"It might take centuries, but sooner or later Hell will burn away your humanity. Every Hell-bound soul, every one, turns into something else. Turns you into us."This demon was once a mere mortal, usually someone who had been sent to Hell but eventually joined the ranks of his torturers. In some settings this may be the only way that new demons are created, with every demon having once been a soul sent to the basement. Perhaps they were cursed to suffer this fate or their souls were tortured until nothing but a monstrous apparition remained. They could also have sought it out deliberately, acquiring the powers of hell at the cost of their humanity. Or maybe The Devil directly made them the offer to become one of his infernal minions. Whatever the case, what Was Once a Man is now a new demon. This may be the ultimate goal of a Hell Seeker. Given enough time, someone this ambitious may even become one of the officers or actually overthrow the big boss himself. The process is not always irreversible: see Ascended Demon for those who manage to redeem themselves. This idea is Newer Than They Think, at least in Western circles. In The Bible this was not possible, as demons were simply the Fallen Angels who joined Lucifer in his original Fall from Heaven. Humans were also categorically capable of redemption, so while the Devil could tempt them into sin, a sinner couldn't literally forsake their soul to become an inhuman monster. Subtrope of Our Demons Are Different. Compare Deity of Human Origin and Angelic Transformation. See also Evil Makes You Monstrous. Contrast Humanity Ensues.
— Ruby the Demon, Supernatural
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Hell Girl: Ai Enma. During her dying breath, she cursed the villagers that sacrificed her and her parents to their mountain gods. That same night, she came back to life and burned the whole village down, killing everyone in it. After that, she was sent to hell, and the Lord of Hell forced her to take the job of Hell Girl or else she and her loved ones would suffer in hell eternally. The job comes with a powerful set of powers, and over the course of 400 years she gains enough mastery of it to be able to confront the Lord of Hell, as seen in the end of Season 1. She manages to get off the job at the end of Season 2... and after a complicated set of events, takes the job back at the end of Season 3.
- As the world of Berserk has a heavy amount of Clap Your Hands If You Believe, all the monsters are in some way created by humanity and the stronger ones border on Deity of Human Origin:
- An artifact called a Behelit can, given the right circumstances (typically a Despair Event Horizon on the part of its owner, which always seems to happen sooner or later Because Destiny Says So), open a temporary portal or convergence between our layer of reality and what is basically Hell. There, the owner of the Behelit is offered a Deal with the Devil by a quadrumvirate (later a quintumvirate) of Demon Lords And Arch Devils called the God Hand. In exchange for a significant sacrifice (usually the life of a loved one), the bearer of the Behelit will be transformed into a powerful (and often (depending on their inner desires) horrific) demon called an Apostle. Considering that the bearer is nearly always on the brink of death (or in too much spiritual pain for more life as a human to be very appealing), they nearly always take the offer. The Crimson Behelit can be used every 216 years to create a new member of the God Hand for an even larger sacrifice, making them examples as well. It's worth noting that Kentaro Miura took a lot of inspiration from Hellraiser (see below) when he created his demons.
- Apostles can turn humans into lesser monsters called Apostle Spawn without a sacrifice.
- Many lesser demons that are drawn by the Brands of Guts and Casca are created from the negative emotions of dying humans.
- Emperor Ganishka's army was made by dropping pregnant women into tanks full of Apostle corpses; the Apostles' spirits possess the fetuses, turning it into a pseudo-Apostle called a Daka.
- Monsters of the Qliphoth, including trolls, ogres, and many strange unnamed creatures, are created by human nightmares.
- In YuYu Hakusho, the Toguro brothers were once human, but asked to be transformed into demons as their prize for winning the Dark Tournament.
- In Beyond Evil (also known as Aku No Higan) the demon-like beings who trade in human lives are all implied to have once been normal human beings.
- In season 2 of the Anime of Black Butler Ciel Phantomhive becomes a demon due to the multiple parties messing about with his Faustian Bargain with Sebastian, who can't eat his soul as a result.
- Occasionally this has happened to a Ghost Rider, though not usually by their own will in the main series, such as with Johnny Blaze and Zarathos. In the Ultimate Universe though, being the Devil's bounty hunter is the Ghost Rider's default.
- Spawn: Spawn struck a Deal with the Devil to get out of hell. Numerous retcons mean that the details vary, but typically he is granted undeath and a host of demonic powers with the understanding that he will one day lead The Legions of Hell against heaven, and typically he's none too keen about keeping up his end of the bargain and always searching for redemption to get out of it.
