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Leaking Can of Evil

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"Yawgmoth's corpse is a wound in the universe. His foul blood seeps out, infecting the land with his final curse."

Long, long ago, there existed a terrible evil. The people of the time managed to defeat the evil and seal it away, never to return. There's just one problem: they may have sealed away the being itself, but they didn't manage to completely seal away its power.

To be clear, the evil in question has been sealed away, but in a way that allows it to still influence the mortal world, most often in destructive ways. In religious and mythological uses, the evil is usually not aware it has this ability. In fictional stories, especially in the Horror and Cosmic Horror Story genres, it is likely to be aware of its ability to affect the mortal world, and will probably use that influence to facilitate its release.

A subtrope of Sealed Evil in a Can. If the evil is Sealed in a Person-Shaped Can, it will usually become this trope in the form of a Walking Wasteland. If the evil is sealed within a physical object, that object is likely to become an Artifact of Doom. Compare Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All, for when this applies to mundane criminals. See also Evil Is Not a Toy, Evil Tainted the Place, Sealed Evil in Another World, Villainous Legacy, and Residual Evil Entity.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Kishin Asura from Soul Eater was sealed in a bag made of his own skin. Even after this, his madness is strong enough to warp the statue of a god holding his container and make everyone who tries to approach it see horrible hallucinations. However, it is only when Asura is freed that his madness is able to spread all over the world.
  • Weaponized in Naruto with the Jinchuriki, humans with Pure Magic Beings sealed inside them. For the most part the seal allows a controllable amount of chakra to leak out, letting the Jinchuriki borrow their power, but Naruto's Nine-Tailed Fox in particular is quite malevolent and can take him over if he isn't careful. The others may or may not be examples: for example, the Eight-Tails is pretty friendly with its host Killer Bee, and Gaara's initial Ax Craziness seems to have been all him rather than a result of Shukaku.
  • In Kyo Kara Maoh!, the Forbidden Boxes become this when brought together, due to the seals weakening over time, especially time spent in human lands outside the influence of the Demon Kingdom's magic. This prompts the protagonists to attempt a renewal of the seals, which winds up releasing the evil entirely.
  • In Deadman Wonderland the eponymous setting is supposed to keep the Wretched Egg sealed with the help of the Mother Goose System, but you wouldn't know that based on how she gets to leave the Wonderland to massacre a middle-school class, cause earthquakes and generally wreak havoc such that everyone is forced to evacuate the island (save for the insane scientist who created her). And then we find out all her abilities displayed are not even 15% of her true power.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, the power of the Millenium Items is supposedly confined to the items themselves until invoked (willingly or not) by a user. However, for the Millenium Puzzle and the Millenium Ring in particular, the spirits within appear able to used their shadow powers to a limited degree anyway, even without a host.
  • Shinzo: Lanancuras is an evil celestial god who was sealed inside a meteorite by his brethren to stop him from destroying the universe. He still had enough reach to engineer a genocidal war on Earth from his prison, since retcon establishes that he brainwashed the leader of one of the factions.

    Comic Books 
  • Ant-Man (2022): After Ultron's defeat over in the pages of Iron Man, the Avengers seal him up in a vibranium casket covered in Asgardian runes, hoping that this time it'll keep him locked up forever. Turns out he was still able to call out to Black Ant, persuading him to come and free him. And that the Asgardian magic had interacted with Ultron to give him a power boost.
  • This is how Winnowill from ElfQuest ends up when Rayek traps Winnowill's soul inside his own. Winnowill is mostly contained but occasionally is able to either affect Rayek's actions or even lash out with her own magic powers. She even manages to start a cult, with herself as the "Redeemer", at one point, due to leaving signs lying around. Learning about them is what causes Rayek to realize she is leaking.
  • Shadowpact reveals that the slumbering, highly powerful and very Evil Sorcerer Dr. Gotham has been sleeping beneath (wait for it) Gotham City for centuries. He inadvertently influenced the city into becoming a crime ridden cesspool with a penchant for attracting costumed lunatics.
  • In Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam, Billy turns out to have accidentally made himself a Person-Shaped Can for Mr. Mind, which after a few weeks causes first Captain Marvel, then Billy to become Not Himself.
  • Green Lantern: It's revealed in Green Lantern: Rebirth that Parallax, the yellow Fear Entity, was trapped inside the Central Battery a very long time ago, but his corruptible influence gave Green Lantern rings' weakness to yellow and briefly drove Hal Jordan mad.
  • In the Hellboy comics, the Ogdru Jahad are imprisoned inside 7 giant magic cocoons; however, they can still communicate with certain humans. During the events of Seed of Destruction, Rasputin was able to damage their prison and allow some of their power to leak into the world, which is implied to be the cause of practically everything bad that happens in the Hellboy and B.P.R.D comics afterwards (although the only confirmed consequence was Nimue's transformation into their avatar during The Storm and the Fury).
  • In the Marvel Universe, cultists in the Eastern European country of Transia tried to summon a prehistoric Eldritch Abomination named Chthon at the foot of a local mountain named Wundagore. Realizing their mistake, they sealed the part of it they managed to summon away in the mountain, but its presence is the reason why clay from the mountain can be sculpted into statues that can mind control others and why Wanda Maximoff has so much magical potential.
  • The Umbrum in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic once roamed free and wrought havoc in the Frozen North (where Crystal Empire was later built), but were sealed away in another dimension thanks to the power of Crystal Heart. Although it still keeps them trapped in there, they are apparently still capable of influencing the real world to a degree, since they were able to disguise one of their own as a pony, send him to the Crystal Empire as both figurative and literal Trojan Horse and later communicate with him and awaken his latent powers.
  • In Nova, the Luminals imprisoned their archenemy Abyss in a high-tech coffin meant to suppress his powers while they prepared to get rid of him at the edge of the universe. Abyss managed to open a small crack in the coffin, however, and promptly started zombifying people in an attempt to free himself.
  • Sabretooth (2022) sees the titular villain imprisoned forever in the Pit, below the living island of Krakoa. It doesn’t take long until his mind starts to haunt the island in various ways, though.
  • A rather infamous issue of X-Men revealed that Nightcrawler is actually the son of a demon, Azazel, who was locked in another dimension but is able to get free in order to father children with the goal of them being able to free him (though some issues state he needs those children to teleport his army out of the dimension).

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): While Ghidorah was still frozen in Antarctica, its heads were partly conscious and aware of what was happening around their icy prison, and they were still able to exert a limited psychic and electromagnetic interference.
  • A Diplomatic Visit: In the fourth story, The Diplomat's Life, there's the Shadow Prison, which holds the Umbrum below the Crystal Empire. It's where Umbrea released her "son" Sombra from, and later escaped herself to become Nightmare Moon; Rabia, who eventually merged with Stygian to become the Pony of Shadows, also escaped it with Umbrea's aid and took up residence in the Well of Shade under Hollow Shades until he could find a host.
  • Percy Jackson: Spirits: Vaatu's sealing is imperfect enough to allow him to communicate with other beings outside of his prison, and he has been manipulating things behind the scenes for centuries, if not millennia, in order to weaken the Avatar and try and make sure that he manages to win the next Harmonic Convergence battle.
  • Transition: Double Subverted:
    • Unknown to the people who did the sealing Jinx had pulled a Heel–Face Turn by the time they did.
    • The "leaking evil" part is caused by the can itself not working like the creators intended rather than the contents themselves.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Mirrors: Although the Mirror Monster is confined to the mirror world, it can influence the real world in malevolent and deadly ways from there. Also, though it seems to mainly reside in the abandoned Mayflower building, when it's stalking someone, it can appear in mirrors wherever they are.
  • Prince of Darkness. Satan is a liquid trapped inside a glass cylinder (with heavily corroded seals) inside a church. It sprays itself at one of the people researching it and takes control of them, then has that person spit the liquid at other people to possess them as well. It also uses Mind Control on street people who live near the church to surround it and trap the researchers inside.
  • Queen of the Damned: Akasha turned into a statue at some point during her reign of terror, with Marius being entrusted to safeguard her and prevent her release. However, Lestat's violin solo is enough to cause her to wake up partially and move her arm so Lestat can drink her potent blood.
  • In Time Bandits, Evil has been locked away in the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness by The Supreme Being. He plots to acquire the MacGuffin map that would allow him to escape and wreak havoc upon all creation. Although he's locked away, he can still Mind Control the weak-willed bandits across time and space to lead the group into his lair with the coveted map.

