->''"I forgot to tell you. Humans who use Death Notes don't make their way to Heaven or to Hell. What awaits them after death? ''Nothing.''"''
-->--'''Ryuk''' (to Light Yagami), ''Film/DeathNoteTheLastName''

A character has died but cannot enter {{Heaven}}, TheLifestream, his next {{Reincarnation}}, or what-have-you. It's not that he's destined for {{Hell}} instead, he can't pass on to eternal ''anything''.

It may be his fault due to UnfinishedBusiness, [[TheProblemWithFightingDeath getting a little too cheeky with Ol' Grim]], or committing suicide in a setting where SuicideIsShameful, or being TrueNeutral and thus not good or evil enough for heaven or hell. Or everyone there was just too scared of him. Alternately, being left in limbo ''is'' this universe's version of eternal damnation. Or, for people with a [[DiabolusExMachina particularly difficult and troubled life]], being returned to life, to that horrible life, ''is'' their punishment. For some souls, such a state [[AndIMustScream could actually be worse]] than FireAndBrimstoneHell.

On the other hand, there's plenty of outside factors that can cause this: His remains didn't get their [[DueToTheDead funeral rites]], the CelestialBureaucracy can't find his ticket for the afterlife, somebody [[YourSoulIsMine stole his soul]], or [[DeathTakesAHoliday Death went to Hawaii instead]].

Most likely he'll end up WalkingTheEarth as a [[OurGhostsAreDifferent Ghost]] (often with GhostlyGoals,) but more rarely he may be forced back into his decaying body as {{Undead}}. Other fates include being stuck in the AfterlifeAntechamber, or shunted to TheNothingAfterDeath. [[LivingForeverIsAwesome If he's really lucky]], his "banned" status will mean that he is CursedWithAwesome; he CameBackStrong and now he has PurposeDrivenImmortality. Although [[WhoWantsToLiveForever that can suck, too]].

Could count as NightmareFuel. Except in a serious case of DownerEnding, he or his next-of-kin will probably get a chance to SetRightWhatOnceWentWrong at some point.

See also the FlyingDutchman and WanderingJew legends, which frequently involve this, as well as the StringyHairedGhostGirl. Compare ReroutedFromHeaven, where a soul ends up in the wrong afterlife, or an afterlife they don't want.

'''DeathTrope alert! Unmarked Spoilers! Abandon hope, ye who read past here!'''



