Dropping Acid with the King

By Guy

We’ve spent so much time talking about so many aspects of this show, but surprisingly little on the cult itself.  Well, maybe not so surprising because until the last episode it wasn’t even certain that it was a cult involved (although we all knew that right?) I’d like to spend a few minutes laying out some thoughts on that front.

As soon as the name of the Yellow King was dropped on the show, we were off to the races.  Those of us familiar with Lovecraft and his cohorts knew right away that something much larger than a lone serial killer was at work once we heard that name.  And those who weren’t familiar with Lovecraft’s work quickly wanted to beat the living hell out of us to make us shut up about it already.  The question was at that point was of course how far would they go with that mythology.  Some wanted an actual Elder God appearance, some wanted nothing to do with the idea at all.

We don’t know how it is going to Pan out in the end (little greek god humor there), but we have a lot more to go on, so before all of my theorizing is for naught next Sunday, here are my thoughts.

Yellow King:

Let’s deal with the theories I’ve seen out there.

He’s a guy:  He’s not a guy.  If you still think that, stop.  Just stop.  He’s not going to make an appearance.  In a show about detectives investigating Satan Worshipers, you aren’t going to find Satan at the end.  Same here.  We might find someone who dons the vestments of the Yellow King, as Proxy on Earth or something, but no Yellow King.  The Yellow King is a cosmic force.  He is “Him who eats time…, him robes is a wind of invisible voices.”  That is a cosmic force if ever I heard one.


He’s a drug:  I’ve seen some pretty great theories out there that the Yellow King is basically a brand of drug (the meth-LSD mix made up by the Ledoux crew) which send people into the ecstatic state we’ve seen in a few of our back woods cult tweakers.  I think there is some truth in this, but only tangentially.  I think the run in with the old Tuttle servant woman rules this out, as she was around Tuttle and his band of crazy kids long before LSD or Meth were on the scene, and she CLEARLY drank the Yellow King Cool Aid.


He’s a Construct of Tuttle et. al. to put fear into the citizens of LA and drive more people into their churches:  I won’t even touch this one, it just doesn’t even pan out.

He is part of a Voodoo/Vodoun cult:  Well, yes and no I think.  That is certainly a model, but if they wanted to use Voodoo/Vodoun there are a thousand (literally) different gods and demons they could have used.  They didn’t, they used The Yellow King, a cosmic horror from beyond time.  It’s a little different, while retaining some similarities in terms of the horrifying ectascy they seem to engender in their followers

My Theory:  It is possible that the Yellow King is a real cosmic force in the world of the show.  It is clear that worship of him and his realm of Carcosa is long standing in these back woods.  We don’t know if it existed before Pa Tuttle and his Hell Farm, but chances are good.  And since that Hell Farm happened a generation ago, rampant drugging probably wasn’t part of the rituals.   In ep. 7, the reaction of the servant woman when she saw the Devil Catcher drawings of Cohle’s was a chilling moment.  EVERY time someone has let slip about the Yellow King or Carcosa, they have an unholy passion in their eyes, they have the look of someone who has seen something so terrifying and yet beautiful that it has driven part of them mad.  It appears to me to be a real force that effects these people, for ill.  That could be indoctrination, so it doesn’t necessarily have to indicate a real cosmic horror revealing itself to these people.  I just like to believe it is.  But the show NEVER has to show me that for it to work, either way.  It is a background question, and influence we will and should always see second or third hand.

So now, why the drugs?  Why was Dora Lange dosed with LSD and Meth, as well as the girl found in the river, and apparently the children made to watch and participate in these horrible rituals.  Well, again, this must have been a fairly recent addition to the cult, as LSD and Meth haven’t been around for that long relatively speaking.  To me that indicates it can’t be a main ‘sacrament’ of the cult.  In other words ‘communion’ with the Yellow King can’t be completely dependant on hallucination.  That doesn’t meant that the current adherents wouldn’t dose themselves heavily in order to more closely communion with whatever force they worship at the center of the cult.

The cult as portrayed on the show clearly has strong ties to deep back woods voodo/vodoun and mardi gras/saturnalia ritual.  It isn’t required that the cult as we are shown it be something entirely new, or alien, or devoid of influence from actual ritual cults of the south.  It lends an authenticity to it in my view.   In many voodo or shamanic practices, ethnogens and drugs are used to commune with spirits and with cosmic forces.  This just happens to be communion with a particular dark and entropic force.

But I think the drug use serves an even darker, if not more prosaic, function.  It would seem that the children who are forced to participate in these rituals are drugged beforehand.  The conversation with the male prostitute last episode solidifies that.  He mentioned feeling like he was asleep but being wide awake, and how the whole experience was very dream like (of course the crazy animal masks don’t help).   If the cult is partly obsessed with the ruin of innocence and the reign of entropy {Cthulhu:  Him who eats time?  Sounds legit.} then jacking up a child with mind altering drugs and the subjecting them to the horror show of the Yellow King rituals would not only make it that much more devastating, turning cult participants into literal monsters in the eyes of the children, but also make the whole experience seem unreal and dream like when they returned to consciousness (assuming they were allowed to to so).