  • In The Balanced Sword, the region called Moonshade Hollow was once prosperous, but is now dark and twisted and home to many strange monsters. When the protagonists explore it, they learn that this is due to having one of the Great Wyrms, dark counterparts of the Dragon Gods, imprisoned beneath it.
  • Even though the Eldritch Abomination Wyrm was sealed underneath the surface of the Earth by God Himself in The Book of the Dun Cow, he is still able to use his Dream Weaver powers to corrupt and influence the animals on the surface.
  • This is a major staple of the Cthulhu Mythos, most famously appearing in the short story The Call of Cthulhu. Despite being dead and trapped within the sunken city of R'lyeh, the eponymous Old One is still capable of influencing certain humans through their dreams, guiding them to release him when the stars are right.
  • The Devils Of D-Day by Graham Masterton. An derelict Sherman tank from World War 2 that's been left to rust in a French village turns out to have a demon sealed up inside it. Even though the hatches and intakes have been welded shut, it still effects the surrounding village; curdling milk, killing crops and anyone who tries to exorcise it, and speaking to those who go near the tank at night. An American cartographer decides to break the seal to rid the village of its influence; needless to say this doesn't go well.
  • Discworld: In the very first book, the prison of the Soul Devourer is untouched by time, and avoided by most wildlife because of that.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Harry Dresden suspects, but doesn't know for exact certainty, the thirty Blackened Denarii have a small leakage from the Fallen Angel each coin contains. While trapped in the ancient silver, Harry fears there could be some "bad luck" aura about them to make people notice them and pick them up, or bounce away from a dead host in such a way it would hit another human and get their attention.
    • The island of Demonreach has such a leakage it has become a major magical ley line in the Chicago area. This is because the island is a multi-dimensional, multi-temporal prison for old demons and evil gods and that dark power is like their body heat escaping the prison.
  • In The Elenium, the Elder God Azash was imprisoned by the rebelling Younger Gods inside a tiny clay idol of himself. However, even though he can't move around or use most of his powers directly anymore, Azash can still talk to people physically near his idol, vector magical power to his minions, and send his spirit into any copy of the idol that has been properly prepared.
  • In Mistborn: The Original Trilogy, the Omnicidal Maniac Big Bad Ruin was sealed away millennia ago by its opposite number, but it still has a limited ability to influence various characters.
  • Frequently seen in The Old Kingdom. Kerrigor's sarcophagus, when unearthed, is so riddled with Free Magic that it makes most people who approach it feel nauseated and weak. And the evil that is buried at the Red Lake has an ability to resist the Clayr's scrying, even when they focus their wills there. When unearthed, the hemispheres not only induce sickness, but they call down lightning — constant lightning.
  • In Pact, the abstract demon, Ur, is bound inside of an old factory. As Ur is a creature of entropy distilled, however, its influence causes the land around it to decay-and with it, the binding that holds Ur back from destroying nearby Toronto.
  • Warhammer 40,000: In the prologue to the Space Wolf novel Ragnar's Claw, set about a century after the rest of the book, a Chaos cultist tells Ragnar that "Botchulaz sends his regards." In the book proper the Inquisition and Ragnar's squad of Space Wolves end up having to repair the seals on an Eldar construct keeping a Great Unclean One confined.
  • In V. Zykov's Way Home:
    • The lowest levels of the catacombs under the city of Gamzar held the seal of a particularly powerful demonic entity. The entity's presence leaked into the catacombs' upper levels as an intense aura of fear and dread.
    • The Crystal Gate in the ancient sealed dwarven capital city, Heart of the Mountains, was leaking the abyssal energy it was originally designed to tap into, causing animals to mutate into monsters and the dead to rise as undead.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the Dark One is sealed outside of reality. In the Age of Legends, a bore was made into its prison, and it wreaked havoc across the world until a seal was made. Throughout the series, the seal is weakening, and the crux of the plot is finding a way to restore it before the Dark One can escape and unravel the world. Ultimately, it is decided that the only way to stop the leaking is to break the seals altogether and essentially unmake the Bore from scratch.
  • In Sword of Shadows, the Endlords and their minions are sealed in a hell-realm called "the Blind." Every thousand years, a mortal called the Reach is born with the power to unleash them, and will inevitably do so unless they discharge their power safely in a controlled environment. The current Reach, Ash, managed to do so - but not before she made a tiny, hairline crack in the walls between worlds, which another sorcerer was then able to widen. The Endlords themselves are still trapped (though they're working on it) but their Taken have been able to escape in increasing numbers, working their masters' will in the mortal world.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 1, Big Bad The Master is trapped underground inside the Hellmouth but he has minions who work to free him, Darla being the one with the most character development. He almost gets out a couple of times, and during one episode where people's nightmares come true he's seen free and walking around Sunnydale in Buffy's nightmare.
    The Master: I am free because you fear it. Because you fear it, the world is crumbling. Your nightmares are made flesh.
    • For that matter, the Hellmouth itself is kind of this trope: it's a portal to one or more Hell dimensions, and the evil influence that leaks out attracts demons to the town.
  • Doctor Who uses this one from time to time.
    • "Pyramids of Mars": Despite being paralyzed in an Egyptian tomb, Sutekh is able to control the archaeologist Marcus Scarman, who entered the tomb, and his mummies even when they are working in England. Finally, he focuses his power through Marcus to destroy the Eye of Horus keeping him imprisoned, even though Marcus has to travel to Mars to achieve this.
    • "The Curse of Fenric": Fenric, despite being sealed in a flask, has been manipulating events for the past two seasons to free himself and destroy Earth, even transporting people through time.
    • "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit": The devil himself is imprisoned inside a planet, trying to free himself by possessing members of an exploration base on the surface and their friendly, if creepy alien servants.
    • In "The Witchfinders", the Morax were originally a Sealed Evil in a Can but Becka opened up part of the Morax's prison by chopping down the sacred tree because it was blocking her view, allowing for the bodies of several victims of her witch hunts to be possessed by the Morax.
    • In "Can You Hear Me", although she's unable to free herself, Rakaya is able to send Graham a psychic message asking for help from across space and time as part of the plan to release her.
  • Once Upon a Time: The evil force known as the Darkness is this. Long ago, the Sorcerer fought the Darkness and sealed it inside a willing human being and used a magical dagger created from a shard of the sword Excalibur to control them. This being became the first in a long line of beings known as "The Dark One" and appeared as a dark mage of unfathomable power and a green scaly appearance only a mother could love. So long as the dagger was held by the forces of good, they could control the Dark One and keep him/her from ravaging the land. Unfortunately, one of the latest Dark Ones held onto the dagger and was instead tempered from laying waste to the world by his remaining humanity embodied by his love for his son and desire to reunite with him.
  • Supernatural:
    • In season four we find out that Lucifer is this trope. Azazel first finds "the crack in his cage" in order to communicate with him; it's implied that Lucifer also made a backup plan that Lilith and Ruby carried out in order to get Sam Winchester to release him.
    • Later, in season ten, we learn that the Mark of Cain was built to contain The Darkness, a primordial force defeated by God and the Archangels, after which God locked it away in the mark. However, the mark began to exert its influence on the bearer, corrupting them into being evil, killing machines.
    • In season fourteen, Lucifer provides yet another take on the trope. After being killed for real by a Michael-possessed Dean and banished to the primordial void where all dead angels sleep forever, his former vessel manages to wake him up with a Prayer of Malice, then teams up with a group of demons still loyal to Lucifer to contact and resurrect him.
  • Super Sentai and Power Rangers:
    • Mahou Sentai Magiranger/Power Rangers Mystic Force - N. Ma / The Master spends most of the series imprisoned, but still conscious enough to give orders to his subordinates. The whole bunch of them, in turn, were sealed in the Underworld by the previous generation but a powerful enough magic user can send a few to the human world at a time - just enough for your average monster-of-the-week plot, but not enough for a total overrunning of the world.
    • The same goes for that series' Spiritual Successor, Samurai Sentai Shinkenger/Power Rangers Samurai. The Big Bad is under a seal like the Mystic Force villains - he dries out even faster, enough that he can only last a few minutes in the human world and is weakened for days after attempting it. (Unfortunately, he's powerful enough that a few minutes is all he needs to utterly hand the Rangers their spandex-covered asses.) Like the first Big Bad of Magiranger and Mystic Force, his ultimate goal is to get around the sealing spell so he can smash.
  • In Kamen Rider Blade, the Undead have to be sealed away not just to stop their rampages, but because the Riders can tap into their power. However, the Spider Undead specifically allowed himself to be sealed as part of a plan to take over the body of whomever used the Kamen Rider Leangle powers. He spends most of the series controlling Ordinary High-School Student Mutsuki Kamijo, until late in the series where the Riders (and two Undead with noble intentions) manage to force the Spider out of Mutsuki's body and reseal it properly.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • The titan Typhon from Greek Mythology was sealed away along with most of the other titans, but his roars were capable of causing volcanic eruptions across the world.
  • Loki from Norse Mythology was sealed away in an underground vault, with a snake drooling venom onto his face. His beloved wife is usually there with a bowl to catch the poison, but when she has to empty the bowl Loki's agonized thrashing causes earthquakes.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • In the Forgotten Realms setting, after Cyric, god of murder and lies, murdered Mystra, goddess of magic, in 1385 DR and caused the Spellplague, several other gods worked together to imprison Cyric in his home plane. He can still grant spells to his worshipers but he can't affect the Prime Material directly and is slowly going (more?) insane. Strangely his co-conspirator Shar seems to gave gotten away scot free.
    • Module WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun. Though the evil deity Tharizdun has been sealed away, his power can still affect creatures that enter the title temple if they touch certain places or objects.
    • Module OA6 Ronin Challenge, Episode 6 "Keluh Valley". The powerful being known as the Earth Spider is trapped in the Realm of Mirrors, but it can still communicate with its worshippers in the Keluh Valley. It orders them to look for a woman of the Wood Spirit people so it can marry her and be freed from its prison.
    • Module B3 "Palace of the Silver Princess". Arik of the Hundred Eyes is an ancient, evil being of great power. He was banished to a special dimension centuries ago to be imprisoned for all eternity. However, he has managed to send one of his eyes into the campaign world, where it works to open the dimensional barriers and free him from his imprisonment.
    • The Eberron setting's main cans for sealed evils are varying degrees of leaky:
      • The prisons of the Overlords are variably sturdy, with some of the Overlords having no power to affect the world at all (though they do have cultists/minions willing to work on their behalf). A few are able to affect the world very subtly, mostly by manipulating people, most notably Bel Shalor, the Shadow in the Flame. As they get closer to release, they gain more power - for example, the Wild Heart is able to create new lycanthropes near its prison in the Towering Wood, while dragons behaving like tyrants will lead to them being increasingly influenced by the Daughter of Khyber. The fact that their prisons are often Khyber dragonshards, which don't stop being prisons when shattered, adds new options - the setting's creator has suggested that one origin for a barbarian might be that they're an ordinary soldier implanted with a fragment taken from the cage of Rak Tulkhesh, the Rage of War.
      • The nightmare spirits called quori can't leave their home plane. They can, however, project their minds into mortal dreams, and from there possess people. As the quori have been able to use this method to create an empire and religion in the mortal world, this can is very leaky.
      • The daelkyr may not be able to leave Khyber, but they can move around freely within it and talk to their servants on the surface, and drive the odd mortal mad. Additionally, the can is only binding on the daelkyr themselves; if one creates, say, a new breed of aberration or a disease that twists mortal minds and bodies, that can pass through the seals relatively freely.
      • Khyber itself is, per the setting's Creation Myth, an evil progenitor dragon sealed away through the sacrifice of another (Eberron, which became the world). There are a lot of horrible things in Khyber - for example, the Overlords are said to be its first children - and unless a specific thing has been set up to bind them separately (as in the case of the Overlords) there's not much preventing it from just walking out.
  • Call of Cthulhu.
    • In his tomb on the sunken isle of R'lyeh dead Cthulhu lies dreaming. True to the source material Cthulhu is capable of communicating with his followers through their dreams. In the Cthulhu Now supplement adventure "Dreams Dark and Deadly", Cthulhu was able to contact the minds of dreaming people and tried to use their magic points to create an avatar of himself that didn't need the stars to be right to exist.
    • In the Beyond the Mountains of Madness campaign, the Unknown God is trapped in a singularity cage that keeps it frozen and prevents it from fully entering our reality. Unfortunately, the machine that maintains the cage is breaking down and the God is able to intermittenly disperse parts of itself into the world. These seeds seek out any heat source and send it back to the God, which will eventually free it. These seeds are the final threat the investigators must face to survive the campaign.
  • A specialty of daemonically-possessed weapons in Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000. Using them gradually brings you under the daemon's control (or just makes you go insane, which is often the same thing). Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising has an entire game mechanic based on this, to determine which member of your squad becomes the traitor.
  • Champions
    • Organization Book 3 The Blood and Dr. McQuark. Inhuman creatures who are virtually immortal, immensely powerful and hideously evil are trapped inside the Earth. They can contact humans and corrupt them to gain followers, but can't escape on their own.
    • Adventure 4 The Great Super Villain Contest. The Crimson Claw's secret masters once ruled the Earth, but the power that banished them set up barriers to keep them out. The only way they can return is to be summoned by a creature on this side. They have sent the Crimson Claw to provide three devices - the Emerald Eyes of Azog - to the most powerful supervillains. In addition to being able to see through the Eyes, the secret masters can cause them to act as gates to allow powerful demons to enter our reality.
  • The creator of Phyrexia, Yawgmoth, was the Big Bad of the storyline of Magic: The Gathering until the Invasion block, where it was defeated by Gerrard Capashen and his crew with the activation of the Legacy Weapon. In the Time Spiral block we learn that Urborg, the land where Yawgmoth was defeated is still tainted by the blood, oil and pieces of phyrexian corpses more than three hundred years later. (Urborg was an evil swamp to begin with, but it turned out even worse.) When Lord Windgrace sacrificed himself to close the rift over Urborg he infused part of his essence in the land to keep it in check and prevent an ulterior spreading of the phyrexian infection. Unfortunately, this still failed to prevent the spread of Phyrexian corruption since Karn the Silver Golem's heartstone was Phyrexian in origin and leaked Phyrexian oil. The end result was "New Phyrexia".
  • Rovagug in Pathfinder, a god of destruction so dangerous that all the other deities came to seal him within the earth. His struggles cause earthquakes and volcanoes to this day, and there is a 20 mile wide chasm called the Pit of Gormuz that leads to him, and every few centuries some new Spawn Of Rovagug escapes it to wreak havoc.
  • In Legend of the Five Rings Fu Leng was sealed in the Twelve Black Scrolls after the First Day of Thunder. Just possessing one of them could cause the Shadowlands Taint to infect the bearer, leaving him vulnerable to the influence of the evil kami. Past a certain threshold and people exposed to the scrolls could become servants of Fu Leng and try to open the scrolls to set him free.
  • In the metafiction of Sentinels of the Multiverse, the Skinwalker Gloomweaver event ended with Gloomweaver trapped in Dr. Medico's Oblivion Shard. Unfortunately for Dr. Medico, Gloomweaver was able to reach into his mind and slowly corrupt him from within the shard, and in the Tactics timeline ultimately wipes him from existence and slips into his flesh like a suit of clothes.

