Trillian: "Time journey"?
Ford Prefect: You mean... this isn't the afterlife?
Barman: The afterlife? No, sir.
Arthur: So... we're not dead?
Barman: Sir is most evidently alive, otherwise I would not attempt to serve sir.
For whatever reason, a character is convinced that he's died and is now in the afterlife. If there's someone nearby (especially if they're very attractive), they tend to be taken for an angel. This usually lasts very briefly, until someone tells the not-quite-dead character otherwise, or until they notice something that conflicts with the theory.
This usually happens if the last thing a character remembers is being caught up in some unsurvivable disaster.
Not to be confused with This Isn't Heaven, when they are in the afterlife... just not the one they were expecting; and Rerouted from Heaven, where they've gone to the wrong one. See also Mistaken for Undead.
- Gantz: Gantz collects its players by copying the bodies and memories of people (and animals) that just died and bring them to its room. Most people think this is the waiting room before they go to afterlife until the experienced players explain the situation. One time it especially didn't help when a famous Buddhist priest was brought there too and encouraged everyone to keep praying.
- In Saiyuki, Hakkai wakes up in Gojyou's room after passing out from blood loss and remarks that he expected Hell to look more interesting than this. Gojyou then hovers over him and tell him that, no, he's not dead yet.
- Played with when Goku and Hakkai get their spirits trapped in a magical gourd (so one could argue they were dead at the time), ending up in a weird empty desert. Hakkai once again makes a comment about Hell being a boring-looking place, and the two briefly speculate on whether they're really dead (with Goku quickly derailing the conversation by asking if they can eat food in Hell), ultimately deciding that they probably aren't and that they need to find a way out.
- In an early Thorgal comic, Thorgal falls into a gorge and wakes up days later in a beautiful garden. He's initially convinced that he's in Valhalla, but in reality he's in a magical place Beneath the Earth.
- In an Archie Comics story, a chemistry lab explosion knocks Mr. Weatherbee out. When he comes to, the first thing he sees is Betty and Veronica in angel costumes for a school play and he assumes he's gone to Heaven. Then he sees Archie in a devil costume and flees in horror.
- The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers - Norbert the Nark sneaks into the Freaks' apartment looking for drugs. He cuts open their inflatable sofa, which was filled from their nitrous oxide tank. He gets a big whiff and hallucinates that he's in Heaven, and blissfully decides he doesn't need his gun or his clothes. He's later seen skipping naked down the street, and later at the police station can't remember a thing.
- In X-Statix, Venus' search for her family - who were seemingly vaporized when her powers first turned her into a ball of sentient energy - eventually reveals that they are all alive and well; her powers had teleported them all into a pocket dimension, and they'd just assumed that they had all died and gone to Heaven.
- In Astonishing X-Men Colossus emerges from his prison in the Benetech compound and takes out several guards before Kitty Pryde stops him. When Colossus recognizes Kitty's voice, he falls to his knees and sobs "Am I...God please...am I finally dead?"
- In a flashback scene in X-Men: Gold #28, Colossus recalled this moment and confirmed that he genuinely thought he was in Heaven since the first thing he saw after escaping was Kitty, the woman he still loved.
- A tragic example in The Youth in the Garden; a soldier with mortal wounds gets transported from the American Civil War to Equestria and as he lies dying, he sees Fluttershy's garden, her peaceful animals, and Canterlot in the distance and concludes that he is in Heaven, and Fluttershy is an angel. Moments later, he dies for real.
- In the Naruto fanfic Scorpion Disciple, Naruto has a near-death experience and suddenly finds himself in what looks like a sewer. He immediately protests that he wasn't that bad, before the Kyuubi corrects him that no, this isn't his afterlife.
- In The Chronicles of the Fellowship, after Lucy wakes up in Minas Tirith and finds Gandalf watching her, she assumes that shes in Heaven because she still believes that Gandalf was lost in Moria, prompting him to observe with a smile that neither of them are dead.
- In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Smurfing In Heaven", Empath thinks that he's in heaven with all his fellow Smurfs who have died. It turns out to be a magical illusion created by Ares the god of war, who wanted to lure Empath into receiving his gift of godhood.
- In Pony POV Series, to cheer up Button Mash, Princess Celestia takes him and his mother on a small tour. When they teleport to near the sun, protected by a force field, Button's mother thinks the sea of fire below them is Tartarus until Celestia corrects her.
