled The King in Yellow. Chambers had read Bierce's work and had also borrowed a few other names (including Hali and Hastur) from Bierce's work.

In Chambers' stories, and within the apocryphal play (also titled The King in Yellow) which is mentioned several times within them, the city is a mysterious, ancient, and possibly cursed place. The most precise description of its location given is that it said to be located on the shores of Lake Hali in the Hyades. The descriptions given of it seem to make it clear that it must be located on another planet, or possibly even in another universe.

For instance:

Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink behind the lake,
The shadows lengthen
In Carcosa.
Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies,
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.
Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Dim Carcosa.
Song of my soul, my voice is dead,
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
Lost Carcosa.
—"Cassilda's Song" in The King in Yellow Act 1, Scene 2

Associated names

Lake Hali is a misty lake found near the city of Hastur. In the fictional play The King in Yellow (obliquely described by author Robert W. Chambers in the collection of short stories of the same title), the mysterious cities of Alar[1] and Carcosa stand beside the lake. As with Carcosa, it is referenced in the Cthulhu Mythos stories of Lovecraft and the authors who followed him.

The name Hali originated in Ambrose Bierce's "An Inhabitant of Carcosa" (1891) in which Hali is the author of a quote which prefaces the story. It is possible that the Hali referred to is the Urdu poet Maulana Hali. It is also possible that Hali refers to Haly Abenragel, a 10th-century astrologer. The narrator of the story implies that the person named Hali is now dead (at least in the timeline of the story).

Several other nearly undescribed places are alluded to in Chambers' writing, among them Hastur, Yhtill, and Aldebaran. "Aldebaran" may refer to the star Aldebaran, likely as it is also associated with the mention of the Hyades star cluster, with which it shares space in the night sky. The Yellow Sign, described as a symbol not of any human script, is supposed to originate from the same place as Carcosa.

One other name associated is "Demhe" and its "cloudy depths" − this has never been explained either by Chambers or any famous pastiche-writer and so we do not know what or who exactly "Demhe" is.

Marion Zimmer Bradley (and Diana L. Paxton since Bradley's death) also used these names in her Darkover series.

Other appearances

Written references

Later writers, including H. P. Lovecraft and his many admirers, became great fans of Chambers' work and incorporated the name of Carcosa into their own stories, set in the Cthulhu Mythos. The King in Yellow and Carcosa have inspired many modern authors, including Karl Edward Wagner ("The River of Night's Dreaming"), Joseph S. Pulver ("Carl Lee & Cassilda"), Lin Carter, James Blish, Michael Cisco ("He Will Be There"), Ann K. Schwader, Robert M. Price, Galad Elflandsson, Simon Strantzas ("Beyond the Banks of the River Seine"), Charles Stross (in the Laundry Files series), and S. M. Stirling (in the Emberverse series).

Joseph S. Pulver has written nearly 30 tales and poems that are based on and/or include Carcosa, The King in Yellow, or other elements from Robert W. Chambers. Pulver also edited an anthology A Season in Carcosa of new tales based upon The King in Yellow, released by Miskatonic River Press in 2012.[2]

John Scott Tynes contributed to the mythology of Chambers' Carcosa in a series of novellas, "Broadalbin",[3] "Ambrose",[4] and "Sosostris",[5] and essays in issue 1 of The Unspeakable Oath[6] and in Delta Green.

In Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's The Illuminatus! Trilogy, Carcosa is connected with an ancient civilization in the Gobi Desert, destroyed when the Illuminati arrived on Earth via flying saucers from the planet Vulcan.