- In the sequel to JLA: The Nail, the Joker returns from Hell, complete with new infernal powers, to try to drag Batman back with him. He almost did, too, except... he's Batman.
- In the Swamp Thing comics, Anton Arcane was considered so evil as to be transformed into a demon after he died and went to Hell.
- Nergal from Hellblazer lived in ancient Babylon before he was burned as a witch for sexually abusing children. He was then tortured in hell for thousands of years before he was initiated into demonhood. He would later oversee Anton Arcane's transformation into a demon.
- In Empowered, the demon who gave Sistah Spooky her magic powers as part of a bargain reveals he is this trope. In life, he was a telemarketer who was stuck in a cubicle on the phone all day making crummy deals with gullible people. He says that he hated this job when he was alive, and hates it even more now that he's stuck doing the demonic equivalent of it for all eternity.
- Satan's Hollow: The Shadow Man was once a satan-worshipping human known as Burdaine. His goal was to become an arch-demon at the Devil's side, who instead turned him into a lesser demon to punish him for a previous failure, becoming a rather weak Living Shadow instead.
- Arawn: The main character became the King of Hell, but he was once human. This came about after he was possessed by an actual demon who then absorbed the energy of a Physical Goddess but was killed when his Soul Jar was destroyed, leaving Arawn with their combined power.
- Lady Death:
- Lady Death is technically not a demon, but was burned at the stake in mediaeval Sweden before overthrowing Lucifer and becoming the Queen of All That Is Dead and Dying, giving her a host of supernatural powers along with immortality.
- Her enemy Purgatori is another interesting variation since she looks like a stunningly attractive Big Red Devil, but is really the result of vampirization mixing with her Fallen Angel heritage.
- The Prince Of Death: Light becomes Prince of the Shinigami Realm.
- In the Pony POV Series:
- Lord Tirek, who in this series is a Composite Character of his G1 and G4 selves, is currently a demonic beast of world threatening power and perceived by ponies as the In-Universe Satan analogue. However, he originated as a mortal centaur and Prince of the Centaur Empire. Then he consumed Pandora's Box of Dark Magic and mutated into what he is now.
- Lilith the Witch Queen was once a normal human woman. However, she's long sense mutated into an immensely powerful and demonic Pure Magic Being that could destroy the entire world if she was ever fully unleashed.
- Queen of All Oni: It's eventually revealed that Tarakudo was originally a historical samurai called Minamoto Tametomo. He sold his soul to the Oni in exchange for power, and was transformed into one after his death.
- Webwork: Similar to the Queen of All Oni example above, Tarakudo states himself to have been a mortal human who ascended to the Oni ranks like Jade.
- Ghost Ship: Ferriman reveals himself to be one of Hell's agents, a "salvage expert" responsible for collecting new souls to bring back home and make his bosses happy. Specifically, he notes that he was given the job for a lifetime of sin, indicating that he was once human.
- The Exorcist III: The Gemini Killer was a man so evil that he became a demon after striking a deal with the ancient demon Pazuzu (the one who possessed Regan in the first film).
- A Nightmare on Elm Street: Freddy Krueger's backstory involves being burnt by a lynch mob and after dying, striking a deal with three dream demons to return as an undead nightmare-controlling monster, apparently so he could eventually kill the whole world.
- Hellraiser: The Cenobites rule over a Hell-type dimension of pain and pleasure where they torture those who used the Lament configuration puzzle box that opens the door to their realm. Each Cenobite was once a human soul until their humanity was slowly chipped away. When they die they actually turn back into humans.
- In Isaac Asimov's short story "Gimmicks Three", a man signs a deal with a demon. Ten years of whatever he wants. Then, he is given a test. Should he pass, he becomes a demon (Hell has a growing staff shortage), otherwise, he is a regular damned soul. The demon he deals with mentions the details of his own deal a couple of times.
- In a short story, called "Hell-Bent", the protagonist is an irredeemably evil young man who makes a Deal with the Devil to become a demon and gain immortality and incredible power, and proves his suitability by callously carrying out evil acts toward his parents and wife. Unfortunately for him, once he's a demon in Hell, he finds himself being horribly tormented- turns out that demons are tortured in Hell like everyone else and Satan had sold the benefits of demonhood in a way that implied that this was not the case.
