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This Isn't Heaven
Valentine: "I don't belong in Heaven, see? I want to go to the other place."
Pip: "Heaven? Whatever gave you the idea you were in Heaven, Mr. Valentine? This is the other place!!"

Bob dies and goes to the afterlife. At first he seems to have gone to Fluffy Cloud Heaven: it's beautiful, there's wonderful music playing, he has everything he ever wanted, etc. But then he realizes that there's one essential thing missing or wrong, and the sudden realization dawns: This Isn't Heaven! Cue the frantic screaming of a damned soul...

Often the thing missing or wrong is something superficial, like "no beer" or "eternally noisy neighbors." Can be a form of Ironic Hell, but it's not necessary. This is specifically for actually being in hell (or thinking that that's the case), not just still being alive or something similar; see Mistaken For Afterlife.

When they are actually in heaven and things are still like this, you get Hell of a Heaven.

Not to be confused with Rerouted From Heaven, where they've actually gone to the wrong afterlife.

Examples:

Advertising

Comics
  • One arc in the "Celeb" strip in Private Eye had the protagonist apparently dead and in Fluffy Cloud Heaven. After a few strips, he becomes dissatisfied and complains to an angel that "this is purgatory". The angel replies "Of course it is. Where did you think you were?"
  • In Cerebus the Aardvark, the title character suspects this after he notices his friend Rick is missing.note 

Film
  • At the end of Bad Girls From Valley High, the two Alpha Bitch Villain Protagonists die and wake up in a luxurious hotel room and are convinced they went to Heaven. Then the school dork shows up, claiming that he committed suicide to be with them and that he will be their roommate for the rest of eternity. He then briefly turns into a demon, prompting the girls to realize where they are and scream.

Jokes
  • A classic Islamic joke: A man dies and meets God. God says, "You may have anything you ask." The man has as much food, wine, women, etc, as he wants. Then he gets bored and asks, "May I have some work?" God answers, "No, you can't. Enjoy!" The man says, "Then I want to go to hell!" And God smiles and says, "But you are in hell."
  • There are a number of jokes based on the idea that Hell is like Heaven where you have everything you want, but some detail is missing that prevents you from enjoying it.
    • A crossword puzzle maniac would find a whole library of them, only to realize that no-one has a pencil.
    • The stoner who chooses between the afterlife with fire and the afterlife without fire. He chose the latter and finds himself in a huge field of marijuana plants.
  • A variant — a hedonistic rock star dies and goes to Hell. Considering that he's been a sinner all his life, he thinks he might be of some use to Satan, and so is eager to meet him - but before he can do so, he's made to sit in a drab waiting room, with nothing on the walls, five-year-old magazines on the coffee tables and two old biddies gossiping in the corner. Bored out of his skull, he grows increasingly impatient waiting for Satan, wondering how long he'll have to spend in the waiting room - upon which it dawns on him that he's not actually in the waiting room of Hell.
  • A priest that firmly believed Sex Is Evil had a disciple. The priest died and some time later, the disciple died too. At the afterlife, the disciple saw the Priest with a gorgeous woman at his lap.
    "Master," he cried, "I see that God appreciated your sacrifices on Earth, and now you will be rewarded with paradise’s pleasures!"
    "You Fool!" answered the priest. "In the first place, This Isn't Heaven! And in the second, I am not being rewarded, she is being punished!"
  • Inversion where the addition of an element makes what seems to be Hell in act Heaven: A journalist dies, and not having been a particularly good or bad person, St. Peter decides to show him a choice of afterlives. In Hell, a bunch of journalists slave away at typewriters, while bossy demons crack whips over their head and scream about deadlines. In Heaven, a bunch of journalists slave away at typewriters, while bossy angels crack whips over their head and scream about deadlines. Confused and upset, the journalist asks what the difference is, and St. Peter answers "In Heaven, your stories get published!"

Literature
  • The Last Trump by Isaac Asimov has the Devil convince God to bring about the end of the world, with everyone dead being resurrected. Since every group has their idea of afterlife, the Devil designs it at the greatest common divisor — nothing but eternal existence. One of the people claims this is heaven, but then another points out that there is nothing beyond Earth, buildings are crumbling, hills are flattening, desires are gone... Soon, there will be nothing but a featureless plain and people. Fire and Brimstone Hell is unworthy of divine imagination; an eternity of nothingness is a different matter.

Live-Action TV
  • In the Twilight Zone TOS episode "A Nice Place to Visit", a burglar is killed and goes to a place where his every wish is fulfilled by a man named Pip. Eventually, he gets bored, leading to the page quote above.
  • In The IT Crowd there's an episode where Douglas has a near death experience. His father is welcoming him towards a big white door, and it's all very white and glowy. Then Hitler pokes his head out, and Renholm tries to explain that "we're having a fancy dress party in Heaven."