    Video Games 
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Ganon was sealed away into the Dark World by the seven sages in the backstory of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, but used his evil influence to recruit Agahnim or as revealed by Ganon himself, created Agahnim as a way to escape his seal with limited power. The mage infiltrates Hyrule Castle and sets into motion Ganon's plans to capture the seven maidens and break the seal made by the seven sages.
    • Ganon in Hyrule Warriors. After having his soul broken into four pieces and sealed away in the depths of space and time, he still had enough power to corrupt the sorceress Cia to recover the pieces, allowing for his resurrection.
    • Calamity Ganon from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was locked up in Hyrule Castle for one hundred years. By the time the game proper begins, Ganon has reclaimed enough power to manifest itself as a mass of fog-like corruption surrounding the castle and resurrect monsters during a Blood Moon. Worse yet, there's a very real possibility that Ganon will soon break out of its can and destroy what's left of Hyrule unless Link can put it down for good. At one point, Zelda theorizes that increasing numbers of monsters appearing around Hyrule are a sign that the seal placed over Ganon 10,000 years prior is failing and Ganon's return is imminent. She's right. A few weeks/months later, Ganon does indeed break free, an event which culminates in the 100-year sealing of the game proper courtesy of Zelda herself. Tears of the Kingdom makes this even more complicated: Ganondorf himself was sealed for even longer than that by King Rauru, yet with all the Gloom pooling up far beneath Hyrule Castle it was only a matter of time before something nasty was born from it, hence Calamity Ganon and its Malice. You read that right: Zelda's leaking prison was merely meant to contain the "radioactive spillage" of Rauru's leaking prison.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword reveals that Ganon himself is this to his predecessor, the demon king Demise. Demise might be dead and/or back in his can, but Ganon is the essence of Demise reincarnating throughout time.
  • In the Mass Effect franchise, the central antagonists, The Reapers, sealed themselves away 50,000 years ago to wait for the right time to return. However, they left one of their own behind to observe and report. Even after that one is killed by the central protagonist, however, The Reapers still have thousands (if not millions) of Slave Mooks that they control, as well as the ability to make more almost any time they want. They can even Assume Direct Control of these mooks to directly speak to, and deal with, tougher threats.
  • Eternal Darkness:
    • Mantarok the "Corpse God" is in its death throes for more than seven centuries. However, it had already set a chain of events in motion by this time that manipulate several pawns and allow them to defeat the other Eldritch Abominations that bound him.
    • The other Ancients are sealed in the great Darkness with only Mantarok to keep them in check. The events of the game involve one of them (actually all of them) using their various pawns, artifacts, and minions to simultaneously get themselves free as well as completely screw over the others.
  • City of Heroes:
    • The demon Bat'Zul, which was sealed under Cap Au Diable in the Rogue Isles. He was sealed properly, until a Mad Scientist realize he could drain electrical energy from the demon to provide cheap and efficient power to the city...with the small side effect of lightning demons occasionally jumping out of the power lines.
    • The death god Mot, imprisoned under the literal ghost town Dark Astoria. One of the final arcs in the game was stopping it from getting free and destroying the world.
  • In The Secret World, most of the cans are a bit leaky to begin with, with The Filth, a tarry ooze that causes nasty tentacled growths and even nastier insanity, being the most obvious sign. Some of the sealed evils can influence the world in other ways, too (Aten was able to keep its cult going despite being imprisoned, for example).
  • The Phantom Blot from Epic Mickey is a being of paint and thinner who spilled over Wasteland and spread destruction all over it. They managed to seal it back into its jar, but little blotling enemies keep leaking out of it.
  • In Dante's Inferno, Satan was able to send his essence out from Hell and corrupt others to do as he wishes. He escapes his secondary prison (a giant Eldritch Abomination body) to fight Dante, but in the end, Dante uses the souls he absolved in Hell to defeat Lucifer and seal him back in the 9th Pit of Hell (with a stronger seal this time). However, he somehow manages to escape as the ending reveals he transforms into a snake.
  • Dragalia Lost: The Sinister Dominion are a group of demons who had been sealed away within vessels resembling the five archangels. After many years though, these vessels became corrupted by the very demons sealed within them that they begin to act just like the demons.
  • Corypheus, the ancient sentient Darkspawn in the Dragon Age series, has been sealed away by the Grey Wardens since the First Blight, but is still able to telepathically enthrall individuals in the general vicinity of his prison, who then devote their lives to finding a way to break him out (which involves trying to kill the Player Character and his/her sibling in the Dragon Age II DLC Legacy). Corypheus is only doing so subconsciously; upon being freed, he seems totally unaware of his Darkspawn nature or even the fact he has been locked away for centuries.
  • Final Fantasy
    • In Final Fantasy IV, Zemus' can does not prevent him from mind-controlling certain people, like Golbez and possibly Kain. Unlike Exdeath, Zemus never actually leaves his can at all; the heroes raid it in the end.
    • In Final Fantasy V, Exdeath spends the first half of the game sealed away by the crystals, but he is still able to command monsters and to mind control some people in order to bring about his release.
  • In Fatal Frame III, when the ritual to seal away the Rift failed, the head of the shrine attempted to seal it into a dream world (the Manor of Sleep) to prevent it from spreading. This still doesn't work however, as it draws people suffering from Survivor Guilt into it, allowing it to spread.
  • Dhaos from Tales of Phantasia is capable of brainwashing people even when sealed in mausoleum. In particular, he ordered Mars this way to find pendants that will unseal him.
  • Many of the Old Gods in the Warcraft universe were sealed away by the Titans, but their influence remains, affecting events on Azeroth through the centuries. During their imprisonment they have still managed to build insectoid empires, weaken the mortal races, corrupt one of the great Dragon Aspects, and warp the minds of countless cultists.
  • Justified in Neverwinter Nights 2 because the Sealed Evil built the Can itself for its own protection. After Illefarn's final attempt to destroy the King of Shadows nearly succeeded the King hid in another dimension while it recuperated. Both times it started to leave (once via the Astral Plane, where it ran afoul of the githyanki, and once in the game proper where the Player Character defeats it), it first used various types of minions (undead, Shadow Priests, and an avatar called the Nightwalker) to prepare the way.
  • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia: Dracula was defeated and sealed some time ago. The Order of Ecclesia has found a spell that will finally destroy Dracula once and for all. Which is good, because his evil monsters are still about. Dracula can also still corrupt minds within his seal, which is why the Treacherous Advisor will use the spell to destroy Dracula's seal.
    • It could be said that Dracula is in an almost constant state of this, being "killed" and sealed away over and over again, while his dark power influences others to revive him so the process can start all over again. It isn't until 1999 that he's somehow finally killed for good.
  • Phantasy Star IV reveals that the solar system it takes place in is actually an enormous seal on a can that holds The Profound Darkness. The seal is not intact and every millennium it leaks Dark Force, the Big Bad of the previous three games. And because Dark Force manages to destroy one of the planets in Phantasy Star II, the leak has become even bigger...
  • Several decades before the start of Quest for Glory IV, a Dark One, Avoozl, attempted to break through into the world, assisted by a cult who worshiped it. After a tremendously bloody battle, the archmage Erana sealed it away at the cost of her own life. Unfortunately, her seal was not perfect, and Avoozl has had a lingering effect on Mordavia as its power leeches into the surrounding woods. In particular, certain types of magic (particularly teleportation and scrying) don't work properly in the vicinity of the Cave of the Dark One, the woods are increasingly filled with undead monsters, and by the time of the game itself the road into and out of Mordavia has been blocked by a swamp which drowns anyone who attempts to pass it. The Cave also literally leaks a disgusting slime called Grue Goo, which has flooded the surrounding area.
  • Diablo: Due to the work of the Archangel Tyrael and a group of humans he trained named the Horadrim, the three Prime Evils, Diablo, Mephisto and Baal, were locked away into soulstones designed to contain their essences and stop them from pursuing the Eternal Conflict onto Sanctuary. Unfortunately, these soulstones don't prevent the Evils from corrupting mortals who have the misfortune to be near their resting places, and all of them end up manipulating said mortals into releasing them, as a result of Izual filling the Prime Evils in on how to corrupt them.
    • The first Diablo focuses on the titular demon, whose soulstone was buried in the catacombs beneath Tristram. Leoric was guided to build his kingdom there by a servant of the Prime Evils, which exposed the king and his people to Diablo's influence. The formerly noble ruler was turned into a twisted madman who tortured and slaughtered his own people.
    • In Diablo II, it's revealed Mephisto's soulstone was buried beneath the headquarter of the Zakarum faith. While this was intended to suppress his influence, it instead resulted in the Zakarum high priesthood becoming corrupted and turning into demons.
    • In Diablo III, all of the Great Evils, both the Prime and the Lesser Evils, get locked into the Black Soulstone, a super-jar for demons. Despite this, their power is such that spells must constantly be cast to prevent their demonic rage from leaking out.
    • In Diablo IV, Donan and his companions sealed the demon Astaroth in a soulstone to end his rampage through Scosglen. Aware of the corruptive influence of the soulstone, Donan then brokered a deal with the Cathedral of Light. In exchange for inviting them into Scosglen, Inarius blessed the fortress constructed over the soulstone to suppress its influence.
    • At the end of Diablo IV, Mephisto is sealed in a soulstone by Neyrelle who then steals it. While her stated motive implies she is attempting to seal the soulstone where it can do no harm, Mephisto is strongly implied to be manipulating her the entire time.
  • In First Encounter Assault Recon, the exceptionally powerful and profoundly enraged psychic Alma was having a measurable effect upon the outside world long before her vault was opened, causing general malaise among the people of Fairport - especially the ones who lived nearby. Some of Armacham's less-informed staff members thought it might be some sort of chemical contamination and tested the water for it, of course finding nothing. There was also the matter of the Synchronicity Events, when she managed to touch the mind of Paxton Fettel and he went on a murderous psychic-powered rampage. First time, he was a young boy, so several people died, but he didn't get beyond getting the Origin facility shut down. The second time, he was, as aptly described in a voicemail message you can find, "a highly trained military commander with a telepathic link to hundreds of soldiers that don't think for themselves." The total calamity that this causes kickstarts the first game.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Big Bad Dagoth Ur was initially defeated thousands of years ago and his physical form was destroyed. However, he had already used the Tools of Kagrenac on the Heart of Lorkhan, allowing him to ascend to godhood. Over the millennia that the Tribunal, a trio of Dunmeri Physical Gods, ruled Morrowind, he coalesced and returned to a physical form. He ambushed the Tribunal on one of their yearly pilgrimages to the Heart to replenish their divinity and stole two of the Tools. Cut off from their source of power, the Tribunal erected the Ghostfence around Dagoth Ur's citadel of Red Mountain, hoping to keep him contained. Unfortunately, his power has waxed since re-awaking while the Tribunal's have waned, allowing him to spread his influence outside the Ghostfence via The Blight and psychic dreams for his followers, while the Ghostfence is implied to have shrunk from a dome (which kept the Blight mostly contained) to a simple wall (which allows the Blight to be carried outside Red Mountain by winds and cliff racers).
  • In Hollow Knight, the Black Egg temple contains something that's causing the Infection plaguing Hallownest, sealed by the three Dreamers. But the amount of Infection you encounter outside the temple, especially in the second half of the game, makes it clear that the seal is leaking. This thing turns out to be the titular Hollow Knight, a Laser Guided Tyke Bomb meant to contain the source of the infection in itself. It was sealed in the Black Egg Temple when it proved unable to fully contain the plague, making this a double example.
  • In Mega Man ZX, Artifact of Doom Model W contains the evil Dr. Weil's consciousness, and his corrupt influence results in the rise of new Mavericks that the heroes have to deal with. The end of the first game implies that Serpent's plan to harvest power for Model W is actually Weil trying to bring himself back to life.
  • The primary antagonistic force in Pokémon Sword and Shield is this. Eternatus is a Draconic Abomination who arrived in Galar several thousand years prior to the game's start, wreaked havoc and was eventually sealed after a grueling battle from which even the mascot legendaries, Zacian and Zamazenta, walked out with significant injuries. However, Eternatus' power continuously leaks out during those thousands of years, causing the Dynamax phenomenon where Pokémon randomly grow gigantic and rampage.

