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Antechamber to Hell's throne room.

Dean: I saw Hellraiser, I get the gist.
Ruby: Actually, they got that pretty close. Except for all the custom leather.

Dean Winchester and Ruby, 3.09 Malleus Maleficarum


The origins of Hell and it's creation are unknown other than it was used to banish Lucifer after he rebelled against God. It is a place where demons are produced from human souls after centuries of torture.[1] Black-eyed demons are constantly being created, and would occupy positions on Earth using meatsuits, whereas white-eyed demons are scarce in numbers, but are extremely powerful. Time itself is also altered in Hell, as four months on Earth is equivalent to 40 years in Hell.[2]

Dean Winchester's first glimpse of Hell.

Angels can bypass Hell's defenses, allowing them to enter and retrieve human souls while in groups, as Castiel and other angels laid siege to Hell to save Dean Winchester. Death is also powerful enough to enter Hell and bring souls back to Earth, as shown when he retrieved Sam Winchester’s soul from Lucifer's Cage. Reapers and anyone else who has access to the secret portal inside of Purgatory can also enter Hell.

As King of Hell, Crowley had set up his court at Needham Asylum on Earth, rather than in Hell. Although Crowley had access to the realm, he had told the Winchesters on separate occasions how he disliked being in Hell. After Crowley dies, Asmodeus also takes up residence in Needham Asylum.


Ruby revealed that "there's a real fire in the pit, agonies you can't even imagine."[1] Meg described Hell as "...a prison, made of bone and flesh and blood and fear."[3] When Alastair was being tortured by Dean, he said that compared to Hell, reality is "too concrete" on Earth.[4]

The tortures endured by damned souls in Hell also consist of hallucinations meant to break their psyche and compel them to adopt the demon faith of their own volition. When Dean Winchester was dragged to Hell, he first found himself suspended on meat hooks among infinite chains as storm clouds raged around him.[5] Hell also consists of endless racks which human souls hang from while being tortured. When Dean was tortured by Alastair in Hell, he told him that he would take him off the rack if Dean started torturing. For one month (equivalent to 10 years), Dean apprenticed under Alastair and tortured souls until he was rescued by the angels when they laid siege to Hell and he was pulled out by Castiel.

After taking charge of Hell, Crowley transformed it into a place where torture was exemplified by endless queuing where upon reaching the front of the line, damned souls start over from the end. Though more traditional dungeon areas still exist, as evidenced when Sam Winchester traveled to Hell to perform the second Trial to save the soul of Bobby Singer. The tortures in the dungeon area appeared to be a mix of physical, with various damned souls shown to be mutilated in one form or another, and psychological as with Bobby Singer, who would be tortured daily by black-eyed versions of Sam and Dean Winchester.

The halls of Hell that lead to Lilith's Chamber and Hell's Throne Room, respectively appear as hexagonal basalt columns along the walls. Various statues of cloaked skeletal figures with their hands clasped downward in prayer to Lucifer also adorn the entranceways and antechambers found in this area of Hell.

Crowley's new Hell.
Hell's dungeon.
The harrowed halls of Hell.


Limbo is an area that resides in the furthest reaches of Hell that is accessible, it's this place that Crowley would send unruly souls for "time out." While lacking in aesthetics, Limbo is an incredibly secure area that is accessed through a long corridor, with walls that have been built with bones of the damned. Once reached, Limbo is a desolate place where bones litter the ground, and torches light the plains of the damned as constant thunder and lightning storms rage above, offering some of the only light in vast emptiness.

The entrance to Limbo.
The corridor to the furthest reaches of Hell.
The desolate fields of Limbo.

Hierarchy and Denizens

A hierarchy in Hell exists, but is not as rigid as that found Heaven. Alliances and affiliations between demons tend not to last for long periods.

Rowena sits on Hell's throne.


Azazel was a very powerful demon general who was a devoted zealot of Lucifer. He was described as a "tyrant" by Casey, who kept the demons in Hell in line. After Azazel's death, Lilith was released from her prison and assumed the void in leadership. Ruby was another strong demon who eventually proved instrumental in releasing Lucifer by secretly manipulating Sam Winchester so that he would kill Lilith, breaking the final seal. Other more specific positions include King of Hell -- the ruler of all demons, King of the Crossroads -- the demon who holds all crossroad deal contracts and Knights of Hell -- the elite guard of Hell. It is unknown what specific rank Lilith held amongst the demons, but the white-eyed demon Alastair was described by Ruby as, "Practically the Grand Inquisitor downstairs. Picasso—with a razor."

