Fictional Characters Wiki
This article's content is marked as Mature

Angry-face 1f620
Angry-face 1f620
This page contains mature content such as graphic material, coarse language and sexual references, which are unsuitable for sensitive readers or under 18 years old.
If you are 18 years old or above, or are comfortable with mature content, you are free to view this page. Otherwise, you should close this page and view another one.

Reader discretion is advised.
Hellraiser character
In-story information
Real name: Elliot Spencer
Aliases: Priest
Lead cenobite
The Pope of Hell
Dr. Paul Gregory
The Engineer
Gender: Male
Race: Cenobite
Primary location: "The Labyrinth"/Hell
Development information
Creator: Clive Barker
First appearance: The Hellbound Heart
Portrayed by: Doug Bradley
Stephan Smith Collins

Pinhead is a fictional character from the Hellraiser series. Created by Clive Barker and portrayed by Doug Bradley, Pinhead is a prominent figure in the series, mostly featured as the main antagonist.

Pinhead is the leader of the Cenobites, formerly human creatures from an extradimensional realm who travel to Earth through the Lament Configuration, and harvest human souls. Depicted as intelligent and articulate, the character was deliberately presented as a departure from the mute or wise-cracking 1980s horror movie villains who preceded him, being based more on Count Dracula. As the series became franchised, his motivations and role in the story have fluctuated, with the character being portrayed as an amoral hedonist, blatantly evil, or an entity detached from human existence and tasked with punishing the wicked.



In Hellraiser (1987), Kirsty Cotton unintentionally summons Pinhead and the Cenobites, but is spared on condition that she leads the cenobites to her uncle, Frank Cotton, who had escaped them. After reclaiming Frank, the Cenobites turn on Kirsty, who manages to banish them with the Lament Configuration.

In Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), it is revealed that Pinhead was born Elliot Spencer and opened the Lament Configuration after becoming disenchanted with human life after serving in World War I. Like other Cenobites, he lost all memory of his human identity following the transformation. He is a follower of the god "Leviathan", an entity that presides over a labyrinth realm called Hell, where the Cenobites live and torture their quarry. Kirsty shows Pinhead a photograph of his former self, causing him to regain his memories. He briefly leads his fellow Cenobites in a battle with the newly created Channard cenobite, who reverts him back to his human form before killing him.

In Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992), it is learned that Spencer's reversion to his human form caused the negative attributes of himself to manifest into an independent entity, which takes the form of Pinhead. Without human influence, Pinhead is unbound by the laws of the Cenobite Hell, and engages in an indiscriminate killing spree on Earth, transforming some of his victims into a Cenobite army. Spencer manages to escape Limbo and stops Pinhead by re-merging with him.

In Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996) Pinhead allies himself with the demon princess Angelique, in order to force John Merchant (a descendant of the inventor who built the Lament Configuration) to create an unsealable gateway to Hell. The future segments of the film reveal that Pinhead is finally destroyed in the year 2127 by Dr. Paul Merchant, another descendant, who creates the "Elysium Configuration", a space station capable of closing Hell's gateway for good. Pinhead is trapped inside it and is destroyed along with the box.

In Hellraiser: Inferno (2000) Pinhead appears primarily under the guise of police psychiatrist Doctor Paul Gregory, assuming his true form near the end to inform protagonist Detective Joseph Thorne that he has been in Hell for the duration of the film, and is being punished for his corruption and various misdeeds in life.

In Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002) Pinhead serves a role similar to the one he fulfilled in Inferno, appearing throughout the film to cryptically mock Trevor Gooden. In the end, Pinhead appears to Trevor to inform him that he has been in Hell after being killed by his wife Kirsty, whom he had been planning to murder. Instead, Kirsty struck a deal with the Cenobites, offering them up Trevor, his mistresses, and one of his conspirators in exchange for her own life.

In Hellraiser: Deader (2005) Pinhead appears several times to Amy Klein after she tinkers with the box, offering mysterious warnings to the reporter, who is investigating a cult leader and apparent necromancer named Winter. After Amy is captured by Winter, she learns he is a descendant of puzzle creator Phillip Lemarchand, and believes that it is his birthright to control the box and, thereby, the Cenobites; however, neither he nor any of his followers have been able to open it. Amy successfully opens the box, but rather than submit to Winter, Pinhead instead kills him and his followers for attempting to control it. Subject to being taken to the Cenobite realm for having opened the box, Amy instead chooses to commit suicide.

