The Yellow Curse – Lars Anderson

pulpyellowcurse01Given some of the recent stories, I really expected this title to be along the lines of the Yellow Peril.  It wasn’t nearly that politically incorrect, however. “Yellow” refers to many elements in the story, all of them about as Asian as Auric Goldfinger.  But less Asian than Odd Job.

First off, we have Arn Flannery driving through a “clammy fog [that] swirled and twisted like a monstrous yellow shroud” . . . . . . . I tried my best but could come up with nothing better than Yellow Fog by I.P. Gaseously (having to invent a new word to even get that).  Clearly, I failed.

Flannery hears a scream, stops the car and goes to investigate.  “The hellish saffron billows clung to him like a material pall”  Never heard of yellow fog, and never heard of fog that clings to you.  He finds a girl “scantily clad in filmy underthings” laying on the ground.  Her hair is “butter-hued” and her skin is the same color as her golden undergarments.  She manages to say cryptically, “The yellow curse — go for help — get key” before she croaks.

Seeing a house in the distance, Flannery comes up with the brilliant plan of running his car into a deep ditch where it rolls over on its side, so he has an excuse to go to the house to ask for help.  This illustrates the extent to which a man will go to avoid saying he is lost, even if it is a lie.

He steps onto the yellow — naturally — porch and bangs the big knockers (heh, heh).  A gaunt man, also yellow-hued, answers. He has no servants to help with the car and no telephone, but does offer Flannery a place to stay for the night.

Finally we learn that Flannery is a reporter investigating the disappearance of Elena Vaughn.  She had been working on the story of mysterious disappearances and became a statistic herself.  Flannery had the hots for her, so tracked to this house.

Hearing a scream, Flannery goes to the basement.  There is a lit room at the end of the hall, so he peeks through the keyhole.  There is yet another yellow room, and he sees yellow flowers in a bronze bowl — couldn’t afford gold, sport?  He also sees 2 nude  yellow babes strapped to tables.  There is a 3rd girl — Elena!  Good news: She has not undergone to procedure so is still her normal color.  Bad news:  Not naked.

It is not clear how he knew the room was lit if the door was closed . . . I guess there was a golden ray of light shooting through the keyhole.  While he is checking out the girls, Flannery is jumped from behind.  The fiend cruelly straps him to a table next to the clothed one who can talk.

He tells Flannery he will be able to witness Evelyn’s transformation from “the ugly whiteness she is now cursed with.”  In three days, she will be a “gleaming, glorious, golden-skinned queen.”  Unless she croaks like the other three.

They figure out “the key” that the first dead girl spoke of was actually Hugo Keithly, the archaeologist.  He was bitten by a Tsetse Fly in Egypt and contracted — wait for it — yellow fever.  Somehow this induced a mad lust for gold in him.  He brings out the pills — surprisingly not yellow — which will cure Evelyn of her “ghastly whiteness.”  Ironically, of the three warm bodies in the room, the fiend is more likely to someday be recruited by MSNBC than the two news-people.

Luckily, Flannery is able to break his leather restraints and subdue Keithly.  He tells Evelyn, “we must get into our clothes, and hunt up Keithly’s car — mine’s in the ditch.” Nice work, Ace — you’re leaving the best part out of that car story.


  • First published in Thrilling Mystery, April 1936.
  • Also that month:  Meh.  Slow news month.

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