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Sealed Evil in a Can

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"I hope it's not too late to return this."

"Old folk saying: 'You can catch the devil, but you can't hold him long.'"

Long ago, An Ancient People faced a terrible evil. Using various methods, they bound the evil into a prison from which they thought it could never escape.

It did.

Sealed Evil in a Can, as the title suggests, is a way to suddenly introduce a villain, especially one that is legendary and powerful. It also explains why the villain hasn't done anything up to that point: It escaped very, very recently.

A sealed evil is often introduced as a Greater-Scope Villain: the direct Big Bad's plan will be to unseal the can of some ancient God of Evil, hoping they'll get some of that great power as a reward. Of course, Evil Is Not a Toy; if they succeed, it usually turns out that the Sealed Evil does not care for them (or may have even been manipulating them into freeing them) and disposes of them, making the Sealed Evil the true Final Boss. Sealed Evil almost never rewards those who release it. It may even act like the malevolent flavor of a Jackass Genie, twisting their releasers' wishes back on them. (Of course, occasionally the Big Bad actually succeeds in controlling the sealed evil.)


The hero occasionally breaks the seal themselves due to lack of information or active manipulation by the villain.

Or perhaps it was awoken by unsuspecting miners or archaeologists who Dug Too Deep and found something better left buried and undisturbed — often ignoring every single warning they found before releasing it.

Oddly enough, no matter what the cause of the seal being broken, it seems to always happen 1,000 years after the evil was first sealed. Yet nobody ever seems to know that the evil is about to reemerge in that time frame. (To be fair, 1,000 years is plenty of time for people to forget about something, especially if more immediate concerns arise in the meantime.)

Either way, if a Sealed Evil is introduced into a story, expect it to escape at some point. This brings up the primary question "Why did they just seal it, as opposed to KILL it?" The answer tends to vary; but usually it's a variant of The Punishment (for both the sealed and everyone else), Thou Shalt Not Kill (heroes can take pity and/or show mercy towards the oddest things), and/or As Long as There is Evil. Maybe it couldn't be killed for good (or more commonly, the conditions weren't right to deal the final blow), so sealing it was the next best thing. Another common excuse is the Balance Between Good and Evil; if they'd killed the ancient evil, then a bigger, badder evil would've taken its place, thus sealing it away neutralizes the threat but also keeps it in the world and maintains the balance. And a good excuse that is often used is that the evil was way too strong, so even the most powerful heroes of the past couldn't kill it, but the sealing spell worked just fine. Or maybe it was killed and the method of breaking the seal was resurrecting it.


Expect the mere release of the SEIAC to cause a World-Wrecking Wave, Walking Wasteland, and sundry other disasters. That said, being cooped up for centuries is likely to have weakened the SEIAC, meaning that it needs some time to recover its lost strength. This could mean that the hero(es) has a chance to seal it back up, or even destroy it once and for all.

Since this trope can be traced back to Greek mythology, it's Older Than Feudalism. Note that, minus your standard speculative fiction elements, it's functionally identical to a plot where a horrible criminal escapes from or is released from prison. Not to be confused with Exactly What It Says on the Tin — although your Evil-in-a-Can may be clearly labeled as such. But no one will ever read or believe the label.

This is an extremely common plot and backstory in video games, especially Role-Playing Games, because it's such a simple backstory: the Big Bad, put away by some ancient hero, has escaped, and you (the player) must put them back in/kill them for good. Or, as mentioned above, the current Big Bad wishes to release the Greater-Scope Villain to use its power, and the hero must stop them. With the second plotline, you can expect the heroes to fail to stop the unsealing, and the sealed evil to be the Final Boss instead of the direct Big Bad, and for the sealed evil to be defeated anyway. Presumably, if the sealed evil was never going to be released, it never would have been mentioned in the first place.

If the seal isn't all that tight, then it's a Leaking Can of Evil.

Depending on the nature of the seal, the evil may or may not be able to perceive or interact with the immediate surroundings of the prison, or have anything to really do . In the case that it cannot and does not, the Fridge Horror And I Must Scream is pretty much never addressed or acknowledged, mainly to keep people from feeling sorry for the villain, even though the Driven to Madness aspect could easily make for a villain who's even worse when unpackaged than they were when they were first sealed in.

Compare Put on a Prison Bus, when a character (usually a villain) gets arrested instead of being magically sealed away. Not to be confused with Monstrous Seal. That trope refers to animal seals.

No Real Life Examples, Please!


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    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Dark Depths, after certain conditions are met — i.e. the costly "unsealing" process of removing ten ice counters from it — creates a large and damn near unkillable monster.
    • For a much older example, consider the Bottle of Suleiman, which upon being sacrificed has a 50/50 chance of either releasing a fairly powerful djinn that joins your forces or else simply blowing up in your face.
    • And then there's the Tomb of Urami, who nets you a big demon at the price of sacrificing all of your lands.
    • Yawgmoth, the guy who makes planeswalkers look like muggles and Dominaria's version of the Devil, was sealed in a whole other plane back when he was a mortal. He wanted back in and spent thousands of years in a battle of wits with Anti-Hero Urza with his freedom as the stakes.
    • In the Zendikar expansion, a group of Eldritch Abominations called the Eldrazi were got sealed away by Sorin Markov and two other guys, turning all of Zendikar into a prison for them. The final set in the Zendikar block, Rise of the Eldrazi, sees them loosed on the Multiverse.
    • A plot-relevant example can be found in the Innistrad expansion: The Helvault was created by the vampire planeswalker Sorin Markov to seal away demons that Avacyn couldn't outright defeat. The plot of the expansion is set in motion when, by twist of fate, Avacyn herself becomes sealed inside the Helvault.
    • The demon Withengar, also from the Innistrad expansion, was sealed inside Elbrus, the Binding Blade. If the Blade tastes blood, Withengar is freed.
    • Certain cards allow players to set up Sealed Evil in a Can situations. Cards like Oblivion Ring and Journey to Nowhere let a player seal an opponent's creature in a can but any card that can remove the enchantment frees them. Summoner's Egg goes the other direction, letting a player seal a creature from their hand and bringing it to the battlefield for free if the Egg gets destroyed.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!! has several monsters like this, the most memorable being Exodia (who is split up into five pieces and allows you to win the game should you have all five in your hand; in the anime, it did take a huge ritual to unseal it) and all versions of the three God Cards (Egyptian, Sacred Beasts, and "Wicked Gods", all of which need three sacrifices to bring out and have devastating power, and two of which have fusions of themselves that are even more powerful). In the anime, they are so powerful that most of them are sealed up themselves, and it's considered madness for anyone to try and duel with them in their deck.
    • The Hidden Arsenal storyline has the three dragons of the Ice Barrier, sealed away long ago by a powerful sage. Unfortunately, the people of the Ice Barrier get so desperate in a war they decided to unleash them. When they got to the last, Trishula, it wound up getting them all killed. The three dragons were re-sealed, but eventually got infected by the Evilswarm and let out again.

    Comic Strips 
  • In "The Garden" segment of Garfield: His 9 Lives, Garfield (who is a kitten here) and Cloey (his owner in this life) are given a magical garden by Uncle Tod when he joins the circus, under the condition that they never open the crystal box on the checkered toadstool. The trope is subverted here because, out of loyalty to Uncle Tod, they decide not to open it.
  • In the comic strip Wormy, the title dragon owned a collection of magical orbs containing vicious demons, which a human wizard attempted to steal. This being a humor comic, Wormy used the orbs as snooker balls.
  • In Hsu and Chan, the Tanaka brothers fight off a demon invasion by sealing them in various trinkets and keepsakes.