[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* At the beginning of ''Manga/YuYuHakusho'', delinquent Yusuke dies saving a child from being hit by a car, which puts the CelestialBureaucracy in a bind: He was scheduled to go to hell, but his HeroicSacrifice partly redeemed him... but not enough to qualify for heaven, not to mention that he wasn't scheduled to die then. He ends up working for them fighting demons.
* ''Manga/DeathNote'':
** Ryuk states any Death Note user goes to neither heaven nor hell when they die. [[spoiler: An ending flashback reveals [[ExactWords the real meaning of this]]: [[SubvertedTrope there is no Heaven or Hell]], just CessationOfExistence.]]
** The ''Relight'' special of the Anime makes this a bit more ambiguous. At the beginning of the special, Ryuk is talking to another Shinigami. Said Shinigami [[spoiler:bears striking similarities to that of Light (though not in appearance since the Shinigami is a walking skeleton)]] leading to theories that the two are one and the same. However, it's never been officially stated if this is true or not.
* In the ''Manga/DragonBall'' universe, it's said that people killed by King Piccolo or his minions are left floating between life and death, unable to go to Other World. The fact that [[spoiler:Goku and Raditz]] ''don't'' meet this fate after Piccolo Jr. kills them is a sign of his impending HeelFaceTurn.
* ''Manga/{{Naruto}}''
** The price of contracting with the Shinigami is that your soul will be consumed and reside permanently within its stomach. This prevents the contractor from ever moving on to the Pure World.
** Much later, it is revealed that [[spoiler: through secret Uzumaki techniques involving a mask, the souls can be freed from the stomach of the Shinigami. Orochimaru did this to free the four hokages who ended up there for various reasons.]]
* In the OVA to ''Manga/CardCaptorSakura'', Madoushi is trapped in a SealedRoomInTheMiddleOfNowhere, because she had died there. Unlike most examples, her inability to move on is ''self-imposed''; she is waiting for her (former) lover, Clow Reed. [[spoiler: Sakura helps her get over it and move on.]]
* In ''Anime/YuGiOh'', the Pharaoh was barred when he purposefully sealed his soul in the Millennium Puzzle in order to seal a great evil spirit along with it. [[spoiler:He eventually reaches the afterlife though.]]
* In ''Anime/MagicalPokaan'', Yuuma is kicked out of Hell after deciding that, since she won't die, she might as well enjoy herself and become extremely obnoxious towards the demons supposed to torture her.
* In ''Manga/SaintSeiya'' Phoenix Ikki mentions that the creatures of Hell don't want to hear about him (after coming back from it).
* ''Manga/JojosBizarreAdventure'' one-shot ''Dead Man's Questions'' reveals that this has happened to [[spoiler:Yoshikage Kira]]. After [[spoiler:escaping from the hands of the dead in Reimi's Alley]], he is trapped between worlds, left to wander eternally with no memories save for his name. He doesn't even have [[spoiler:Killer Queen]] anymore.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* ComicBook/{{Lobo}} was kicked out of both heaven and hell and is thus immortal. None of the other afterlife destinations will take him either; he even got kicked out of Valhalla for being too violent. Let that one sink in for a bit.
* According to ''ComicBook/WhateverHappenedToTheCapedCrusader'', when Bruce Wayne dies, he is reborn as himself in another universe, and the cycle continues infinitely, barring him from being anything other than Franchise/{{Batman}} even after death.
* In the ''ComicBook/JohanAndPeewit'' comic book story "The War Of The Seven Springs" (and its AnimatedAdaptation "The Haunted Castle"), Aldebert Baufort is prevented from joining his ancestors in eternal rest until the seven springs surrounding his estate are restored, and that the land is claimed by a true Baufort descendant carrying the family seal.
* One of ComicBook/ThePhantomStranger's origins in an issue of ''ComicBook/SecretOrigins'' was that he was the survivor of a divine judgment upon a city who was prevented from joining the afterlife after he lost his family in the judgment and committed suicide. He eventually discovered that his intended purpose was to turn mankind away from evil, one soul at a time.
** Another had him be a man who blamed Jesus for the loss of his son during the Slaughter Of the Innocents by King Herod, and when Jesus was sentenced to death, he bribed a Roman soldier just for the chance to torture him. As punishment, he was cursed to wander the Earth til the End Times.
** Yet ''another'' origin (he gets this a lot) has him be a former angel who didn't take sides during Satan's revolt on Heaven (he disagrees with God's plan for creation but isnt sure about actual revolt). When the War in Heaven rages, and Satan's side is losing, he still cant decide who's side he's on, and as such, isnt damned like the Fallen, but is still exiled from Heaven. The Fallen also want nothing to do with him, and tear off his wings before throwing him to Earth to live as an immortal outcast. Interestingly, this origin was created by Creator/AlanMoore during his DC tenure.
* The eponymous ''Jack of Comicbook/{{Fables}}'' makes a deal with the devil to the effect that when he dies he won't go to hell. He assumes that means he'll automatically go to heaven. He's wrong, and is doomed to spend eternity wandering as a headless corpse. He gets better -by making another deal with another devil. It doesn't end there. Related to a form of the old Jack O'Lantern story.
* Comicbook/HarleyQuinn. In her own title, she was killed and sent to Hell, but was banished from the place due her focus on joy and love. (Clearly, in a place where you're supposed to "Abandon All Hope", the staff doesn't like having someone like that around.)
* Also in Franchise/TheDCU:
** Karnevil for annoying/freaking out the demons by constantly pointing out better torture methods, and ComicBook/TheJoker for being the Joker. The villainous Dr. Light was also kicked out after his death in ''Comicbook/SuicideSquad''.
** This is the fate of Jim Craddock AKA the ComicBook/GentlemanGhost, a supervillain ghost who was originally a British highwayman who was killed by 19th century vigilante Nighthawk. As punishment for his crimes, Craddock is cursed to wander the Earth as a ghost until his killer passes on himself. Unfortunately, Nighthawk was the reincarnation of the ancient pharaoh Prince Khufu, who is himself fated to continually be reborn due to exposure to the alien Nth metal (most recently as ComicBook/{{Hawkman}}). As such, Gentleman Ghost is trapped on Earth.
*** The version seen in ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheBraveAndTheBold'' is even worse; Jim Craddock was a UsefulNotes/JackTheRipper-expy who murdered women as part of a DealWithTheDevil to make himself immortal. Unfortunately, [[ExactWords what the demon actually promised]] was that Craddock's "spirit would never leave this world". As a result, Craddock is executed for his crimes, and rises again as the Gentleman Ghost.
* ''ComicBook/JohnnyTheHomicidalManiac'' didn't fit in in his universe's version of Hell, and Mr. Satan simply said he didn't belong there, and helped him come BackFromTheDead.
* The Saint of Killers from ''Comicbook/{{Preacher}}'' applies here as well. His hate-filled heart was so cold that it literally froze over the fires of Hell and the devil was unable to break him. He simultaneously got kicked out and got a job. Oh, and on the way out, when Satan threw an insult at his back, The Saint ''[[DidYouJustPunchOutCthulhu shot and killed the devil himself.'']]
* In the Comicbook/XMen comics this seems to be the status of ComicBook/{{Nightcrawler}} after his return to life. Said return involved selling in soul to demons from one of hells dimension. He got a new body and tiny versions of himself out of the deal (who made his mutant powers stronger) and used it to bind his demonic father to earth. This left him unable to die however, since he now lacks a soul. He was fatally wounded twice in Comicbook/XMenGold and didn't die either time because neither heaven or hell would take him.

[[folder:Comic Strips]]
* ''ComicStrip/{{Alex}}'': After being sent to Hell in the "It's a Wonderful Crisis" arc, Alex and Clive are kicked out of Hell making a GFC-sized mess of Hell's Soul Market. The Devil and an archangel undo all of the events starting with Cyrus's suicide so that Alex and Clive never end up there in the first place.
* In one arc of ''ComicStrip/{{Dilbert}}'', Dogbert died from overly strong perfume and initially got into Heaven simply for being a dog, but they got sick of him and kicked him out. He did a brief stint as a guardian angel before the Powers That Be had enough of that and just resurrected him.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* In ''Fanfic/BeingDeadAintEasy'', this happens by accident when Joey trips over his shoes. [[spoiler:The actual reason is because Kaiba told him to stay with him.]]
* The HarryPotter fic ''Fanfic/CruciamentumEternus'' is built around the idea that Draco was killed for failing to kill Dumbledore and instead of moving on remains as a ghost. [[spoiler: It has a downer ending; he never moves on.]]
* In ''Fanfic/AtGatesEdge'', Edward died to save his brother who was taken by the Gate of Truth in their attempted resurrection of their mother. Edward is unable to move on, he believes he canít because he committed the sin of human transmutation.
* In ''Fanfic/PonyPOVSeries'', one price of godhood is that a god can ''never'' enter heaven (their loved ones can however briefly leave heaven to speak to them). A god can enter hell, either to punish the damned or to be imprisoned as punishment.
* [[StepfordSmiler Zirah]] in the ''Literature/GoodOmens'' FanFic ''FanFic/TheSacredAndTheProfane''
--> ...did he really think a few thousand years on Earth could have changed Zirah? ...[Hastur had] forgotten... that they had kicked Zirah out of Hell because ''they hadn't wanted him there.'' Because everybody was ''scared'' of him.. The way Zirah's face, [[DissonantSerenity oddly angelic even after the Fall]], had looked in the light of the flames. How he'd curl his lip whenever there was a particularly juicy bit of torture going on, and then absent-mindedly tear out some sufferer's voicebox because its screaming was getting on his nerves. Beelzebub, saying, "Fuck, make Zzzzirah go up. Bloke givezzz me the williezz."
* Brock of ''WebVideo/PokemonTheBridgedSeries'' bred Satan, and was kicked out because they thought he was going to do it again. He was.

