During times of desperate need, it is said that some people with the knowledge and resources are able to call upon supernatural forces that are neither God, nor Superman, but the Devil.
A Devil, or demon, is commonly known as a supernatural creature which is considered to be an evil, malevolent spirit. Despite attempts to depict him as such, they do not always carry a pitchfork. In Christian mythology, demons are fallen angels, cast down by God from Heaven after following the orders of Lucifer, who refused to obey humans. Though not to justify Lucifer's two-thousand-plus years of tormenting humans, having an angel bow down to humans is like having we, the humans, act as subservients to fish.
It wouldn't sound any better even if they said "Kneel before Cod!"
The main goal of making a deal with the devil is to obtain a favor or gift that the human could not possibly get by himself. Some of the most common things that have been requested from deals with the devil are power, wealth, or physical and mental ability, although some are not above using the deal to obtain busloads of women, which in a way makes all those other deals look like crap. It is said that deals with the devil are not always with Satan himself - sometimes, demons of lesser stature conduct the transaction. Apparently, re-arranging the 'Souls That Have Been Tortured' and the "Souls That Have Yet To Be Tortured' files take time.
And that's not even touching on the Fiery Pits of Hell Budget Meeting.
According to folklore, the common price for a deal with the devil is the selling of one's soul, i.e., "the representation of all that is good within us", or if you are in a philosophy class, ''that thing that your professor asks you to describe and you can't because he refutes all your descriptions". Also, the request made may have terrible consequences, such as your wealth being accidentally lost in a fire, being infinitely smart right before an accident that will leave you infinitely and incurably paralyzed for life, or your busloads of women accidentally getting into a crash with a busload of handsome, intelligent men (who incidentally may have been a part of an woman's demonic deal).
"Crap! They're getting away! Oh, man, Just another few blocks and that guy would have been me."
All this is done in the spirit of Demons being notorious, notorious dicks - they grant your request, but search actively for loopholes that allow them to take away what they have given you, or do something that will make them regret you ever made a deal with them in the first place. This, essentially, comes down to the fact that you have given your soul to the Devil for free.
This is either a rendition of Faust after summoning the Devil or a rendition of Faust after scoring some heavy, heavy pot.
Based on a German legend, Faust tells the story of an erudite scholar, who, despite his success and mortal knowledge, aims to seek more in life. Thus, with the help of his friends Valdes and Cornelius, he practices to become a magician and with the help of the black arts, summons Mephastophilis, a demon. The story does not say that Faust didn't use a top hat and pulled the demon out like a rabbit, so we are forced to assume he did.
Above: An analogy to Faust.
After summoning the demon (wherein perhaps many variations of 'oh shit' were invoked), Faust gets the idea to send Mephastophilis back to Lucifer with a business proposal: allow Mephastophilis to become Faust's slave for twenty-four years, in exchange for Faust's soul. Why Faust didn't obtain more years of the demon's slavery is never made clear, but it must have had something to do with Faust not wanting to live anymore, considering the fact that he practically traded away his scholarly career for an act as a stage magician.
Maybe it was worth the silk top hat and bunny-wunny wabbit.
After signing a blood compact with Lucifer, the words 'homo fuge' (o man, fly) appear on Faust's arm, both as a mark of their deal and as a mark of reassurance that many, many years later someone on the Internet would see Faust's mark and snicker while saying "heh, heh, homo."
Throughout the twenty-four years of what appears to be the most ballsy (and yet most stupid) deal in literature, Faust does a wide variety of things, such as lavish himself with rich gifts, obtain answers about the nature of the world, interrupt the pope's dinner, literally punch the ears of the aforementioned pope, gain an audience with Charles V by summoning Alexander the Great, and summon Helen of Troy, just to rave on and on about her beauty.
Near the twenty-four year count, Faust decides that he isn't fit to make a deal with the devil and begs to take the deal back. The Devil, disappointed at Faust for mentioning this little tidbit just now (after exploiting the other pleasures he has had over the years) refuses to renege and at midnight, sends a host of devils to drag Faust's ass to Hell. Great job, Faust. You could have at least tried to find a way out of the deal not twenty-four hours before you became Lucifer's little bitch.