    Fan Works 
  • In Funeral Of a Madman Half a millennia ago, a warmonger general committed outrageous war crimes during his reign to which led his execution, the souls of his army, sealed away by dark prophet; hoping to ensure the people of Europe and China mainly, that he never returns.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has had at least four examples of this in the show; unsurprisingly, it shows up quite frequently in its fanfiction as well.
  • In The Gods Awaken, Nyarlathotep is trapped in a glass prison after the people of the Boiling Isles were able to overpower him. However, he had spent the few thousand years exploiting a weakness in the glass to escape.
    • How Do You Shoot a Gun with Hooves? has Tydal who turns out to be Not Evil, Just Misunderstood.
    • Justice League of Equestria:
      • Mare of Steel: At the end of the story, Brainiac is petrified by the Elements of Harmony, and Rainbow Dash/Supermare puts him in storage in the Fortress of Solitude for safe keeping.
      • The Princess of Themyscira: Ares's master plan is to unleash the army of demons created by the Olympians' war with the Titans and then locked away in Tartarus, in order to start a Forever War. While he briefly succeeds in releasing them, Twilight (empowered by the Helmut of Nabu) sends them back, and Ares himself ends up sealed with them.
    • Titan from My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic, at least till he breaks out from his dimensional prison.
    • In addition to Discord (who is imprisoned as in canon at the beginning of Reharmonized Ponies), the Pony POV Series has several others. One is Morning Star, Celestia's Fallen Alicorn brother, who was imprisoned for trying to take over the universe after deciding he was better than the Elders and being as evil as Discord if not worse. He was released by Havoc to fight in the Alicorn/Draconequi War, where he was either killed (though considering Evil still exists, he wasn't killed as thoroughly as it's possible to kill a God) or imprisoned in Hell (Havoc's domain) after the war as part of the peace treaty between the two according to Word of God. Another recurring one is Grogar, a G1 My Little Pony villain and (in this series) Darkseid Expy who is sealed away in another dimension. It's stated he returns every five hundred years unless stopped and has to be resealed. In his case it may be justified because, in Dark World, he's been shown to be powerful enough to go toe to toe with Discord and have a chance of winning. Discord shows a great deal of anger that Grogar doesn't seem all that mad about this, in direct contrast to Discord himself, who can't stand his can.
    • The Powers of Harmony has Nightmare Moon's corrupted army, which was sealed in Tartarus. Keeping them sealed, and then preventing Cetus from releasing them, is a driving part of the plot.
      • Discord is also mentioned several times. Turns out, Harmony is trying to arrange his release simultaneously to her own, in order to purify them both and restore their balance.
    • The Bridge:
      • The Big Bad Bagan was sealed within Attu island for more than 70,000 years, until an archaeologist accidentally broke the seal enough for him to wake up and began manipulating events remotely, eventually culminating in seizing control of Dimension Tide and using it to transport himself (and the kaiju) to Equestria.
      • The original Gabara was sealed in a chamber beneath Aokigahara, but was able to astral project to torment people.
      • Grogar, the Nexus of Dark Magic and a being on par with the Big Bad, was imprisoned by Harmony in his own realm of Tambelon, the entrance to which is beneath the Crystal Empire. Chrysalis and Sombra are planning to release him.
    • In The Equestrian Wind Mage continuity, Majora has been imprisoned in the Dark World for countless years. The entire plot is driven by his minions working to free him.
    • The Great Alicorn Hunt has minor Arc Villain Malfunziona, a lesser cousin of Discord's who is basically a giant gremlin. His driving desire to break any complex technology he finds is why Equestria was stuck in Medieval Stasis for so long, until Bold Lion (an expy of Leonardo Da Vinci) locked him away in a secret compartment of a statue. He finally breaks his way free while Applejack's group is visiting a convention the statue is on display at and is resealed when Apple Bloom figures out how to design a prison that turns his own powers against him — he's locked inside a clockwork container that stays sealed because it's already broken, and any attempts to break it open will actually fix it, something Malfunziona's powers and nature won't allow him to do.
    • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: Corona starts off the series sealed inside the sun (she gets out, naturally). Discord, meanwhile, is not only in statue form, but Luna had the statue buried under a massive amount of cement (though she's well aware that if and when Discord gets out, that won't do squat, it's just to stop other people letting him out early). And then there's Tirek, who's been sealed away inside Tartarus for several thousand years (and who doesn't want to get out.).
    • The Power of the Equinox begins with Twilight Sparkle, trapped by Queen Chrysalis in the crystal caverns beneath Canterlot, striking a pitch-black crystal in her desperation and anger. Inside the cracked crystal awakens a malevolent being known as the Entity. It enters Twilight's body, transforming her into Dimmed Star.
    • In The Two Sides of Daring Do, it's revealed Ahuizotl was this. He was sealed in a temple for a long period until an archaeological expedition released him. The story ends with him being temporarily sealed away when a temple collapses on his head and buries him alive, though it's established it won't keep him out of things forever.
    • A Diplomatic Visit:
      • Chapter 8 of the sequel Diplomat at Large reveals that millennia ago, the merlions migrated into the area of the western oceans ruled by the monstrous octopus Squirk, and defeated and imprisoned him in a cage of wrought sea-silver and oceanic crystal, enchanted to keep his words from getting out. He's still there to this day, throwing tantrums inside his prison.
      • Grogar, the ancient ram sorcerer, imprisoned long ago. Twilight checks up on his prison in chapter 11, and finds that it's still shut tight, adding a few extra spells of her own to be safe.
      • The final arc of the fourth story, The Diplomat's Life, features Rabia, AKA the Pony of Shadows, who was imprisoned in Limbo when Starswirl and his fellow Pillars sacrificed themselves to lock him away.
  • Like above, Steven Universe and Gravity Falls have these instances, so it only figures that A Triangle in the Stars would have at least two:
    • Bill Cipher. He starts off as this - the statue he became in Gravity Falls' finale. Steven comes across it, which kicks off the plot. It's ultimately Subverted, since Bill finds that he's lost some powers. But over the course of the story, he steadily regains them...
    • Gabriel is another one. He had gotten thrown into the Void, though he wasn't evil then.
  • In the Ah! My Goddess fic Ah! Archfall!, Jago's alter ego Papa Jupiter is one of these to the point of him taking over and killing Lind and their son being the one thing he fears the most. Unfortunately, he is also Jago's One-Winged Angel and so he doesn't stay quite as sealed as Jago would like. It is also implied that Gandamak was one of these before he was released by a traitor and it is also implied that the mysterious Titans are or were examples of this.
  • Herobrine is this in Yognapped. Eons ago, Notch sealed him away beneath the bedrock, where he waited until Peva set him free. He then goes on a rampage to destroy his brother's land. It's revealed just before his defeat that he isn't really evil, and that Notch is a manipulative Jerkass.
  • Demon of Wind: This gets discussed in the story between characters as to why so many great evils are locked away instead of outrightly destroyed. It is also played with in the case of Rai who, though being locked away for being part of the bad guys, was at worst a Punch-Clock Villain, albiet an alarmingly effective one.
  • In Fuck The Jesus Beam, BaROCK Dominatus Caesar Inferno Vespucci Giovanni Goku Super Sexy Awesome Absolute GOD O.B.A.M.A., officially known as the greatest evil the world has ever known, is a Kenyan terrorist who was president for 14,657 consecutive terms and started 95 world wars who has been sealed away for 100 million years. Niamy releases him to deal with the Bombignats and Fetii, only for him to take control of them.
  • The Touhou fanfiction Imperfect Metamorphosis has both Rin Satsuki and the Shadow Youkai, who were sealed in the different ways and for different reasons, although while they're both thought of as evil only one of them actually is. The characters involved in the sealings also spend a lot of time justifying them, which ultimately boils down to the two being too damn tough to kill and requiring a different method.
  • In Retro Chill, Retro and Bob end up stuck in a box after his last bout, and they are accidentally freed by Rupert Chill and Earl.
  • Queen of All Oni: Since Daolon Wong's spell turned Jade evil instead of releasing Tarakudo, the latter is still trapped in the shadow realm, observing and mildly influencing events while building up his strength to escape.
    • Drago was once sealed inside a sword by Lo Pei, until some point in the future when he was released and enslaved by Monsieur Verde.
    • There's also the various evils sealed in the Vault of Endless Night under Mexico City and watched over by Nameless. We see a large number of Big Creepy-Crawlies, Demonic Spiders, and zombies, but it's implied that there are even worse things sealed away deeper down.
    • The Shadow Man, the JCA verse analogue to Dr. Facillier, upon his defeat was reduced to a Living Shadow and sealed within a container. Verde releases him in order to absorb his power, but he ends up resealed by the J-Team.
    • The story eventually elaborates on The Grand Design: a massive spell that guarantees sealed evils will stay sealed indefinitely, and that so many evils being released one after another in the series is the direct result of that Design finally beginning to fail, because The Chosen One, who is supposed to keep it going, died prematurely, and the new one, Jade, is now unable.
      Karasu: Then things start to happen, Chan. Things like a petrified demon not only waking up, but doing so in the hands of a man foolish enough to make a deal to a with it, and possessing the resources to release it.