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* Disney's ''Disney/PeterPan''. Captain Hook is preparing to drown the Indian Princess Tiger Lily to force her to tell him where Peter Pan's hideout is. He threatens her with this trope as he does so.
-->'''Captain Hook''': Remember, there is no path through water to the Happy Hunting Ground.
* In ''WesternAnimation/AllDogsGoToHeaven'', Charlie was double-crossed by Carface and knocked into the bay by a car, but he's told that all dogs are normally good and deserve a place in Heaven. However, Charlie felt he had UnfinishedBusiness so he stole his own [[DeathsHourglass Watch of Life]] and ''rewound'' it, despite being warned that anyone doing so suffers the trope. [[spoiler:However, his HeroicSacrifice to save an innocent girl earns him redemption and a return ticket.]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/SouthParkBiggerLongerAndUncut'', after he dies, Kenny is rejected entry into heaven and falls into hell. At the end of the movie, [[spoiler:after convincing Satan to stand up to Saddam Hussein and undoing all the damage caused by the war between America and Canada, [[ThrowTheDogABone he's allowed into heaven]]]].

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* In ''{{Film/Casper}}'', ghosts are people who [[GhostlyGoals had some important business left unfinished due to their death]]. The comic originally portrayed him as a dead child, but after the FridgeHorror for young readers was pointed out, the author retconned Casper as being born from a mommy ghost and daddy ghost.
* The movie ''Film/{{Ghost}}'' is all about this--some souls aren't ready for one place or the other at the time they part with the body, and the main character had some things to resolve on Earth before his soul could be at peace.
* ''Film/GhostTown'' has a similar theme to the above movies, as a curmudgeonly dentist has a near death experience and starts seeing ghosts, all of whom embody this trope to one extent or another.
* There's also the 1985 film ''Film/TheHeavenlyKid'', where a guy killed in TheFifties is stuck in "Midtown", and has to perform some kind of deed before he can go "Uptown". And it turns out he has to play guardian angel to the son of his former girlfriend. (Oh yeah, and the guy she married was [[Film/AnimalHouse Niedermayer]].)
* In ''Film/TheSearchers'', a group chasing an Comanche war party finds the grave of a dead Comanche. One man angrily smashes him with a rock but John Wayne pulls out his gun and shoots out the corpse's eyes. When asked by a Texas Ranger/Preacher what good that did, Wayne answers that by what the preacher believes, nothing, but the Indians believe that if he has no eyes he can't enter the afterlife and just has to wander "between the winds".
* In ''Film/TheRapture'', Mimi Rogers refuses to give up her anger at God for what people go through and is literally "left behind" across the river, unable to enter Heaven. When asked by her daughter if she knows how long she'll have to stay there she answers: [[spoiler: "Yes. Forever."]]
* The ghost, Murdoch, from the film ''Film/TheGhostGoesWest'', can't make it into the afterlife unless he gets a [=McLaggen=] descendant to apologize for making fun of the Glouries.
* In ''Film/TheTimeOfTheirLives'' Lou Costello, killed in the American Revolution, is bound to an estate by a curse. When the curse is lifted (by the finding of a letter praising him written by George Washington) he goes to Heaven. But he can't get it because the Pearly Gates are locked - for Washington's Birthday.
* In ''Film/TheProphecy'', Lucifer explains to a human that because of an angelic war Heaven has been barred to humans since time began. He then says that not all humans are trapped this way since Hell is always open. However, since one woman who was dying says she was about to GoIntoTheLight, and Lucifer [[UnreliableNarrator isn't known for his honesty]].
-->Other angels have made this war because they hate you. You, and all humans. God has put you in His Grace, and pushed them aside. They're desperate. They've never been able to conquer the other, loyal angels. And so this war has remained in stalemate for thousands of years. And while this state of affairs endures, no soul can meet its God. Your parents and their parents and so on from the beginning lie still in wormy earth. Of course... some of them do come to me, eventually. Because while Heaven may be closed I am always open. Even on Christmas.
* ''Film/TheProphecyII'': Satan decides that Gabriel would cause too much trouble in Hell and kicks him out. "Only room for one of them."
* ''Film/PiratesOfTheCaribbeanTheCurseOfTheBlackPearl'': Legends say that Captain Barbossa was so evil hell itself spat him back out again. The legend likely arose from the fact the he and all his crew look like skeletal zombies under the light of the full moon. Amusingly enough, Barbossa is revived from death in the second movie, so one could say that hell indeed spat him back out.

