7 People Who Died & Said They Saw Heaven or Hell

There are hundreds of accounts of people who have died and were revived to then claim to have seen​​ heaven​​ or​​ hell​​ during their near-death experiences.​​ 


The book “Heaven is for Real” is one perfect example of these instances. While​​ some claims have turned out to be complete hoaxes, other​​ survivors of near-death experiences share detailed “afterlife” stories that are rather compelling. ​​ 


Here are seven stories of people who died and said they saw heaven or hell:


1.​​ Colton Burpo

Colton Burpo’s personal account may be the most well known of all the near-death stories since his experience was detailed in the 2014 movie “Heaven Is For Real.”


Colton was the four-year old son of a small-town pastor who slipped from consciousness during​​ emergency surgery and claims to have entered heaven during that period.


Soon after his recovery, Colton began sharing descriptive details of seeing the surgeon standing over him in the operating room, and of his dad praying for him while he was unconscious. He also said that he met his miscarried sister in heaven, whom his parents had never mentioned to him, and his grandfather who died before he was even born.

As​​ NDE Stories​​ details:


“Colton​​ describes the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how “reaaally big” God and his chair are, and how the Holy Spirit “shoots down power” from heaven to help us. Colton’s message is that heaven is a real place, Jesus really loves children, and be ready,​​ there is a coming last battle.”


2.​​ Don Piper


Don Piper died for 90 minutes after head-on collision in 2008. Piper claims that he went to heaven during that 90-minute period and was greeted by family members and friends outside the gates. While he didn’t​​ see God or Jesus, he claims that he spent time with family members who he says, ‘hadn’t aged.’ Piper says that he walked toward the gates before suddenly waking up.​​ 

As Piper describes to​​ Fox News:


“I saw things there that I wouldn't have expected to see if I was having a dream. I saw people there that I didn't expect to see. There were a lot of things about my experience that convince me in no uncertain terms that that is reality and this is fleeting. This is passing. I can't wait to go back there. I didn't want to come back here.”

3.​​ Julie Papievis


Julie Papievis was in a car accident at the age of 29, which left her balancing between life and​​ death. A teenager ran a red light, plowing into Julie’s car at 50 miles an hour. The impact left her with severe brain stem injuries.​​ 


Within minutes of the accident, the fire department arrived and pulled her from the wreckage. They were unable to detect​​ a pulse or blood pressure. She was transported to Loyola University Medical Center, unconscious and unresponsive. Brain scans showed that she had no brain function.

While in the coma, Julie claims to have been given a glimpse of heaven.

As Papievis explains in an interview with​​ CBN:

“It was so vast, and there was no real beginning or end to it. It was just perfect peace. I knew that I was there in that place, because I was​​ dead. I knew that, and I was not afraid. I was not afraid to be there. I was happy. It was like I was home, and I wanted to stay there.”

She remembers her deceased grandmothers suddenly standing with her. As Julie also describes:

“My grandmother said, ‘No,​​ you can’t come with us. You have to go back.’ I said I can’t go back. I’m not physically okay, and I was pointing to my left side that was paralyzed. She said, ‘Your body will heal.’ I felt right then like someone had come and put a warm blanket around me​​ and their arms around me, and I knew right then that I was in the presence of our Lord. I felt it. I knew it, and then she said, ‘Go back and be happy.’ Then the next memory I had was waking up in the rehab hospital.”

4.​​ Carl Knighton


Hell is definitely​​ real. Real. Very much real,​​ ​​ explains Carl Knighton, who knows what hell is like because he says he went there after he accidentally overdosed on Valium.​​ 

As Carl tells​​ CBN:

“Like the bible says, you are in torment.”​​ 

Even though it happened more than twenty years ago, Carl was able to draw pictures of what he says he encountered in hell.

Carl​​ recalls as he shows​​ drawings:

​​ “The one in the middle is trying to get out of the fire but there’s no way they can get out. There’s no hope for them. There’s no way of escape for them.”

Carl claims that he was in hell for more than half an hour. He says:

“I was​​ shaking and trembling and I turned my head to the right and they said I was dead. And they said it was 30 to 35 minutes but I know that was a loving God that loved me so much.”

5.​​ Matthew Botsford.​​ 


In March of 1992, Matthew Botsford walked out of a restaurant in Atlanta and suddenly found himself in the middle of a horrific gun battle where he was struck in the back of the head with a 9mm bullet. Botsford died​​ ­t­h­ree times on​​ ­t­h­e way to​​ ­t­h­e hospital and was eventually put into a medically induced​​ coma.​​ 


As​​ Botsford​​ describes:


I felt a hot, needlelike pierce, excruciatingly painful, for a brief moment on the top of my head.”


Botsford claims that he went to a place that he​​ believed was hell. It was void of anything good and beyond what any words could describe.​​ 


​​ In his book,​​ A Day in Hell,​​ he writes an account of his experience in the underworld during the 27-day coma that followed the shooting:


​​ “Utter darkness​​ enveloped me as if thick, black ink had been poured over my eyes.”


He also describes being​​ “hung over an abyss”​​ as heat blasted up from below. Pairs of demonic eyes crept toward him. Then a divine entity grabbed him by the waist and told him,​​ “It’s not your time.”


6.​​ Jose Maniyangat​​ 



Jose Maniyangat was riding his motorcycle when he was struck by a drunk driver. He claims that on his way to the hospital, he had an out-of-body experience where he visited heaven, hell, and purgatory.​​ 

Jose​​ describes his experience to​​ EWTN:


“It was 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Many people were being tortured by demons and worms.”


Doctors pronounced Maniyangat dead and he was​​ transported to the morgue. But after showing signs of life, he was immediately taken back to the hospital.


7. Debbie Cain


Debbie Cain was​​ declared dead by doctors when her heart stopped during an appendectomy surgery.​​ 

Debbie tells​​ Beliefnet.com​​ that she had seen heaven during that period of her death:


“I started to feel a great love from within. It was warm and I saw​​ a bright light that began to clean everything. I saw Jesus there. He looked at me and without saying a word, he spoke to me and said: ´Not now my child´. I can´t remember anything else and then I woke up in the Intensive Care Unit.”







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