Dean: I saw Hellraiser, I get the gist.
Ruby: Actually, they got it pretty right, except for all the custom leather.
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. Black-eyed demons are constantly being created, and they 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.
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. Death can enter Hell and bring souls back to Earth, as shown when he retrieves Sam's soul from Lucifer's Cage. Reapers and anyone else who has access to the secret portal inside of Purgatory can also enter Hell and rescue souls trapped inside.
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 Sam and Dean on separate occasions how he dislikes being in Hell. After Crowley dies, Asmodeus also takes up residence in Needham Asylum.
When Dean Winchester was dragged to Hell, he first found himself suspended on meat hooks among infinite chains as storm clouds raged around him. Hell also consists of endless racks which human souls hang from while being tortured. After taking charge of Hell, Crowley transformed it into a place where torture was exemplified by endless queuing. Though more traditional dungeon areas still exist, as evidenced when Sam 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.
Limbo is an area that resides in the furthest reaches of Hell, 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, whose walls 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.
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.
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 last seal. Other more specific positions include King of Hell -- the ruler of all demons, King of Crossroads -- the demon who holds all crossroad deal contracts and Knights of Hell -- the elite guard of Hell. It is unknown what specific rank Lilth 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 is freed, the demons serve him, with the exception of Crowley. After Lucifer's re-imprisonment, 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 win the war.
After Crowley is 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 rift 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 have kept track of where the Winchester family is at all times out of fear in order to keep far away. Belphegor later attempts to use Lilith's Crook to gain power in Hell, but is smote by Castiel, preventing this plan. According to Ardat, Belphegor spent centuries waiting for his chance as all of the other leaders were killed.
Following her death to save the world, Rowena seizes power as the new Queen of Hell despite only being a damned soul.
Creatures and Denizens
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 then kill the person when their their time is up. Once in Hell, a soul will be tortured for 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 for 100 years, choosing to endure 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. 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.
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.
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 pitbulls.
- 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 only loyal 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, 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!
Dean Winchester and John Winchester both go to Hell after they make agreements with demons. Dean bargains with a crossroads demon to resurrect Sam, and after much debate agrees to go to Hell after one year. John bargains with Azazel to resurrect Dean in exchange for the Colt, but Azazel only consents when John's soul is added to the bargain.
Dean spends the equivalent of thirty years on Alastair's rack in Hell and ten years torturing other souls, roughly 4 months on Earth (40 years in Hell). John spent almost a century there (10 months in real time). Initially, the demons intended for John to break under Alastair's torture so that he would become a torturer himself, which would break the first seal. John never gave into the demon's offer and escapes Hell when the Devil's Gate in Wyoming is opened right before Azazel is killed by Dean. After 30 years, Dean eventually accepts, breaking the first lock on Lucifer's Cage. Eventually, a group of angels, including Castiel, lay siege to Hell to rescue Dean where Dean's soul is ultimately rescued by Castiel.
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.
Sam Winchester goes to Hell when he is imprisoned in Lucifer's Cage along with Lucifer, Michael and Michael's vessel, Adam Milligan. He is rescued by Castiel, although his soul remained in the Cage until it was retrieved and restored to him 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 appears 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."
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, Ajay is able to get Sam into Hell by first taking him into Purgatory and telling him of a backdoor into Hell. Once Sam locates the entrance, he is transported to one of Hell's dungeons, it's there he is able to locate and rescue Bobby Singer's soul. Together, they escape into Purgatory and with the help of a recently deceased Benny Lafitte are able to find the portal back to Earth, where Bobby is finally released unto Heaven.
Sam once again harrows 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."
Escape from Hell
Azazel was able to move freely between Hell and Earth, and Alastair appeared to be able too, 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 be very dangerous.
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 escape, as do souls including John Winchester.
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 says that Lucifer's Cage is too well-guarded for even angels to access, but it is revealed that he tried to free Sam, bringing out his body but not his soul. 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.
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 opens every door in Hell, the Cage is opened as well, potentially allowing Michael to escape.
After Chuck declared it "the End" of Sam and Dean's story, he opens a crack in the earth unleashing the souls of the damned onto earth. The demon Belphegor revels 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. God released all of the souls and demons by opening the Rupture, a giant tear in the ground of a cemetery in Harlan, Kansas leading into Hell itself. The Rupture was later closed by Rowena, Sam and Dean with the Sanetur Acre Vulnus spell and Rowena sacrificed herself to send all of the souls and demons back.
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 dark corridor in Hell. Sam Winchester is able to use this to rescue Bobby Singer's soul.
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.
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). 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.
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.
Demons that are exorcised from their hosts appear to leave the immediate vicinity and are presumably drawn back down to Hell. Those that are exorcised by Sam's powers spill onto the floor and sink through the earth, leaving a burning patch on the ground.
- 3.09 Malleus Maleficarum
- 4.10 Heaven and Hell
- 2.14 Born Under a Bad Sign
- 3.16 No Rest for the Wicked
- 5.22 Swan Song
- 2.22 All Hell Breaks Loose: Part Two
- 2.01 In My Time of Dying
- 4.11 Family Remains
- 4.16 On the Head of a Pin
- 6.13 Unforgiven
- 6.07 Family Matters
- 6.20 The Man Who Would Be King
- 6.11 Appointment in Samarra
- 8.19 Taxi Driver
- 4.07 It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester