The Hellevator is an elevator that serves as a bridge between the world of the living and that of the dead. And that's really about it.
The main advantage of the Hellevator in fiction, particularly visual fiction, is that's it's an obvious way of letting the audience know that they're going deep beneath the surface of the Earth. A mystical hell-traveling elevator is surprisingly plausible because people, especially children, often don't understand how elevators work. This was certainly more true back when the trope was first introduced with early film (back then only employees of elevator buildings were even allowed to operate them) than it is today, but the trope lives on largely because of its obvious visual appeal. When an elevator goes down for several hundred floors, it's pretty difficult to come to any other conclusion as to where it's going. Even better, it's cheap to make the set. Animated works will sometimes depict the Hellevator as an escalator or a roller coaster.
Not to be confused with the Hellevator, the lunar-based Space Elevator
in Schlock Mercenary
See Stairway to Heaven
for its sister trope, and Evil Elevator
for when the elevator itself tries to kill you.
And yes, this trope title and Stairway to Heaven
could both be considered Fridge Brilliance
since it's easier to be immoral (and stand in an elevator) than it is to be moral (and climb stairs.)
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Anime & Manga
- An elevator ride to a mysterious place miles underground features in The Big O's ending, but oddly the elevator continues going down for several seconds after the floor counter is shown to reach B666.
- In one of the story arcs of Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto get on an elevator in the Infinity College, to try to find the Big Bad. While the elevator doesn't actually take them to Hell, the trip down is incredibly dark and creepy, and Sailor Moon feels like it's taking them there. The other three senshi, who are used to quiet and isolation, don't seem quite as bothered.
Comics — Books
- One Chick Tract has two demons goofing off so that one guy ends up being converted to Christianity. As punishment, Satan forces them to go down another level of Hell for every time this guy ends up converting someone else. They end up going down several thousand, using the elevator to get there. And the operator is Josef Stalin in a hazmat suit.
- One recent spoof of Journey to the West has the Hellevator overshooting and ending up in outer space.
- The "Springfield in Hell" segments in Simpsons Comics Heebie-Jeebie Hullabaloo feature one of these.
- In Nil: A Land Beyond Belief an express elevator goes from Nil to the Infernal Realm; the entrance is surrounded by protesters denouncing eternal punishment as unfair.
- In Secret Six, the elevator to Hell is located in Purgatory, which is physically manifested as an abandoned shopping mall.
- Parodied in the "first mock-fic" of Transformers Armada on the TF Lexicon. In it, a guy in real life enters an elevator and presses "ALL THE BUTTONS AT ONCE" (echo, echo)! This transports him to the world of Armada, which becomes Hell enough for him.
Films — Live-Action
- Angel Heart has Mickey Rourke take the long ride down in an elevator.
- Things are normal in Dark Floors until the elevator the characters are in starts acting up, trapping them between floor six and seven — "Not Hell, not Heaven".
- The Kirstie Alley TV movie Toothless features one. Kirstie ends up riding it back onto the mortal coil.
- Spoofed in Undercover Brother. The protagonist is sitting in a barber's chair when it suddenly drops. He starts screaming that he's falling all the way down to Hell, but it turns out he's only dropped a single floor and the apparent "endless levels" are actually a strobe light flashing in his face.
- Frank Cross takes one of these, operated by the Ghost of Christmas Future, in Scrooged.
- Inverted in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: a mysterious elevator in the Empire State Building leads to the realm of the gods, instead of the infernal realm. To get to the Underworld, you have to take the stairs.
- Big Trouble in Little China: Jack and Wang are riding down an elevator to their final confrontation. It's taking a lot longer than they expected:
Jack: Feel pretty good. I'm not, uh, I'm not scared at all. I just feel kind of... feel kind of invincible.
Wang: Me, too. I got a very positive attitude about this.
Jack: Good, me too.
Jack: Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?
- The MST'd horror(?) movie Soultaker features one of these, although in this case the Hellevator actually goes up to get to the afterlife, which is apparently on the top floor of a hospital for easy access to dying people. Apparently Joe Estevez doesn't like to walk around too much.