Pinhead appears as a fictional character in Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005), which is set in the "real world" in which the Hellraiser films have become the basis for a successful MMORPG called Hellworld. Although the "real" Pinhead seems to attack the guests at a Hellraiser-themed party, he is revealed to be the hallucination of five guests who have been drugged and buried alive by the party's host, who blames them for not preventing his Hellworld-addicted son's suicide. In the film's climax, the host discovers that the Hellraiser mythos is based in fact, and that his son had come into possession of a real Lemarchand box. Opening it causes the real Pinhead to appear, praising the boy's ingenuity before ordering a pair of Cenobites to kill the host.


Pinhead first appears in Clive Barker's novella The Hellbound Heart (1986), in which he only appears in the story's beginning, and is portrayed as a sexually ambiguous follower of the "Engineer":

Its voice, unlike that of its companion, was light and breathy-the voice of an excited girl. Every inch of its head had been tattooed with an intricate grid, and at every intersection of horizontal and vertical axes a jeweled pin driven through to the bone. Its tongue was similarly decorated.
—The Hellbound Heart, Clive Barker, ch. 1

The character appears in various Hellraiser comics and received his own comic miniseries, entitled Pinhead, published by Marvel Comics' Epic Comics imprint. In the comic book series, Pinhead is depicted as the latest incarnation of the cenobite spirit Xipe Totec, an entity derived from Aztec mythology. In the Harrowing storyline, Pinhead is revealed to have been romantically involved with a cenobite named Merkova, who was killed by the disciples of Morte Mamme, the sister and rival of Leviathan. In the Pinhead/Marshal Law crossover series, it is revealed that Pinhead's human incarnation, Captain Spencer, took part in the Battle of the Somme.

Captain Spencer has a cameo appearance in the novel The Bloody Red Baron by Kim Newman, in which he is working as an agent of the Diogenes Club. Suffering from shell shock, Spencer is invalided out of the army after hammering nails into his own skull.

He is set to appear in The Scarlet Gospels, in which he will confront Harry D'Amour. In 1998, Clive Barker stated that the novel will mark the death of Pinhead, and hopes that it will be definitive.

"One of the things I'm trying to do in the story with D'Amour and Pinhead is, I actually want to kind of make Pinhead feel fucked. I want people to make fools of him as he breathes his last and with no hope of resurrection. No sequels. I swear the way he's going - I have plotted this - the way he's going is so total, is so complete that the most optimistic film producer in Hollywood could never dream of resurrecting him! So I'm going to 'off' him, and I want the audience to say, 'Good'."
—Clive Barker on The Good, The Bad, And The Light In The Dark by Phil Stokes, at the Write On! talk at Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, 11 November 1998

Concept and creation[]

According to Clive Barker and Doug Bradley, the earliest incarnation of Pinhead appeared in Hunters in the Snow, an original 1973 play with Doug Bradley in the rôle of the Dutchman, an undead inquisitor and torturer. A later film titled The Forbidden, which was shot in 16 millimetre and in black and white, included a prop in the form of a wooden block with six nails in it, which gave distorted shadow formations under different lighting angles. Years later, during the scripting of Hellraiser, the same design would be applied to Pinhead's face to give the same effect.

After being disappointed with the way his material had been treated by producers in Underworld (which included a scene in which needles burst out of a character's skull), Barker wrote The Hellbound Heart as his first step in directing a film by himself.


Barker drew inspiration for the cenobite designs from punk fashion, Catholicism and by the visits he took to S & M clubs in New York and Amsterdam. For Pinhead specifically, Barker drew inspiration from African fetish sculptures. Initially, Barker intended Pinhead to have a navel piercing implying that the character had genital piercings.

After securing funding in early 1986, Barker and his producer Chris Figg assembled a team to design the Cenobites. Among the team was Bob Keen and Geoff Portass at Image Animation and Jane Wildgoose, a costume designer who was requested to make a series of costumes for 4-5 'super-butchers' while refining the scarification designs with Image Animation. Lighting-wise, Pinhead was designed so that shadows would swirl round his head. By July 1986, the shooting script positively identified the single pinheaded Cenobite from the earlier draft as clearly the leader.


