Pip: Heaven? Whatever gave you the idea you were in Heaven, Mr. Valentine? This is the other place!
Bob dies and goes to the afterlife. At first he seems to have gone to Fluffy Cloud Heaven: it's beautiful, there's wonderful music playing, he has everything he ever wanted, etc. But then he realizes that there's one essential thing missing or wrong, and the sudden realization dawns: This Isn't Heaven! Cue the frantic screaming of a damned soul...
Often the thing missing or wrong is something superficial, like "no beer" or "eternally noisy neighbors." Or the thing missing might actually be the feeling of adversity itself; No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction after all, and so having every your need, wish and whim catered to instantly all the time drives you insane from boredom. Can be a form of Ironic Hell, but it's not necessary. This is specifically for actually being in hell (or thinking that that's the case), not just still being alive or something similar; see Mistaken for Afterlife.
When they are actually in heaven and things are still like this, you get Hell of a Heaven.
Not to be confused with Rerouted from Heaven, where they've actually gone to the wrong afterlife.
- An old "got milk?" commercial has a Jerkass business executive get hit by a truck right after firing someone by cell phone. The afterlife's a beautiful place, there's nice music, and giant cookies! But when he opens the fridge, all the milk cartons are empty! He asks, "Wait a minute... where am I?" Cue the "got milk?" logo on fire.
- This McDonald's advertisement has a man end up in a Hell that resembles a Fluffy Cloud Heaven and is offered a burger by an attractive woman. Immediately after he questions whether or not this is Hell, a muzzle appears over his face to prevent him from eating and enjoying his burger.
- One arc in the "Celeb" strip in Private Eye had the protagonist apparently dead and in Fluffy Cloud Heaven. After a few strips, he becomes dissatisfied and complains to an angel that "this is purgatory". The angel replies "Of course it is. Where did you think you were?"
- In Cerebus the Aardvark, the title character suspects this after he notices his friend Rick is missing.note
- At the end of Bad Girls from Valley High, the two Alpha Bitch Villain Protagonists die and wake up in a luxurious hotel room and are convinced they went to Heaven. Then the school dork shows up, claiming that he committed suicide to be with them and that he will be their roommate for the rest of eternity. He then briefly turns into a demon, prompting the girls to realize where they are and scream.
- Possible example in Beetlejuice - Adam and Barbara have been dead a while and can't leave their home. Barbara is frustrated.
Barbara: I can't clean anything properly. The vacuum's in the garage and we can't leave the house. Why don't they tell us something? Where are the other dead people? Why is it just you and me?
Adam: [smiling] Maybe this is Heaven.
Barbara: In Heaven there wouldn't be dust on everything.
- A classic Islamic joke: A man dies and meets God. God says, "You may have anything you ask." The man has as much food, wine, women, etc, as he wants. Then he gets bored and asks, "May I have some work?" God answers, "No, you can't. Enjoy!" The man says, "Then I want to go to hell!" And God smiles and says, "But you are in hell."
- There are a number of jokes based on the idea that Hell is like Heaven where you have everything you want, but some detail is missing that prevents you from enjoying it.
- A crossword puzzle maniac would find a whole library of them, only to realize that no-one has a pencil.
- The stoner who chooses between the afterlife with fire and the afterlife without fire. He chooses the latter and finds himself in a huge field of marijuana plants. note
- The room is full of beer kegs and beautiful ladies but, as one inmate states, "The kegs have holes in their bottom. The girls don't."
- A variant — a hedonistic rock star dies and goes to Hell. Considering that he's been a sinner all his life, he thinks he might be of some use to Satan, and so is eager to meet him — but before he can do so, he's made to sit in a drab waiting room, with nothing on the walls, five-year-old magazines on the coffee tables and two old biddies gossiping in the corner. Bored out of his skull, he grows increasingly impatient waiting for Satan, wondering how long he'll have to spend in the waiting room — upon which it dawns on him that he's not actually in the waiting room of Hell.
- A priest that firmly believed Sex Is Evil had a disciple. The priest died and some time later, the disciple died too. At the afterlife, the disciple saw the Priest with a gorgeous woman at his lap.
"Master," he cried, "I see that God appreciated your sacrifices on Earth, and now you will be rewarded with paradise's pleasures!"