- Metaphorically, in Aliens. See the page quote above.
- In Heaven Can Wait 1943, the elevator also goes up to heaven if "His Excellency" decides that you don't belong in his domain after all.* Don Ameche's character takes the elevator down to convince the devil that he deserves to spend eternity there.
- There's an urban legend/stock horror-story plot that goes like this: Someone has a recurring nightmare that a horse-drawn carriage driven by Death stops in front of her house. Death opens the door to show that the carriage is packed with people and leers, "There's room for one more." But the protagonist doesn't get on and the death carriage of doom goes on its way. One day, the protagonist is waiting for an elevator. One stops that is packed with people and the operator, of course, says there's room for one more. All the little hairs stand up on the back of our protagonist's neck and she shakes her head vehemently. As she waits for the next elevator she hears a terrible crash; the cable's snapped and everyone's dead. The end!
- There are many versions of this story. The way I first heard it she went to an amusement park and it was a ride (the ones that spin you around really fast so you stick to them and lift you up in the air) that there was room for one more on. I've also heard the ride wasn't at an amusement park but merely on a boardwalk.
- The origin of this story is probably the short story "The Bus Conductor" by E. F. Benson (first published in 1906). In Benson's story, though, the protagonist is male, and it's a bus rather than an elevator that he refuses to board.
- Supposedly, this happened in Taiwan, and in Taipei's city hall no less. According to a local news report, a security guard patrolling the building was making the rounds late at night, using the elevator to get to every floor. When he was going from the third to fifth floor (no fourth floor because Four Is Death) by the elevator, the elevator actually somehow stopped at the non-existent fourth floor, and when the doors opened, he saw hell, as in the nether world, outside.
- There is a persistent rumor at Gettysburg College about one of the elevators in Pennsylvania Hall: Several people have gone on record claiming they were carried below the basement level, where the doors opened onto the hellish scene of men screaming in pain as Civil War surgeons vainly struggled with the ghastly business of trying to help the soldiers ripped apart in battle, including cutting off limbs and staunching the endless bleeding.
- A nightmarish variation of this trope's explored in the classic short story "Descending", featuring a mysterious escalator that goes down... and down... and down.
- Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality novels feature a Hellevator which connects Hell, Earth, and Purgatory, but not Heaven (God wouldn't allow that).
- Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, the sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, has Charlie and Willy Wonka riding the eponymous elevator to Minusland in order to rescue one of Charlie's grandmothers (her soul went there after she took so many age-decreasing pills that her age became a minus number). Charlie describes it as being like "hell without heat".
- In Hell by Yasutaka Tsutsui (author of Paprika) there is a subplot about a writer and an actress sharing the ride in the elevator that goes down to 666th floor below. It makes sense, because novel utilizes Mundane Afterlife trope and some characters arrive in Hell by means of transport they were using at the moment of death, for example a plane that crashed in real life. Also, you may argue, the elevator IS, in fact, the personal Hell of this pair
- Ogden Nash wrote a poem "A Tale of the Thirteenth Floor" in which a would-be murderer gets into an old-fashioned elevator, with an operator, in a hotel. The operator chooses to stop at the 13th floor which of course most hotels don't have — to show him murderers chained to the corpses of their victims in a ghastly dance of damnation. The point is made, the plan abandoned.
- In the "Heroes of Olympus" series by Rick Riordan, we find the the Doors of Death are currently chained open in Tartarus, essentially the prison for the Olympian Gods Most Wanted List. In "House of Hades", we find that the Doors are actually an elevator system.
- Used in Angel... sorta. At some point during the "Wolfram & Hart" arc, he's invited to finally enter the "Home Office", the source of Wolfram & Hart's power, and gets into an elevator... which goes down. And down. And down. And down... and finally arrives at street-level, the exact same spot. Even Angel has to point out the Anviliciousness of the "Our world is Hell" moral.
- The underground-dwelling Rubber-Forehead Aliens in the Cousin Skeeter made-for-TV movie use such an elevator to reach the surface. They turn out to be malevolent, and have a viewhole to the magma core, to boot.
