The Always Lawful Good Chronic Hero
has died after a life of stopping to help
. He Goes Into The Light
and... wait, it's Fire And Brimstone
"Cower, mortal! Your Soul Is Mine
The dead are not ending up in their correct afterlife. The forces of evil may be nabbing good souls, either before they complete their journey to their final reward, or actually kidnapping them from paradise after they arrive. Souls have so many uses
, after all, and even if they didn't, this is a great way to snub the Council of Angels
. And when Hell Invades Heaven
, there'll be that many less enemies to deal with.
Alternately, it may not be specifically malicious. The Obstructive Bureaucrats
running the Celestial Bureaucracy
may have cocked things up or perhaps the Afterlife Express
hit the wrong switch-track. In these cases, you can also end up with unrepentant monsters trashing Fluffy Cloud Heaven
A third option is an Infernal Paradise
, where the character has gone to what would be a genuine eternal reward for an insane cultist or someone Too Kinky to Torture
, but it's not what he
Compare This Isn't Heaven
, where a character's personal heaven turns out to be an Ironic Hell
; Hell of a Heaven
, where it's not as enjoyable as advertised; and Barred from the Afterlife
, where a soul can't even pass on in the first place.
ALERT! Death Trope ahead!
You will be Spoilered Rotten
! Hit the back button, hit the back button!
- This is how Noble Kale became a spirit of vengeance in Ghost Rider. He was supposed to go heaven but his father sold his soul to Mephisto, who after lots of whining convinced Uri-El not to take him to heaven (which ended up being Mephisto's undoing...for a little while)
- In an Alan Moore Swamp Thing storyline, Anton Arcane, having possessed the near-omnipotent Matt Cable's body, not only kills his innocent niece Abby, but casts her soul down to Hell. When the title character, accompanied by The Phantom Stranger, seeks entrance to Hell in order to rescue her, The Spectre—here serving as the guardian at the borders of Heaven and Hell—at first behaves like an Obstructive Bureaucrat, stating that once in Hell, Abby must stay there whether she deserves it or not, because it's forbidden for the dead to come back. "Then what of Jim Corrigan?" asks the Stranger, referring to the Spectre's sometime human identity. Taking his point, the Spectre lets them pass.
- What kicks off the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction "Hail to the King". The nameless main character died and was heavily implied to being going to heaven. Then King Sombra, who recently was defeated, runs past him trying to get into the portal because of all the crystals. The portal quickly gets closed to prevent him from getting in. Then Sombra attacks the main character and they both start to get dragged downwards. To prevent this trope from playing fully The Powers That Be quickly grab the main character and throw him into the closest thing to prevent that. That thing being Sombra's comatose body. Hilarity Ensues.
- At the end of Constantine, the titular character dies and his soul is finally judged worthy of entering heaven, but the devil is so annoyed at being cheated out of his soul that he brings Constantine back to life and cures his cancer so that he has at least a few more years to screw up and get himself damned to hell.
- A joke recycled every time a celebrity gets caught in a sex scandal: X and the Pope die at the same time, but there's an error and they go to the wrong afterlife. The error is fixed, and they cross each other going down/back up. The Pope asks X if he met the Virgin Mary, X smirks and says they don't call her that anymore.
- An Evil Lawyer Joke uses this as the setup, where a guy gets sent to hell when he should have gone to heaven. When the Devil refuses to give him back, God threatens to sue, countered by "And where do you think the lawyers are?"
- In Ghost Story, Harry Dresden encounters an angel sent to a critically wounded Father Forthill to escort him safely to Heaven if he dies. She explains that Hell would steal even the souls of saints if they could get away with it. And the nether zone of the afterlife is unsafe enough that the souls working there need an angel security guard.
- In the Incarnations of Immortality series, the system for processing souls is rather messed up, due to God slacking off. Zane, the new Death, is unsatisfied with babies going to Purgatory, and manages to get the system adjusted to send them to Heaven instead. Later on, when Parry takes over running hell in For Love Of Evil, he realizes a large portion of souls arriving there don't deserve it, and tries to show the A Hell of a Time instead. Eventually he instigates a Plan to get God replaced.
- The Detective Inspector Chen novel Snake Agent begins when a young woman scheduled to go to Heaven is photographed by a brothel in Hell. Turns out that she's not the only one, and the villains plan involves doing it wholesale.
- In Mark Twain's story, "Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven", Captain Stormfield initially winds up in the "wrong" heaven, an alien one.
- In The Salvation War, Heaven has been closed off for centuries. Everyone who otherwise would have gone there has gone to Hell instead, no matter how Faithful they were.
- In Warrior Cats, when Flametail dies and goes to StarClan (the feline equivalent of heaven), he ends up lost and winds up in the Dark Forest (hell). The Dark Forest cats are planning war on the Clans, so Brokenstar orders Ivypool to prove her loyalty by killing Flametail's spirit.
- In The Skinjacker Trilogy, children who get lost on their way to heaven end up in Everlost, somewhere halfway between Earth and the afterlife. They each "wake" in Everlost with a coin in their pocket, and when it is their time to move on, they will do so when they hold the coin.