  • Daemon from the Tamers Forever Series, Subverted in that he breaks himself out.
  • Time Lords and Terror: The plot is driven by Hydia's attempts to unleash the S'muz, in her misguided belief that it will aid her in her plans. She manages to free it, but after it kills her, the Mane Six proceed to use the Elements of Harmony to destroy it.
  • Shadows Awakening:
    • The Queen is trapped in Jade's mind, with the Tiger Talisman's power taking the form of two tigers that keep her from making any direct moves to control Jade's body. Eventually, her corruption reaches the point that the talisman separates them, freeing her from Jade. However, after she's defeated in the Final Battle, she's reabsorbed by Jade and trapped again.
    • During the Final Battle, Kyosuke ends up sucked inside the Urn of Wei Cheing by Uncle and Tohru.
  • Eugenesis has Unicron still sealed inside the Matrix, which proves to have been a bad decision all round. Not only does it weaken Rodimus just to hold the Matrix, it means he can't even use it for fear of letting Unicron lose. As the follow-up stories show, Unicron's mere presence proves corruptive, subverting the mind of an Autobot who came too close to an invalid Rodimus, and turning the Matrix Flame black.
  • In A New Chance For Adventure the attack on the Oldale Ruins by Team Magma releases an evil spirit that was responsible for the imprisonment of the Father Latios in the Soul Dew. And judging from Skailyn's anger, was responsible for a lot more evil in the ancient past.
  • Doctor Who:
  • In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Reflecting Balance, it is eventually revealed that the main villain was sealed into a magical stone chest by his twin sister, and broke free from his imprisonment shortly before the story began.
  • The plot of Hope for the Heartless — which takes place immediately after the events of The Black Cauldron — starts with the Horned King being contacted by the Fates while his soul endures agony inside the Black Cauldron. They bring him back to Prydain to fulfill a hard assignment under the period of eighteen months. If he doesn't fulfill it, his soul will be permanently trapped inside the Cauldron.
  • This is how Dragon Ball Z Abridged interprets the villain Bojack. In his movie it was said that he was released from his imprisonment by King Kai's death; in Abridged he's literally trapped within King Kai's planet (and will occasionally remark on the goings-on) and its immense gravity is said to be a side-effect of his high fighting power.
  • In the backstory of Ages of Shadow, Jade is sealed in the Shadow Realm by her family after her Face–Heel Turn, after more mundane ways of locking her up failed. Her entire plot during the Third Age (Chapters 3-6) is to gather the power to escape this imprisonment. Ultimately, Trace fixes the flaw in the seal that let her communicate with other worlds, locking her away for good.
  • In the Child of the Storm universe, Yggdrasil was created as the Can to end all Cans, serving simultaneously as a power-source to allow someone to fight Surtur a.k.a. the First Dark Phoenix on something approximating the same level (enough to stall him, at least), as a cosmic scale prison to keep Muspelheim locked away, and a complex locking mechanism to keep Surtur trapped in Musphelheim once he's lured there and siphon off his power. Needless to say, the Alliance of Realms were very thorough when they put it together.
    • Earth itself is also suggested to be the lock on any number of cosmic prisons, including Chthon's.
  • Double Subverted in Transition after Jinx and Raven teleport back to earth unconcious the police put her into a Cryo-Prison due to her increased power levels, what they don't know is: A) Jinx isn't a villain any more and B) Her powers are now semi autonomous like Ravens, meaning putting her in cryosleep doesn't turn them off, it lets them do anything they want to get Jinx free without her mind holding them back with things like "concern for collateral damage" or "ability to tell friend from foe".
  • In Robb Returns, it's eventually revealed that there's a secret chamber beneath the Hightower which contains an ancient gate, which House Hightower have been defending for their entire history. On the other side of that gate is something, which is constantly banging on it in an attempt to get free. After an encounter with it when it almost gets through, Willas Tyrell becomes convinced that it's the Drowned God of the Ironborn, which is later confirmed by research Sam Tarly does at the Citadel.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Olympian Journey: Thousands of years ago, most of the Greek gods (except Hestia and Prometheus, who helped in the sealing) were sealed in a magical amphora by the rebelling humanity. In the modern day, the urn is broken during a fight between Jackie and a Villain Team-Up of several of his old foes, releasing the gods. Though by this point, only Eris is still extant, the others having been reduced to semi-sentient essences that seek out and merge with hosts.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Uwe Boll's Alone in the Dark (2005) has this, though watching the movie it can be hard to tell exactly what it is. The movie talks about a dark world that mirrors our light world, but at other times, it suggests that the Abcane tribe that discovered it ARE the evil in the can.
  • In Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie, Death Mwauthzyx, the creator of God and Satan, is buried under Mount Fuji until Dark Onward accidentally blows up the mountain, releasing him.
  • The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms: The title monster, while more predatory and aggressive than actually evil, is certainly an example of this. The rhedosaurus was frozen in Arctic ice since the early Cretaceous, and is thawed out by nuclear testing. Somehow, it is still alive.
  • Beetlejuice. The titular ghostly con artist is trapped in the afterlife. He can be temporarily brought back to the real world (and returned) by saying his name three times, but can only be truly free if he marries a human female.
  • The Blob:
    • The original 1958 movie has the heroes create a sealed evil in a can out of the title menace by freezing the monster and transporting it to the North Pole. And now we have global warming...
    • The sequel Beware! The Blob: a oil worker brings home a frozen chunk of the Blob, sealed in a thermos. But not sealed too tightly or else we wouldn't have a movie.
    • The 1988 remake ends with the apocalyptic town preacher who was scarred by the bigger Blob and apparently driven quite insane in the interim revealing that he has kept a small part of the Blob in a glass container, and will unleash it when God will tell him it's time.
  • In The Brass Teapot Dr. Ling knows he can’t destroy the Teapot, so he intends to seal it in such a way that no one can ever find it again. At the end of the movie he casts the Teapot into the bottom of the ocean.
  • Josiah starts directly causing trouble in Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering when his physical body is mistakenly released from an old well by a thirsty drunk.
  • Deadtime Stories: Volume 1: In "Wet", a beachcomber finds a jade box containing a mermaid's hand. On learning there are other boxes contining the rest of the mermaid, he seeks to find the rest of them, despite being told that mermaids are buried like that to prevent them coming back. He some learns why to his regret.
  • Demolition Man: Phoenix was thawed out of cryo-prison to take out people who don't like Cocteau. But he has his own agenda and plans to release every other criminal in the prison to create his own army.
  • Ghostbusters
    • In the first movie, the Ghostbusters seal all of their captured ghosts in a large containment unit that can only stay locked with the help of a power grid. And it then gets unlocked.
    • The Big Bad of the sequel is a 16th-century despot whose spirit inhabits his portrait.
  • In the 2015 Goosebumps movie, every monster R. L. Stine ever wrote actually exists, locked away within their book's manuscript. Then someone unlocks one of the books...
  • In Green Lantern, Abin Sur defeated Parallax and sealed it away because he couldn't destroy it. It later breaks out and kills Abin Sur, but not before he's able to pass on his ring and powers to Hal Jordan, who now has to find a way to defeat Parallax again. CinemaSins even calls this trope "Parallaxing" thanks to it.
  • In Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Billy traps the Electric Gremlin in the Clamp Corp. phone system, where the villain suffers the torture of being on-hold.
  • Hellbound: Prosatanos is sealed inside his own tomb by Richard the Lionheart during the Crusades. He's set free six hundred years later by two tomb raiders.
  • The comic books as well as the movie adaption of Hellboy feature several such sealed-away monstrosities. In the movie, one demon was sealed in a consecrated urn, and the Ogdru Jahad, the Lovecraftian chaos gods of the Hellboy universe, lie imprisoned and waiting in the Void beyond the stars.
  • In Clive Barker's Hellraiser, the Cenobites will not come after you unless you solve the puzzle of the Lament Configuration.
  • In Highlander III: The Sorcerer, the villain Kane and the other two evil immortals are trapped in a cave for centuries, only being released in the present to attack Connor once again.
  • Another candidate for Most Egregious Example of All Time is the movie Hobgoblins, where a group of mischievous, killer, evil, mind-controlling, rapidly-nodding hobgoblin puppets are "sealed" inside a large, vault door, behind a barred gate, neither of which are, you know... locked. Worse yet, the man who's spent thirty years "guarding" these "sealed" horrors is a demolitions expert and always was. He ends up blowing them up. Too bad that didn't occur to him, you know... sometime during the last thirty years?
  • Jason X features Jason being frozen for 445 years as the government couldn't find a way to execute him given his immortal nature.
  • In Jumanji, the eponymous board game is buried underground for decades until it is unearthed by a construction team and found by Alan. "What if someone digs it up?" "May God have mercy on his soul."
  • The Keep: An ancient monster has been trapped in a castle for centuries, until some Nazis awaken it.