* The ''Literature/{{Chalion}}'' series:
** Most souls are taken up by the appropriate god upon death, and the gods offer a small miracle at each person's [[DueToTheDead funeral rites]] to confirm just Who took the soul up. When a soul ''isn't'' taken up, it's SeriousBusiness, not just for the mourners, but for the gods as well. (And a major theme running through most of the books in the series.)
** In the case of shamans and spirit warriors, the animal spirit linked to the dead person's soul needs to be called out by a (living) shaman before the soul can be taken up by the gods. This creates a puzzle - what happens to the soul of the last shaman left? Even the gods are't sure.
* In ''Literature/DragonBones'' Oreg is not ''quite'' dead, he's immortal, can still materialize a body, and his soul inhabits all of castle Hurog. However his is a FateWorseThanDeath (especially because he is a slave to whoever rightfully owns the castle at the time), and he tried to get himself killed for real centuries ago.
* Meg in ''Literature/TheWishList'' dies with a perfect balance of good and bad deeds to her name, disqualifying her from both branches of the afterlife. She finds a way back to the mortal world and decides to help an old man fulfill his life's wishes in the hopes of earning enough karma to get into heaven.
* ''Literature/HarryPotter'':
** Ghosts are people who either refused or were too scared to accept death and move on. Apparently, there's no take-backs later on if you change your mind.
** Voldemort's FateWorseThanDeath in the end. Since his soul was still split apart when his physical body died, he could not pass on to the afterlife. He remains trapped in limbo as a stunted twisted thing, presumably forever.
* In ''Literature/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy1'', Arthur Dent mentions that he used to have a recurring nightmare where he died and there was a bureaucratic error: all his friends went to heaven or hell, but Arthur got sent to Southend.
* In one of the ''Literature/{{Nightside}}'' novels, Sinner is an otherwise-good man who'd sold his soul to the Devil for true love. When he died and went to Hell, it was revealed to him that his "true love" was a succubus who'd only been pretending to care about him ... but he still loved ''her'' and was content with his end of the bargain, so much so that having him around subverted the basic premise of Hell. Rather than let a happy soul spoil the atmosphere of the place, the Devil kicked him out again, and Sinner wound up in the Nightside, back on Earth. [[spoiler:When he sacrifices himself to save Pretty Poison, the succubus in question, she finally grasps the concept of love, attempts to do the same for ''him'', and is restored to her original angelic state, whereupon she carries Sinner to Heaven: their respective acts of self-sacrifice balanced out the whole "Fallen angel" and "deal with Satan" business.]]
* In Dante's ''Literature/TheDivineComedy'', those who refused to commit to a position in life were left to run back and forth in the borderlands, for even Hell won't take them in.
* In ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'', the Dead Men of Dunharrow are cursed to an undead life until they have fulfilled their oath to aid Gondor's king in battle.
* In Literature/TheSilmarillion, Númenorean king Ar-Pharazon the Golden and his army, interned in the Cave of the Forgotten in Valinor until the Dagor Dagorach.
** Túrin Turambar. Or rather, barred ''himself'' from the passing on from the Halls of Mandos unto Eru, which is extraordinary since Men by their design are meant to depart Arda. Due to his failures Túrin is unable to rest in peace. Can anyone blame him? Morgoth ensured he had a fairly lousy existence. It's poetic then that he is prophesied to deal the killing-blow unto Morgoth and destroy his evil influence.
** Subverted by Fëanor. He is the only elf who is barred from reincarnating because of his evil deeds. He will remain in the Halls of Mandos until Dagor Dagorach, and reincarnate only after it.
* In ''Literature/{{Croak}}'', this is what happens when a Grim screws up. If the Killer doesn't do their job, the soul is stuck in the body; if the Culler doesn't do their job, the soul becomes a ghost; and if [[spoiler: the soul is Damned, they spend eternity in pain and are never able to reach the real afterlife]].
* In Creator/CharlesDickens' ''Literature/AChristmasCarol'', ghosts of people who didn't take care of the poor in this life (including {{Jacob Marley|Warning}}) are doomed to wander the earth observing all the people they could have helped, but lacking the power to do anything for them.
* In Creator/RudyardKipling's poem [[http://www.sff.net/people/doylemacdonald/l_tomlin.htm Tomlinson]], both St. Peter and the Devil reject the hapless Tomlinson, and send him back to life so he can grow an actual soul of his own.
* ''Literature/{{Discworld}}''
** In ''Discworld/TheColourOfMagic'', the king of the Wyrmberg is poisoned by his daughter Liessa, but decides that none of his three children are fit to rule Wyrmberg in his stead until one has proven themselves superior to the other two. As a result he continues to exist as a lich-like entity until Liessa hires the barbarian Hrun to defeat her two brothers in ritual combat, at which point [[GrimReaper Death]] is finally able to claim him.
** In ''Discworld/{{Pyramids}}'', this is a side-effect of mummification. If afterlives are shaped by belief, and your culture puts a lot of effort into preserving the body for the next world, you end up subconsciously believing the afterlife ''is'' the body, and being unable to move on.