Lucifer is revered as the creator of demons, though no demons had been able to contact him in his isolation, other than Azazel. Lucifer would direct Azazel in the plans involving the Special Children, and the plot to release him from his prison. Following Azazel's death, Ruby and Lilith took over his plan covertly. When Lucifer was freed, the demons served him as the rightful ruler of Hell, with the exception of Crowley. After Lucifer's re-imprisonment,[6] Crowley declared himself King of Hell with the blessing of Ramiel, a Prince of Hell and sibling of Azazel. Abaddon, a Knight of Hell and one of the most powerful demons in existence eventually started a civil war with Crowley in order to take control for herself, but was killed by Dean Winchester with the First Blade before she could officially depose Crowley.

After Crowley was betrayed by his demons and deposed as ruler by Lucifer, he agreed to help the Winchesters trap Lucifer in Apocalypse World, in addition to agreeing to close the Gates of Hell forever, having grown tired being ruler and dealing with demons. Crowley was unable to make good on his promise, due to sacrificing himself to close the tear between universes to trap Lucifer. In Crowley's absence, at least one demon, Kipling, attempted to fill the power vacuum left in Crowley's wake. His attempt to take over Hell, saw Kipling try and strike a deal with Sam Winchester along the same lines as they had with Crowley. After Sam rejected Kipling's offer, and killed him, Sam would declare that, "There will be no new King of Hell. Not today. Not ever. And if anybody wants the job, you can come through me." A threat demons seemed to take to heart, as according to Nick the demons continued to keep track of where the Winchester family was at all times out of fear, and in order to keep far away from them. Belphegor later attempted to use Lilith's Crook to gain power in Hell, but was smote by Castiel, preventing this plan. According to Ardat, Belphegor spent centuries waiting for this chance after all of the other leaders were killed.

Following her sacrifice to save the world, Rowena seized power as the new Queen of Hell despite only being a damned soul.[7] The demon Gregor indicated that Rowena had begun reshaping Hell for the better, holding receptions for newly-arrived souls rather than immediately condemning them to the endless lines Crowley devised or the torture Hell is famous for.[8] Rowena also put crossroads demons out of work by ending the practice of making demonic deals and pacts, believing that all souls will end up where they're destined to go upon death.[9]

Creatures and Denizens

Much like Heaven, the criteria needed for someone to be sent to Hell isn't elaborated on, though human souls can get sent to Hell after making deals with crossroads demons or other demons with the authority to make deals such as Azazel and Lilith. Hellhounds capture l, then kill the person when their time is up. Once in Hell, a soul will be tortured for centuries upon centuries until the last vestiges of their humanity are burned away, creating new demons to continue the cycle of torture. The length of time it takes for a human to become a demon is unknown, but may be dependent on a soul's endurance to the torture it endures, as John Winchester spent a century being tortured, and was able to escape Hell in his human form and refuse Alastair's offer, choosing to take his torture rather than inflicting it onto others. Like entry into Heaven, the criteria for a person being damned to Hell beyond selling one's soul is based on their life choices, however if a person is killed by a hellhound, their souls will be dragged to Hell regardless, as shown with Eileen Leahy.

One of the tortured inhabitants of Hell.
Another tortured human soul.
A damned soul waits for rescue that will never come.

Human souls can remain in Hell for centuries before turning into demons. Souls that have escaped Hell, can appear as skeletal apparitions that can manifest and retain their human appearance on Earth.

A demon patrolling the dungeons of Hell.

Once a human soul has had it's humanity burned away, their once human form gives way to a more mangled and horrific visage turning them into demons. The longer a demon resides in Hell the stronger they can become, making escape somewhat more easier. Once Crowley took over Hell, access to to the earthly plane was made more difficult, as he would only allow certain demons, whom he knew he could control topside. However, some demons have been known to get themselves smuggled to the surface.

If a demon has been exorcised from their host, it becomes more difficult for them to escape from Hell, though not impossible. It took the Meg seemingly months to escape from Hell, despite being one of Azazel's favored "children". The crossroads demon Jael, took five years to claw his way back to Earth after being exorcised by Asa Fox.