  • Played with and subverted in Kung Fu Hustle. The Beast is locked up in an insane asylum — but only because he was bored from the lack of worthy opponents to duel and so checked himself in. When Sing is snuck in by the Axe Gang to break out the Beast for recruitment and picks his cell door open, the audience sees the Beast as a bald old man with a pair of spectacles in a wifebeater and boxers sitting on the john reading a newspaper. Which makes the Beast Sealed Evil On the Can.
  • The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu has the titular Cthulhu himself sealed (by choice) somewhere under the sea. The last remaining Lovecraft must guard the relic of Cthulhu to prevent it's awakening.
  • Living Hell, a recent horror movie, has sublevel 4, vault 12, on a military base, which the protagonist doesn't want disturbed. The military had completely missed the hidden door in the vault till the protagonist waltzed in and told them there was something there... and we all know what to do with hidden doors, right? So, nice job there, hero.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe
    • In the film Doctor Strange (2016), the villain Dormammu is trapped in the Dark Dimension so that he cannot harm the main universe.
    • In Thor: Ragnarok, Hela was sealed away by Odin thousands of years ago, but with his death she is freed.
    • In the TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the ancient Inhuman The Hive is trapped on a distant planet so he cannot take over the Earth. See also the trope Hive Mind.
  • In The Mighty Boosh Live, the Hitcher and his minions are introduced into the show when a box is opened. The Hitcher was apparently sealed in the box for 200 years, for crimes against humanity. Including, but limited to raping a dolphin and driving contaminated swans to fights.
  • In the Mother of Tears, Mater Lachrymarum's powers are restored by the unearthing of a lost talisman, making it more a case of "Sealed Evil Artifact In A Can." Lachrymarum herself was apparently in some sort of self-imposed hibernation prior to this.
  • The Mummy Trilogy
  • Power Rangers
    • In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie, the shapeshifting Ivan Ooze had been trapped underground for 6,000 years until his containment chamber was accidentally unearthed by a construction crew and later opened by Lord Zedd.
    • In Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, Maligore is freed from a volcano on an island that is sealed in another dimension.
  • John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness had sealed evil in a can — The Anti-Christ, in fact, sealed in liquid form inside a giant glass and metal container in the basement of a church. In one of the sillier examples of this trope, the canister is designed in such a way that it can only be opened from the inside and the sole reason the son of Satan doesn't try to escape before the events of the film is that he was asleep.
    • And then there's The Thing (1982), sealed in a block of ice until some ill-advised Norwegians dig it out.
  • In Prometheus, the jars inside the structure, which can cause mutation or destruction to anything and everything that comes in contact with it. Later on, the expedition team discovers that the Engineer ship has a cargo hold full of these jars, along with a dormant Engineer who put himself in hypersleep, and intends to use the craft to destroy Earth via releasing the jars.
  • Quatermass and the Pit has an ancient alien evil buried under London for millions of years, finally unearthed by building works.
  • Queen of the Damned: Akasha's bloodthirsty rule over humanity was stopped when she and her husband turned into statues and slept for centuries. Lestat briefly awakens her shortly after being turned and again draws her attention when he starts to live in the limelight as a rock star.
  • Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale: In prehistoric times the Sami-folk of Lapland, tired of the tyranny of Santa Claus, lured him on weak ice, and he sank to the bottom of the lake, which subsequently froze through. He was cut out and covered with tons of sawdust to keep him from melting, and then layers upon layers of dirt and stones over the centuries, until the Korvatunturi mountain on the border of modern Finland and Russia was formed. And this Christmas an obsessed American millionaire decides to dig him out. He is not happy.
  • In The Return of the Living Dead and its first sequel, a brain-eating zombie and corpse-animating 245-Trioxin gas are accidentally released from a sealed metal canister.
  • In the movie The Ruins, as well as in the book, the protagonists are attacked by a sentient, carnivorous, and parasitic vine living on an ancient pyramid (or in a mine shaft, in the book). The vine is kept on the pyramid by a ring of deforested and salted land carved out of the jungle around it, and is effectively sealed up by a very stringent quarantine set up by the villagers living nearby. In the end, one woman manages to escape, but it is hinted that the vine is living inside of her, and in one alternate ending, it is directly shown that she has taken the vine with her back to civilization, unsealing the evil and letting it go free.
  • The Syfy Channel Original Movie Scarecrow has the title creature, who was Buried Alive underneath a farm until accidentally being released. Justified, as the creature is literally impossible to kill and will simply regenerate from anything done to it, including being shredded to bits, so sealing it away is the only way to stop it. At the end, the main character traps it in a boat and sinks it, imprisoning it at the bottom of a river.
  • Seventh Son features an evil witch queen who was sealed in a pit until a Blood Moon re-empowered her and allowed her to escape.
  • Played with in the film adaptation of The Shadow. A museum receives a silver sarcophagus from a mysterious source, with an inscription on it saying it's the coffin of Genghis Khan. When the security guard is left alone with it the coffin starts to shake around and eventually opens up to reveal a man in the dress of a Mongol warrior, who telepathically forces the security guard to shoot himself. However, it turns out it's not actually Genghis Khan, but a modern-day descendant.
  • Maxim Horvath in The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Twice. First, Balthazar traps him in the Grimhold. He escapes. Later, they were both sealed in a Chinese vase. They both escape ten years later. And the other Morganites; Sun Lok, Abigail, and Morgana Le Fay herself.
  • Khan Noonien Singh and his cryogenically frozen followers in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, when they're abandoned on Ceti Alpha V (which the crew of the Reliant mistake for Ceti Alpha VI after a natural disaster alters its orbit and destroys its environment).
  • Star Trek
    • "God" in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. He claimed to have been imprisoned on the planet in the center of the galaxy and wanted to "join" with the Enterprise so he could escape.
    • In Star Trek: Nemesis, the Enterprise crew find B4 dissassembled and put him back together. It turns out he's part of an elaborate evil scheme by Shinzon.
    • Star Trek Into Darkness: Khan; a former Evil Overlord accused of war crimes, and his crew of Augments were cryogenically frozen for centuries in a derelict ship... until Starfleet Intelligence found him. He ends the film this way, too.
  • The Stone Tape. The scientists investigating the Living Memory of a Screaming Woman imprinted into the stonework of a Haunted Castle accidentally 'erase' the scream. They give up their research, thinking they've blown their chance, and refuse to listen to the sole member of the team who insists the scream was 'recorded' on top of a more ancient evil, which is now free.
  • Superman: The Movie and Superman II both feature the Phantom Zone, but make it out to be a one-time prison for a specific set of three villains.
  • The Thief of Bagdad (1940), directed by Alexander Korda, provides a classic example, lifted from the old Arabian Nights tale, "The Fisherman and the Bottle"; Abu the thief, stranded on an island by Jaffar, finds an old glass bottle and uncorks it, releasing a huge genie, who had vowed long ago to kill whoever released him from the bottle. Abu tricks the genie back into the bottle, prompting the genie to offer the prerequisite three wishes. He turns out to be a bit of a Literal Genie.
  • Time Bandits: "Don't touch it — it's concentrated evil!" Also, Evil himself is unable to leave his fortress.
  • Transformers Film Series
    • In Transformers, Megatron is kept on ice inside the Hoover Dam, and is pretty angry upon thawing out.
    • Prequel comics for Transformers: Dark of the Moon reveal Shockwave to be this; he was found by the USSR decades ago and had been sealed under Chernobyl for years. When he gets out, he's ticked off. And there's Sentinel Prime, who's been locked in stasis on board the Ark, which crashed on the moon.
  • The Van Helsing movie has Dracula sealed inside his own part of the world, but circumventing it by developing wings, which he passed on to his other kin.
  • Wishmaster is this trope. A powerful djinn sealed inside a fire opal since medieval times is awakened by the heroine who accidentally broke it. The monster will wreak havoc on earth as soon as the girl ask her proverbial 3 wishes. But she wont, 'cause that would be wrong. And so on.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse opens with the Egyptian slaves of the title character rebelling and making the pyramid where he was doing a body transfer cave into itself. He remains dormant and buried in its futuristic casket for millennia, until 1983, where Moira MacTaggert unknowingly activates the machinery by exposing it to sunlight and awakens Apocalypse.
  • In Yamato Takeru, Big Bad Physical God Tsukuyomi is imprisoned in an elaborate ice prison in space by Izanagi after he is defeated by Susano-on in the backstory. Over the course of the movie itself said prison is rapidly approaching the Earth until it crashes into the Moon, releasing its prisoner. At the end of the movie he is sealed in a new can, Yamato Takeru's magical necklace, which is thrown into space as Susano-o explains Tsukuyomi will bring happiness instead of sorrow the next time he returns (because that's just how gods are, apparently).
  • In You Might Be the Killer, Sam's rambling story about Camp Clear Vista's history involves an evil spirit being imprisoned by a tree by a medicine man, the tree being cut down and carved into a mask by a woodcutter, and the mask being buried in the woodcutter's grave. None of the other counselors take it seriously.