In maps of the world of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, a city named Carcosa is labeled on the easternmost edge of the map along the coast of a large lake, near other magical cities such as Asshai. It is one of several references to Lovecraft in the series. In The World of Ice and Fire, it is mentioned that a sorcerer lord lives there who claims to be the sixty-ninth Yellow Emperor, from a dynasty fallen for a thousand years.[7]

In the short story "Dinner in Carcosa", Western Canadian author Allan Williams re-imagines Carcosa as an abandoned Alberta prairie town with still-active insurance policies held by an ominous firm called "Hastur & Associates". The story revolves around a chance encounter between a young insurance adjuster and the Ambrosovich family.[8]

In the satirical novel Kamus of Kadizhar: The Black Hole of Carcosa by John Shirley (St. Martin's Press, 1988), Carcosa is the name of a planet whose weird black hole physics figures in the story.[9]

In David Drake's Lord of the Isles series, Carcosa is the name of the ancient capital of the old kingdom, which collapsed a thousand years before the events of the series.[10]

In S.M. Stirling's Emberverse series, Carcosa is the name of a South Pacific city inhabited by evil people led by the Yellow Raja and the Pallid Mask

In Lawrence Watt-Evans's The Lords of Dûs series, a character known as the Forgotten King, who dresses in yellow rags, reveals that he was exiled from Carcosa.[11]

In writer Alan Moore's Neonomicon, drawn by artist Jacen Burrowes, the character Johnny Carcosa is the key to a mystical Lovecraftian universe.


In the HBO original series True Detective, 'Carcosa' is presented as a man-made temple. Located in the back woods of Louisiana, the temple serves as a place of ritualistic sexual abuse of children and child murder organized by a group of wealthy Louisiana politicians and church leaders. The main characters, Rust Cohle and Marty Hart, storm the temple in the final episode of the season, where they confront a serial killer, who is the most active member of the cult. It is understood that the cult worships the "Yellow King", to whom an effigy is dedicated in the main chamber of 'Carcosa'. The series hints at a larger conspiracy which continues beyond the show, which is in line with Lovecraftian horror, as is a vision experienced by one character that underscores Lovecraftian themes like cosmic indifference.

Other References

In the 1988 album "Passage to Arcturo" by Rotting Christ, the song "Inside The Eye of Algond" nominates the Mystical Carcosa as part of the singer's journey.

In 2016 DigiTech released a Fuzz pedal called the Carcosa. The pedal featured two modes, named "Hali" and "Demhe." [12]

Maria, a film by King Abalos, takes place in a mysterious mountain called Carcosa.

In the Mass Effect 3 universe there is a planet named Carcosa.

In 2001 the Belgian black metal band Ancient Rites released the album Dim Carcosa. The title track's lyrics consist of excerpts from "Cassilda's Song".

In the early 2000s, a Mysterious Package Company experience called The King in Yellow was introduced, heavily inspired by story and title. Later, a sequel experience entitled Carcosa: Rise of the Cult was created, obviously connected to this shared universe, and connected to the original The King in Yellow.

Publishers using the name Carcosa

Two different publishers have used the name Carcosa.

Carcosa House

Carcosa House was a science fiction specialty publishing firm formed in 1947 by Frederick B. Shroyer, a boyhood friend of T. E. Dikty, and two Los Angeles science fiction fans, Russell Hodgkins and Paul Skeeters. Shroyer had secured a copy of the original newspaper appearance of the novel Edison's Conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Serviss which he wished to publish. Shroyer talked Hodgkins and Skeeters into going in on shares to form the publisher which issued the Serviss book in 1947. Dikty offered advice, and William L. Crawford of F.P.C.I. helped with production and distribution. Carcosa House announced one other book, Enter Ghost: A Study in Weird Fiction, by Sam Russell, but due to slow sales of the Serviss book, it was never published.