- RWBY: Epic of Remnant: Shortly before they arrived in Remnant, the Servants woke up in Angra Mainyu's pseudo Reality Marble. Hassan assumed they were in Purgatory until they find out the truth.
- In Happy Feet, Mumble ends up trying to chase down a fishing boat in order to ask the "aliens" why they're taking the penguins' fish. Exhausted, he washes up on an Australian shore and is put into a penguin exhibit. He wakes up in a strangely quiet and bright area with other penguins walking around in a mindless state. He asks the nearest one, who's staring blankly into nothingness, where he is. The penguin tells him "You're in Heaven, Dave". Then Mumble walks into a glass wall and tries to take a swim, only to see strange giants looking at him. That's because he's in a zoo, and the "strange giants" are actually humans.
- Rango: Rango gets lost in the desert and eventually runs into the Spirit of the West. He asks, "Is this Heaven?" only for the Spirit to say, "If it were, we'd be eating pop tarts with Kim Novak."
- In Servitude, Godfrey passes out drunk and awakens with Josh hovering over him. He thinks Josh to be Jesus.
- In The Frisco Kid, Rabbi Avram (Gene Wilder) passes out after having too many berries at an Indian Bonfire, even though Tommy (Harrison Ford), his gunslinger companion, tells him to ease off. He awakes in a small room, attended by a silent figure in robes, with a large cross on the wall. When he starts to panic, thinking he died, Tommy shows up and tells him that he was brought to a local monastery for help.
- In Never Weaken Harold Lloyd, thinking he just committed suicide by way of rigging the trigger of a gun to pull with a string when a door is opened, assumes he's gone to heaven when he opens his eyes and sees an angel. Turns out it's just a statue, and his chair was whisked away by a steel construction girder leaving him dangling hundreds of feet in the air.
- In Field of Dreams, Shoeless Joe Jackson is confused about finding himself in a baseball field after he died.
Shoeless Joe Jackson: Hey! Is this heaven?Ray Kinsella: No. It's Iowa.
- Played for laughs in Diamonds Are Forever - Bond is knocked out and put into an incinerator in a coffin - when things are looking desperate the lid suddenly opens and Shady Tree, one of the diamond smuggling group, angrily curses him out. Bond smiles "Now, don't tell me - you're Saint Peter."
- Played for laughs in Bruce Almighty, when God teleports Bruce to a tall, snowy location to speak to him.
Bruce: Is this heaven?God: No, this is Mount Everest. You should watch the Discovery Channel more often.
- In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, after being teleported to the eponymous restaurant in a rather sudden and spectacular way, the protagonists find themselves sprawled on the floor and start morosely monologuing about how they must have all died in an abrupt explosion. Arthur comments: "Not so much an afterlife, more a sort of après-vie."
- A darker example occurs in Return from the Stars. An astronaut gets lost on a dark planetoid, and the protagonist arrives to rescue him. He finds the astronaut, who has gone insane: he is convinced that he has died and gone to the afterlife, and eventually attacks the hero and runs away, never to be found again.
- Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels:
- The Nac Mac Feegle believe that the world is Heaven, and that getting killed there merely means having to go back to "life" in their former world. Given that the Feegle are ex-Faerie who did considerable dimension hopping, there may be an element of truth to this.
- In Wyrd Sisters, after Felmet finally goes off the deep end, he runs around convinced he's dead, to the confusion of everyone else present (including Death). He even goes around in a bedsheet as Death keeps trying to convince him that he's not dead, even when standing on one of the castle battlements. When he falls, however, Death is waiting at the bottom, for real this time.
- Also in Wyrd Sisters, the Fool gets stabbed by a dagger, and Magrat clutches him to her bosom in grief. When she realises it was a fake dagger, she asks him if he's dead, to which he replies "I think I must be. I think I'm in paradise."
- Werewolves don't have Magic Pants, so when Angua turns back into a human on the Klatchian ship in Jingo, she's naked. She then proceeds to crash into the room of the ailing Prince Khufurah, who says "I believe that I have died and gone to Paradise. Are you a houri?" Angua, characteristically, replies, "I don't have to take that kind of language, thank you," and jumps out the ship's window.
- Ciaphas Cain: After being teleported in the nick of time from a Necron ship by Space Marines, Ciaphas wakes up in a bright light hearing impossibly huge voices, and deduces that he's finally died and is about to meet the Emperor, and gets ready to change the subject of conversation to something other than his behavior as soon as possible. However, as his eyes adjust he realizes he's in an infirmary, and the voices are huge because they're coming from eight-foot-tall Super Soldiers.