** In ''Discworld/SmallGods'', the crew of the Omnian ship ''Fin of God'' are condemned to sail a ghostly ship forever, because they betrayed the commandments of the Sea Queen (the goddess all Discworld sailors instinctively worship) on the orders of a priest of Om (the god all Omnians are ''supposed'' to worship, although almost no-one actually ''believes'' in him). While most Discworld ghosts can't move on because they have GhostlyGoals, it seems the problem with the ''Fin of God'' is that it's not clear whether what they did was sinful or not, even in their own minds (which is what counts on the Discworld).
** The same book has the lonesome desert, which some characters have to walk to find out what their afterlife is like. Vorbis is trapped there for a hundred years, afraid of the judgement. It felt even longer.
** Windle Poons in ''Discworld/ReaperMan'' has the misfortune to be the first person to die after Death was [[DeathTakesAHoliday forcibly retired]]. He was stuck as a zombie until things got sorted out.
* In ''Literature/TheGirlFromTheWell'', Okiku is a ghost who helps the ghosts of murder victims pass to the afterlife by killing their murderers; but having chosen vengeance over peace, she is herself unable to pass on.
--> '''Okiku''': Where they go, I cannot follow.
* A rare voluntary version in ''Literature/{{Transitions}}'': The Goddess Mielikki takes Catti-brie's and Regis' souls away and gives them the choice to be reborn in a time of need or go on to the afterlife. Both choose to stay in the pocket dimension Iruladoon to be reborn in 21 years to help Drizzt.
* A common belief in ''Literature/TheLostFleet'''s setting is that this trope happens to anyone whose body is jettisoned in [[SubspaceOrHyperspace jump-space]] instead of given a proper burial. This becomes a plot point when a KlingonPromotion plot nearly causes the flagship to be stranded in jump-space with all hands. After the instigator of the plot is caught, and [[BetterToDieThanBeKilled commits suicide rather than be court-martialled]], Captain Geary is more than a little disturbed to realise that Fleet regulations require that their body be dumped in jump-space as an additional punishment for treason, an act that [[FishOutOfTemporalWater in his time]] was considered borderline blasphemous.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In ''Series/{{Charmed}}'', this is Cole Turner's final fate - he ends up stuck in limbo, too good for Hell but too bad for Heaven.
* One episode of ''Series/TheStoryteller'' had a soldier who became EnemiesWithDeath... and "won", putting it in a bag but eventually releasing it. Because of this, Death was too afraid to reap him, Heaven would not take him for his sins, and Hell was afraid [[HellHasNewManagement he'd take over]].
* This is how ghosts and zombies are created in ''Series/BeingHumanUK'' and [[Series/BeingHumanUS US]]. Ghosts usually die with some particular piece of unfinished business, and are unable to cross over until they can figure out what it is and fulfill it. Zombies are created when something unnatural blocks a soul's transition into the afterlife at the moment of death; body and soul don't separate properly, and the soul is forced to remain within the corpse for several weeks after death, until the body has decayed to the point that it simply can't sustain the soul anymore.
* In the ''Series/TheTwilightZone1959'' episode "[[Recap/TheTwilightZoneS3E84TheHunt The Hunt]]" a man does this to himself. He's allowed into heaven but he isn't allowed to take his dog with him. He decides that an afterlife without his dog is a fate worse than death (so to speak) so he refuses to enter and will just wander the path in between heaven & hell forever. Turns out that wasn't heaven, it was hell. Heaven allows dogs in.
* In the short lived early Fox series ''Second Chance'' (not to be confused with [[Series/SecondChance the game show]] [[SimilarlyNamedWorks of the same name]]) Charles Russell dies in the [[{{Zeerust}} Far Future of 2011]], and learns he is too bad for heaven but too good for hell. He is given the opportunity to go back to his teenage years and become a mentor to his younger self (played by Matthew Perry). The second season drops the older Charles Russell character, and became a standard SitCom called ''Boys Will Be Boys''.
* The spirits trapped in the house in ''Series/AmericanHorrorStoryMurderHouse''.
* In season 9 of ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'', everyone who dies, with the presumable exception of those bad enough for Hell. Aside from evicting all the other angels, Metatron has closed Heaven down for business.
* In one ''Series/SesameStreet'' special where the gang was locked overnight in the Metropolitan Museum, Big Bird and Snuffy encounter a young prince from Ancient Egypt who is under a spell and unable to join his parents in the afterlife and become a star until he can answer the following question: "When does today meet yesterday?" He spent 4,000 years trying to find the answer, but Big Bird and Snuffy promise to help him figure it out. [[spoiler: The answer was "in a museum."]]
* ''Series/DeadLikeMe'' is a show about individuals who are chosen by unknown forces to become grim reapers. Upon death, they find no passage into the afterlife. They are charged with removing the souls of humans just before death and are given assignments; when they complete enough assignments, they are finally released from their current state. They get a HealingFactor and an ExtraStrengthMasquerade to help them get the job done. It's PlayedForLaughs, with reaping being treated something like a bad temp job. One character did attempt to hitch a ride to her target's afterlife. Her fate is never revealed.
* Hrothbert of Bainbridge mostly called Bob is a ghost in ''Series/TheDresdenFiles''. After he used darkest magic repeatedly he was punished to death. Afterward his soul was sealed into his own skull to prevent him from ever moving on.
* In ''Series/Lucifer2016'', any being killed using Azrael's Blade is said to be erased from existence, rather than being sent to Heaven or Hell. [[spoiler: Uriel meets this fate after Lucifer kills him.]]