Works published by Carcosa House


Carcosa logo
colophon for Carcosa

Carcosa was a specialty publishing firm formed by David Drake, Karl Edward Wagner, and Jim Groce, who were concerned that Arkham House would cease publication after the death of its founder, August Derleth. Carcosa was founded in North Carolina in 1973 and put out four collections of pulp horror stories, all edited by Wagner. Their first book was a huge omnibus volume of the best non-series weird fiction by Manly Wade Wellman. It was enhanced by a group of chilling illustrations by noted fantasy artists Lee Brown Coye. Their other three volumes were also giant omnibus collections (of work by Hugh B. Cave, E. Hoffman Price, and again by Manly Wade Wellman). A fifth collection was planned, Death Stalks the Night, by Hugh B. Cave; Lee Brown Coye was working on illustrating it when he suffered a crippling stroke in 1977 and eventually died, causing Carcosa to abandon the project. The book was eventually published by Fedogan & Bremer. Carcosa also had plans to issue volumes by Leigh Brackett, H. Warner Munn and Jack Williamson; however, none of the projected volumes appeared. The Carcosa colophon depicts the silhouette of a towered city in front of three moons.


Works published by Carcosa

Places called Carcosa

In 1896-7 the Carcosa mansion was built as the official residence of the Resident-General of the Federated Malay States for the first holder of that office, Sir Frank Swettenham. It is currently in use as a luxury hotel, the Carcosa Seri Negara. Swettenham took the name from The King in Yellow.[14] In the Quebec-based geopolitical/live action role play game of Bicolline, Carcosa is a kingdom in the west. It was established upon principles of freedom and is populated by pirates, gypsies, escaped slaves and religious exiles.


  1. ^ "Yhtill" is the name of the city where The King in Yellow is set. In post-Chambers writings, the word means "stranger" in the language of Alar (a city in the play) and is the name used by the character wearing the "Pallid Mask". (Harms, "Yhtill", The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, p. 341; cf. "The Repairer of Reputations", Chambers.)
  2. ^ Joseph S. Pulver Sr., A Season in Carcosa Archived 2014-08-16 at the Wayback Machine, Miskatonic River Press, 2012 (accessed 27 June 2014). ISBN 978-1937408008
  3. ^ Tynes, John (1995). Broadalbin. Armitage House.
  4. ^ Tynes, John (1996). Ambrose. Armitage House.
  5. ^ Tynes, John (2000). Sosostris. Armitage House.
  6. ^ Tynes, John (December 1990). "The Road to Hali". The Unspeakable Oath. Pagan Publishing. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
  7. ^ George R.R. Martin, Elio M. García Jr., Linda Antonsson, The World of Ice and Fire, Bantam, 2014.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "DigiTech Carcosa Fuzz". DigiTech Guitar Effects. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  13. ^ "1976 World Fantasy Award Winners and Nominees". World Fantasy Convention. Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2008-04-05.
  14. ^ Barlow, Henry S. (1995). Swettenham. Kuala Lumpur: Southdene. p. 479.


  • Chalker, Jack L.; Mark Owings (1998). The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Bibliographic History, 1923–1998. Westminster, MD and Baltimore: Mirage Press, Ltd. pp. 136–139.
  • Harms, Daniel (1998). The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana (2nd ed.). Oakland, CA: Chaosium. ISBN 1-56882-119-0.

Further reading

External links

1987 in Malaysia

This article lists important figures and events in Malaysian public affairs during the year 1987, together with births and deaths of notable Malaysians.

Alan Moore's The Courtyard

Alan Moore's The Courtyard is a two-issue comic book mini-series published in 2003 by Avatar Press. The comic was adapted by Antony Johnston with artwork by Jacen Burrows from a 1994 prose story by Alan Moore (credited as "consulting editor").

An Inhabitant of Carcosa

"An Inhabitant of Carcosa" is a short story by American Civil War soldier, wit, and writer Ambrose Bierce. It was first published in the San Francisco Newsletter of December 25, 1886 and was later reprinted as part of Bierce's collections Tales of Soldiers and Civilians and Can Such Things Be?The first-person narrative 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 Seri Negara

The Carcosa Seri Negara is a residence located on two adjacent hills inside the Perdana Botanical Gardens, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Originally built as the official residence and guest house of the British High Commissioner in Malaya, it is now owned by the Government of Malaysia. The name is a composite of the two colonial mansions located on the compound: the residence, named Carcosa (completed in 1898), and the guest house, now named Seri Negara (1913).