- Inversion where the addition of an element makes what seems to be Hell in fact Heaven: A journalist dies, and not having been a particularly good or bad person, St. Peter says he gets to choose whether to go to Heaven or Hell. He shows him Hell first, where a bunch of journalists slave away at typewriters, while bossy demons crack whips over their head and scream about deadlines. Then he shows him Heaven, where a bunch of journalists slave away at typewriters, while bossy angels crack whips over their head and scream about deadlines. Confused and upset, the journalist says "This is Heaven? But it's just as bad as Hell!", and St. Peter answers "No it's not. In Heaven, your stories get published!"
- Or, as a variant "Heaven makes the deadline".
- In another joke, Bill Gates, the developer of Microsoft, dies, and he's given the choice of either going to Heaven or Hell. He sees that Hell resembles a beautiful tropical island paradise, while Heaven is a large expanse of fluffy clouds, and opts to go to the former instead. However, when he arrives, he finds nothing but fire, brimstone, and torture awaiting him; Satan then explains that the tropical island was "Hell's screensaver."
- A pair of jokes with a similar structure:
- A woman dies and goes to Hell, where she's told that she must choose to stay in one of three rooms for all eternity. The first has people burning in agony in a pit of fire; the second has people being impaled over and over again by sharp spikes; and the third has... people standing waist-deep in feces, drinking coffee. She figures that the third is the least bad of the three, picks that room, and goes inside. After a minute, the demon running the place announces "All right, everyone, coffee break's over! Back on your heads!"
- A hellbound man is led through a series of rooms with various punishments, until he discovers one where a beautiful blonde woman is giving oral sex to an unattractive man. The newly dead guy eagerly chooses that room, and the demon escorting him says "You heard him, he's taking your place!" The woman eagerly gets up and leaves.
- The Last Trump by Isaac Asimov has the Devil convince God to bring about the end of the world, with everyone dead being resurrected. Since every group has their own idea of the afterlife, the Devil designs it at the greatest common divisor — nothing but eternal existence. One of the people claims this is heaven, but then another points out that there is nothing beyond Earth, buildings are crumbling, hills are flattening, desires are gone... Soon, there will be nothing but a featureless plain and people. Fire and Brimstone Hell is unworthy of divine imagination; an eternity of nothingness is a different matter.
- "Howard's End" in More Horowitz Horror. A delinquent teenage boy is run over by a bus and finds himself in Heaven—or so he thinks. He becomes bored with the idyllic existence, and wants to move to Hell—but it is revealed he was there all along.
- Stephen King's novel Revival: a scientist obsessed with death is trying to bring someone back from the afterlife in order to tell what's there. It turns out it's a hellish world with every single human tormented by Eldritch Abominations.
- Quoted verbatum in the second Wayside School book. Alison ends up on the 19th floor of the school with Miss Zarves' class (neither Miss Zarves or the 19th floor exists). To keep their minds of the situation, Miss Zarves gives her class a bunch of busy work, but it's ok because she always gives A's, even if the answer is clearly wrong. Alison is discussing where they actually are with classmate Mark Miller. Mark suggests that maybe they died and went to... but then Alison cuts him off exclaiming, "This isn't Heaven!" Mark then says that wasn't what he was going to say.
- The Twilight Zone (1959):
- "A Nice Place to Visit", a burglar is killed and goes to a place where his every wish is fulfilled by a man named Pip. Eventually, he gets bored, leading to the page quote above.
- In "The Hunt" this could have happened to the protagonist, if not for his strong bond with his dog.
- One episode of Night Gallery has a man murder his nagging wife (played by Phyllis Diller) only to be visited by her ghost at her funeral. She tells him that she's in Heaven and intends to spend all eternity nagging him. Realizing that he's dead too, he replies that then he doesn't have to listen, since in Heaven you can do whatever you want. She answers that that's only in Heaven. "I'm afraid the organization you've been assigned to is much less accommodating."
- In The IT Crowd there's an episode where Douglas has a near death experience. His father is welcoming him towards a big white door, and it's all very white and glowy. Then Hitler pokes his head out, and Renholm tries to explain that "we're having a fancy dress party in Heaven."
- In The Good Place, it's the twist ending of the first season.
- Cranked Up to Eleven in the season 2 premiere. Even Jason can figure it out!