  • Every Bal Sagoth song starts with "Oh shit, we just woke up Cthulhu." This is all the more impressive considering that (actually) awakening an elder god would crush the mind of anyone near it, then plunge the Earth into a never ending night.
  • "Bark at the Moon" by Ozzy Osbourne is about a beast that once terrorized a town, but was eventually buried in a nameless grave. And then he ends up returning to cause some more destruction.
  • In "Gatekeeper" by Within Temptation sort of meets Taking You with Me.
  • "Buried in Barrels" by the Bloodsucking Zombies from Outer Space tells the story of several unkillable supersoldiers biding their time to get loose and have their revenge. Q

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology
    • This trope hearkens back to the Greek Mythology of Pandora's Box. The container itself is an unusual case, as it was created and given to her for no other reason than Zeus felt like being a dick. After seeing all the atrocities emanating from the box, Pandora quickly shut it, leaving only one thing inside — Hope. As aforementioned, all according to Zeus' plan.
    • The Titans were locked inside Tartarus, a dank, gloomy prison "as far beneath Hades as heaven is high above the Earth", where they were guarded by their siblings the Hecatonchires.
    • Typhon was trapped beneath a mountain by Zeus.
  • According to Islam, Dhu'l-Qarnayn, or "He of the Two Horns" (a lesser prophet who appeared long before Muhammad) encountered a race of monsters (split into two tribes, the Yahjuj and Mahjuj, or Gog and Magog of Biblical fame) that were harassing the people, so he built a giant wall to keep them enclosed. They won't be able to escape until Allah says so, which will be during the lead-up to Yawm al-Qiyāmah (the Day of Judgment).
  • Norse Mythology
    • Unbreakable magic chains kept Fenrir (a gigantic wolf so massive that it must crouch down to avoid scraping against the dome of the sky) bound, until he eventually breaks them. Ironically, it is implied that binding him is what made him so pissed off at the gods in the first place. Well, that's the trouble with prophecies... and he is a child of Loki, God of betrayal, mischief, and "evil".
    • That kind of thing happens a lot in Norse mythology. The gods were so afraid that Loki and his monstrous children might turn against them that they imprisoned them all in various unpleasant ways... thus ensuring their pissed off-ness and guaranteeing Ragnarök when they eventually get out.
      • Please note that the gods didn't just imprison Loki because they were scared (Who do you think they are, greeks?). Loki and his children had been around long before this, some were even benevolent (read Sleipnir). The reason given in Lokasenna is that he was being a particularly big dick, and it's possible that the punishment was also for manipulating Hodr into killing Balder.
    • Ragnarök could be best be described as every Can in Norse Mythology opening at once. Everything broke free. Jormungandr, Fenrir, Loki, the forces of Hel, Garm, etc.
  • Slavic Mythology: Koschei the Deathless was captured by Marya Morevna. She tried killing him, but he had a Soul Jar, so she locked him up instead. ...until he was accidentally freed by Ivan Tsarevitch who then had to find a way to kill him.
  • According to Scientology's OT III, Xenu is apparently still locked up in a mountain somewhere.
  • The legends of genies often fall under this trope. Not all genies are good, ya see, and the good ones will interpret wishes literally. Moreover, the Ur-Example for many of the bad jinn/wicked ifrit stories is the tale that Solomon/Sulayman used his ring to seal (yes, seal, with molten lead and a magic seal ring) a number of bad jinn into brazen urns (which is a fancy name for brass cans) and cast them into the ocean, only to have them later dredged up as in stories like "The Fisherman and the Genie." And the genie is now full of even more anger at humanity, for sealing it up, and is ready for vengeance. Since this has an evil spirit sealed in an actual can, this makes this trope Older Than Feudalism.