The buildings figured prominently in the Malaysian independence movement, with several meeting held there. Since Independence in 1957, it has been used as residences for visiting dignitaries (1957–1989), and as a luxury hotel (1989–2015). Since 2017, it has been used as a museum.

Darkworld Detective

Darkworld Detective is a collection of science fantasy stories written by J. Michael Reaves, published as a paperback original by Bantam Books in 1982. The linked stories feature protagonist, a detective on the planet Ja-Lur. An authorized sequel, The Black Hole of Carcosa, was written by John Shirley and published by Pocket Books in 1988.

Dawn of Relic

Dawn of Relic is a Finnish black metal band.

Death Stalks the Night

Death Stalks the Night is a collection of fantasy and horror and Mystery short stories by author Hugh B. Cave. It was originally to have been the fifth volume published by Carcosa, the North Carolina joint publishing venture founded by Karl Edward Wagner, Jim Groce and David Drake. However, Lee Brown Coye, who was completing the illustrations for the volume, died, stalling its publication by Carcosa.

It was eventually released in 1995, including the completed illustrations by Coye, through Fedogan & Bremer in an edition of 2,000 copies, of which 100 were signed by the author. The stories originally appeared in the magazines Dime Mystery Magazine, Terror Tales, Spicy-Adventure Stories, New Mystery Adventures, Super-Detective Stories, Spicy Mystery Stories, Horror Stories, Detective Short Stories and Star Detective Magazine.


Hali may refer to:

Hali I of the Maldives (died 1268), Sultan of Maldives from 1266 to 1268

Hali II of the Maldives (died 1288), Sultan of Maldives from 1278 to 1288

a medieval Latinisation of Arabic Ali (also Haly)

Haly Abenragel, commonly known as Hali or Hali the Arabian

Haly Abenrudian, sometimes referred to as Hali

Maulana Hali, the Urdu poet

Tamba Hali (born 1983), American football player

the modern Turkish word for carpet

Lake Hali, the fictional lake beside Carcosa

Hali, the name of a lake in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series

a slang term for Halifax, Nova Scotia


Hastur (The Unspeakable One, The King in Yellow, Him Who Is Not to be Named, Assatur, Xastur, H'aaztre, or Kaiwan) is an entity of the Cthulhu Mythos. Hastur first appeared in Ambrose Bierce's short story "Haïta the Shepherd" (1893) as a benign god of shepherds. Hastur is briefly mentioned in H.P. Lovecraft's The Whisperer in Darkness; previously, Robert W. Chambers had used the name in his own stories to represent both a person and a place associated with the names of several stars, including Aldebaran.

I, Cthulhu

"I, Cthulhu" is a short humorous story by fantasy author Neil Gaiman featuring H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu who is dictating an autobiography to a human slave, Whateley. The story reveals much about Cthulhu's 'birth' and early life.

Ivan Stang

Ivan Stang (born Douglass St. Clair Smith, August 21, 1953) is an American writer, filmmaker and broadcaster, best known as the author and publisher of the first screed of the Church of the SubGenius. He is credited with founding the Church with friend Philo Drummond in 1979, though Stang himself denies this and claims the organization was founded in 1953 by J. R. "Bob" Dobbs.

Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, he attended the St. Mark's School of Texas. Since the publication of the first SubGenius pamphlet in 1980, Stang has embarked on a worldwide crusade (spanning at least three continents) to promote the Church. In May 2006 he finished writing, editing and designing a new SubGenius book for Thunder's Mouth Press, The SubGenius Psychlopaedia of Slack: The Bobliographon. He has appeared on several national radio and television shows, including The Jon Stewart Show on MTV. Stang is an instructor on the faculty of the Maybe Logic Academy. Both he and J.R. "Bob" Dobbs appear as characters in John Shirley's science fiction novel Kamus of Kadizar: The Black Hole of Carcosa.

Joseph S. Pulver Sr.