- In the Ciaphas Cain short story "The Beguiling", Cain wipes out a Slaaneshi cult with an artillery strike after killing its leader, Emeli, when she tried to seduce him into being a Human Sacrifice. Several decades later in the novel The Traitor's Hand, Cain encounters Emeli as the final boss; she's been turned into a daemonette during her time dead.
- In the "Tale of Thorstein Shiver", an Icelandic short tale from the Book of Flatey (c. 1390), the Christian Thorstein encounters an imp from Hell who introduces himself as a certain Thorkel the Thin, a warrior of the pagan times who died in the famous Battle of Bravellir. All the same, the demon also relates in conversation that Sigurd and Starkad, two famous heroes of the pagan days, are tortured in Hell.
- In The Master and Margarita, the trickster demon Fagot is revealed to having once been a human knight cursed for a blasphemous joke. His awesome sense of humor is part of the curse, and he hates being a trickster, as his true form reveals.
- Neil Gaiman's short story "Other People" (published in Fragile Things) has a man being tortured by a demon. First the demon tortures the man physically, with 211 different intruments. Afterwards he strips the man of the lies he has told to himself and then the demon shows the man the consequences of his actions and how they affected other people. To the man it seems that the process takes several thousand years. At the end of the story the man isn't recognisable human any more. The demon leaves and a new man enters the chamber. The tortured man understands the cyclical nature of his position and starts torturing the newcomer just as he had been tortured.
Live Action Television
- This is how demons are created on the show - essentially anyone who goes to hell will eventually end up with a job there, as their humanity is stripped away and they become a demon. This means that demons are essentially a type of ghost—for instance, burning the bones of either a demon or ghost's mortal remains will destroy them for good. The quality of the position is directly based on how tough the person in question is; Hell is an Asskicking Equals Authority place, and the only person with a guaranteed spot, Satan, is both out of circulation and an archangel, meaning he outranks the rest of them so totally he could probably ash the whole place alone.
- Between seasons 3 and 4, Dean takes a job and spends ten years torturing souls in Hell. He doesn't get to leave and it scars him for life. He gets yanked out before he could get proper job security/transformation. At the end of season 9 he dies and because he was carrying the Mark of Cain, he is cursed to be resurrected as a demon.
- Legend of the Seeker: Unlike the source material, Banelings are dead people whom the Keeper allows back into the realm of the living, provided that they kill at least one person every day. The first day they don't, he takes them back.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- The Big Bad of the third season deliberately sets out to become a demon.
- Vengeance demons are all former humans who attracted the attention of a lower power by using dark magic to get revenge on someone they believed had wronged them.
- Played with in the case of the vampires, who are in general only half-demon, the other half being the humans that they took over. Some pureblood demons look down on vampires for being half-breeds, though as Anya says, none of the demons remaining on Earth are pureblooded; they're all hybrids of some kind or another.
Religion and Mythology
- Emanuel Swedenborg, a Christian mystic whose writings inspired his own denomination, stated that "Heaven and hell are entirely of the human race... There is no angel or demon created as such." in his eponymous Heaven and Hell.
- In Magic: The Gathering, demons are concentrations of Black mana. While these tend to occur naturally (or from the spells of dark spellcasters), some examples involve transformation from non-demon beings.
- In the Greek Mythology-inspired Theros, demons are born from the souls in the Underworld that have built up enough resentment and hatred at being stuck there that they're transformed by Black mana.
- The Chain Veil casts a curse that transforms its wearer into a demon to avenge the artifact's creators. This has happened to Ob Nixilis, once a human planeswalker but now a demon (not that it would have mattered much anyways, since old planeswalkers could transform into anything; he just got stuck in that form) and Garruk Wildspeaker (saved at the last minute).
- Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000:
- "Daemon Prince" is the title awarded by the Chaos Gods to servants that have most pleased them, as they "ascend" them from mortaldom to immortal daemonhood. It is the ultimate goal of most Chaos worshipers, particularly leaders. However, they're apparently still lower than Greater Daemons in the hierarchy, and a worshiper can just as easily be turned into a Chaos Spawn, sometimes for the same feat.
- In 40k, many of the Primarchs of the Traitor Legions, after fleeing into the Eye of Terror (Hell on Earth... in Space), were "promoted" to Daemon Primarchs, even more powerful than ordinary daemon princes.
- Doombreed, Khorne's first Daemon Prince, is heavily hinted to have been none other than Genghis Khan in life.
- In Dungeons & Dragons and Planescape, mortal souls become Petitioners on one of the Outer Planes based on their alignment, but the process works differently for Lawful Evil souls sent to the Nine Hells of Baator or Chaotic Evil souls bound for the Abyss. Such souls join The Legions of Hell as the diabolic or demonic equivalent of privates, and may be promoted to more powerful types of Baatezu or Tanar'ri based on their performance - even the mighty Orcus was once a lowly Dretch. In the devils' case, promotions (and demotions) follow a strict hierarchy, complete with "dead ends" or alternative advancement paths, while the demons are more unpredictable and may randomly transform into a more powerful fiend based perhaps on the whims of the Abyss itself. Some mortals may join a devilish or demonic cult in hope that they'll get fast-tracked through this process to become a mighty Pit Fiend or the like, but even if this is possible there's no guarantee that they'll retain their identities - becoming a devilish Lemure, for example, involves being subjected to unspeakable tortures until the Petitioner is a mindless blob of ruined flesh free of any traces of humanity.
- The Solars of the First Age were killed off in the Usurpation because many of them had become mad, monstrously inhuman tyrants, the rest weren't far behind, and they were getting worse. The ghosts of thirteen of them are now the Deathlords, one of the most dire threats contemporary Creation has ever known.
- In the Shard known as Burn Legend, Yamajin come about when an Akuma is killed and proves him or herself worthy to the Yomi Kings in the Thousand Hells. They get spiffy new moves, including the option to go One-Winged Angel, at the trivial expense of having their presence in an area gradually taint it with Hellish energies. But hey, who cares about that when you can hit like a tank?
- Also shows up as a possible option in Return of the Scarlet Empress for the Scarlet Empress herself. In this option, the Empress dies, but the Neverborn were so impressed with her that they decided to turn her into a Deathlord when she became a ghost. This isn't the only option, however. See "Other" for the other option.
- Geist: The Sin-Eaters: All player characters are pacted and merged with super-ghosts because they were too hard-assed, too willful, or just insufficiently partied out to stay dead. And then they get to take it out on non-superpowered ghosts.
- Geists themselves are not necessarily demons, but ghosts that have burned away their mortal memories in order to embody aspects of their own death, gaining power over the elements of the Underworld.
- Pathfinder has this as the origin for the three main fiendish races, devils, daemons and demons, though these mechanics include elves, dwarves, etc., and so usually refer to "mortals":
- Lawful souls in Hell are tortured over centuries into becoming mindless masses of cancerous flesh called lemures. The most evil souls may get promoted into more powerful forms, but they go through the mindless stage first.
- Neutral evil souls damned to Abaddon who manage to avoid being eaten long enough will transform into daemons, the only trace of their origin being that include themselves in their loathing for all mortal life.
- Demons are not formed from individual souls, but by the sins of chaotic evil souls who arrive in the Abyss, and as a result a single mortal is capable of spawning hundreds of lesser demons.
- Finally it is possible for an exceptionally vile individual to bypass the normal processes that destroy the original mind and transform directly into a fiend of the appropriate alignment, through committing great atrocities or bargains with fiendish entities. This doesn't work very often though - daemons in particular have a tendency to just eat the soul anyway.
- Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne: By reclaiming the eleven Candelabra, using them for their intended purpose as keys of the Labyrinth of Amala, and reaching the elevator at the bottom, the Demi-Fiend elects to cast away his humanity, become a full-blooded demon, and march against Kagutsuchi with full intent on murdering the multiverse.
- Shin Megami Tensei IV: The Black Samurai/ Lilith turns citizens of Mikado into demons by exposing them to literature.
- A human that consumes a Red Pill will transform into a demon.
- Demon's Souls: Humans can transform into demons if they offer themselves into the service of the Old One. The player character can choose to stop the final attempt to lull the Old One to sleep,and in doing so he is rewarded by being elevated into the Old One's most powerful archdemon.
- Legacy of Kain: Kain struck a deal with a necromancer to escape hell, and was returned to Nosgoth as a vampire for it. And in the sequel Soul Reaver, his childe Raziel strikes a similar deal with the Elder God and returns as a soul-devouring apparition.
- Odin Sphere:
- Lord Brigan was released from the Netherworld by Queen Odette to possess Odin after Gwendolyn killed him — only to be beaten out of Odin and banished for good by Gwendolyn.