When he read the script for the first time, Bradley stated on interview that he saw Pinhead as a cross between Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward. Upon asking Barker how he should play Pinhead, Barker told him to "[think] of him as a cross between an administrator and a surgeon who’s responsible for running a hospital where there are no wards, only operating theatres. As well as being the man who wields the knife, he’s the man who has to keep the timetable going." The two also decided early on that Pinhead was formerly human:

A line from one of Clive's plays swam into my mind: 'I am in mourning for my humanity.' At this point there was no back story for the character, but I had discussed this with Clive and we had agreed that he had once been human. But whether this was yesterday, last week, last year, ten, a hundred, a thousand years ago, I didn't know. I didn't need to. Sufficient to have that idea lodged into my brain. A perpetual, unconscious grieving for the man he had once been, for a life and a face he couldn't even remember. And a frozen grief. I felt now that Pinhead existed in an emotional limbo where neither pain nor pleasure could touch him. A pretty good definition of Hell for me.”
Hellraiser from chapter seventeen of Sacred Monsters: Behind The Mask Of The Horror Actor by Doug Bradley, 1996

The Pinhead makeup took six hours to apply. When Bradley first donned the Pinhead makeup, he spent a few minutes alone in his room getting into character by looking at himself in the mirror. During rehearsals, Barker told Bradley, who at the time was more used to working in theatre, to subdue his movements and gestures, in order to give Pinhead an aura of complete control. New World Productions originally considered overdubbing Bradley's voice with that of an American actor, though this was reconsidered when the producers watched him perform.


In the first Hellraiser script drafts, Pinhead was credited as "Priest". In the film, the character was simply credited as the "Lead Cenobite". The name "Pinhead" was coined by the makeup crew that applied the prosthetics on Bradley to distinguish the Cenobites. Clive Barker had no say in choosing "Pinhead" as a name, and did not like it, as he thought it was undignified. In the films, the character is only ever referred to as "Pinhead" by protagonist Joey Summerskill in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth and Chelsea in Hellraiser: Hellworld.


Pinhead's role has varied with each Hellraiser installment. In the original film, Pinhead was simply part of a collective group giving pleasure and pain to those who opened the Lament Configuration. They were not evil as such, simply a force or group of tragic characters that existed to explore experience. The second film followed this, but the third film radically changed the original concept, making Pinhead into a purely evil demon of chaos, explained by Pinhead losing the human, 'orderly', part of himself during the previous film. In the fourth film he is presented as a megalomaniac bent on world domination, and by the fifth he acts as a judge, punishing those who open the box for their sins by making them face their personal demons. In this film, he goes by the title of "Engineer", a name derived from the lead cenobite in Clive Barker's original novella. The seventh film reverts closer to the original film, with the Cenobites responsible for pleasure and pain, but the characters seem more demonic as in later installments.


The character's past, which is alluded to in Hellbound: Hellraiser II, is expanded upon in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth where it is revealed that Pinhead originated as Elliott Spencer, a captain in the British Expeditionary Force suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and survivor guilt. After having participated in one of the Battles of Flanders, Spencer lost faith in humanity after witnessing its cruelty to itself and lost faith in God, whom he believed had failed humanity.

The disillusioned and jaded Spencer wandered Earth indulging in a hedonistic lifestyle, turning to the baser methods of gratification for satisfaction and pleasure until finding the Lament Configuration in British India in 1921.


According to Clive Barker, as the writing of the Hellraiser script took place during the height of the A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and Halloween film series, his intended portrayal of Pinhead as an articulate and intelligent character was initially not well received by the producers: some suggested that Pinhead act more like Freddy Krueger and crack jokes, while others suggested that he be a silent character like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers. Barker insisted that Pinhead's personality be more evocative of Christopher Lee's portrayal of Count Dracula: "Part of the chill of Dracula surely lies in the fact that he is very clearly and articulately aware of what he is doing – you feel that this is a penetrating intelligence – and I don’t find dumb things terribly scary – I find intelligence scary, particularly twisted intelligence; it’s one of the reasons why Hannibal Lecter is scary, isn’t it? It’s because you always feel that he’s going to be three jumps ahead of you."