  • In MeatShield the ancient half-dragon demon Disparoxus is imprisoned in a magic seal inside a cave, but if somebody actually comes into the cave and finds the seal he can talk to them, and he gives one guy a medallion the lets him talk and cast spells through it (although he only uses the latter when his dupe outlives his usefulness).
  • The Snarl from The Order of the Stick was sealed by the gods in a jail that used the entire planet for the lock. However, five rifts have formed in said jail, one of which allowed it to reach through and kill Soon Kim's wife, Mijung. Soon's party locked the rifts with impassable gates, but now four of the five gates have been destroyed, and the rifts they covered have grown huge. (Although, oddly, nothing of the Snarl has yet reached through.) Until strip 945. This is also a rare justified example, as the Snarl was unintentionally made with four "colors" of divine magic. After it killed off one of the four pantheons, the remaining three simply cannot make a prison that can hold the Snarl indefinitely unless they find another color of divine magic to replace the lost one.
  • anti-HEROES has the demigod Arderas, who was imprisoned in a special demiplane by a fiend who used to be his colleague. However, he managed to kill said fiend halfway through, leaving enough gaps in the prison for him to talk to mortals. At the time of the story, that ability had earned him his own city and army.
  • The bear witch of Charby the Vampirate was sealed in two characters in an amateurish attempt to stop him from possessing one of them in his attempt to defeat death. He eventually finds a way to transfer his consciousness into a third character whom he is able to properly posses but he is caught and sealed again.
  • Homestuck eventually reveals that Lil' Cal is this. Dirk sealed Caliborn, Arquiusprite and half of Gamzee inside Lil' Cal and then had Roxy banish Lil' Cal into the Void for good measure. However, not only does the amalgamation of souls form Lord English, the entity the heroes were trying to stop in the first place, but sending Lil' Cal into the void allows it to manifest in the nightmares of children, giving Lord English a way to propagate himself throughout Paradox Space and paving the way for his rise to power and many of the comic's tragedies in the first place.
  • Contrary to first appearances, Sluggy Freelance's Book of E-Ville does not merely contain a spell for summoning the demon K'Z'K, but has been his prison for thousands of years. His ability to affect the outside world in this state is limited to mental communication (for instance, Talking in Your Dreams), and even that can be cut off if the other soul trapped with him, Farahn, prehistoric King of Mankind, doesn't allow it. Despite the demon verbally ensnaring a few potential dupes over the millennia, it's not until Gwynn acquires the book that K'Z'K's roomie gives him free enough rein to see his release scheme through.

