For 15 seasons, Supernatural mined the combined mythologies of the globe for its monsters of the week, seasonal big bads and paranormal settings. One thing that makes this series unique is that everyone, from angels to demons and humans to gods can die. Of course, death isn’t always the end in Supernatural, and it has as vibrant an afterlife as it did a mortal plane. But how did it work? When Sam, Dean, Castiel and other characters died on Supernatural, chances were viewers would see them again in the afterlife: Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, the Veil or the Empty.

While some of these elements are well-known or self-explanatory (at least in the case of the Empty), there were complex rules. These ethereal locations all made sense, at least relative to the logic of a show where characters can be turned into cartoons with Scooby Doo and the gang. Thus, it’s worth examining how each element of the afterlife worked in Supernatural to better understand what happened to the characters when they shuffled off this mortal (or immortal) coil. Death wasn’t always the end, at least not the first go-round.

What Happens When Someone Dies in Supernatural?

Ghosts were the most common supernatural creatures hunted by the Winchester boys and others. Human souls reside in a parallel plane of existence to humanity, known as “the Veil.” When ghosts manifested in the real world, they had to pierce the Veil to be seen. Some ghosts weren’t powerful enough to do so, and thus existed in this dimension without being seen.

Similarly, angels, demons, reapers and Hellhounds were able to exist in the Veil, traveling back and forth as they saw fit. Death also lives in the Veil, where a library exists containing books that reveal how everything’s life will end. While some monsters are born, others are made. No matter how someone became a vampire, werewolf or something else, they did not go to the Veil when they died. They were sent to Purgatory.

The Supernatural version of Purgatory was very different from the religious idea of that space, though this was not necessarily their final destination. Mortal souls were able to move beyond the Veil into Heaven and Hell. If the souls in Purgatory moved on, it was most likely to the Empty. Introduced as a concept in Season 11, this space was vast nothingness. When angels or demons were killed, this was where they ended up. Still, even being sentenced to this void for eternity didn’t have to be permanent.

What is Purgatory in the Supernatural Series?

Purgatory was created by Chuck (the series’ version of God), after Heaven and Hell, as a prison for creatures called Leviathan. They were a threat to all the other creations, mortal and celestial, thus Purgatory was their prison. It’s an endless forest that seemingly goes on for eternity. Yet, there are fixed points in this realm, particularly bodies of water, that the beings there can use to navigate. Not to be confused with the “first woman” from the Bible, an entity known as Eve came to exist in this space, perhaps related to the Leviathan.

Eve is essentially the mother of all the monsters that exist. She created the “Alphas,” or the first versions of many of the popular Supernatural monsters. Thus, when a vampire or werewolf is killed on Earth, their soul is sent to Purgatory. There, they hunt each other and battle the Levithan forever. Yet, their existence there is not permanent. These creatures can be killed, and without all the special restrictions required on Earth.

It’s unclear what happens to a soul that is killed in Purgatory. The belief is they are simply gone, vanished from all planes of existence. Yet, it’s equally possible that these souls are sent to the Empty, which is itself an eternal sleep and “nothingness” guarded by a creature that is older than even God and his twin sister, the Darkness. Unlike the other planes of the afterlife in Supernatural, Purgatory has a “backdoor” to Hell, and the pit of eternal damnation is described as a nicer “neighborhood.”

The Road to Hell Is Paved by the Winchesters

Sam and Dean Winchester have visited and spent time in Hell on a number of occasions. Hell was seemingly created to cage Lucifer after his rebellion against God and the angels. However, mortal souls are also sent to Hell where they are tortured for eternity. This strips away their humanity and, eventually, they become demons. This “promotion” doesn’t make anything better for them, however. One reason demons often plague Earth in Supernatural is so that they can get a respite from the rigors and tortures of the pit.

Hell is a stark, dark place when it appears in Supernatural, and the characters describe it as full of fear, fire and blood. Time works differently in Hell, too. When Sam and Dean each spent time there between seasons, it was much longer for them than the actual time they were gone. Unless given a special exception by Supernatural’s God, once a mortal soul begins their afterlife in Hell, they can never set spiritual foot in Heaven.

Hell is often depicted as being under the Earth, though it’s more accurately described as existing “under” reality. It connects to Purgatory through a backdoor, and there are gateways on Earth that can also lead there. Humans can also send their souls down to the pit through a magical ritual, but those souls can be trapped. Unlike most myths, the Devil doesn’t run Hell. Rather there is a hierarchy of demons, with one often rising to the top as ruler. By the end of the series, the witch Rowena ruled Hell and instituted reforms to make it more bearable for the souls residing there.

Heaven in Supernatural Was a Real Fixer-Upper

At the center of Heaven was a place known as the Garden, which appeared to angels as the throne room of the creator. When Sam and Dean visited the Garden, it appeared as the Cleveland Botanical Garden. There is a road there called the Axis Mundi which could lead angels to the parts of Heaven where souls reside. Originally, each soul granted entrance into Heaven had their own version of it. There were walls, often unseen, that kept these souls separate from one another. Yet, when God vanished and Castiel cast all the angels out of Heaven, this part of Supernatural’s afterlife got a remodel.

The second version of Heaven in Supernatural was depicted as a stark, white hallway with doors lining both sides leading to each individual soul’s living space. This hallway seems to be the new version of the Axis Mundi, because angels were able to travel through it to visit the space for each soul. There was also a secret location in each space where the souls could open their “door” and enter the hallway. Yet, this sounded an alarm and angels would appear to put the wayward soul back into its place. This is the way Heaven was left until the very end of the series. After becoming God in Supernatural’s final season, Jack remodeled Heaven a third time.

The third iteration of Heaven no longer had its walls, allowing the various souls in the afterlife to mingle with each other. Also, the Axis Mundi was restored, though it no longer led to the garden. In the seires finale of The Winchesters, Dean was able to travel that road in his signature 1967 black Chevrolet Impala. It took him into a different reality in the Supernatural multiverse, allowing him to meet and interact with the characters in that series. It’s also unclear if Jack as God has a more liberal policy about which souls get to Heaven and whether souls in Hell can eventually “graduate” to paradise.


By Ivaylo Angelov

Ivaylo Angelov born in Bulgaria, Varna graduated School Geo Milev is Tvserieswelove's Soaps Editor and oversees all of the section's news, features, spoilers and interviews.