  • In the backstory to the Cool Kids Table game Small Magic, The Oni were sealed away in a deep slumber after they went to war with the Tenshi.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Champions: In the adventure The Blood and Dr. McQuark, Azor (an agent of some Eldritch Abominations) was imprisoned by the Council of Nine but escapes during the course of the adventure.
  • Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine: The Titov family, messed up though it may be, exists to keep something chained beneath its shrine. It may or may not be Iolithae Septimian, a Humanoid Abomination Reality Warper.
  • Deadlands: A group of Native Americans sealed off "The Hunting Grounds" (affecting all magic, good or ill, but ill vastly outnumbered good). Centuries later, another group unsealed it, looking for revenge on the white man for killing off their tribes.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In 4th Edition, the entire plane of Baator is like this, being created by a divine curse to imprison the Magnificent Bastard Asmodeus and the devils. Unfortunately, said can is rather flimsy, and, while it does a good job of holding Asmodeus, any infernalist worth his salt can create a temporary portal to it, allowing the devils to stream through and wreak havoc and contracts. The seal, for the record, wasn't made to save mortals from Asmodeus and his devils — but to save the other gods from him. Hence why mortals are free to poke holes at the seal and let devils come and do Faustian pacts. If you are dumb enough to do it, you deserve what's coming to you.
    • The Shadowfell in 5th Edition can also become one of these. As the Shadowfell is a reflection of the darker aspects of the material planes it connects to, acts of terrible evil can cause dark powers to surge and grow in the Shadowfell. This can end up creating areas known as "dread domains", which are their own planes of existence of tremendous evil energy which grant power to the mortal who created it. Dangerous creatures from the Shadowfell will often seize the evil person who created the dread domain and trap them there to feed on their powers, and good deities can banish these same dark lords to the dread domain to imprison them. It is usually very difficult to escape from these places, as frequently the only way to get free from a dread domain is to find redemption.
    • D&D 3.5e: One example is the homebrewed Harrowed class. Anyone with this class is this for their own unique destructive being that they call "the monster within", which is constantly raging to get free from its host. Ironically, if the beast were to be released it would be promptly obliterated by about seven different gods at once; this won't ever happen though because plenty of greater deities have been left scratching their heads after failing to remove the beasts. This class cannot even use any of their abilities without provoking the beast and needing to make a will save or let it gain control for a few rounds of combat. If you think that the Harrowed are justified in wanting to die, they aren't. They are stuck in a constant cycle of reincarnation after they die and they always come back as another Harrowed with exactly the same homicidal beast sealed inside them. They are such a tight can that not even death or the gods can crack them open.
    • Scarred Lands:
      • In the Back Story the current gods sealed the evil gods that ruled before them, each in a different way befitting them and tailored so that their powers couldn't get them out. For instance, Thulkas, the Iron Lord, was so strong that he couldn't be moved, so he was hammered into an arrow and shot into the sun.
      • The Scarred Lands also has the Slarecians, psionic beings who challenged both the gods and the titans. The twist is that they sealed themselves into the can so they wouldn't be destroyed.
    • B3: Palace of the Silver Princess: In the published version, a huge ruby called My Lady's Heart turns out to be a Canopener for an evil Immortal, Arik. Even the leakage of Arik's power which the gem emits is enough to petrify a royal court, trap its best defenders in a dimensional prison, and attract monsters and fanatical dark priests from hundreds of miles around.
    • An important part of Eberron is that there are multiple Sealed Evils in various Cans, with sealants as strong as the plot demands of them. There are three big ones, as well as a number of more localized ones:
      • The Overlords of the Age of Demons, aka the Rakshasa Rajahs, are the closest thing to actual Physical Gods confirmed to exist in the setting. They were big-time Abusive Precursors and were eventually defeated after a war with the dragons and locked in prisons in Khyber, where they are kept in (mostly) suspended animation. Releasing them would be a massive undertaking requiring very fine manipulation of specific prophesied events (different for each Overlord) to pop their can, as attested by the fact that they've had minions working on the problem for millennia and only managed to spring one (and that one was re-sealed in a year). Per Word of God, it's set up like this so that you can make an Overlord being unleashed the climax of your story or otherwise a major point, or you can just say that nothing particularly major is prophesied for the next 200 years or so and deal with some of the other problems facing the setting.
      • The quori, malevolent nightmare spirits, are trapped in their own dimension because it's been knocked off its metaphysical axis, preventing travel to and from other planesnote . The quori mostly get around this by projecting themselves into mortal dreams and possessing people, since while their bodies can't leave Dal Quor, their minds can...
      • The Daelkyr were Humanoid Abominations and the generals of an army of creatures from the Realm of Madness that invaded the mortal world several millennia ago (before the modern nations, but well after the dragon-demon war went down). They lost and got sealed with most of their minions in Khyber, though unlike the Overlords they're still awake and can move around, so long as they don't come to the surface or try to go home, both of which they're prevented from doing by special druidic seals. They do still have a disturbing amount of leeway for Sealed Evils, though.
      • The setting's Creation Myth has the progenitor dragons (Siberys, Eberron and Khyber) create the planes of existence and the sun, then, when Khyber turned on the others and murdered Siberys, Eberron trapped Khyber within her coils and became the world, starting a cycle of great evil being bound through desperate sacrifice that was mirrored in all of the above examples.
    • Ptolus is set on the world of Praemal, which exists as a giant can in which to seal evil. The city of Ptolus itself is built on top of a can or ten and has a giant, impossibly high spire in it where a cleric once, long ago, tried to seal all the evils of the world in a can. Then he became evil, and eventually his fortress atop the spire was itself sealed with the remains of his work (and his remains) within it. It's a pretty can-heavy setting.
    • Nentir Vale: Torog, god of torture and imprisonment, is another notable (and, given his portfolio, ironic) example. The kicker? The earth is his can. He's trapped in the Underdark, actively crawling around down there, and occasionally reaches up from below the earth to pull whole cities down into his can with him.
    • Greyhawk: Zuggtmoy (in the Temple of Elemental Evil), Iuz and Fraz-Urb-Iuu (in Castle Greyhawk) and Tharizdun (in his Forgotten Temple).
    • Midnight: There is the evil god Izrador, who was sealed (along with some other beings) in the world of Aryth. The bad part? Your characters live on Aryth and they're also sealed there. Not only is the evil in the can but you're in the can with it. Crapsack World indeed.
    • Forgotten Realms: One of the oldest cans would be the Sharn Wall, erected by the creatures which gave it its name so as to keep the phaerimms sealed away from Faerûn. Weakened severely over the millennia, it is later brought down by the return of the Shadovar, who then must team up with the Sharn and the peoples of Toril to drive the phaerimm back. Other examples include: the djinn Calim and the efreet Memnon, locked in eternal struggle forever, their battle creating the Calimshan Desert; Sarya Dlardrageth and the rest of her fallen house of demon-interbred Elves, trapped in the Nameless Dungeon beneath Hellgate Keep, who are inadvertently freed when the Mistmaster and his Harper allies destroy Ascalhorn's mythal with the Gatekeeper's crystal; Iyachtu Xvim, son (and receptacle) of Bane, imprisoned beneath Zhentil Keep until he breaks free in the wake of Fzoul Chembryl's reading of The True Life of Cyric; an illithid and a rakshasa that became trapped in stasis beneath Beorunna's Well after seeking revenge on Runlatha for their previous imprisonment and torture and who are even now (by using an image of the rakshasa to pretend to be the totem spirit of the Red Tiger Clan) trying to obtain the cooperation of the Uthgardt barbarians in securing their freedom; and the three nycaloths accidentally freed from their dimensional pocket by the flight of "a red dragon that never held malice or greed in its heart over the coronal's throne" — which leads directly to the Weeping War and the fall of Myth Drannor.
    • The artifact known as the Acorn of Wo Mai holds an evil demigod called the Copper Tyrant of Tros that will try to trick anyone possessing the Acorn into letting it loose.
    • Most of the titular monsters in the 3.5e sourcebook Elder Evils qualify, with the exceptions being Atropus and Ragnorra, both of which are completely free to roam the universe, killing or corrupting (respectively) everything they encounter. Fathe Llymic is a Far Realm entity that's sealed in a glacier, the Hulks of Zoretha are slumbering alien superweapons, the Leviathan is the chaos left over from creating the world given physical form and put to sleep at the bottom of the ocean, Pandorym is a phenomenally powerful entity whose mind and body have been separated and sealed far away from civilization and each other, Sertrous is a dead obyrith whose spirit is trapped in his skull, Kyuss is a would-be god who is sealed in an obelisk on an isolated island, and Zargon is the previous ruler of Baator, who was imprisoned by Asmodeus in a giant rock under a desert.
    • Dark Sun setting. After the Champions of Rajaat realize that Rajaat's Cleansing Wars are actually attempted genocide, they seal him in a prison dimension.
    • Dragon magazine #46 adventure "The Temple of Poseidon''. The Cthulhuoid Dark King Ythog-Nthlei (AKA Zoth Ommog) was sealed into a sarcophagus hundreds of years before the adventure begins. Unless the PCs can stop it, he will be released during the adventure.
    • The Amber Temple in Barovia in the Ravenloft setting is an entire temple dedicated to this concept. Evil gods upon evil gods (implied to be the Dark Powers themselves in the 5th edition update) sealed in giant blocks of amber. Of course, a temple filled with dark gods sounds like a perfect idea that'll never go wrong, doesn't it?
    • Tharizdun (mentioned above under Greyhawk) has gradually evolved to be a Greater-Scope Villain for the entire D&D multiverse, so it's a good thing the Gods did a damn good job in sealing him. They placed him in his own personal prison universe, and he still hasn't gotten out (keep in mind, this happened before the world as we know it existed).
  • In the prehistory of Exalted, the defeated Primordials were stitched into the twisted body of their god-king Malfeas and confined to another realm... mainly because the Exalted looked upon the Primordials who had been killed, saw that they'd brought the Underworld into existence, and said, "Yeah, that ain't supposed to happen."
    • There are also the Neverborn, the aforementioned Primordials that had been killed. Being too big to die properly, they instead wrapped themselves up in giant sarcophagi spanning infinite distances as they resisted the pull of Oblivion. Then the Solars decided to pop a few blocks open to learn Necromancy...
    • From the perspective of the Bronze Faction, this was the case for the Solar Exaltations locked in the Jade Prison for ~2000 years.
  • In the In Nomine universe, one of the prophecies for Armageddon is "An ancient evil breaks its bonds." One of the possibilities for fulfilling this is Magog, Demon Prince of Cruelty, who was sealed in an ancient Egyptian tomb exactly one day after falling from Heaven.
  • In Iron Kingdoms the Skorne have Ancestral Guardians, which are statues empowered by the souls of fallen Skorne warriors.
  • The Madness Dossier: In 535 AD, a successful revolution sealed the monstrous Anunnakku, the true rulers of humanity, in the ultimate special container; non-existence. Unfortunately, that containment is breaking down. Individual Anunnakku (or small groups) may appear as "Irruptors" when and where reality glitches badly enough.
  • In the game Neuroshima there are a number of items scattered around the world which adventurers refer to as Pandora's boxes. Each is a large metal canister that contains something nasty (from a biological weapon to a very compact assassin droid). Everyone knows what they are but humans being humans, every once in a while someone opens one, either because of the Schmuck Bait involved or in some desperate gambit against his enemies.
  • Pathfinder: A common trope in Pathfinder; Golarion has many hidden cans of evil, some of which are now breaking open due to the recent death of humanity's patron deity.
    • The most notable can is Golarion itself, which holds Rovagug, the "Rough Beast" and god of destruction. He resembles a giant arthropod and seeks nothing more than to undo the works of the other gods and destroy creation itself. Faced with this foe, good and evil deities alike joined forces to destroy him, and many lost their lives. In the end it was Sarenrae and Asmodeus who managed to take him down, with Sarenrae battling him for long enough that Asmodeus was able to seal him within Golarion with a special key. Rovagug is still there within the world, where his struggles are blamed for volcanoes and earthquakes. The Pit of Gormuz (a twenty-mile-wide chasm) is a weak spot in his prison, and while Rovagug himself can't get out, he can periodically release some new Spawn on the world to continue his work (the most famous of which is the Tarrasque). There's a reason why the natives of Golarion's neighboring planets refer to it as the Cage.
    • Numerous other examples dot the world.
      • Runelords, ancient tyrannical wizard-kings and -queens, sealed themselves away to escape an ancient catastrophe, and several adventures deal with their cans being breached from without or within and releasing them into the world.
      • The elves trapped the plant-corrupting demon Treerazer in the portion of their nation he had already claimed.
      • The Whispering Tyrant, the world's most infamous lich, lay imprisoned within him former fortress and guarded by an entire nation of paladins. Then he managed to escape his prison, wiped out the paladins in less than a week and promptly restarted his plans for world conquest.
      • An island where an ancient Magocracy trapped its enemies and mistakes behind an impenetrable magical wall has been repurposed by a gold dragon and his allies into serving as a prison for fiends, Eldritch Abominations, evil wizards and other terrors, who are all unceremoniously shoved inside and left to sort themselves out.
      • The Bottle of the Bound, a nearly literal example, is a metal bottle containing an army of 666 fiends trapped there by an ancient emperor after a horribly botched summoning ritual, which can be summoned (albeit only one at a time) by anyone who wields the bottle and tracks down its three lost command words. Its most powerful prisoner is the daemonic demigod Zelishkar the Bitter Flame, but numerous other devils, daemons and demons of considerable power are held within it as well.
    • Many published modules and adventure paths involve the player characters stopping some sealed evil from being unleashed — "Realm of the Fellnight Queen", "Pact Stone Pyramid", and "From Shore to Sea" just to name a few.
    • There is one extremely secretive organization, the Seal-Breakers, who have put considerable time and effort into tracking down all of Golarion's various cans and cracking them open one after the other in the name of breaking down the artificial order of the world and giving birth to a truer reality — or of destroying the universe, they don't much care. They were partially responsible for freeing the Whispering Tyrant, and further plan to see Treerazer released from his own prison, invoke a variety of ancient slumbering entities, and ultimately split Golarion itself open to unleash Rovagug upon the universe.
  • Rifts:
    • According to Mindwerks, the Philosopher's Stone is actually a prison for an incredibly powerful Eldritch Abomination. The Stone's owner unconsciously forms a mental bond with the Stone, and as he uses the Stone's fantastic powers, he becomes more and more corrupted by it.
    • The Host are powerful, evil demons who were sealed in a very tight can indeed — it's almost impossible to find their dimensional prison except by blind luck, they need a summoner to willingly sacrifice themselves by allowing the demon to take over their body and soul (and most people willing to call upon such evil creatures would be nowhere near selfless enough to consider doing such a thing), and even once freed they categorically cannot cross between dimensions without another such summoning without being struck Deader Than Dead.
  • Scion, by the same company as Exalted, uses the same logic surrounding the Titans. At the end of the Titanomachy, the gods bound them away in the Underworld — this was because the Titans were incarnations of things such as Light, Fire, Darkness, Life, and Water, and their death would screw with reality big time. This was proven when Ymir was killed... causing the Great Flood, as the Ice Age ended right then and there.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Daemon weapons contain bound daemons within them, giving them incredible power and just as incredible malevolence. However, the greatest threat isn't them escaping, but rather corrupting the weapon's wielder and twisting them to its will.
    • More powerful daemons, who couldn't at the time be banished back to the Warp, are often sealed in the Materium in some way that prevents them from killing everything at the moment, perhaps in the hope that they can be banished later. This being WH40K, not only does the sealing frequently make things worse, but most of the time those doing the sealing never tell anyone about it.
    • Both literal and metaphorical in the case of the Necrons and their C'tan masters (later retconned to have actually been shattered by the Necrons and chained), who sealed themselves deep beneath the surface of numerous worlds approximately sixty million years ago. The most powerful C'tan, the Void Dragon, is buried underneath Mars after the Emperor defeated him in a titanic fight. The new Necron superheavy unit, the Tesseract Vault, is essentially an attempt at weaponising this trope by taking a C'tan trapped in a high-tech device to keep it caged, and then having that device float around the battlefield dropping meteors on people. In an emergency, the Nemesors can disable the seals and let the C'tan loose.
    • The God-Emperor is either a Sealed Evil, a Sealed Good or a Sealed Badass, depending on one's perspective.
    • During the Great Crusade, the Emperor sought to gain access to the Webway. In a top-secret chamber deep beneath his palace on Terra, he constructed a massive machine that allowed him to breach it. He had to put some heavy-duty psychic wards around the place to keep daemons from using the gate to enter Terra. Unfortunately, Magnus the Red broke those wards to tell him of Horus' betrayal. Since then, the Emperor has sat on the Golden Throne, using his psychic might (and the might of thousands of daily psyker sacrifices) to keep that gate closed.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse: The Uktena make a trade of this; one of their camps, the Bane Tenders, possesses secretive rites that allow them to seal away Banes too powerful to kill, so that they can't get out and wreak havoc on the world.
    • This is also the grand view of the Wyrm, whose evil was not the cause of his sealing, but vice versa; the Weaver, herself a bit batshit at the time, decided to trap the Wyrm within her webs, driving it mad and shifting its purpose from "a blessed end to all things" to "reality cancer, forever and ever." Some of its most devout cultists seek to undo the Weaver's webs so that the Wyrm can be set free. Unfortunately, since those webs make up a good chunk of reality...
    • A literal (but downplayed) example comes from the Pentex Corporation of the Werewolf setting. One of their subsidiaries, a brewery, sometimes includes a minor bane (corrupted/evil nature spirit) in a can of beer, to be drunk by a member of the unsuspecting public. This might have the effect of turning the poor sap into a spirit/human hybrid (fomor), or just cause them to make life miserable for themselves and everyone around them just a little bit more.

