Can some of us ‘sense’ Hell?

“For centuries many have pondered the prospect of an afterlife and feared what came to be known as ‘Hell’.

In the near future, we map the elusive ‘dark matter’ around us, only to find out that it is Hell itself, and it is very real…”

That is the premise for the new novel Complete Darkness which sees us humans come face-to-face with the existence of a horrific afterlife destination. Very bad things happen as the satanic President Razour attempts to bring forward Armageddon to prevent humanity repenting. So, with the fate of us all resting in the hands of Cleric20, a hedonistic loner with a chequered past, and his robot sidekick, GiX, this Halloween you can grab this new ‘what if Hell was real’ scenario.


But is it possible that throughout time, some humans have been attuned to the potential existence of Hell? You don’t need to be bible basher to be interested in the afterlife either. Plenty of books that have plots that visit hell by authors such as William Blake, CS Lewis, Jonathan Swift, Chuck Palahniuk and Terry Pratchett. Cinematic depictions can be found in films like What Dreams May Come, Constantine, Event Horizon and Hellraiser. Videogames designed to allow players actually to battle in Hell include huge selling Diablo and Doom franchises. Various artworks from classical Jan Van Eyck’s The Last Judgment and Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, through to modern Franz von Stuck’s Inferno and contemporary Jake & Dinos Chapman’s F**king Hell.


There are even musical works both classical – Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini and Liszt’s Dante Sonata, and popular Slayer’s Hell Awaits or Highway to Hell from AC/DC. It seems that Hell has been much on people’s minds having formed inspiration for such creative outputs.


Oddly considering it being one of only two possible endpoints for life there’s little description of Hell by the authors the Christian Bible which has more than 600 mentions of Heaven but only15 of Hell.


Two of the probably best-known Hell architects who may well have been somehow ‘aware’ of Hell are the poets – Italian Dante (c1265) and English John Milton (c1608). 


Dante is cited as the architect of how many, especially in the West, conceive of ‘Hell’ as he describes it vividly in his Divine Comedy that tells of Dante’s journey through the three realms of the dead. Sure, he might have just been having a dark few months, but his vision of Hell is intricate – describing it as consisting of nine concentric circles, going towards the centre of the Earth. Each of the nine is the destination for various sinners – depending on the sin – with circles devoted to gluttons, heretics, the lustful and fraudsters etc. This realm even has a river ‘Acheron’ running around it, separating it from the outside world – that’s quite a lot of detail to go into for a setting for a poem.


The modern image of Hell, with pitchfork wielding imps and possibly Pin-headed demons is actually not much worse when compared with some of the medieval depictions. The popularised ‘firey’ view is probably the legacy of Milton, who in his epic ‘Paradise Lost’ goes heavy on the heat imagery with phrases such as ‘with flames that offer no light, but rather darkness visible’.


The Hell attuned visionaries In the Middle Ages, seemed to see it as being located literally beneath us, underground, and this in no small part fuelled legends of travellers seeing its smoke coming up through holes in the ground even in England. Dante would concur having placed Satan at the bottom of Hell, in the centre of the Earth.


It’s not all hot stuff though – in the ninth and deepest circle of Dante’s Hell, Satan himself is encased in ice which makes the possibility of Hell freezing over fairly high, backed up again for Milton who includes regions of icy desolation in his Hellscape.


More modern perceptions of Hell have come both from some who claim to have contacted the residents of the afterlife realms directly such as James E. Padgett (c1852), a prominent Washington, D.C. lawyer who started receiving spirit communications after he lost his wife. He heard from spirits that Hell wasn’t a ‘place’ but more a ‘state of unpleasant existence’ – he also said he got long messages from Jesus but those weren’t about Hell.


Along with the host aforementioned films and novels keeping the imaginations ‘firing’ for creatives who seem prompted to imagine what lies in wait for wrongdoers after death. My inspiration for making the mapping of Hell a core element to Complete Darkness was the sheer enormity of the gambit i.e. after our few short years ‘alive’ where will we spend eternity?


I think we are perhaps due a new imagining of what potential Hell might be awaiting us? Having recently read the late great Iain M Banks’ Surface Detail where he envisions a far future where we have created electronic ‘Hells’ in which to torture those found guilty of crimes during their lives. The prospect of man-made virtual Hells, each bespoke to cause maximum discomfort to its inhabitants might just be the scariest prospect on the subject matter yet conceived.


What creative interpretations of Hell are your favourites?


Have you ever sensed ‘Hell’?

Wondering what to expect from ‘Complete Darkness’? Here is the novel’s synopsis!
For centuries many have pondered the prospect of an afterlife and feared what came to be known as ‘hell’.

In the near future, we map the elusive ‘dark matter’ around us, only to find out that it is hell itself, and it is very real…

As the satanic President Razour attempts to bring forward Armageddon to prevent humanity repenting, the fate of us all rests in the hands of Cleric20, a hedonistic loner with a chequered past, and his robot sidekick, GiX.

An action-packed literary shock to the senses that mixes flights of comic fantasy with bouts of brutal violence. Mankind’s only hope seems to be having a very bad day.

Can Cleric20 halt Razour’s devilish plans after an experimental bioweapon deployed to kill him accidentally gives him superpowers?

Has the Devil inadvertently created a hero who could actually stop him?

Little can prepare you for this spiritually-charged, cyber-noir thrill ride.

Matt Adcock

Matt Adcock

As well as an author, Matt is a blog editor, Head of Communications for a charity, and the weekly film reviewer for a regional newspaper group.

Matt is a lover of all things virtual, sci-fi, superhero and theological… 

He loves to interact: Tweet him: @Cleric20 


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