- The series finale of Dallas has JR planning to kill himself. The viewer is promptly treated to It's a Wonderful Plot, where a guardian angel promptly shows him that all his loved ones would be miserable and his enemies happy had he not been born. At the end, JR declares, "Well, I guess I can't kill myself now and send you back to heaven a failure, can I?". The "angel" responds, "Heaven? What makes you think I came from heaven?", before breaking into a demonic laugh.
- In Sound Horizon's "Eru no Rakuen [-> side:A ->]", Elise wakes up in what she believes to be paradise — until she hears crying, and since she knows that no one would cry in paradise...
- King Missile's "Heaven" has the singer waking up in paradise, wondering why he feels so good when he was in such a rotten mood yesterday...and then, suddenly, the bird he was holding is a bloody mangled mess in his hand and the backdrop changes.
- Music/Phish's songs "Olivia's Pool" (A play on "Oblivious Fool") and "Shafty" are both about this.
- The Allegory of the Long Spoons plays with the Trope of Heaven and Hell being Not So Different. The only difference is the attitude of those in either place.
- This is actually a point in Mormonism. In the afterlife, spirits are sorted into three kingdoms, each divine in their own right, but only the highest Celestial kingdom has the full light and presence of God. Those left in the lowest Telestial kingdom (the Mormon equivalent of Purgatory) are essentially left without much other than the afterlife itself, so despite the divine /appearance/ of the kingdom, it doesn't take long to realize that something will just feel off. Forever.
- One In Nomine supplement has a Heaven which redeemed demons eventually figure out is worse than Hell. They are required to memorize dull, "uplifting" sermons; the Malakim (avenging angels) may abuse them at will; the Archangels are insane. Eventually they escape and go back to Hell, to warn other demons. It's actually a fake, set up by Hell as a propaganda ploy to discourage demons from redeeming.
- LucasArts' sim Afterlife has a "Faux Heaven" as one of the possible Hell's punishments for slothful souls:
"Many of the Slothful Damned believe that they deserve to be in Heaven, little realizing that their lazy ways have earned them a place in Hell. For these self-deluded fools, Hell hath created these cheesy replicas of Heaven. They're just like the real Heaven...except that they suck."
- Another such punishment, this one for Wrathful souls, is "Illuminatiland". It starts off fairly well, but then it gets into the soul's head that something isn't right, like someone's conspiring against them, there's things in the shadows, and so on. And then, the place and its hidden demons start feeding those theories, co-opting any friends the soul confesses to and generally making sure there's always something else to be suspicious about until the soul collapses into pure insanity.
- In Bloodborne, the Hunter's Dream is a peaceful, quiet, serene and cozy little house surrounded by flower-lined paths winding between undisturbed graves. It's tended to by Gehrman, who teaches new Hunters the ropes, and the Plain Doll, who lives to serve and help you and who offers you nothing but solace, support and kind words. In the grim, dark and horrifying world of Bloodborne, surely this must be a slice of heaven... except, by now, the Hunter's Dream is actually Gehrman's own Ironic Hell: As part of his agreement with the Moon Presence, he's stuck doing what he used to love the most; mentoring new Hunters, in the place he used to love the most; his Old Workshop, for the rest of eternity, and it's heavily implied that he has already gone through hundreds of iterations of the night of the hunt by the time the game starts... Also, since he has to eventually Mercy Kill every single Hunter that finds their way to the Dream, lest they'll either Go Mad from the Revelation, or will be forced to replace him as the Dream's host, the only permanent company Gehrman has is a doll in the spitting likeness of the love of his life, Maria... That probably wouldn't have been so bad if the doll, though it looks like Maria, and sounds like Maria, is nothing like Maria, meaning it only serves as a constant reminder of Gehman's Lost Lenore, as well as the sins and failures of his past... The fact that Gehrman's favorite place in the Hunter's Dream appears to be an alcove in the garden that lets him sit with his back turned to the entire Dream gives off the impression that he's grown to utterly loathe everything about it.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- In Oblivion, "Paradise" is a realm of Oblivion created by Mankar Camoran. His followers in the Mythic Dawn cult are taught that it is a place of eternal bliss, and that if they believe enough in/sacrifice themselves for their cause, they can go there when they die. While it looks like a Crystal Dragon Jesus type of heaven and the cultists are indeed given the eternal life they are promised, it turns out to be a Daedra infested nightmare where that immortality is put to good use to torture undying cultists. In fact, the tortures suffered there would be more expected in Mehrunes Dagon's actual plane of Oblivion, the Deadlands, which resembles the traditional view of Hell (fiery lakes, demons, torture devices, etc.). Unlike many examples on this trope, it is not played for laughs and the reasons to despair are very reasonable. Naturally, as part of the main quest, you must visit and ultimately destroy the place from the inside.