- Maybe more of an Ironic Hell entry, but there was a Saturday Night Live sketch with Paul Simon where he died and got on the Hellevator. It was playing a Muzak version of "Sounds of Silence." After a few minutes he asked the elevator operator how much longer it would take to get to Hell and he said "Get there? You're already here!"
- Used in Reaper, when the Devil takes Sam to the 75th floor of his corporation. An elevator door (complete with a hellish design and symbols) opens up to a very nicely done CGI wall of flame.
- Used in The Middleman to get to the surprisingly tolerable Hell.
- Charmed has had at least one Hellevator, probably because several demons pose as businessmen or lawyers and therefore need transportation between hell and office buildings.
- In the British children's comedy series Rentaghost, ghosts arrive on Earth from the after life in the invisible "astral lift".
- Doctor Who
- In the episode "The Beast Below", riding the elevators without permission (such as when you got a zero in class, for example) takes you to the aforementioned beast. It isn't hell exactly and the beast turns out to be not much of a demon, but a voluntary captive of the travelling starship, which came to save their children but it certainly looks like it.
- There's more than a feeling of this about the elevator in "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit" too.
- Implied in the last episode of Ashes to Ashes, when Jim Keats persuades Ray, Chris and Shaz to be transferred to his department, reachable by elevator. It's implied that Keats is the devil and his "department" is hell. The main characters are in some sort of "purgatory" for dead cops.
- Several portals to the Netherworld in Feng Shui take the form of elevators. The Netherworld is just a rather weird Portal Network, though — the Underworld is what you would actually refer to as Hell.
- Sarah Ruhl's modern stage version of the Eurydice myth features characters descending into the Underworld via elevator.
- Disney gave us The Twilight Zone — Tower of Terror, a semi-nightmarish ride which takes the classic freefall ride, turned it into one of these, and randomized it so that each ride has a different drop pattern. The story of the ride (except for the Tokyo version) is that in 1939, five passengers board an elevator in the Hollywood Tower Hotel, which is struck by lightning that transports the elevator and parts of the hotel into the Twilight Zone......and it's going to happen again, this time with the ride's current riders.
- In Playland, a theme park in Vancouver, BC, there is a "drop tower" type ride actually called the Hellevator. It's still standing and operating as of 2011, despite an accident in which a girl lost her feet.
- The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland has an example of this, even though you're supposed to think the room is stretching.
- Silent Hill
- Silent Hill 3 has several transitions from Regular Silent Hill to Darkside triggered by riding an elevator. The first of such transitions is an example.
- Silent Hill 1 had an UP Elevator to Hell. It takes you to the fourth floor of a three-floor hospital.
- Don't forget the elevator that takes you to the final level (appropriately named "Nowhere").
- Literally ALL the elevators in the franchise could be considered Hellevators, though they usually lead from lesser hell to a worse one. And Silent Hill 2 even has Stairway to Hell.
- Also in Silent Hill 2, don't forget that one elevator that suddenly stops, followed by the hero's radio making him participate to a game show (the right answers are the code to a box that contains ammo and health bonuses). As if that wasn't unsettling enough, the host promises a very bad punishment if you get the answers wrong.
- One of the PC Gamer CDs came with a Myst-style adventure game, and the elevator passed through hell and ended up in their offices, even lower down.
- The elevator into the Undercity in World of Warcraft is sometimes referred to as this, both due to the Undercity's tomb-like nature and the elevator's tendency to accidentally send players falling to their deaths.
- Some fans have referred to the elevator to Tourian in Metroid, Super Metroid, and Metroid Zero Mission as the "Elevator to Hell".
- In Persona 3, Igor makes his residence in an elevator that's constantly going up, which he claims will eventually end when the main character reaches his "destination". It's actually a rather charming place, and while not a Hellevator in the sense that it goes directly to hell, it finally ends up stopping right as the Main Character realizes he's going to have to kick the bucket in a Heroic Sacrifice.
- In Terraria, the term is used to describe any pit, shaft, or tunnel of any kind that leads directly from the surface (or very close to the surface) straight down to the very lowest level of the game world; Hell itself. No map is really complete without one. Digging several of them is also the easiest way to stop the spread of Hallow/Corruption after hardmode is activated.
- In The beginning of Cry of Fear, the pedophile rendered the apartments elevator unusable for everyone without an access code. The children had to bear it and take the stairs, where he would wait and pull them into his apartment. When Simon finally finds the code and take the elevator, it goes down. Deep in the earth it stops, forcing Simon to take the stairs even deeper.
- Players in a Bad Moon run in Kingdom of Loathing can use one of these in Hey Deze. Doing so grants additional Monster Level, which makes monsters more difficult but has various benefits.
- One stage in Mega Man Zero 3 is a nod to this. You take a massive elevator deep into the earth, and the boss at the end of the level is based off Cerberus.
- Dark Souls has one of these as a shortcut unlocked after killing the Demon Firesage, which leads from Quelaag's Domain to the entrance of Lost Izalith. Not an entirely straight example, as Lost Izalith isn't actually implied to hell, it just really matches the aesthetic.
- Sluggy Freelance once featured an entire house as an elevator to hell... with ghosts in the gas-tank! (Please don't say that elevators don't have gas-tanks — it'll only make it worse...)
- One Schlock Mercenary strip (link) has an escalator to Hell in the background. The same strip actually has a thing called the "Helevator", but it's a Space Elevator between the Moon's Helena Plains and lunar synchronous orbit. In case you science geeks just noticed something odd, understand that 31st century Luna has been spun up for the comfort of its citizens.
- In the Eddsworld video "Hello Hellhole" the gang summon an elevator straight to hell because their T.V. broke. Funnier still they summon it by Googling 'How to get to hell.'
- Several old MGM cartoons. The elevator there tends to be the most popular way of getting to the surface world.
- There's one of these in Robot Hell in Futurama. Also a slide.
- On the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Carnival Knowledge," the Hellevator (called "Elevator to Hell" with no use of weak euphemisms like "heck" and "Hades" or a scenery censor to cover up the last word) was shown as an amusement park ride that Rocko and Heffer try to get on, but are turned away when the carny tells Heffer he's too heavy for the ride.
- More points to it when an actual devil winds up on the return trip and the operator shoves him back in, and sends him back to hell.
- Tiny Toon Adventures also has a TV movie, in which a Disneyworld parody has both the Stairway to Heaven and The Bullet Train to Heck.
- Darkwing Duck took one of these to the Bad Place in an episode. Then went back into it, blew off Satan, and took said Hellevator back up to Heaven. Satan followed, protesting.
- in the Looney Tunes short "Satan's Waitin", it was not an elevator that took Sylvester to Hades, but an escalator which seemed to go in an endless downward helix.
- Woody Woodpecker cartoon "Wet Blanket Policy": Buzz Buzzard has just been crushed by a large object, and he arrives at a lobby with elevators to both heaven and hell with Woody as the doorman: one opens and the angelic operator says "Going up" and woody forces it closed, the other opens and the demonic operator says "going down" and woody gives Buzz Buzzard a kick in the rear forcing him into the elevator.
- In Tom and Jerry, Tom goes down the Hellevator. Except it was more of a hole in the ground. After he went through that hole, he fell quite a long fall to hell.
- Filmation's Ghostbusters, of all things. Except this elevator — the Skelevator — doesn't go down, it goes up... and up... and up, until it reaches an otherworldly, ghost-filled dimension, the centerpiece of which is an enormous Rube Goldberg Machine our heroes use to change into uniform.
- Appears at the end of The Simpsons episode "Simpson Bible Stories" where the Simpson family find themselves in the Apocalypse, and while everyone else goes to heaven, they go to hell. According to Homer, there's a buffet in hell.
- A cat-shaped cave (resembling the Cave of Wonders from Aladdin) actually serves as the entrance to Hell in Plutos Judgement Day, during the scene where Pluto is arrested.
- In Ugly Americans, Hell is accessed via an escalator. New Yorkers usually go down there to shop ever since Hell got bought out.