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 2.34.32 PM

If Audrey was forced to witness the Marie Fotenont ritual killing, I suspect that the reason she didn’t remember it explicitly was because she was drugged.  The powerful and horrific experience clearly left a very dark mark on her psyche.


So, I think the drugs could serve a dual purpose:  As a performance enhancer for those wanting to commune with the Horror of the King in Yellow, and as a way to mess up these kids as much as possible, and yet push the experience into the subconscious.

While I don’t want a resolution to the question, I want some more hints from the series about what it is that these people are worshiping, and why.  There has to be a payoff for them, something that feeds the dark and twisted parts of their souls.  Let’s hope it isn’t a rubber monster.


14 thoughts on “Dropping Acid with the King

  1. What a combination, LSD and Meth! You just highlighted something that was right under my nose. No, not literally, but the effects these two potent drugs would have on an child’s mind and the imprints that would be left in the subconscious mind.

  2. I have my own theory about who or what the Yellow King is – it had to do with the realization that antlers are often seen as a symbol for a crown. So we have a cult centered around a Yellow King – that attaches antlers to women – what if they try to summon, commune or pay tribute to the Yellow King by making those women – and that little girl – a representative of their King?

    I kind of think this is an amazingly good summary of what must have happened to those children – being drugged and forced to watch and – this gives me chills, but – perhaps forced to participate. The drugs would have made it all seem like a very traumatizing dream, and would create a surreal effect that matches the undertones of supernaturality the show keeps hinting at.

    • Yeah, it is super super creepy. The thing that I keep coming back to is that this cult seems to have predated drugs, so, there has to be ‘something’ at the root, something that keeps these people in thrall, even going back generations. That is very lovecraftian. But, then again, so does voodoo, soo….

    • And I love the idea of making the kids a representative of the King. I feel the King in Yellow is a very Entropic God, and as such, these cultists would want to sow chaos and degredation throughout their world. What better way then to imprint children with such a horror, and have them grow up to be sociopaths because of what they’ve been exposed to (teen age three ways, male prostitution, etc…)
      Talk about immanentizing the eschaton!

      • I had to google that – immanentizing the eschaton – and the idea of what THAT is creeped me out more than anything else.
        Although from the way Marty’s Father talked… and the fact that Tuttle’s a minister – the fact that most of the cult seems to have strong religious associations – which makes me want to go back over the show and listen to everything Rust has to say about religion in case it’s really a meta explanation of the Cult’s mindset – it all seems to point to the idea that this Cult seeks to purify, I think that perhaps when they’re revealed they’re revealed to be people who think of themselves as righteous people in a world growing more and more corrupt.

      • That is a definite possibility. But there seems to be so much degradation involved, that it all seems more entropic than ‘salvic’ if you know what I mean. They seem to be bent on corrupting innocence, rather than sanctifying it. I mean, fucking up those children so badly is hardly a righteous act. Then again, it is mostly true that no one thinks of themselves as evil, even if their actions are, from the outside, as evil as can be. I do hope we get a little more info about what motivates the cult in the last episode. But not *too* much! 🙂

  3. With respect to the drugs, while Meth and LSD may be the recent drugs of choice, all kinds of roots, herbs, berries, seeds, bark and other pieces of nature have been used over the centuries to induce hallucinations for rituals.

    • Very true. As I say in the article, shamans have been using substances to commune with spirits and the natural world for thousands of years. The same could be true of the cult.

  4. I don’t know what the King in Yellow refers to in True Detective, however, LSD was first synthesized by Albert Hofmann in 1938 from ergotamine and it was introduced by Sandoz Laboratories, with trade-name Delysid, as a drug with various psychiatric uses in 1947. So it has def been around long enough to have been in play when the old lady was working for the Tuttles.

    • That is all true of course, but I’m hesitant to believe that a backwoods family would have procured what was at the time a very clinical and not widely known drug. It’s not impossible for sure. My gut tells me that it is a more recent addition, and that the cult is far older than even Pa Tuttle. But that’s the Lovecraftian in me!

  5. In regards to the dream theme. A couple things that jump out at me, specifically about Rust. He says something along the lines of “I don’t sleep, I only dream.” He also says, when discussing his religious beliefs with Marty that he “likes to contemplate the moment in the garden, when christ foresees his crucifixion.” Makes me think that maybe he has seen what is going to happen in his dreams, and knows that it will be his end. As he says he’s ready to “tie it off”. Just a thought.

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