- When Hans wakes up in the American hospital in 1632, he assumes he's dead and the black-skinned human watching over him must be an angel of death.
- In The Twenty-One Balloons, when the protagonist awakes after his balloon crash, he asks the man who finds him if he's in heaven. The man replies that "This isn't heaven. This is the Pacific island of Krakatoa."
- In New Moon, Edward attempts Suicide by Cop, thinking that Bella has died. She finds him just before he reveals himself to humans, and he briefly believes that the Volturi have already killed him and that he's in the afterlife with Bella.
- In Angels of the Silences by Simon Bestwick, two girls are murdered and return as ghosts. They don't realise at first that they are still on earth, and when a bus comes down the road towards them, they initially think it is a bus to the afterlife (it's not.)
- The title villain in Goldfinger has captured James Bond at his factory and has him strapped down on a circular saw table, expecting him to talk. Bond tries willing himself to die, and comes to disoriented and thinking he's in heaven, before he realizes he's being wheeled drugged through a New York airport.
- In Relativity, Matthew Bruce is nearly killed in an explosion. When he regains consciousness in a burning building, surrounded by flames, he briefly thinks he is in hell and one of the rescue workers is the devil.
- Judge Dee's striking resemblance to the Chinese judge of the dead is repeatedly lampshaded over the series, when a scared runaway thinks he's dead when he tries to go back to his room and sees the judge there, and in one instance obtaining a confession from a woman by making her think she's dead and going to hell if she doesn't comply (with his assistants masquerading as demons).
- An episode of Fraggle Rock had Boober and Wembley pulling scare pranks on each other until Wembley pulls one and thinks he scared Boober so hard that he blew up. Later, Wembley falls for one of his own pranks and faints, when he comes to, he thinks he blew up, later, he meets Boober, he thinks they are in The Land of Having Blown Up which strangely looks like Boober's bedroom.
- In one Scrubs episode, Ted is on the roof trying to work up the courage to jump, and then Dr Kelos startles him and he falls. He lands in the huge pile of garbage that the Janitor said he could get rid of, but has apparently just been piling up at the back of the hospital.
Ted: Is this heaven?
Janitor: No. It's garbage.
- In an episode of One Foot in the Grave, Victor falls asleep and awakens in a fog, believing his backyard to be purgatory.
- In Tensou Sentai Goseiger Vs Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, Kotoha thinks she is dead after Hyde and Moune explain they are Gosei Angels and have come to pick her up (they just need her to help everyone fight.)
- In one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Ro and Geordi are caught in a transporter accident and become insubstantial and invisible to the rest of the crew. Ro assumes they're both dead but Geordi insists on searching for a scientific explanation. He finds one.
- Happens in The Lost Room, whenever Wally uses the Bus Ticket on someone. Specifically, he usually tells that that, for their "crimes against humanity" (really, minor annoyances), he condemns them to Hell. After touching them with the Ticket, the people are transported above a road near Gallup, New Mexico, immediately falling to the ground. These people can be forgiven for thinking that a road in the desert is Hell. The orderly whom Joe sees on the road is seen with his hands spread out walking towards the sun.
- Jessie: Ravi thinks this after he is crushed by Bertram's hoarding pile.
- Ravi: Oh Gods! Is that you?Bertram: No it's Bertram! You're not dead!
- Smallville: In "Zod", Martha Kent carries/drags a barely conscious Lois Lane into the Fortress of Solitude for shelter after their plane crashed. The Jor-El AI chats with Martha for a bit and then teleports them home. Later, Lois doesn't remember what happened, but mentions seeing beautiful crystals everywhere and says she thought she was in Heaven.
- In the first season of Red vs. Blue, Sarge gets shot in the head and travels to a black-and-white version of Blood Gulch, where he meets Church, who died earlier that season. He asks if Church is an angel, which he says yes to (he's really a ghost, and trying to extort money from Sarge). Come season 8, we find out that there's no such thing as ghosts and possibly no afterlife, and that grayscale Blood Gulch is an armor protocol known as lockdown that occurs when a soldier takes severe damage.
- It happens again in season five when Sarge's unflinching dedication to Red Command leads him to believe he died in combat and has himself buried. He ends up falling into an underground cavern beneath Blood Gulch and believes himself in Hell, which is confirmed in his mind when Donut arrives.
