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The Cult of the Yellow Sign on Their Doomsday Plans, Potluck Orgies, and Birthday Party for Horror Author H.P. Lovecraft

The Cult of the Yellow Sign's "808" (left) and "138."
The Cult of the Yellow Sign's "808" (left) and "138."
Benjamin Leatherman

The members of the Cult of the Yellow Sign tend to grab attention wherever they go, which is to be expected, considering they're adorned head-to-toe in jet-black cloaks and openly discuss bringing about the end of the world.

For instance, when we interviewed both members of the tounge-in-cheek local "doomsday cult" and comedic performance art group (which is inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Robert W. Chambers, and other horror/fantasy authors) recently at Fair Trade Coffee, many patrons kept glancing over at the pair while they discussed the cult's apocalyptic goals and such whacked-out topics as "pot luck orgies" and setting goats on fire.

If the statements made by both members (who asked to be called "138" and "808") are to be believed, they're really from a distant planet called Y'ng'mar and plan on summoning the infamous Lovecraftian demigods known as Cthulhu or Azathoth to help lay waste to the earth.

They attract similarly shocked reactions while harassing street preachers at the monthly First Friday art walk (natch), attending the recent Phoenix Home and Garden Show, or performing at either Space 55 and the Trunk Space. The latter location is where the duo will hold their annual birthday party for Lovecraft (whom they call "Uncle Howie") on Monday night, which may (or may not) include spiritual possessions, dismemberment of attendees, and mass consumption of cupcakes.

So what exactly is the Cult of the Yellow Sign? Cultist #138: We are an equal-opportunity doomsday cult.

Cultist #808: An apocalypse provider. It's a very common misconception that we are a performance art group or a prank. Or ninjas. We actually got that once. We went to the Phoenix Home and Garden Expo a week ago and people thought we were ninjas. They let us in, though. Surprising to say the least.

How widespread is the cult? 808: We're only just the Phoenix branch. The cult [has] existed for thousands of years, we're just the public face of it.

138: We're the first to embrace social media. There's been some bumpiness, like we had an awful MySpace page for years. It's still up, by the way. We've done noise shows and variety shows and poetry releases over at Lawn Gnome books.

What was it like at the Home and Garden Expo? 808: It was kind of surreal. It was kind of like being sucked into the world of QVC. You have booths that are like Billy Mays soundstages, live cooking shows happening in front of you, and people selling garage doors. Actual garage doors. It's bizarre.

138: Our thought was, "It's a bunch of people who are weak in will and have lots of extra money," which is exactly what we're looking for in a potential member of the Cult of the Yellow Sign. And these were people who had nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon.

What have y'all done to bring about the end of the world? 808: We've tried many rituals. We've attempted the nine angles, poisoning the water supply, sacrificing virgins, setting goats on fire. You know, the usual stuff.

138: The goats on fire thing was an accident, though. It was meant as a disembowelment and someone spilled the barbecue all over the place, it was an accident.

Have you tried casting any evil spells? 138: We have done the "Walking of the Widdershins," which is the ritual that's supposed to summon Azathoth between the veils and descend and release thousands of Hounds of Tindalos into the room, but there was a pizza delivered in the middle of it by someone named 808.

808: I was hungry. Look, I'm just saying during out that maybe in their last moments on earth I didn't want anyone to go out on an empty stomach.

 

Cultist #138 (left) and Cultist #808 at the Phoenix Home and Garden Expo earlier this month at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Cultist #138 (left) and Cultist #808 at the Phoenix Home and Garden Expo earlier this month at University of Phoenix Stadium.
JRC

What's your opinion about the Mayan doomsday prophecy? 138: I respect the Mayans. They're like the poor man's Aztecs. But I have respect for them because they did worships gods and sacrifice people, blood and hearts, and things like that. I like to think of them as like the boy scouts to the organization and we're like the eagle scouts.

808: Actually, speaking of which, we actually have our own boy scouts program, the raven scouts. So we're actually very open to bringing children into the cult, not just for sacrificial purposes, for raising the next generation of cultists, in case the world doesn't end.

You guys want kids into the cult? 138: Believe it or not, there's not a lot of reproductive activity going on in our potluck orgies.