Hell is also home to various demonic entities:

  • Acheri demons – A lower class of demons, that like daevas, can be controlled. Unlike typical demons, Acheri are capable of manifesting as young children without the need for a meatsuit.
  • Daevas – Savage and animalistic creatures that reside in shadows, and are summoned to act as demonic pit bulls.
  • Hellhounds – Originally created by God to serve as "Creator's best friend", due to their vicious nature, God ordered them to be put down. Lucifer, showing mercy for the creatures saved one, a pregnant hound named Ramsey who was loyal only to Lucifer, which forced her to be locked away in Hell's kennel. Some point after the birth of Ramsey's litter, hellhounds were put to work by demons to collect the souls of humans who made crossroads deals, and drag them to Hell.
  • Hellspawn – An unknown creature. John Winchester and William Anthony Harvelle attempted to trap one at Devil's Gate Reservoir in 1995.
  • Shedim – Demonic creatures deemed Hell's most savage and base, so much so that God locked them away in the deepest caverns of Hell. So dangerous were the shedim, even Lucifer feared their release unto the world, so much so he permanently scarred Asmodeus for releasing and trying to control them.
  • Whore of Babylon – An Apocalyptic creature that is released from Hell to serve Lucifer by damning as many innocent souls to Hell by acting as a false prophet.

Winchesters in Hell

In my mind, that isn't even necessarily Hell itself. It's the starting place. I like to think of Dean as sitting in the chair in the waiting room to Hell. It's not even what he's going to experience once he gets into the first chamber of Hell. That's just where they stick you before they hand you the sign-in sheet. There's much, much worse to come for him!

Sera Gamble, Source

John and Dean Winchester both go to Hell after they make agreements with demons. John bargained with Azazel to resurrect Dean in exchange for the Colt, but Azazel only consented to the deal when John's soul was added to the bargain.[10] It was the intent of Azazel for John to be the righteous man that sheds blood in Hell, breaking the first seal of sixty-six allowing the demons (and angels) to go about their plans to free Lucifer and begin the Apocalypse. In Hell John was subjected to tortures by Alastair, who would make him an offer to remove him from the rack if he took up the blade and began torturing souls. Each time John would refuse, and would go on to endure one hundred years of torture (ten months on Earth) until the Devil's Gate in Wyoming was sprung open, allowing him to escape and rescue his sons from Azazel, pulling the demon from his meatsuit, and allowing Dean the time to use the Colt to shoot him in the heart as he repossessed the body.

Dean's final moments in Hell before being rescued.

Dean would go on to bargain with a crossroads demon to resurrect Sam after he was killed by Jake Talley, and after much debate agrees to go to Hell after one year rather than the standard ten years.[11] When his crossroads contract came due, Dean was mauled to death by a hellhound, and had his soul dragged to Hell. Upon his arrival in Hell, Dean was suspended with meathooks attached to chains that filled a dark sky with clouds of roaring thunder and lighting, crying out for his brother, Sam. Dean would spend forty years in Hell (four months deceased on Earth),[12] where he was subjected to all types of torture, being sliced, carved and torn to pieces until nothing was left, but would always be made whole at the end of each day. For thirty of those years he was offered the same deal by Alastair that his father was given, he would be taken off the rack if he began torturing souls, and each time he would refuse, until he could not take it anymore and picked up Alastair's razor and cut into his first soul, a crying woman, breaking the first seal. For ten years Dean would apprentice under Alastair, where he was said to have shown real promise by Alastair and other demons.

During this time the angels would lay siege to Hell, in hopes of rescuing Dean before the first seal was broken. Dean briefly bares witness to the chaos of the angel's siege, before being pulled from perdition by Castiel and waking up in a coffin buried six feet underground.

I enjoyed it, Sam. They took me off the rack and I tortured souls and I liked it. All those years; all that pain. Finally getting to deal some out yourself. I didn't care who they put in front of me, because that pain I felt, it just slipped away. No matter how many people I save, I can't change that. I can't fill this hole. Not ever.