- King Gallon was once The Good King of Titania, but an invasion from the armies of Valentine forced him to use the Darkova spell, transforming him into a massive Cerberus that crushed the invading army but also drove him mad and made him ravage his own kingdom until he was killed by his son Edmund. When he ended up in the Netherworld still transformed, Odette cursed him to forever rot and regenerate, making him an undead Cerberus. Once Odette dies, Gallon becomes the new King of the Netherworld and leads the undead during Armageddon to destroy the living world.
- Super Columbine Massacre RPG!: The second half is about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold doing this after they killed themselves following their rampage at Columbine High School. At the end, they take on Satan himself, defeat him, and become his minions.
- The first three games of the Onimusha series deal with the aftermath of demons taking the soul of Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga and striking a deal with him to become a demon and give demons sway over Japan. After the king of the demons is killed at the end of the first game, Nobunaga becomes the new demon king (it happens more often than you'd think) and begins to lead them in conquering Japan, with the eventual goal to Take Over the World.
- In the Diablo universe the demons have found many ways of converting humans into demonic servants, from the humanoid Morlu (the fate of human sorcerers trying to bind demons to their will) to the scorpion-like Tormented Stingers (made by cutting and twisting the corpse of a human sacrifice). Then again, humans in the Diablo universe are of demon (and angel) origin, inverting this trope.
- The Disgaea series and its related works has had this happen a few times. Then again, humans are capable of becoming either demons or angels, mainly depending on their actions in life (and of course, angels can fall just as demons could ascend).
- In La Pucelle this seems to be the canonical fate of its main heroine, Prier.
- In Makai Kingdom both Salome and Seedle were once humans, but became demons. This is a major plot point as the two were members of a human adventuring party. Seedle had the hots for Salome, but she didn't reciprocate. This drove him to try and force himself onto her, and she stabbed him to death in retribution. Seedle's sheer animosity at being killed by her landed him in the Underworld, where he basically killed everything to become its master. Salome was burned at the stake for killing a "noble samurai", where she soon ended up in the Netherworld, meeting with Zetta.
- The new version of Jason in Friday the 13th: The Game is based on a What If? scenario if after Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, he escapes Hell as a demon. The result is... not pretty◊.
- Due to the purely Player Versus Player nature of the franchise, all demons in Nexus War games are former humans who chose to descend to demonhood after a sufficiently low plunge on the Karma Meter. At higher levels, they can strip away their remaining humanity, make more pacts with the Dark Powers, and become even worse demons - though later games also give them a last chance to get off the road to hell at this point if they really try.
- Played with in The Secret World.
- Most humans unlucky enough to end up in the Hell Dimensions are little more than fuel sources used to sustain the decaying world; however, a rare few souls are spared this fate and empowered to serve as soldiers in the armies of Hell - the most prominent of which are Cassius, Brutus and Judas Iscariot. Of course, despite the powers they've been granted, they're still just slaves and not all that impressive compared to the more exotic varieties of Hellspawn.
- Theodore Wicker is a much weirder case of this: originally an Oxford-educated mage, he set off on a quest to send himself to Hell - all for the sake of restoring the fallen dimension to its former glory. Because Hell's environment is inherently corrosive to human physiology, Wicker had to magically alter his own body before finding a way in, to the point that he tore out his heart and stripped away his soul. By the time players finally meet up with Wicker, he's become an immortal hybrid of human and demon with a Missing Reflection and a distinct demonic reverb to his voice... and he's also leading the denizens of Hell in a revolution against Satan!
- Dominic Deegan: Karnak was a human who averted a war in Hell by attacking the Demon of War. He was carried down to Hell, became a Demon Lord and eventually after another Hell war, King of Hell.
- Exterminatus Now: Being a 40K crossover, there are a couple of villains with the goal of ascension to Daemon Princehood. Morth actually succeeded.
- In Hellbound Mel was a witch in life, then became a succubus after her death. Her sister Kyota also went to Hell and became a demon for *ahem* other reasons.
- Problem Sleuth: Mobster Kingpin "descends to demonhood" as he becomes the Final Boss.
- Sandra and Woo: In the "Divine Comedy" arc, Larisa sells her soul to the Devil, who says he'll make a succubus of her because anything else would be a waste of her talents.
- Gretyl, from The Settlers, was originally a transsexual human woman. That was about two thousand years ago, though, and she is now a pretty powerful demon.
- Teen Titans. After Slade is killed by Terra he is recruited by Trigon as a "messenger". This restores his life (kind of; more like it grants him undeath) and gives him fire powers.