Um...what? 808: Potluck orgies. We just figured, what do people like? They like orgies [and] They like potlucks, why not combine them? We have them about once a month, usually on the 13th. They can be very messy, though.

When was the Phoenix chapter of the cult formed? 138: We've been around since, I think, 1982. But we didn't become public until like two years ago.

808: You see, the problem with a secret society is that it can be too secret and our numbers are diminishing. The freemasons have this problem, the Mary Kay ladies have this problem, and we've had this problem. You can't simply plot away in obscurity, so we've had to get out in public and shake hands.

 

The Yellow Sign, which was first created by author Robert W. Chambers and inspired the local doomsday cult/performance art group.
The Yellow Sign, which was first created by author Robert W. Chambers and inspired the local doomsday cult/performance art group.
Tilseter via Deviant Art

So the Cult of the Yellow Sign was inspired the idea of the glyph of the Yellow Sign in the works of Robert W. Chambers, which was later used by H.P. Lovecraft, correct? 138: The Cult of the Yellow Sign is kind of like a meme in horror fiction. Robert W. Chambers created the idea of the Yellow Sign in his book, The King in Yellow. It was later adapted by H.P. Lovecraft to represent Hastur, the fiery god who lives in the lake of Aldebaran in the constellation of Betelgeuse.

808: The first time the cult was mentioned in fiction was in Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus trilogy. We tired getting him to join our chapter of the cult but he was too busy.

So both you and other members of the cult appreciate the works of Lovecraft and other horror and fantasy authors then? 138: We tend to consider Uncle Howie to be a kind of prophet. Before him there were people like Lord Dunsany and Robert E. Howard, who I'm a big fan of. And I absolutely love Chambers. To quote Lovecraft, Chambers could've been "so much better if he had tried only marginally harder." Plus, he's the writer of the first true supernatural romances, which are the only kind that I care to read.

808: And we also appreciate other people like Poe or [Jorge Luis] Borges from South America. We like anything that questions reality and makes you feel full with despair and hopelessness.

Where is the cult headquartered? 138: In the frozen city of Y'ng'mar in the center of the hollow earth, which orbits around a black sun and lit entirely by blue fungus, you may have heard of it?

808: We have a portal over by the Irish Cultural Center. Also, the Margaret T. Hance Park has a bridge where underneath they used to have all those folk-punk shows. We had a little portal built in there too. The Trunk Space has been especially good with us, letting us do our annual Lovecraft birthday shows there.

 

What do you have planned for this year's event? 808: Last year we summoned the ghost of H.P. Lovecraft and [138] was possessed. We plan to do the same thing this year, try to bring back good ol' Uncle Howie. We'll also have four poets, two musical acts, and a theatre group will be there. As well as free cupcakes and gift bags.

138: And depending on how many members of the cult actually have Monday night off, because a lot of them have jobs to support to support their lifestyle, we may have other cultists performing for us.

Will all the poetry be Lovecraftian in nature? 808: We invited them to attend kind of with the specific [requirement] that they'd either have to do Lovecraftian poetry or poetry that's inspired by the man. Like if you have a poem about how much you love cats, that's fine, because Uncle Howie loved cats.

138: Man, he loved cats. Did you read that essay? It was like 30 pages about how cat people are better than dog people. Inspiring!

Will the musicians like Christian Filardo and Hug of War perform songs about Cthulu and whatnot? 138: We don't try to enforce this with the H.P. Lovecraft festival. In the end, it's a birthday party. I actually think that Filardo's work kind of skirts [Lovecraft's] Plains of Leng. It has the sense that you're kind of drifting through a horrible dream world covered in spiders.

808: He has a tape where its him channeling animal spirits. He has a song where he's on a Casio [keyboard] meowing for five minutes. How is that not perfect for what we do? That's perfect for a Lovecraft birthday party.

Are there any danger for those who attend the event> 808: By paying us $6 to get into the party, you're also signing a contract stating that the cult is not responsible for anything that might happen at the show. Like if a shoggoth materializes and liquefies you into bones, we're not responsible for that. Or if a mi-go steals your brains or you're randomly possessed by voodoo spirits. And there are absolutely no refunds. So if you lose a limb, I'm sorry, that's awful, but we can't do anything for you.

The H.P. Lovecraft Birthday Party takes place at 8 p.m. on Monday, August 20. Admission is $6.

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