- Invoked for the Space Wolves of Warhammer 40,000: the native tribes of Fenris are forever fighting among each other at a pre-Renaissance level, and believe that dying in battle leads to them being taken into the sky where they will fight forever in the company of their ancestors and the Allfather. What actually happens is that the Wolf Priests select the not-quite dead warriors and bring them to the Fang, where they begin the long process that turns them into Space Marines, and for the survivors, well, an eternity of fighting. No word on what the Space Wolves believe happens when they die.
- In Goblins Quest 3, Blount wakes up in a dark room being bit by a wolf, and the first thing he sees is his own tombstone. He doesn't fall for it though, and just remarks that somebody must want him to think he's dead.
- In Crisis Core, Zack mistakes Aerith for "an angel?" after he wakes up flat on his back in her flowers. In fairness, his last memory was of him falling a fair distance from Plate-top, and crashing through her church's roof.
- Final Fantasy XIII-2 has something of a subversion. In Sazh's DLC episode, he and Dajh encounter a temporal anomaly while Sazh is flying an airship; he comes to in Serendipity, which in fairness is described as a sort of final paradise for those who meet an unfortunate fate. However, the casino owner patiently explains that although he's no longer technically among the living, he's not firmly dead yet, and depending on him and his actions, he might still be able to return to life.
- In Girl Genius, at one point Klaus rejects the notion of being dead because he hurts too much. Then Gil tells him something, and he declares that it's very unfair — he must be dead, and he still hurts.
- When Robot from Gunnerkrigg Court is re-activated, the first thing he sees is Katerina's smiling face, and he asks: "Am I in heaven? I see an angel before me!" (Later on, the Court robots' shared mythology has Katerina in the role of an angel figure of sorts.)
- Schlock Mercenary had Karl Tagon (already as a head in a jar) expressing the opinion that he's dead and in heaven. His version of Heaven, evidently, involves cute ladies kicking ass while flying robots sing Ride of the Valkyries.
- In Doc Rat, his reaction to coming to with Danielle looking anxiously down on him.
- In Red's Planet, one alien wonders if they really are on an alien planet, they might be dead and in the afterlife.
- RPG World: Eikre runs off a ship into the ocean and nearly drowns. The last thing he sees is an angel...who turns out to be Reka rescuing him, which he thinks is "just as good."
- In The Order of the Stick, when Elan awakens in the Empire of Blood, he assumes Malack to be the "lizard grim reaper" and himself and the others with him to be dead. (It doesn't help that the first thing Malack says to him is "I will have the pleasure of escorting you to your final fate.") Haley tries to convince him Malack's just an albino lizardfolk (who, coincidentally, happens to be the cleric of a God of Death, among other things), but Elan remains set in his delusion until the next comic.
- In Freefall, Clippy the robot is dismantled to prevent him carrying out a plot for world domination ordered by Mr Kornada. When he is reactivated, he believes that he has died and gone to an afterlife, partly because he's in a White Void Room (an electronically isolated secure room, to contain any hostile actions he might take before matters get straightened out) and the first person he sees is his rightful owner, who Kornada had convinced him was dead so that he would accept Kornada's orders.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! when the four hibernating ninjas awaken in the present day, they wonder if this strange new world is the afterlife. Lari decides it can't be, because he has to go to the bathroom, and "I don't think the dead pee."
- Parodied in the video The White Room from the Chris and Jack YouTube's channel, a guy named Cody wakes up in a White Void Room in front of a man who says he's dead and he can ask any question about his life or the entire existence before the next step in the afterlife. Cody asks various questions, from "Are aliens real?" to "Did my girlfriend know that I cheated on her?". In the end, it's revealed that Cody is actually alive and the White Void Room is a fake scenery that goes down with Cody's girlfriend yelling at him for cheating on her. The man that answered the questions is actually the host of a Cheaters-esque TV show.
- AFK: Serena thinks she's gone to Heaven after she woke up in the game world, as she'd been slowly dying of some condition on Earth. Running into Vanya's people quickly shatters that idea.
- In South Park episode "The Death Of Eric Cartman", Cartman assumes that he is a ghost when all of the other boys stop speaking to him.
- In the 1950 Looney Tunes short The Hypo-Chondri-Cat, mice Hubie and Bertie torment the neurotic cat Claude by convincing him he has various ailments, making him pass out at the prospect of surgery, then dressing him in an angel costume for when he wakes up. They finish by surreptitiously attaching a helium balloon to Claude so that he can ascend to "Heaven."
- In the 1961 Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color short Kids is Kids, Huey, Dewey and Louie trick their Uncle Donald into thinking an accident with a boulder has killed him and that he's now an angel.
