Robert W. Chambers was born Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1865. He became a successful artist, selling work to several magazines and publications. He later turned to writing, publishing his first novel (In the Quarter) in 1887. Chambers wrote in multiple genres, but his biggest success was his weird fiction collected in “The King in Yellow” (1895). The majority of the stories in this anthology revolve around a brilliant play that causes anyone who reads it to go insane. In some cases it seems to bring supernatural entities after the readers. The fictional realm of Carcosa plays a part in “The King in Yellow”, which was originally introduced by Ambrose Breice. H.P. Lovecraft would include elements such as The Yellow Sign and Carcosa in his own work. Robert Chambers died in his home on December 16, 1933.
1. “The Repairer of Reputations” (1895) – This story seems to take place in a parallel Earth where suicides are legal, and the government has erected facilities to help people carry them out. The main character has been recently released from a mental hospital, supposedly cured. The protagonist having read “The King in Yellow” at one point has become obsessed with it. This is a well-crafted tale that gives you glimpse into the inner workings of an unbalanced mind and how he perceives the world around him in contrast to how others see it.
2. “The Mask” (1895) – Two friends become involved in a friendly love triangle. Both men love the same woman, but after she makes her choice, they remain friends and continue to hang out together. The man she chooses is a sculpture who’s discovered a liquid that turns anything it touches into a petrified, quasi-marble statue. The two men are of differing opinions as to weather this is a good thing or not. The story is largely about the protagonist dealing with being relegated to mere friendship with the woman he loves and his having to repressing his true feelings. The strange liquid concoction becomes important as the story continues. The play “The King in Yellow” is read by both the main character and the woman, both are very disturbed by it.
3. “In The Court of the Dragon” (1895) – A man sitting in a church service is surprised by bizarre organ music that no one else seems to notice. When he looks back, the organist gives him a hate-filled glare while exiting the loft. The narrator sees the man again coming from an unexpected direction. He decides to leave the church to head home but finds himself pursued by the hateful organist, whom he begins to think may not be human.
4. “The Yellow Sign” (1895) – This wonderfully creepy tale revolves around a painter who’s falling in love with his young model Tessie. He becomes distracted by an odd watchman patrolling the churchyard near his house. When the watchman looks up and meets his gaze, the artist is repelled, describing the man a “coffin worm”. When he tries to return to his work, he finds he’s somehow ruined the painting of Tessie. Her image’s arm taking on an unhealthy look that spreads to the rest of her the more he tries to fix it. When the model returns for another session, she tells him of a dream she had where she saw a man driving by with a coffin, and she’s certain he was in it. She also believes the hideous watchman was the driver. Both have similar dreams, and friends of theirs have a disturbing encounter with the watchmen. Later Tessie finds a copy of the play, “The King in Yellow” and reads it despite the artists attempts to stop her. Afterwards things become much worse for the couple.
5. “The Demoiselle d’Ys” (1895) – A man lies down in the wilderness after becoming lost. He’s awakened by a falcon pouncing on its prey. He then meets a beautiful woman who’s a falconer. She tells him it could take him centuries to find his way back home but that he can stay with her for the night if he wishes. He agrees and ends up staying longer because the two fall in love. He’s surprised, however, by the outdated clothing he’s given and other things that make it seem he may not be where or when he thinks he is.
6. Passeur (1897) – A man who desires to reunite with his love who died a year ago, hears her voice calling to him from across the sea during snowy winter’s night.
7. “The Messenger” (1897) – After the lost skull of a traitorous priest from the 1700’s is unearthed, something begins to stalk the man who disturbed it. The image of an arrowhead had been branded into the skull when he was executed. Called “The Black Priest”, he issued a curse moments before his demise.
8. “The Bridal Pair” (1902) – A man seeks a woman he’s seen several times in different places during his travels. He loves her although he doesn’t know her name and has never spoken to her. When he finally meets her face to face, he finds she died three years previous and that she loves him. They both desire to remain together. She tells him what he must do for that to happen.
9. “The Third Eye” (1915) – A pair of scientists vie for the affections of an attractive waitress as the three of them seek a secret race of beings that possess a third eye on the back of their heads with the assistance of disturbing guide.