Joseph S. Pulver Sr. (born 1955 Schenectady, New York) is an author and poet, much of whose work falls within the horror fiction, noir fiction / hardboiled, and dark fantasy genres. He lives in Germany.

Karl Edward Wagner

Karl Edward Wagner (12 December 1945 – 14 October 1994) was an American writer, poet, editor and publisher of horror, science fiction, and heroic fantasy, who was born in Knoxville, Tennessee and originally trained as a psychiatrist. He wrote numerous dark fantasy and horror stories. As an editor, he created a three-volume set of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian fiction restored to its original form as written, and edited the long-running and genre-defining The Year's Best Horror Stories series for DAW Books. His Carcosa publishing company issued four volumes of the best stories by some of the major authors of the so-called Golden Age pulp magazines. He is possibly best known for his creation of a series of stories featuring the character Kane, the Mystic Swordsman.

His disillusionment with the medical profession can be detected in the stories "The Fourth Seal" and "Into Whose Hands". He described his personal philosophy as nihilistic, anarchistic and absurdist, and claimed, not entirely seriously, to be related to "an opera composer named "Richard". Wagner also admired the cinema of Sam Peckinpah, stating "I worship the film The Wild Bunch".

Lonely Vigils

Lonely Vigils is a collection of fantasy, horror and mystery short stories by author Manly Wade Wellman. It was released in 1981 by Carcosa in an edition of 1,548 copies, of which the 566 pre-ordered copies were signed by the author and artist. The stories feature Wellman's supernatural detective characters, Judge Keith Hilary Pursuivant, Professor Nathan Enderby, and John Thunstone. The story "Vigil" first appeared in the magazine Strange Stories. The remaining stories originally appeared in the magazine Weird Tales.

Murgunstrumm and Others

Murgunstrumm and Others is a collection of horror short stories by author Hugh B. Cave. It was released in 1977 by Carcosa in an edition of 2,578 copies of which the 597 copies, that were pre-ordered, were signed by the author and artist. Many of the stories originally appeared in the magazines Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror, Weird Tales, Spicy Mystery Stories, Ghost Stories, Thrilling Mysteries, Black Book Detective Magazine, Argosy, Adventure, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Whispers. It has since been reissued by Wildside Press in trade paperback and hardcover.


Neonomicon is a four-issue comic book limited series written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Jacen Burrows, published by American company Avatar Press in 2010. The story is a sequel to Moore's previous story Alan Moore's The Courtyard and part of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. Moore later continued the sequence with his comic Providence.

On March 2012 it became the first recipient of the newly created "Graphic Novel" category at the Bram Stoker Awards.

Sticks (short story)

"Sticks" is a short story by horror fiction writer Karl Edward Wagner, first published in the March 1974 issue of Whispers. It has been reprinted in several anthologies, including the revised edition of Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, indicating that it is part of the Cthulhu Mythos genre.

The mysterious lattices of twigs were inspired by the work of Weird Tales artist Lee Brown Coye, who illustrated two Carcosa Press volumes which Wagner edited: Manly Wade Wellman's Worse Things Waiting and Hugh B. Cave's Murgunstrumm and Others (the latter volume appeared some years after "Sticks" was written).

"Sticks" was also the inspiration for the lattice stick structures in the HBO show "True Detective".

The King in Yellow

The King in Yellow is a book of short stories by American writer Robert W. Chambers, first published by F. Tennyson Neely in 1895. The book is named after a play with the same title which recurs as a motif through some of the stories. The first half of the book features highly esteemed weird stories, and the book has been described by critics such as E. F. Bleiler, S. T. Joshi and T. E. D. Klein as a classic in the field of the supernatural. There are ten stories, the first four of which ("The Repairer of Reputations", "The Mask", "In the Court of the Dragon", and "The Yellow Sign") mention The King in Yellow, a forbidden play which induces despair or madness in those who read it. "The Yellow Sign" inspired a film of the same name released in 2001.

The British first edition was published by Chatto & Windus in 1895 (316 pages).

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