- In the episode "Dead Run" from The Eighties revival of The Twilight Zone, a truck driver takes a job delivering dead souls to Hell. However, the people he's delivering there seem way too nice to deserve damnation. It turns out the new Celestial Bureaucracy that has taken over is using an overly-literal fundamentalist interpretation of The Bible, mainly due to them being paper-pushing Obstructive Bureaucrats rather than actual malevolence.
- Bobby Singer in Supernatural went to hell after his death because Crowley, the King of Hell, had it in for him, which we discover in "Taxi Driver" (S08, Ep19).
- Subverted (or Inverted?) in Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 6. At the end of season 5 Buffy dies. At the beginning of 6 her friends are worried that her soul may have been sent to a hell dimension so they bring her back from the dead. Turns out she was in heaven. Oops.
- In the Dungeons & Dragons module A Paladin In Hell, during the funeral of a powerful paladin, the entire temple hosting the service is dragged into hell to claim his soul. The players have to travel to hell, find the temple and free his soul. Oh, and the module was close to Tomb of Horrors in terms of unfair difficulty.
- In the Forgotten Realms setting, souls that end up in the Fugue Plane (those that were religious but didn't devote themselves to a specific patron deity, those who betrayed their creed, and atheists) can have this happen to them courtesy of fiends. The baatezu (a.k.a. devils, Lawful Evil fiends) have an agreement with the Fugue Plane's administration that they can try to talk unclaimed souls into going with them, while the tanar'ri (a.k.a. demons, Chaotic Evil fiends) simply resort to mass kidnapping.
- Kodlak in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim wants to go to the Nordic afterlife of Sovngarde, but since he's a werewolf, knows that the Daedra Hircine will claim his soul after death instead. Kodlak is killed when his home is attacked by werewolf hunters, but the Dovahkiin is able to break his curse after his death, freeing his soul from Hircine's realm.
- Kodlak's parting words suggest that he might gather some other warriors from Sovngarde and invoke this trope with a raid to rescue some of the other dead werewolves' souls.
- Grim Fandango: Big Bad Hector is stealing tickets to the Number Nine express, a luxury train that takes the most virtuous souls directly to the next underworld, and selling them to people who don't deserve them. However, the tickets he's selling are counterfeit, he's hoarding the real ones for himself in a desperate bid to balance out a life of evil.
- In The Legend of Dragoon, the Wingly civilization built a machine that reroutes all human souls to hell (because they could, apparently). By the time of the game, the device has largely broken down so that now it only snags those souls who are in great emotional turmoil, including a main character and several bosses.
- In Dante's Inferno, Beatrice, who is the wife of Dante is dragged into hell because Dante cheated death. Dante has to descend into hell to save Beatrice's soul.
- In Final Fantasy IX, souls return to The Lifestream of the planet they came from. The Evil Plan of Garland is to reroute the souls of the entire population of Gaea through an artificial tree which will "cleanse" them (purge them of identity) and then reroute them to his planet, Terra, so that the long-dead Terrans that created him will be reborn.
- Mortal Kombat Trilogy has a variation with Johnny Cage. He's killed in the prologue but his soul is blocked from going to heaven by the merging of Earth and Outworld. Rather than going to the other place, instead his soul returns to earth and revives him.
- pictures for sad children: Paul, after being a ghost for about a year, receives a letter admitting him to the afterlife. He should have gotten it immediately after his death, but it got lost in the mail. This causes problems when Paul decides he'd rather not pass on: since he was informed of the afterlife so late, he has much less time to fulfill the requirements to stay on Earth as a ghost.
- At first it seemed like this happened to Siggy in Dominic Deegan when Karnak grabbed his soul and brainwashed him. The "Knight Vision" arc reveals that Siggy earned his place in Hell with gusto. Karnak just made him his slave once he got there.
- South Park: In an early episode (later retconned?) we learn that only Mormons get into Heaven, everyone else goes to Hell. But Satan, having had it up to here with Saddam Hussein, gets God to send Hussein to Heaven along with all the Mormons (because to Hussein, that is hell).
- God changed the rules later after realizing that there was a manpower difference between Heaven and Hell that enabled Satan to attempt an invasion. He had to accept more than just Mormons in order to stand a chance, rerouting souls from Hell in the process.
- At the end of one episode of The Simpsons, The Rapture happens and Lisa (but no other Simpson) is being lifted bodily into heaven. Homer grabs her ankle and makes her go to hell with the rest of the family.
- An episode of Eek! The Cat has Eek dying and winding up in the Celestial Bureaucracy. This shouldn't have happened in the first place, because Eek hadn't used up all nine of his lives yet. Then, a damned soul asks Eek to hold his rap sheet while he "goes to the bathroom", so Eek winds up getting sent to Hell in his place. However, Eek is so optimistic that the torments of Hell don't affect him at all, and he succeeds at all the Sisyphean tasks the Devil sets for him.
- This was the original premise of Jimmy Two-Shoes; Jimmy should have gone to Heaven, but due to a clerical error was sent to Hell. Luckily, he's Too Spicy for Yog Sothoth.