The Devil and Daniel Webster
They made the Devil's costume red so readers wouldn't be confused. To be honest, that guy on the left doesn't exactly look like a cherub.
Stephen Vincent Benet authored a tale about a famer, Jabez Stone, who makes a deal with the Devil for ten years of prosperous farming, which is worse than Faust because he, at least, managed to get rich while Jabez Stone bartered his soul for shoveling manure and back aches for the sake of a good harvest. Think of it as Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town, but instead of friendly, color coded sprites, your 'helper' is a cackling, sinister man whose favorite color is just red and who keeps mentioning something about 'your payment will soon be due', and rubbing his hands together.
Left: A good deal. Right: Satan. Sadly, only one of these two isn't confined to your Gameboy Advance.
In order to save his soul, Stone hires the assistance of Daniel Webster, who was in fact an actual lawyer and soon-to-be politician during the 1800's. Oh, he also happened to be fourteenth U.S. Secretary of State, making The Devil and Daniel Webster something close to a piece of political fanfiction. This, in modern times, would be the equivalent of a full-length novel depicting Sarah Palin squaring down with the devil for a nice big hunk of political banter (recent times seem to be heading down this path of development, signs of which include the 2009 President Obama-Spider-Man crossover.)
Above: Progress! Or, specifically, Spider-Man versus 50-foot Tall President. But still!
The Devil (named as Mr. Scratch because 'Mr. Lucifer McDevil' would have raised a few eyebrows) agrees to a trial, but puts a jury of the damned in place, with people such as Loyalists, a governor, a reverend, and freaking Blackbeard.
What? A reverend? Oh my God, run!
In the end, however, Daniel Webster manages to convice the jury to let Stone free by describing humanly experiences such as taste of good food, the joy of a new day for a child, and other patriotic phrases. Before the reader is treated to Daniel Webster taking out a tutu, and putting on Swan Lake on CD, the jury of the damned pronounces Stone innocent and free, proving once and for all that bullshit conquers all.
Or having a creepy-ass face. One or the other.
The Devil and Tom Walker
Here, the Devil (right, with cooking apron), prepares for a afternoon of prancing with Tom Walker.
The Devil and Tom Walker was a short story created by Washington Irving in 1824. A gifted writer, Irving observed that The Devil and Tom Walker, his tale of a man facing the Devil, was too frightening, and years before his death created what he felt was a lighter, less horrifying story. The result:
Yeah, fun for the whole family, right there.
But years before Washington Irving wrote the head-choppy, Johnny Depp-adapted fun that was the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, he wrote the story of Tom Walker, a miser who loved in abject poverty. Bemoaning the fact that his level of poverty has gone from 'great' to 'abject', Tom wanders through an abandoned Indian fortress...
Whelp, that's it. No way this is going to end well. Indian burial ground-slash-cemetery, Indian burial ground-slash-hotel - why do the Native Americans always get it? Writers are such assholes.
...where a certain lumberjack (read: the Devil) is chopping down trees with the names of different evil persons during Walker's time, each tree symbolizing how close they are to the ol' dirt nap. Walker, proving he has all the courage of Teddy Roosevelt and the brains of two grams of sawdust, agrees to a deal offered by the Devil: Tom Walker gets the rumored treasure of Captain Kidd in the swamp in exchange for his soul.
After a small plot device involving his wife being consumed by the devil, leaving only her heart and liver in a tree, Tom Walker begins to work for the Devil as a loan collector, proving once and for all that tax collecting is the Devil's profession. However, like Faust before him, Walker begins to fear for his soul (which should have been evident when he saw his wife's apron full of wife-heart and wife-liver). The lumberjack-devil, however, proves merciless, and, again, like Faust before him, drags Tom Walker's ass to Hell, despite the man's habit of keeping two Bibles on his person at all times.
Left: Robert Johnson. Right: Ominous-looking demon face chewing at Johnson's guitar. You be the judge.
Robert Johnson, aside from being famous as one of the best blues musicians in history, also became famous for rumors surrounding his death, not unlike Marilyn Monroe, if she learned pick up a guitar and played blues. It was rumored that his talent in playing the guitar came from a deal with the devil, when he took it to a crossroad near the Dockery Plantation in Mississippi. Upon reaching the crossroad, Johnson met the Devil, in the form of a large black man, who tuned the guitar and played it before giving it back to Johnson.