Dean Winchester, 4.11 Family Remains

Sam Winchester goes to Hell when he is imprisoned in Lucifer's Cage along with Lucifer, Michael and Michael's vessel, Adam Milligan.[6] Castiel would attempt to rescue Sam from the Cage, but would only be able to pull out Sam's body, leaving his soul to remain in Hell, until it was retrieved and restored to Sam by Death. The damage to Sam's soul was hidden from him by a mental wall erected by Death. When Sam starts to remember events from the time he was soulless, a crack would appear in the wall and he passes out for 2-3 minutes, re-experiencing his time in Hell. He tells Dean that those minutes "felt like a week."[13]

Sam later has to sneak into Hell as a part of the trials needed to close the Gates of Hell and banish all demons from the the world, forever. He is able to do this through the help of a rogue reaper named Ajay, who was able to get Sam into Hell by first taking him to Purgatory and telling Sam of a backdoor into Hell. Once Sam located the entrance, he was transported to one of Hell's dungeons, it's there he is able to locate and rescue Bobby Singer's soul. Together, they escaped into Purgatory and with the help of a recently deceased Benny Lafitte were able to find the portal back to Earth, where Bobby was finally released unto Heaven.

One of Sam's visions of his time in Lucifer's Cage.

Sam would once again harrow a journey into Hell years later, in order to communicate with Lucifer without opening the Cage. Crowley would accompany Sam and his mother, Rowena, to the deepest section of Hell, referred to as "Limbo." Believing his visions were signs from God to speak with Lucifer as a means to learn how to stop the Darkness. In reality, when the Darkness was released, the impact to Hell was massive and damaged the Cage, allowing Lucifer to reach out through the fissures to enact a plan for his release with the aid of Rowena. With Sam trapped with Lucifer, Dean would travel to Limbo in an attempt to save his brother. Along with Castiel, Sam and Dean were at the mercy of Lucifer, only hoping to be able hold out long enough for Crowley to force Rowena to send Lucifer back to the Cage. However, before the spell could be finished, Castiel agreed to be Lucifer's vessel, believing he was the only one strong enough to stop the Darkness.

The Winchesters would travel to Hell once more after Chuck decided to "end" their story, using a spell Rowena used to escape from Hell after Lucifer killed her, the trio of Sam, Dean and Castiel travelled to the Pit in an attempt to reach Michael to learn of any weaknesses God may have. Upon arriving in Hell, the Winchesters and Castiel would find themselves in an antechamber, where they were attacked by a trio of female demons until Rowena made her presence known and called them off. Speaking with Rowena in her Throne Room, Sam and Dean learn that upon her death she found herself stuck in Hell, and decided to take control for herself, becoming the new Queen of Hell. With her new status she was able to inform the brothers and Castiel that Michael was no longer in the Cage or Hell for that matter.

Sam and Dean would find themselves traveling to Hell one last time in their search for the Occultum, after following a lead that led them to Sister Jo, who tells them she gave the Occultum to Ruby, who in turn hid it in Hell prior to Lucifer's release. Upon arriving in Hell Sam and Dean come across a demon, Gregor, and ask to be taken to Rowena. Gregor however double crossed the Winchesters, and along with some other demons attempted to kill them, but fail. Wanting to know why Gregor tried to kill them, despite their friendship with Rowena. Gregor would go on to reveal that Sister Jo put a bounty on Sam and Dean to free any demons in exchange for killing them, before Sam kills him.

Entry & Escape from Hell

Azazel was able to move freely between Hell and Earth, Alastair appeared to be able to come and go as he pleased, as well as Crowley. Castiel, and other angels have been able to enter and return, though at a cost as entering Hell for angels can still be very dangerous.

In the rare instance that a human soul is able to escape from Hell, unless there is divine intervention, a damned soul cannot gain entry into Heaven. There have been only three known exceptions to the rule: Dean Winchester, who was sent to Hell after his crossroads deal came up, but upon being killed by the hunter duo of Walt and Roy, Dean was allowed entry into Heaven in order for the angel Joshua to pass along a message from God to the Winchesters. After Bobby Singer was killed by the Leviathan Dick Roman, Crowley ensured through the use of the rogue reaper Ajay, that Bobby would end up in Hell. Bobby was later rescued by Sam Winchester for the second trial to close to Gates of Hell, which required that "An innocent soul has to be rescued from Hell and delivered unto Heaven", which allowed Bobby entry. For years it was unknown what became of John Winchester after his escape from Hell, after the second death of Mary Winchester, Castiel confirmed that John was in Heaven with Mary, telling Sam and Dean that Mary was with "John, and there's no sorrow. There's no guilt. Just joy."

Luther Shrike was able to negotiate his release from Hell after his crossroads contract was up. By having the bones of the crossroads demon Barthamaus located, Shrike was able to hold leverage over the demon and gain his release from his contract.

