To hell in a handbasket

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

"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 allegorical locution of unclear origin, which describes a situation headed for disaster inescapably or precipitately.

New Orleans Mardi Gras day: wagon decorated as mini-float "Going to Hell in a Handbasket" with costume-wearing children

I. Windslow Ayer's 1865 polemic[1] 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.’"[2]

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."


  1. ^ Ayer, I. Windslow, The Great North-Western Conspiracy in All Its Startling Details. Chicago: Rounds and James, 1865. p.47 retrieved October 30, 2010
  2. ^ 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"