* Jackyl's "Heaven Don't Want Me (And Hell's Afraid I'll Take Over)".
* A one-line reference in Music/SonataArctica's ''Broken'': "Heaven's closed, Hell's sold out."
* Also, discussed in the ''Music/DeathCabForCutie'' song "I Will Follow You Into The Dark": "When heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied, illuminate the nos on their vacancy signs."
* This seems to be the singer's fate from Music/AliceCooper's "Hallowed Be My Name" from ''Music/LoveItToDeath"".
-->''There's no place for me in heaven''\\
''Nor a place in hell''\\
''Sentenced to walk here forever''\\
''This will be my final place to dwell.''
* The traditional song ''[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-DytJkA-c4 "Killieburn Brae"]]'' tells the story of a wife who is taken off to Hell by the Devil. On arriving, she sets about all the little devils with her stick, so the Devil carries her back to her husband "...for the likes of herself [they] would not have in hell."

[[folder:Myths & Religion]]
* In Myth/NorseMythology "heaven" was called ''Valhalla'', and those who died of natural causes were sent to the realm of the goddess of death Hel (root of the English word Hell, but not as bad). They sometimes resorted to "cheating" by methods such as gently tapping the dying with a sword as they passed away.
* StingyJack, the legend behind the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack-o%27-lantern#Folklore Jack o' Lantern]] or WillOTheWisp, involves a thief cursed with this after tricking either Death or the Devil.
* Some of the Native American tribes from the great plains allegedly believed that mutilating someone's body after death would bar them from entering the afterlife, so they'd be forced to wander the earth as a spirit.
* "The Soldier and Death" is a Russian folktale, retold in English by Arthur Michell Ransome and later used as an episode of ''Series/TheStoryteller''. At the end of the story, the soldier having tried to enter both Hell and Heaven and, being turned away from both, is left to wander the Earth forever.
* In Literature/TheTalmud, the sage Elisha ben Avuya is barred from the World to Come[[note]]the rabbinic rough equivalent of Heaven[[/note]] because he'd renounced Judaism, and from Gehenna[[note]]the rabbinic rough equivalent of Purgatory[[/note]] because of his Torah learning. Rabbi Meir, his loyal disciple and friend, vows that after his own death he'll make smoke rise from Elisha's grave, as a sign that he's successfully brought him to Gehenna so that Elisha can be punished and eventually redeemed. After Meir's death, Rabbi Yohanan vows in turn to rescue Elisha from Gehenna and bring him into the World to Come. Sure enough, after Yohanan's death, the smoke ceases from Elisha's grave, because "not even Gehenna's gatekeeper could stand up to" Yohanan.
* The ancient Greeks believed they needed to pay Charon for passage through the river Styx, which made some of them quite neurotic about the prospect of dying with no coins for Charon on them. A ghost of a dead person asking a living one for burial with some coins is a motif that has been known to appear in Greco-Roman fiction.
* There is a fairytale about a badass tailor who had an encounter with your standard Stupid Devil. It ended very painfully for the Devil. When the tailor died and was condemned to hell for badassery, the Devil locked Hell and didn't let him in. Even made it into a folksong, and the variants of the story are so numerous it has its own Aarne-Thompson number.
* According to one version, the first thing the bodhisattva Guanyin did upon her first death is to start preaching. Immediately she was converting demons and sending them to the Western Paradise. Lord Yama, the boss down there, was afraid she'd empty the place and told her to go back to the world of the living.
* JR "Bob" Dobbs, leader of the Church of the [=SubGenius=], has died many times, and has escaped from Hell every time. How many times? He's returned to life so often, every day of the year is his birthday.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* The escape of Lord Soth from TabletopGame/{{Ravenloft}} is quite possibly the weirdest case of this trope ever. He escapes from Ravenloft (essentially, a trap for various "darklords") '''by not giving a crap'''. Soth basically accepts that he deserves to be tormented by the Dark Powers and admits his failures. He refuses to rise to anything they present him with, be it despair or hope; eventually, realizing that it's pointless to keep him around since he won't respond to anything they do, the Dark Powers release him from Ravenloft.[[note]]This is the [[WatsonianVsDoylist Watsonian]] explanation; in RealLife Creator/MargaretWeis and Creator/TracyHickman decided to RetCon him out of the setting.[[/note]]
* In the ''TabletopGame/NentirVale'' setting for ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'', honored servants of a god are supposed to go to his or her divine realm after death as Exalted. Due to the heavens being badly fractured, a large portion of these randomly end up on islands just outside their god's realm, completely blocked from entering by any mundane or magical means.
* ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' module I3 ''Pharaoh''. The pharaoh Amun-re sacrifices the wealth and well being of his people to build himself a magnificent pyramid tomb.When he's threatened by an angry mob, he lays a curse that will cause the land to dry up if he is killed. A member of the mob kills him anyway, and the god Osiris is forced to carry out the curse. However, he punishes Amun-re by condemning his spirit to wander the land until someone steals his treasure from his tomb.
* Then there are the vestiges from the ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' supplement "Tome of Magic". These include such luminaries as Andromalius, a thief whose plan to steal his soul from his patron god worked a little too well, and Acererak, a lich who attempted to fuse with the Negative Energy Plane, got halfway there, and ended up shunted into a mysterious nowhere. Regardless of how they got there, they have a semi-detached, insane existence in a location more mysterious than even the Far Realm, and the binder playable class exists to barter with them for power in exchange for letting them briefly contact the world once more.
* The core book for ''TabletopGame/AllFleshMustBeEaten'' has the "Rebirth Unto Death" scenario, where TheLifestream is breaking down because the souls that used to watch over it have gotten distracted by civil war. As such, many people are being "reincarnated" into dead bodies, creating extremely confused and distressed zombies. This includes the ''players''.
* ''TabletopGame/WraithTheOblivion'' has religious wraiths view the Shadowlands as this; instead of their promised afterlife, they're caught in a bleak, bureaucratic nightmare society of ghosts. Many of them set out to resolve their Unfinished Business and transcend their wraithly state, moving on another plane of existence and their "true reward"; however, they get distracted along the way and end up either becoming somewhat settled in this weird new place, or can't handle things and end up falling into Oblivion, the actual state of nothingness.
* ''TabletopGame/{{Orpheus}}'' uses this as the default state for ghosts in the beginning; they're caught between the living and some sort of final resting place for the soul, but they often need help getting there, usually courtesy of the Orpheus Group's personnel, or have lost control of themselves and need to be destroyed. As the story unfolds, things are shown to be much, ''much'' more complicated than Orpheus originally assumed...

