The “place of the dead” in the old testament is called Sheol. The book of Enoch, as referenced in Jude, goes on to divide that place into 4 hollows of varying degrees of admission. (these are holding places of the dead)
Hell is a real place, but it’s a complicated place.
“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out”
The visions we know of hell are symbolic. The weeping and gnashing of teeth come from the seeing of the city and not being able to enter it, though it may seem simple that goes into deep and terrible ways. Even in John Boscos vision of hell we see that those who suffer can see heaven. The fire is symbolic but completely accurate. The visions of repetitive sins, burning, tearing of the flesh are accurate symbols for mankind who could not otherwise understand how a spirit can suffer.
I will quote F. Amorth books directly here because it explains that symbolism well. In one of his exorcisms a demon said this “Down there everyone lives folded within themselves and torn apart by his regrets. There is no relationship with anyone; everyone finds himself in the most profound solitude and desperately weeps for the evil that he has committed.” ( In my nobody opinion this is what is symbolized by fire, repetitive sins, and tearing of the flesh)
Further from F. Amorth, and I mention it to edify that our God is merciful in spite of the existence of hell.
“It wasn’t he(God) who made hell, It was us. He had not even thought about it” When asked if they contributed to the creation of hell. “All of us cooperated”.
I do not say any of these things of my own accord. I only quote the chief exorcist of Rome.
Its a terrible place, just as terrible as the symbolic hades we imagine.