- In Skyrim, this trope is invoked with Sovngarde, a Nordic Warrior Heaven expy of Valhalla. It normally is a proper heaven for the Proud Warrior Race Nords, but it has been invaded by Big Bad Alduin who feeds on the souls of the dead within. Naturally, you get to visit, banish Alduin, and make it into a proper heaven once again.
- Played with (in a "This Isn't Earth" sense) in Fall from Heaven. Originally, Hell was having problems with mortals like the Bannor escaping damnation through portals back to Erebus, so the local god of deception, Esus, created a Lotus-Eater Machine version of Erebus where everything was even worse than Erebus usually is, with hopes that would-be escapees would enter, be sent over the Despair Event Horizon, and then return to the more honest hells of their own accord. What happens if someone is Genre Savvy enough to catch onto the ruse is unexplained...
- Final Fantasy II has Soul of Rebirth, which is set in the afterlife. It actually inverts this trope. Cid is actually the first of the dead characters to realize that the local Mundane Afterlife isn't hell.
- In Overlord: Raising Hell the first abyss gate is disguised as a portal to heaven, complete with a cardboard likeness of pearly gates.
- A variation in the Interactive Fiction game Perdition's Flames. At the start, you're told that Hell is no longer a place of punishment — eternal torment was mostly abolished to compete with heaven after deregulation, and people are now randomly assigned to Hell or Heaven upon death. However, this seems to quickly prove to be a lie, as Hell as depicted in the game is a banal, torturous experience with all the meaninglessness and annoyances of mortal life exaggerated to grotesque degrees. It's a subversion — once you finally get to Heaven, it has more fluffy clouds and angels, but is just as soul-crushingly obnoxious and banal. Your goal ends up being to join a group that explores other afterlives and other versions of Heaven and Hell that are, if not more pleasant, at least less meaningless and obnoxious.
- The Trope Namer is an Easter Egg in the program Macromedia Central that features a Homestar Runner cartoon where Homestar and Strong Bad are stuck in "blue-fadey-land." Homestar thinks they died and went to heaven, and Strong Bad agrees after they find a Twinkie. Then Homestar says that it's just Strong Bad and him, forever! It suddenly dawns on Strong Bad that they're definitely not in heaven. He pounds on the edge of the frame screaming frantically as the background turns red...
- The Non-Adventures of Wonderella: What would Doobie Doobie do?
Wonderella: "Wow, you guys are watching me from Heaven?!"Frank Sinatra: "Well, assholes don't exactly go to heaven, kiddo... ... but we're watchin' all the same."
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:
- "That's so weird. I've stubbed my toe every 42 seconds since I got here."
- Also, Sysadmin Heaven.
- Played with here: it is heaven, but philosophers afraid of this happening can turn it into a Self-Inflicted Hell.
- The Tumblr based comic Floccinaucinihilipilification featured one comic where the protagonist goes to Hell. At first the protagonist doesn't believe it because it's just a birthday party, until they start singing "Happy Birthday"... in a neverending loop.
- Futurama's Show Within a Show, The Scary Door, parodies the Twilight Zone episode above. A man is hit by a car and wakes up in a casino sitting in front of a slot machine. He hits the jackpot and says that a casino where he's actually winning must mean he's in Heaven. Then he hits a second jackpot and says that a casino where he always wins is boring, so he must really be in Hell. But he's actually in a plane. And there's a goblin on the wing! But nobody will believe him because he's Adolf Hitler! And Eva Braun is actually a giant fly!
Bender: Called it.
- In Hey Arnold!, Grandpa Phil was convinced he would die that night, as no man in his family had ever lived past that particular birthday. When he wakes up the next morning to the crowded people, he remarks about how it must be Heaven... until he sees Oskar, declaring "Oh no, Oskar's here! This must be the other place!"