To hell in a handbasket
"Going to hell in a handbasket", "going to hell in a handcart", "going to hell in a handbag", "sending something to hell in a handbasket" and "something being like hell in a handbasket" are variations on an American alliterative locution of unclear origin, which describes a situation headed for disaster inescapably or precipitately.
I. Windslow Ayer's 1865 polemic alleges, "Judge Morris of the Circuit Court of Illinois at an August meeting of Order of the Sons of Liberty said: "Thousands of our best men were prisoners in Camp Douglas, and if once at liberty would ‘send abolitionists to hell in a hand basket.’"
It has also appeared in the title of several published works and other media:
- "To Hell in a Handbasket" is the name of humorist H. Allen Smith's 1962 autobiography.
- "Hell in a Handbasket" was the title of a 1988 Star Trek comic book.
- Hell in a Handbasket is the title of a 2006 book (ISBN 1585424587) by American counterculture cartoonist Tom Tomorrow, who authors a nationally syndicated cartoon strip This Modern World.
- "Hell in a handbasket" was the name of an undescribed con requiring a trained cat referenced in the 2004 film, Ocean's Twelve.
- "Hell in a Handbasket" is a song from Voltaire's Ooky Spooky album.
- Hell in a Handbasket is the title of a 2011 Meat Loaf album
- Helena Handbasket is the name of a character in the TV show Friends. It is the stage name for Chandler's crossdressing dad.
- "Heff in a Handbasket" is an episode of Rocko's Modern Life.
- "The Wizard of OZ" alludes to the phrase two-fold, by Dorothy carrying a handbasket on her journey which contained her "little dog too."
- Ayer, I. Windslow, The Great North-Western Conspiracy in All Its Startling Details. Chicago: Rounds and James, 1865. p.47 retrieved October 30, 2010
- Martin, Gary. "The meaning and origin of the expression: Going to hell in a handbasket". The Phrase Finder. Retrieved October 30, 2010. "The first example of 'hell in a hand basket' that I have found in print comes in I. Winslow Ayer's account of events of the American Civil War The Great North-Western Conspiracy, 1865. A very similar but slightly fuller report of Morris's comments was printed in the House Documents of the U.S. Congress, in 1867"