- In the 1952 Herman and Katnip short Mice-Capades, Herman and his mouse friends concoct an especially elaborate scheme, complete with a vinegar bottle mislabeled as "poison," angel costumes, and a cotton-ball Fluffy Cloud Heaven, in order to make Katnip think he's dead and has to earn his wings by serving the mice a banquet.
- In The Simpsons episode "Million Dollar Abie", Abe thinks that he has been euthanized. Meeting a guy dressed as Charlie Chaplin at first confirms this assumption for him, but then he gets quite puzzled upon encountering his whole family at a restaurant. He assumes that either Bart or Homer must have run amok.
- The Smurfs purposely evoke this trope on Gargamel in the episode "Heavenly Smurfs" to make him think he's being sent to his final judgment in order for him to change his ways and stop chasing after the Smurfs. However, the charade is revealed when one of the Smurfs posing as a visiting angel loses one of his wings.
- The Stunt Dawgs once tricked Fungus into thinking he's dead and needed to relinquish his controlling interest on them to enter heaven instead of hell.
- Justice League:
Copperhead: It was Judgment Day! And we got sent to the bad place! The BAD place!
- In "The Savage Time", Wonder Woman rescues an unconscious Steve Trevor. When he wakes up, he assumes he's in Heaven and she is an angel.
- In "Kid Stuff", Mordred uses a spell to trap all the adults in the world in another dimension. Copperhead has a panic attack until the others assure him that they are not dead.
- In "Flash and Substance", Mirror Master traps Flash and Linda Park in a mirror dimension. Linda assumes they are dead until Flash corrects her.
- Played for laughs in Hey Arnold! Where Grandpa Phil believes he had died after turning 81 due to a "family curse".
Phil: I must be in Heaven now. (opens his eyes, sees Oskar) Oh no! Oskar's here! This must be the other place!
- Inverted and Parodied in the episode "Squidward The Unfriendly Ghost" of Spongebob Squarepants. Spongebob and Patrick thinks that they accidentally killed Squidward after melting down a wax statue of him and, when he comes off the shower with his bathrobe, they think that it's his ghost and start to beg him for pity. Squidward decides to take advantage of this and makes being his servants in order to not suffer his "ghost wrath", but Patrick and Spongebob are so clumsy taking orders that they end up making Squidward angry. Spongebob thinks that he's angry because he didn't have a proper funeral and couldn't Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, so he calls all of Bikini Bottom to bury Squidward. Even more angry, Squidward gives up and reveals the truth. Spongebob and Patrick grab the Idiot Ball and still don't believe him, Spongebob claiming that Squidward isn't accepting his own death, and then put him in a bubble in order to "get him up to the Great Beyond". The last scene shows a scared Squidward, trapped in the bubble and floating in the sky with seagulls flying around him.
- In the last episode of The Legend of Korra, Kuvira believes she has died after her spirit vines cannon explodes. She was just transported to the Spirit World.
- In one episode of Rugrats, Phil was being chased by Angelica's toy car. When the others got him out of the way at the last moment, he opened his eyes and said "Am I in Heaven? Where's my goldfish?".
- In Kim Possible Movie: So the Drama, after getting clotheslined by Shego, Ron passes out, then wakes up surrounded by Mexican decorations, prompting him to ask "Is this Heaven?". Turns out he and Kim are just tied up in the Bueno Nacho warehouse.
- We Bare Bears: In "The Limo", Panda nearly gets hit by a bus, and wakes up in what appears to be Fluffy Cloud Heaven. Then T-Pain shows up and explains to Panda that they're on the former's tour bus.
- In the first episode of The Owl House, Luz, upon seeing the demonic realm of the Boiling Isles for the first time, asks, "Did I die? Is this the bad place?"
- A Formula 1 team owner recalled that once, when one of his drivers had an accident, he was knocked unconscious and taken to the hospital. When he came to, he was being fussed over by some pretty and blond (and female) nurses and thought he was in heaven until he saw his concerned team owner standing to the side.
- According to The Travels of Marco Polo, the leader of The Hashshashin exploited the idea behind this trope by running a fake paradise in a hidden valley. New recruits to the sect would be drugged and taken there after which, they were convinced that their leader could get them into Heaven at will, making them fearless on missions. This story looks rather dubious in the light of what is known today about the Hashshashin and their strongholds, and Marco Polo is often thought to be an Unreliable Narrator in several respects. Still, the fact that he propagated this story shows that the thinking behind the trope is Older Than Print.