* Polynices, in ''Theatre/{{Antigone}}'', has been left unburied by the king Creon so that his soul cannot go on to the underworld, in punishment for his rebellion. His sister Antigone takes it upon herself to do so.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* D of ''VideoGame/AnotherCode'' lost his memories when he kicked the bucket and his desire to get them back keeps him from moving on.
* The plot of ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaLordsOfShadow'' revolves around stopping the titular lords, who are (among other nastiness) barring the way for dead souls to heaven using an evil mask.
* ''Franchise/FinalFantasy'':
** This is part of the reason Kuja, the villain of ''Videogame/FinalFantasyIX'' has nothing to lose and everything to gain from being evil. His boss, Garland, will provide him with as much power, wealth, and luxury as he could ever want, but only if Kuja follows his instructions. Otherwise, he'll just take Kuja's soul back and make a new version of him. The problem is, even if Kuja ''succeeds'', Garland will do the exact same thing. So Kuja has absolutely nothing to lose by screwing over everyone but himself. [[TheChessmaster Garland knows this.]]
** Souls in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX'' must receive a sending ritual from a summoner in order to reach the Farplane. Souls that don't get this ritual become Unsent (sentient undead) if they're lucky, otherwise, their jealousy towards living beings warps them into Fiends. This leads to some FridgeHorror: At the end of the game, there's no more summoners, since the BigBad was powering them. [[VideoGame/FinalFantasyX2 The sequel]] reveals Fiends are still appearing, but no one is sure why. Someone's going to connect the dots and have a HeroicBSOD at some point... That said, circumstances both on Spira and in the Farplane have radically changed between games, implying that the Fiends are more "ambient" energy than anything else.
** In the ''Franchise/IvaliceAlliance'', the shared universe of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyTactics'', ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXII'', and ''VideoGame/VagrantStory'', a large number of monsters are said to be human beings who died in a horrific manner and could not move on. This carries the FridgeHorror that ''anyone'' who dies in Ivalice has an extremely high chance of being kicked back into the living world as some manner of monster. In ''Vagrant Story'' in particular anyone who becomes tainted by [[TheDarkSide 'The Dark']] is fated to die an incomplete death. For most people this means being reborn as a [[TheUndead walking corpse]], but some people, [[spoiler:such as Sydney, and possibly Duke Bardorba,]] have studied and manipulated The Dark to such an extent that they've become functionally immortal.
** [[BigBad Ardyn Izunia]] from ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXV'' is a very unique existence in that he's ''absolutely impossible'' to kill. His physical form is [[spoiler:actually a viscous mass of darkness and daemons simply retaining the shape of a man]], and grievously damaging it, or even completely destroying it, merely renders it unstable for a moment before it reforms. To make matters even less fun, due to his unique relationship with the game's PowerCrystal, he spiritually '''can't''' enter the afterlife, as it would essentially just spit him back out due to his impure existence. The requirements in actually, ''permanently'' killing Ardyn are ''extremely'' particular, and very much suck for all parties involved.
* The basis of ''VideoGame/{{Painkiller}}'' is that the main character has died, but cannot enter Heaven with his wife until he does some work for the angels and kill the generals of Hell.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Onmyoji}}'', Yaobikuni cannot visit the Afterworld even when her living friends can with a temporary death spell because of her immortality.
* In the ''VideoGame/TitanQuest'' expansion pack ''Immortal Throne'', [[EveryoneHatesHades Hades']] invasion of the mortal world causes Charon, the Styx's ferryman, to neglect his duties, resulting in the dead becoming stranded outside the afterlife. The player resolves this by killing Charon and presenting his oar to one of the trapped souls, allowing the soul to become the ferryman in Charon's place.
* ''VideoGame/HeroesOfMightAndMagic:''
** In ''Might and Magic: Heroes VI'', dead souls are supposed to be delivered to the goddess Asha for reincarnation, but those who die particularly violent or unjust deaths can find themselves trapped in the mortal world as ghosts. Necromancers who worship Asha sometimes try to bring comfort to them, in the hopes that they can rejoin the cycle.
** In ''Heroes Chronicles'', Tarnum is a ruthless Barbarian leader whose original good intentions (to free his people from the Bracadan {{Magocracy}} evaporated thanks to paranoia and desperation. He has become a tyrant. So when King Rion Gryphonheart of the new nation of Erathia killed him in CombatByChampion, the barbarian Ancients refused Tarnum the peace of the afterlife until he atones for his sins. Thus, Tarnum becomes the Immortal Hero. The rest of the chapters are focused on Tarnum trying to make up for all he has done. A ''Heroes IV'' campaign has a young Barbarian chief attempting to re-unite the Barbarian tribes. That young chief's mentor is Tarnum. After the chief succeeds in his task, the Ancients consider Tarnum's debt repaid and offer him to join them in the afterlife. Tarnum refuses and stays with his people.
* In the video game ''VideoGame/{{Malice}}'' if you die you end up in a limbo stage where all you need to do is talk to the Grim Reaper who promptly sends the title character (a demigoddess) back to the living world (i.e. you restart the level you died on) simply because he doesn't want to deal with the complicated paperwork of processing a god.
* ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}''
** [[CuteGhostGirl Yuyuko Saigyouji]] is the princess of the Netherworld, the place where souls wait for their {{Reincarnation}}. However, because [[spoiler: her body is being used to seal the [[EldritchAbomination Saigyou Ayakashi]]]] she cannot enter the cycle of reincarnation and is stuck forever as a ghost. She seems to be enjoying it, though.
** In the [[http://touhou.wikia.com/wiki/Imperishable_Night:_Ghost_Team%27s_Extra extra stage of Imperishable Night]], Yuyuko talks about eating the liver of the immortal Fujiwara no Mokou and inheriting from her the effects of the ''Hourai'' elixer, which removes the concept of death from the victim. She claims that if a ghost were to ingest this elixir, they would become an immortal ghost and never be able to rest or reincarnate. Then she decides that Mokou's liver looks tasty and that she wants to eat it anyway. It's left ambiguous whether she actually went through with it.
* In ''VideoGame/JadeEmpire'', this happens to ''everybody'' as a result of the Water Dragon being bound. When the game starts, twenty years worth of restless spirits have piled up, and the Empire's really starting to feel the effects.
* The Nameless One from ''VideoGame/PlanescapeTorment'' cannot die. Certain very powerful beings can destroy his body beyond the ability to reincarnate, but if that happens this is the result as he never registers as 'dead' in death's book. [[spoiler:Two endings of the game sees you rectify your state of immortality. Death -- [[FireAndBrimstoneHell and transportation to your just desserts]] -- [[BittersweetEnding immediately ensues]].]]
* This trope forms a large portion of ''VideoGame/GrimFandango'''s plot. The Land of the Dead is clearly just an AfterlifeAntechamber, and many souls can't go directly to their final resting place due to past misdeeds. Some are simply forced to spend up to four years traveling to the Gate; others, like Manny, have to work for a prolonged time before they're allowed to leave. The most saintly souls can reach the Gate in four minutes by boarding the Number Nine train, but the main plot revolves around them getting robbed of their tickets, which leads to this trope.
* After encountering the apparent ghosts and other imprints of the dead upon the Metro, the citizens in ''VideoGame/{{Metro 2033}}'' theorize that the nuclear war destroyed the afterlife, damning everyone to eternal purgatory.
* Sylvanas of ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' discovered to her horror that she, and all those raised by the Scourge, have had their souls so badly twisted that they can never reach the afterlife. Instead on "death" they are trapped in a hellish netherworld where ''things'' torment them.
* ''VideoGame/PonyIsland'': [[spoiler: The protagonist, Theodore, is damned to Limbo for his crimes as a crusader.]]
* In the "A Cause to Daikon For" DLC of ''Videogame/MuramasaTheDemonBlade'', Gonbe, his wife and his cohorts end up dying and sent to hell, but due to the events of both the main game and the other DLC storylines, not only is hell lacking in demons, but they're all too tired to properly torment their souls. They later try to petition King Enma about this, who decides to not only banish them and bring them back to life, but also ensure that their fields are bountiful and their lords wise and benevolent to ensure that he never has to deal with them again.
* This is the fate of the Protagonist following ''VideoGame/Persona3'''s ending. By using up his life force to seal away Nyx and Erebus from enacting humanity's innate desire for death, his soul has to act as the gatekeeper for humanity until the day they either stop collectively wishing for death, or are rendered extinct. Which could very well take hundreds, if not thousands of years for the Protagonist to remain there.
* In ''Videogame/Diablo3'', you can visit the ruined city of Sescheron and find it haunted by numerous ghosts. A scholar explains that the barbarians believe that they can only find true peace if their bodies are laid to rest on the slope of the sacred Mount Arreat, and unfortunately, with Arreat having been destroyed at the end of the previous game, they have nowhere to bury their dead and their souls have nowhere else to go.