  • BIONICLE: Makuta Teridax encased in a Toa Seal by the Toa Metru by their Elemental Powers, but much later they unintentionally released him with the same powers when they attacked Roodaka holding a piece of the Toa Seal.

    Web Animation 
  • Dreamscape: The Overlord of Evil is currently sealed in the Underworld...but that seal is weakening. In "The Mystery of Melinda", Drake and Keedran had to upgrade it to a Sealed Evil in a Six Pack. Before that, he was sealed away in the Sky Dimension, because the angel guards had to seal the entire dimension away after Curien and Ethan created an irreversible dark rift there.
    • Melinda is currently sealed in a Blank White Void dimension...but that seal is weakening. In addition, breaking seals like these is her specialty. Before that, she was locked away in her Ominous Floating Castle. Getting into a conflict with her sister, Betty, will break the seal, but Betty wasn't even aware of Melinda's existence. Even while sealed away, she was able to manipulate Melissa into becoming her apprentice.
  • HTF +: Rainbow Dash deletes the file of Luna Game on the computer and thus defeating Evil Pinkie Pie in HTF+CC 2, but in HTF+FI/RF 1 she is freed from the recycle bin by FI Creepybloom.
  • No Evil has this in the form of the Black Tezcatlipoca, which is sealed away at the start of the series into Xochipilli, Ixtlilton, and Xochiquetzal, the seals taking the form of earmuffs, an eye mask, and a brooch, which contains the magical goo in exchange for robbing each of the three of their hearing, sight, and voice, respectively. The fourth member, Xipe Totec, gave up her immortality as part of this arrangement. This is acknowledged as a temporary fix, until they can find someone who can put an end to it for good.
    • Though, if you read the prequel comic carefully, it explains that they formed a contract with the Black Tezcatlipoca for it to seal the Red Tezcatlipoca in exchange for their senses and immortality, essentially dealing with the issue by turning it into the can sealing another potentially world-ending entity. As seen when Charles unwittingly unleashes the Red, and it's all-consuming inferno, in episode 34.

  • In The Dwarfs, the Spirit and the Sorceress, a Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Fan Webcomic, Zoso was this — in a rock — until the beginning, and is sealed a gain — in a medallion — at the end.
  • Bronze Skin Inc: In the second chapter, Julia awakens the captain's ghost by touching the anchor he is sealed to.
  • In The Adventures of Shan Shan, Julius is worried because the sealed evils have managed to touch the physical dimension.
  • Charby the Vampirate had a an old evil sealed inside two of the main characters, slightly subverted since it had originally been sealed by an amaturish effort to defeat it, only to reseal it with a tighter lid later after it got loose. We didn't learn that evil came in cans until after the fact.
  • An extremely literal example in Cthulhu Slippers with 'Can O' Shoggoth' a product that is 100% fatal 100% of the time.
  • In Cucumber Quest, the Nightmare Knight. At that, every 5000 years, someone manages to unseal it. Cucumber finds this a bit depressing, but with Nautilus' help, he concludes that he can try to work out how to really end it.
  • In Girl Genius, the Other is a being of such extreme evil that it wants to enslave the world... and doesn't really care who dies in the process. It was eventually defeated, but nobody knows HOW... except maybe the parents and uncle of the protagonist. It left a machine behind with a copy of itself, which it then imprinted on the protagonist (unsealing it), who is the daughter of the Other, or rather, taking into account certain implications and statements that lend themselves towards it having been an actually ancient evil, it simply possessed the protagonist's mother, and hundreds of other people through time, before finally taking possession of the protagonist, temporarily.
  • The Axe of Prissan in Goblins acts as a prison for an immensely powerful demon lord, whose very existence threatened the mortal plane. The enchantments binding the prison will gradually break down if the axe is not used for good, or even faster if used for evil. As such, it has enchantments layered on it to ensure it will aid any paladin who encounters it and refresh the prison. Later on it is revealed that the Axe is exploiting this trope. It's actually a conduit "the Sacred" needs to cross from the hells into the mortal realm. The Axe was always intended to break; the legend about paladins needing to wield it ensured the one holding it would be a paladin, whose souls are delicious. It's also revealed at the same time there exist three Prissans. The first is a hammer that contains good; the second is the Axe; and the third contains "the Damned".
  • The plot of Homestuck ends (and also begins, due to Stable Time Loops) this way. As revealed in the finale of Homosuck, when the Alpha kids face off against Caliborn, Dirk attempts to destroy his soul, but instead traps it inside of the puppet Lil' Cal. This seals him away from the time being, but ironically, this enables Cal to be the host for Lord English, the Big Bad of the series.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, space villain Fructose Riboflavin gets turned into Pure Energy and stuffed into a battery. He doesn't stay there for long, though. More recently, there's the ancient Japanese treasure monster.
  • Mystery Babylon has the Pit, into which every demon on Earth save one was imprisoned 1,000 years ago. The final remaining demon, Mystery Babylon, is prophesied to one day break the seal on the Pit and release the others, thereby causing the Apocalypse.
  • On sale in the Gift Shop of Death in Neko the Kitty.
  • The Order of the Stick features The Snarl, a monster formed from tangles in the fabric of reality, and sealed within the world itself.
  • Umbria/Zaedalkaah from Our Little Adventure, who was blindly released by the heroine.
  • Lovely Lovecraft: The shoggoth imprisoned at Miskatonic University.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, it looks like Oisri is a massive prison for the dark matter entities like the ones which destroyed the galaxy in the alternate timeline. Petey thinks it's something far worse.
  • Tower of God: Inside Baylord Yama's floating fortress, the cage, it's said that a gigantic beast is imprisoned that he fought and defeated. It turns out the prisoner is really his older brother Baylord Doom, who's also being used as the real source of the power of the canine people in the Cage. In a further twist, when the Sealed Evil is released by rebellious canine people, he ultimately turns out less like an overwhelming threat and more like a potential puppet for the Man Behind the Man.
  • Inverted in The Way of the Metagamer: the evil is sealed within the Book, and does not escape... but the heroes are forced to follow it into the Book.
  • Subverted in 8-Bit Theater. Red Mage places the fire demon Kary in a Bag of Holding and freezes it with a powerful Ice spell, with the idea that she will remain sealed until they are powerful enough to defeat her. White Mage simply smashes the frozen bag in revenge for the death of Black Belt.
  • In Flaky Pastry, Nitrine discovers that Moirganae (the evil vampire created by Morgana) has been trapped in the belt-buckle of her Powered Armor for all the time since their fight. Moirganae promises to fight Nitrine's enemies and suck their blood whenever she gets summoned - until she becomes powerful enough to free herself, that is. Then she'll kill Nitrine.
  • Angel Moxie: All the villains start out like this but Tristan unleashes Vashi and she releases the rest of them. It's later revealed that One Minion escaped being sealed by the heroes predecessors and was working on freeing Vashi all along.
  • Blackburn, a dangerous pirate/witch in Jackie Rose. Most of the season one is trying prevent her from escaping. Unfortunately, the villain of the first season, Desanto, finds out that his blood will be able to break the seal.
  • Paranatural: More than a few.
    • The spirit in Max's bat is a grudge, an insane spirit pumped up on pain and rage. It's unclear what it was originally like, but at this point it is nothing but a mad animal that lashes out at everything in reach. While it is still recovering in the bat, it can't do anything, but Max still gets access to its magnet powers.
    • Max is also unknowingly possessed by a piece of a "broken god," an entity that terrifies Doorman and seems to be part of the vague "evil" of Mayview. It's still recovering, but it's implied that something very bad will happen if it manages to escape its prison. And since Max doesn't even know he is a prison, the spirit is learning quite a few dangerous secrets through him.
    • Spender is possessed by an incredibly powerful shadow spirit, only contained by the constant efforts of the light spirit in his glasses. It is implied to be the "biggest spirit" that Spender defeated years ago.
    • Mayview itself is contained in a massive bubble that keeps spirits, spectrals, and their powers from crossing the barrier in either direction. Spender dodges the question when Max asks why it exists, but it likely has something to do with the "evil" he mentions sleeping in the town, and the power that people are constantly seeking.
    • Francisco Guerra has a number of powerful spirits contained in Tools. At least one is an an angry god who wishes to usher in the apocalypse and destroy all humankind. Guerra uses it as target practice.

    Web Original 
  • Many, many things contained by the SCP Foundation.
    • SCP-076-2 ("Able") has the particularity of coming with his own (leaky) can, SCP-076-1, and the SCP Foundation (after many Pyrrhic Victories keeping it in the can) eventually decided to try and work with him; predictably, it didn't end well.
    • SCP-231-7 ("Special Personnel Requirements") is the can for...whatever End of the World as We Know It entity it is that she carries. And the Foundation has to do some horrible stuff to keep it in there. Trust us, You Do NOT Want To Know.
    • SCP-557 ("Ancient Containment Site"). Around 2,400 B.C. a tomb was built to be a prison for supernatural beings. Sometime later the "bastard son of Apep" (SCP-557-1) was captured with the help of the gods and secured in the tomb by being chained to a block of granite. Around 300 A.D. the last Keeper (guard) of the tomb died. In 1988 a geological survey team stumbled across the site and somehow released SCP-557-1 from confinement.
    • SCP-1739 ("Obsolete Laptop"). SCP-1739 contains an Eldritch Abomination by creating an Alternate Universe. The Abomination is distracted by being allowed to destroy the Alternate Universe, keeping it from destroying the universe it's in.
    • SCP-2317 ("A Door to Another World"). On the other side of the door is a desert, and buried in a hidden chamber beneath that desert is a 200 kilometer-tall humanoid being who is restrained by seven chains, six of which have already broken, with it being believed that the entity will escape into our world when the seventh breaks as well. The Foundation is carrying out a regular ritual to maintain the last chain until they can figure out how to repair the others. Except that's a lie designed to avoid panic — the ritual does nothing, no one in the Foundation has any idea how to repair the chains, and they estimate that the last will break in 30 to 100 years, with no way to stop it.
  • BEN of Ben Drowned is within a Majora's Mask Nintendo 64 cartridge, though how he originally got inside is relatively unknown.
  • Neopets now has its very own Sealed Evil In A Can, as of the end of the Return of Dr. Sloth plot event that happened January 29 - March 15, 2008. The comic is here and spoilers are here: Dr. Frank Sloth is the sealed evil. The can is the Space Faerie's token. Roll your mouse over the very last panel of the last chapter, and you'll see the token, which was not destroyed in the explosion of the ship, floating through space. When it gets most of the way across the panel, a pair of red eyes glow from within...
  • Phantasia has more than one of these, of varying degrees of world-destroying power.
  • The Big Bad of the second year in The Questport Chronicles starts out as Sealed Evil in a Mirror.
  • This Uncyclopedia article lapses into this trope in the last two sections, in a hilariously meta way.
  • In the Noob in-game backstory, the Empire once created a very dangerous artificial being known as Tabris. The Sources of life and death, the setting's Physical Gods, weren't happy with this and made the Empire destroy them in exchange of allocating a little of their magic power to fuel most of the newly-created technology that relied on a very limited resource at the time. After this, that limited resource was used only for the essential and/or top-secret stuff, in case the Sources changed their mind. That top-secret stuff included a place in which Tabris was held prisoner after being officially destroyed. A few thousand years later, an attack on Centralis, the Empire's capital, put a strain on all its energy sources and Tabris' prison was one of the places that ended up without power.
  • The Celle Neues Rathaus in Bedtime Stories (YouTube Channel) has the entire basement section. Flooded by the SS just days before the Western Allies entered the area, the US forces stationed there decided to send three divers into said flooded basement. What the lone surviving diver found down there was pretty unsettling to say the least. Thus, when the British took over the area, they immediately sealed the access points to the basement with concrete, which was a good move.
    • In a later episode, there's the titular "Entity of Tsarichina", an Ancient Evil being capable of communicating with aliens and supernatural beings in order to help it get released. Upon being unearthed by a Bulgarian Army expedition, it goes on a rampage, killing any and all humans that it comes across. Thankfully, a team of Army Engineers blows the cave it was found in, burying it once more.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Sealed Evil Within A Can


Locking the Legendarium

Selena locks the Legendarium for good, with the Trix still inside it.

How well does it match the trope?

4.5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / SealedEvilInACan

Media sources:

Main / SealedEvilInACan