The Strange And Elaborate Backstory Of Pinhead From 'Hellraiser'

Pinhead has dished out his own brand of BDSM judgement throughout 10 films, two books, and a series of comics, each building the story behind Hellraiser. For those of you who need to have your memory jogged, Pinhead, or “The Hell Priest,” is a Cenobite who straddles our dimension and his own world of pain and pleasure. Whenever someone is depraved enough to find their way to this demon, he and his crew appear out of the walls to torture their unsuspecting victims for eternity.

When audiences saw the first film in Clive Barker’s series, they were immediately enthralled by Pinhead. Not only were his features both disgusting and tantalizing, but he didn’t behave the same way that Jason or Freddy did. Pinhead was a villain as disturbing as he was inventive. This demon had a secret, and fans craved more Pinhead backstory. And know, we finally know what happened to make him such an intense creature. 

  • He's The Embodiment Of A Mayan God

    One of the big questions about Pinhead is how he's able to exist in the time of Lemarchand in Hellraiser IV, when Captain Spencer didn't find the puzzle box until the 20th century. In the Hellraiser comics published by Boom! Studios, Clive Barker writes that Pinhead is actually the most recent incarnation of Xipe Totec, a Mayan prince who's at war with a group of people who worship Leviathan. 

    According to the Hellraiser comic series, Pinhead can move in an out of his previous incarnations at will, instead of traveling back in time. 

  • He Became Pinhead Due To His Harrowing Time In The War

    Pinhead wasn't always a leather-clad, pasty-white maniac. Pinhead was actually born Elliot Spencer, an English man who joined the British military in World War I. Captain Spencer saw action at the Battle of Somme, a five-month-long ground battle in which British and French forces pushed into Germany territory. Close to 1,000,000 soldiers lost their lives during the fight. 

    This bloody loss of life bred the man who would become Pinhead. This battle is so deeply ingrained in the character, that Doug Bradley - the actor who portrayed Pinhead for most of the Hellraiser series - studied a documentary about the soldiers who survived the battle. 

    On the commentary for Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth Bradley explained, 

    One of the guys [in the documentary] said this extraordinary thing. [He was] talking about all his comrades who had died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme—something like 60,000 British troops were killed or injured in the first 24 hours. He felt as though he had cheated, that he shouldn’t have lived, that... he should have been buried along with his comrades in France. And I thought that’s exactly Elliot’s thing. That’s exactly what leads him from there to this.

  • Captain Elliot Was One Of The Most Hedonistic People On Earth

    Captain Elliot Was One Of The Most Hedonistic People On Earth
    Photo: Miramax / Amazon

    After losing his faith in the human race, Captain Spencer began to wander India to fulfill every carnal desire he could think of. After getting his fill of sex and violence, he discovered the Lament Configuration (the puzzle box created by Philip Lemarchand) and discovered how to open a wormhole to a Hell dimension, where was transformed into a Cenobite.  

    In Hellraiser III, Spencer says,

    We’d seen God fail us; so many dead. For us, he too fell at Flanders. The war destroyed my generation. Those that didn’t die drank themselves to death. I went further. I was an explorer of forbidden pleasures. Opening the box was my final act of exploration—of discovery.

  • Pinhead Isn't Even His Real Name

    According to Pinhead's creator, Clive Barker, the character's name isn't actually "Pinhead," that's just the name given to him by the makeup team on the first Hellraiser movie. Throughout various incarnations, Barker has referred to the character as "Lead Cenobite," "Hell Priest," and "Cold Man." He's even stated in interviews that he's never been a fan of the monster's most popular moniker: " I never called the guy Pinhead in the first place. It was one of the special-effects guys who did it. I thought it was a rather undignified thing to call the monster."

    A version of the character was actually introduced in an early student play, directed by Barker and starring Doug Bradley, the actor who would go on to play Pinhead in the film. In the stage version, he was known as "Dutchman." 

  • Pinhead Has A Piercing In A Very Uncomfortable Place

    Did you really think that a straight up BDSM freak like Pinhead wouldn't be pierced everywhere? According to Clive Barker, the writer and director of Hellraiser, he always felt the character would have chains that went "down below," hinting at genital mutilations.

    He told Dread Central, "I had always wanted back when we were filming in 1986 to do a 'reveal' that Pinhead had a piercing below the navel but somehow wanted to be discreet about it. Just something that indicated he had genital piercings.”

  • The Original Incarnation Of The Character Was More Feminine Than What Appeared In Film

    Pinhead's first official appearance was in the Clive Barker novella The Hellbound Heart. He played an incredibly small part where he popped up alongside his crew of Cenobites, and served a female master. He's described as having a "light and breathy" voice that's similar to the "voice of an excited girl." This is a marked change from the way his character was portrayed in the Hellraiser series, where Doug Bradley's voice is equally deep and austere. 

    While audiences know Pinhead as having nails in his head, in his first appearance he looked a little more fancy. Barker described him by stating, "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.”