Though described by Pinhead's human half in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth as being "very persuasive and very inventive", Pinhead prefers using coercive methods in order to obtain his goals, a fact which brings him into conflict with his ally, the demon Princess Angelique.

Pinhead can be reasoned and bargained with. In both Hellraiser and Hellraiser: Hellseeker, Kirsty Cotton bargains with Pinhead to offer him more "souls" in exchange for her own (in particular, her human adversaries), thus resulting in her life being spared.

Pinhead is irreverent toward Christianity: in the third film, he mockingly imitates the stigmata in a church, and states in the fourth "Do I look like someone who cares what God thinks?"

Powers, weaknesses, and limitations[]

Described by Doug Bradley as stronger than Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, Pinhead is an extremely powerful being, and as such, has several supernatural abilities. His preferred method of attack is by summoning hooks and chains to mutilate victims, often pulling said victims in several directions to tear them apart. These chains are subject to his total mental control and he may direct them at will. The chains may even change shape after having attached to a victim. Pinhead is highly resistant to damage and direct assault, being able to resist both gunshots and futuristic energy weapons. His magic is also used for creating objects out of thin air, teleporting, creating explosions at distances and deceiving opponents with illusions. Pinhead is also familiar with the Occult and magic, with an ability to read minds. He is capable of creating other Cenobites from both living and dead victims.

In order to act in the physical world, Pinhead needs to have been purposely summoned through the Lament Configuration, though this in itself is not usually enough for Pinhead to target the puzzle-solver: in Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Pinhead stops the Cenobites from torturing an emotionally traumatised girl who was manipulated into opening the Configuration, remarking “…it is not hands that call us, it is desire…”

Pinhead at first has no memory of his human past, though is reminded of it in Hellbound: Hellraiser II, which results in what screenwriter Peter Atkins described as him being "spiritually weakened" and subsequently killed by the Chanard Cenobite. In Hellraiser: Deader, Pinhead retains his memory, but is not de-powered.


Pinhead is shown in all his appearances to be accompanied by other denizens of Hell. Although originally portrayed as a subordinate of "The Engineer" in The Hellbound Heart, his film incarnations show him as the leader of secondary cenobite characters. In the first two films, he is followed by three other cenobites, later credited as "Female Cenobite", "Chatterer" and "Butterball". In Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth and Hellraiser: Bloodline Pinhead creates cenobites from his victims, giving them characteristics evocative of their past lives or professions. Though he usually dominates other demons present in the films, in Hellraiser: Bloodline, he encounters Angelique, whom he grudgingly treats as an equal:

"This is something entirely new for Pinhead; he's never had a demonic cohort, so to speak. He's had his other Cenobites in the previous films, but the pecking order was always pretty clear. Angelique is at least his equal, and certainly in Angelique's own mind possibly his superior. Pinhead doesn't quite see things that way, so their relationship is a little sparky."
—Doug Bradley on Hellraiser: Bloodline, US Press Kit, March 1996

Though initially reverent toward her, Pinhead is disillusioned when his methods in achieving his goals through coercion come at odds with Angelique's more seductive techniques.

In popular culture[]

The character has been spoofed in a number of television series, including Robot Chicken episodes "That Hurts Me" (voiced by Scott Adsit), "Slaughterhouse on the Prairie" (voiced by Seth Green), and "Tubba-Bubba's Now Hubba-Hubba", The Simpsons episodes "Treehouse of Horror V" and "Stop, or My Dog Will Shoot!", South Park episodes Imaginationland Episode II and Imaginationland Episode III, and Family Guy episode "Meet the Quagmires". He is spoofed in the film Transylvania Twist, in which he steps out of an acupuncturist's office and says, "I don't care what anyone says — this hurts!" There was also a comical reference to him in The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy where he is portrayed as a villain with bowling pins coming out of his head.

Doug Bradley appeared as Pinhead in a Motörhead music video for the song "Hellraiser", a number of segments during MTV's 1996 Spring Break programming, and the television talk shows, The Arsenio Hall Show and The Jay Leno Show.

Pinhead is alluded to in the 1998 film Bride of Chucky. When John Ritter's character is seemingly killed, his face looks much like Pinhead from Hellraiser. Chucky exclaims, "Why does that look so familiar?".

Wizard magazine rated Pinhead the 9th greatest film villain.