Music
  • In Sound Horizon's "Eru no Rakuen [-> side:A ->]", Elise wakes up in what she believes to be paradise — until she hears crying, and since she knows that no one would cry in paradise...
  • King Missile's "Heaven" has the singer waking up in paradise, wondering why he feels so good when he was in such a rotten mood yesterday...and then, suddenly, the bird he was holding is a bloody mangled mess in his hand and the backdrop changes.

Religion

Tabletop Games
  • One In Nomine supplement has a Heaven which redeemed demons eventually figure out is worse than Hell. They are required to memorize dull, "uplifting" sermons; the Malakim (avenging angels) may abuse them at will; the Archangels are insane. Eventually they escape and go back to Hell, to warn other demons. It's actually a fake, set up by Hell as a propaganda ploy to discourage demons from redeeming.

Web Animation
  • The Trope Namer is an Easter Egg in the program Macromedia Central that features a Homestar Runner cartoon where Homestar and Strong Bad are stuck in "blue-fadey-land." Homestar thinks they died and went to heaven, and Strong Bad agrees after they find a Twinkie. Then Homestar says that it's just Strong Bad and him, forever! It suddenly dawns on Strong Bad that they're definitely not in heaven. He pounds on the edge of the frame screaming frantically as the background turns red...
    Homestar: Yeah you're right. I think it's Massachusetts.

Video Games
  • Not actually heaven, but one of the realms of Oblivion, specifically the realm known as Mankar Camoran's Paradise. The followers of the Mythic Dawn cult were told it was eternal bliss and if they believed enough in Mehrunes Dagon and didn't sin against him then they could go there when they died for eternal life, like an evil Heaven. While it looks like a Crystal Dragon Jesus variety of heaven and the cultists were truly given the immortality promised — it's also a Daedra infested nightmare where that immortality is put to good use to torture undying cultists. In fact, the tortures suffered there would be more expected in Mehrunes Dagon's actual plane of Oblivion, the Deadlands, which resembles the traditional view of Hell (fiery lakes, demons, torture devices, etc.). Unlike many examples on this, it is not played for laughs and the reasons to despair are very reasonable.
    • The trope is invoked again in Skyrim, where the Nordic realm of Sovngarde (an expy of Valhalla) ends up being the feeding ground for Alduin to feed on the souls of the dead.
  • Final Fantasy II has Soul of Rebirth, which is set in the afterlife. It actually inverts this trope. Cid is actually the first of the dead characters to realize that the local Mundane Afterlife isn't hell.
  • In Overlord: Raising Hell the first abyss gate is disguised as a portal to heaven, complete with a cardboard likeness of pearly gates.
  • A variation in the Interactive Fiction game Perdition's Flames. At the start, you're told that Hell is no longer a place of punishment — eternal torment was mostly abolished to compete with heaven after deregulation, and people are now randomly assigned to Hell or Heaven upon death. However, this seems to quickly prove to be a lie, as Hell as depicted in the game is a banal, torturous experience with all the meaninglessness and annoyances of mortal life exaggerated to grotesque degrees. It's a subversion — once you finally get to Heaven, it has more fluffy clouds and angels, but is just as soul-crushingly obnoxious and banal. Your goal ends up being to join a group that explores other afterlives and other versions of Heaven and Hell that are, if not more pleasant, at least less meaningless and obnoxious.
  • Played with (in a "This Isn't Earth" sense) in Fall from Heaven. Originally, Hell was having problems with mortals like the Bannor escaping damnation through portals back to Erebus, so the local god of deception, Esus, created a Lotus-Eater Machine version of Erebus where everything was even worse than Erebus usually is, with hopes that would-be escapees would enter, be sent over the Despair Event Horizon, and then return to the more honest hells of their own accord. What happens if someone is Genre Savvy enough to catch onto the ruse is unexplained...
  • LucasArts' sim Afterlife has a "Faux Heaven" as one of the possible Hell's punishments for slothful souls:
    "Many of the Slothful Damned believe that they deserve to be in Heaven, little realizing that their lazy ways have earned them a place in Hell. For these self-deluded fools, Hell hath created these cheesy replicas of Heaven. They're just like the real Heaven...except that they suck."

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • Futurama's Show Within a Show, The Scary Door, parodies the Twilight Zone episode above. A man is hit by a car and wakes up in a casino. He gets jackpot and thinks it's heaven. When he hits jackpot the second time, he thinks it's boring and that means he must be in Hell. He's actually in a plane. And nobody believes there's a goblin in the wing. Because he's Adolf Hitler. And Eva Braun is actually a giant fly.
    • And Bender called it.

Planet HeckAfterlife TropesTo Hell and Back
Thermometer GagThis Index Is A JokeThrow the Pin
The Devil Is a LoserInfernal TropesTo Hell and Back
Self-Inflicted HellReligion TropesTo Hell and Back

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