Whether the deal was true was never discovered, although Johnson did his absolute best to not help the people find out, as some of his songs, "Crossroad Blues", "Preaching Blues (Up Jumped The Devil)", "If I Had My Possesssion Over Judgment Day", and "Hellhound on My Trail" can attest to.
He chose those titles possibly because "The Devil Tuned My Guitar For A Few Minutes In the Middle of A Shitty Road" never would have had any audience impact.
Lending more interest to his tale is his manner of death, where, in 1938, he died from severe pain and convulsions, cause of which was unknown at the time. However, investigations have revealed that Johnson allegedly died from consuming a bottle of strychnine-laced whiskey, so unless Satan hangs around bars opening bottles and injecting them with poison, Johnson remains a victim of a non-Satanic death.
Unless Johnson's whiskey drink looked liked a real-life version of this, in which case it was totally the Devil.
The Supernatural TV Series
Supernatural, a live-action series shown in the CW, depicts the adventures of Sam and Dean Winchester, two brothers who hunt down ghosts, monsters, and other supernatural beings. In the middle of their killing-the-shit out of non-humans road trip, Sam and Dean get into a car crash that puts Dean into a coma. Their killing-the-shit out of things road trip is immediately postponed.
"No...this can't be. After everything? There are more faces to be shot out there and you're saying I can't be a part of that anymore?" (sobs)
Fortunately, his father, John Winchester, strikes a deal with the demon they have been hunting, Azazel, to bring Dean back to life. In exchange for Dean's recovery, Azazel asks for John's soul, as well as for the Colt, a supernatural gun that has the ability to kill demonic beings and, in the series, is the only thing that can kill Azazel.
Aside from maybe jaundice.
Throughout the six seasons of Supernatural, demonic pacts are handed out like a blackjack dealer trying to set the record for World's Fastest Dealt Hand. Each of the four Winchesters make demonic deals, every single one of them uniting into one, big, demon-planned clusterfuck. The most common way of making a deal with a demon in the Supernatural universe is through summoning one at a crossroads, which - considering how much demonic deals are done in the series - could go better if they just put up a stall or rented shop space.
See? Some of their brethren have a headstart already.
One More Day
"Seriously, Magical Transforming Rock? One more day?! I can't stand another minute of getting pinned down!"
In this Spider-Man storyline created by J. Michael Straczynski and Joe Quesada, Spider-Man is forced to make a deal with the demon Mephisto in order to save his Aunt May, who was dying of a gunshot wound ordered by the Kingpin after Spider-Man reveals his identity to the public. Spider-Man, whose abilities include web-swinging, a semi-precognitive Spider-Sense, and the ability to not keep relatives safe from vengeful criminals, is then offered a deal with the villainous demon Mephisto.
"'Villainous'? More like 'Fabulous'!"
Mephisto offers to revive Aunt May in exchange not for Spider-Man's life, or soul, or even that bitchin' pair of webslingers he doesn't use now he has real spider-powers, but for his marriage to Mary Jane Watson. Peter is given until midnight to make his decision, and after considering the matter with his wife, allows their marriage of twenty-four years to be erased from existence.
No, you fool! You're trading this for an eighty-plus year old woman who's about to die anyway? Oh, yeah, the 'saving lives' thing.
The Twilight Zone
Rod Serling's 1959 science-fiction series features several episodes wherein the Devil strikes a deal with a human. Deals range from the history-shattering (changing the outcome of the Civil War) and time-changing (traveling back in time to start life anew), to the personal (immortality) and economic, as in the case of Printer's Devil, where Satan takes the disguise of a news reporter to bolster a failing newspaper.
"Um, Mr. ...McDeville, is it? Yeah, I'm going to have to complain about that fiery pit of screaming souls in your cubicle. This office has to conform with fire code regulations, you know."
So, in the course of just seven famous cases, it has been proven that Satan not only likes to make deals, but he also likes to play dress-up. He's been a drug hallucination, a black man, a goat-footed creature, a guy with jaundice, a comic book villain, a woman, and a news reporter? It appears that today, similar to Lady Gaga, Satan is never content with just one stupid costume. What's next, a -