Restriction and Confinement

Samhain can only be released from Hell every six hundred years. His release requires two powerful witches performing three blood sacrifices over three days, the last day being October 31st (Halloween).[14] Lilith was said to be imprisoned deep in the pit by Azazel, who claimed her release would not be easy, but succeeded when the Devil's Gate in Wyoming was opened and released hundreds of demons, including Lilith.

When a demon is exorcised, escape to Earth becomes more difficult, but is not impossible. After the demon possessing Jeffrey gave "state secrets" to the Winchesters, the demon was placed in lockdown, and could only be summoned to Earth via a specific ritual.

Angelic Rescue

Castiel reported that angels laid siege to Hell to rescue Dean Winchester before he broke the first seal, but did not reach him in time. Eventually, it was Castiel who pulled Dean from perdition.

Devil's Gates

The majority of Hell's occupants are trapped and can only escape through portals connecting Hell and Earth known as Devil's Gates.

Samuel Colt built a giant devil's trap and a special lock to keep the Devil's Gate in Wyoming shut. When Jake Talley used the Colt to open the gate, scores of demons escaped, as did souls including John Winchester.

See also: Devil's Gate in Clifton & Devil's Gate in Wyoming.

The mouth to Lucifer's Cage is opened.

Escape from Lucifer's Cage

Lucifer's Cage was built to secure the archangel Lucifer. The mouth of the Cage was heavily secured by 600 locks. Only a fraction of these, called the 66 Seals needed to be broken to release Lucifer. The four individual rings belonging to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, once merged together, could also open the Cage. Once secured, not even archangels can leave the Cage without a door being opened from the outside.

Castiel relayed that Lucifer's Cage was too well-guarded for even angels to access,[15] but it was revealed that he tried to free Sam Winchester, bringing out his body but not his soul.[16] The leprechaun, Wayne Whittaker claimed to know how to use "real magic" to gain access to the Cage to retrieve Sam's soul. Death, the most powerful of the Four Horsemen, was able to retrieve Sam's soul from the Cage and return it to him.[17] It is hinted that collecting Heaven's weapons could give one the power to release Lucifer and Michael, as Raphael attempted to do so, but was killed before he had the chance.

As Sam attempted to contact Lucifer without opening the Cage, harrowing Hell with Crowley and Rowena, Rowena was able to perform a ritual from to Book of the Damned to pull Lucifer's essence from the Cage without opening it, summoning him into a warded holding cell in Limbo.

After God opened every door in Hell, the Cage was opened as well, allowing Michael to finally escape.

Chuck unleashes damned souls from Hell.


After Chuck declared it was "the End" of Sam and Dean's story, he created a rupture in the earth in a cemetery in Harlan, Kansas leading into Hell itself, unleashing the souls of the damned. The demon Belphegor reveled to Dean that while in Hell, every single door "sprang open all at once", the sky cracked and all the souls, an estimated 2-3 billion escaped to Earth. The rupture was later closed by Rowena, Sam and Dean Winchester with the Sanetur Acre Vulnus spell, which required Rowena to sacrifice herself to send all of the souls and demons back.

The backdoor into Hell, located in Purgatory.

Purgatory Portal

In Purgatory, there is a portal that acts as a backdoor to Hell. Anyone with access to this portal, such as rogue reapers, can sneak in and out of Hell and take souls with them. The entrance is located along a stream leading to where three trees meet as one, a large rock covers the entrance, once removed the the portal resides in a dark hole, which leads to a narrow passage way where a thin rocky crevice set between pi11ars, part of a long series of similar looking pillars down a dark corridor in Hell. Sam Winchester was able to use this to rescue Bobby Singer's soul.[18]


Being the servants of Death, reapers have access to all spiritual planes in existence. As a favor to Crowley, the then reaper Billie, was able to create an entrance on Earth to Limbo for Dean Winchester.


Demons can be released from Hell via a summoning ritual performed by a powerful witch or a foolish novice with access to a grimoire. A specific demon can be summoned, as in the case of Samhain, Azazel and Crowley, so long as the proper ritual and summoning sigils are used. When Samhain is summoned, a tear opens in the ground and he emerges as a demonic cloud to possess a dead body.


The Winchesters and Castiel were able to use a spell from Rowena's Spellbooks to travel into Hell in search of Michael.[7] Sam and Dean later use the same spell to return in search of the Occultum.

See also

External links