[[folder:Web Animation]]
* In ''WebAnimation/CampCamp'' Jasper, the ghost of a camper that died over a decade ago, reveals in the HalloweenEpisode that he's bound to [[NameToRunAwayFrom Spooky Island]], until his body is discovered.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* In ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'', Eugene Greenhilt cannot go to the afterlife until one of his descendants kills Xykon because of a BloodOath. This is the general fate of people bound by a Blood Oath of Vengeance and who die with it unfulfilled. [[spoiler:An exception is made for those who died actively trying to fulfill their oaths, as Roy finds out.]]
* In the original and [[AbortedArc abandoned]] ''Webcomic/PicturesForSadChildren'' storyline, [[PhraseCatcher Paul, who is a ghost,]] [[CelestialBureaucracy being unable]] to go to [[MundaneAfterlife hell]] is the main plot.
* Bleedman's ''Webcomic/GrimTalesFromDownBelow'' has [[WesternAnimation/TheGrimAdventuresOfBillyAndMandy Billy]] die and end up in Heaven. But the saints get fed up of him and kick him out (literally). Billy then ends up in Hell. But they get fed up of him there as well and he ends up wandering the Earth as a spirit.
* ''Webcomic/YetAnotherFantasyGamerComic'':
** The gods of Man and the gods of [[OurOrcsAreDifferent Orc]] couldn't agree on who should claim Glon the [[HalfHumanHybrid half-orc]], and he convinced them to send him back to life so he could determine which of his two heritages was his "true" one.
** Glon's dying human father asked to be buried with three grave coins, instead of the usual two. This means that he was technically denied a proper burial, and therefore has an excuse to stick around as a ghost.
* This is the initial premise of ''Webcomic/SlightlyDamned'', albeit something of a bait-and-switch from the very start.
* Once again in ''Webcomic/{{Narbonic}}'', Mell ends up in Hell after getting kicked out of Heaven. It takes her a whole week to get kicked outta THAT place...
* Seth, one of the main characters of ''Webcomic/Sorcery101'' was - according to one myth about his background - kicked out of hell SPECIFICALLY because they were afraid he might take over...
* In the ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' fan comic ''Webcomic/TrixieVs'', [[Literature/AChristmasCarol The Ghost of Hearts Warming]] who repeatedly visits Trixie to try and help her change her ways, reveals that this is her fate and the reason she has her current job, do to unspecified things she did in her mortal life, and warns Trixie that if she does not change her ways in time this will be ''her'' fate as well.
* In ''Webcomic/TheSettlers'', the gates of Hell are closed, so everyone who was headed there is stuck in Purgatory. This kickstarts the plot, as the main characters will use this opportunity to bring you back to Earth, for the very moderate price of your eternal soul!
* In ''Webcomic/AndShineHeavenNow'' ChurchMilitant Enrico Maxwell was supposed to go to hell-specifically, the circle of hell set aside for those that oppose Integra Manga/{{Hellsing}} (hey, she ''is'' on a mission from God). However, a last minute act of selflessness and the also deceased Anderson lobbying for him caused him to be reassigned: he can go to heaven ''if'' he spends 5000 hours of community service as a guardian angel, and he ''has'' to guard non-Catholics. [[spoiler:One scene hints that one of the persons he protects is Integra's {{Dhampyr}} son [[Anime/VampireHunterD D]].]]
* In ''Webcomic/StandStillStaySilent'', this is the fate of everyone who [[spoiler:took the [[CurseThatCures experimental Rash cure]]. Whatever allows the cure to halt the Rashís progression also prevents the soul from moving on, rendering anyone who took it a deranged ghost thatís hostile to everything around them.]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* J.R. "Bob" Dobbs, of the Church of the Subgenius, went to Hell after he was "assassinated" in Dallas (mainly because he'd never been baptized as a child.) Once in Hell, he seduced and bedded Satan's bride -- giving Satan a "second set of horns" -- and was kicked out of Hell. As he has nowhere to go after dying this gives him a form of NighInvulnerability -- and necessitates that he be followed by an elite guard of churchgoers to keep him from getting baptized by accident.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In one episode of ''WesternAnimation/ChipNDaleRescueRangers'', the rangers encounter the spirit of Monterey Jack's ancestor Sir Colby who was cursed to [[WalkingTheEarth Wander The Earth]] in death after abandoning his post in life. By scaring off Fat Cat and saving the Crown Jewels of England, he redeems himself and is able to pass on in peace.
* In the direct-to-video film from ''WesternAnimation/TransformersPrime'', when Megatron is confused as to why he hasn't [[spoiler: crossed over into the Well of All Sparks yet. Unicron explains this is due to all the Dark Energon Megatron pumped into himself - he's now bound to Unicron. Whether the imprisonment of Unicron's anti-spark fixed the problem is pretty much left up in the air]].
* In ''WesternAnimation/SpongeBobSquarePants'', The Flying Dutchman kicks [=SpongeBob=] out of Davy Jones' locker 30 seconds after arriving there, [[TooSpicyForYogSothoth due to his constant blabbering]].
* Done beautifully in one episode of ''WesternAnimation/{{Animaniacs}}''. The Warner siblings end up in Hell when [[WrongTurnAtAlbuquerque they take a wrong turn]], and subject it to their brand of mayhem. After they [[VisualPun freeze the whole place]], Satan literally kicks them out.
-->'''Sata:''' Do you have any idea how long it takes to get the pilot lit?!?
* Mc Pee Pants from ''WesternAnimation/AquaTeenHungerForce'' gets booted out of hell by Satan in a second attempt at a world domination scheme. By the third time he's revived, Satan is apparently so sick of him his ''entire next plot'' is getting a vampire to bite Pee Pants just so he's immortal and won't be sent back to hell, [[TooDumbToLive then he gets sent back anyway when he goes out during the day]].
* In ''WesternAnimation/KingOfTheHill'', Luanne makes a Christian puppet show called Manger Babies. The villain is a drunk driver who was exiled from Hell for borrowing Satan's truck without asking and crashing it.