    Web Original 
  • Bedtime Stories (YouTube Channel) has the Celle Neues Rathaus, a town hall whose basement section was allegedly used by members the SS in experimenting with the occult. Just before the Allies occupied the town, they had said basement flooded with water. After an incident involving two US Navy divers going missing and one suffering PTSD from being stalked by whatever was lurking down there, the British Army decided to have the accesses to the basement sealed with concrete. But despite this, paranormal activity continued for decades afterward, with both British and German soldiers stationed in the area reporting strange and unexplained phenomena.
  • Dreamscape: In episode 4, this exact trope is the reason why the heroes have to do something about the two Sealed Evils in a Can (Melinda and the Overlord Of Evil) because eventually those seals are going to break!

    Western Animation 
  • In Danny Phantom, Sidney Poindexter's spirit is trapped in an alternate spirit dimension version of 1954 Casper High. The mirror he left behind in his old locker, 724, serves as a portal between the worlds. Poindexter can't normally cross through the mirror portal, but as he witnesses several bullying attempts on the present-day real world side, he is able to use his ghostly power to reverse the bullying and turn it back onto the bullies.
  • Final Space: The Big Bad Invictus in its true form is imprisoned in a special cage anchored to several black holes deep within Final Space, but its astral form can still roam Final Space and exert some measure of its power freely, and its astral form at one point even succeeds in breaching the normal universe and possessing several members of the Team Squad.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures
    • Shendu the demon sorcerer was sealed into the form of a statue when the magical talismans that control his power were removed from his body. When in this form he retains the ability to speak and summon Shadowkhan that do his bidding.
    • This is also in play for his siblings and eventually him in the Netherworld. While the portals are sealed to prevent them from accessing the mortal realm again, they can still communicate with the Dark Hand through a mirror. Later, Daolon Wong uses a spell to talk to Shendu in the void.
  • Mighty Max:
    • Skullmaster spends the first season sealed up inside the Earth's core, but still manages to command his various minions on the surface.
    • In the episode "Souls of Talon" the titular Talon, a soul-devouring monster from the astral plane, throws itself against the gateway to the physical world in an attempt to escape. Unbeknownst to Talon, its attack causes natural disasters in the human world, which draws the attention of Max, Norman, and Virgil.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated has the Nibiru Entity's Crystal Sarcophagus, which in this incarnation has been the force that's driven people crazy enough to commit the costumed crimes that the series is most famous for. When it and the entity are destroyed, the Gang winds up in a timeline where it never existed in the first place, where the crimes and monsters that made Crystal Cove famous never existed, and all parties involved are far better adjusted.
  • Teen Titans: In "Spellbound", Malchior is imprisoned in a Tome of Eldritch Lore, but it doesn't prevent him from communicating with Raven and manipulating her into freeing him.
  • This is the premise of the series The Trap Door; the setting is an ancient castle ruled by an Eldritch Abomination; Underneath the castle is a cavern full of slightly less civilized monsters, accessible only through a trap door. In every episode, the trap door opens and some creature pops out and causes trouble for Berk, the Thing Upstairs' servant. In one episode, Berk tries to nail the trap door shut to put an end to the nonsense, which does little good at all.


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Alternative Title(s): Sealed Evil In A Colander


He Exists Outside Time Now

Even though Danny has won and his future has been altered, it's hinted that the Ultimate Enemy may one day return.

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