Cenobite (Hellraiser)

The Cenobites are extradimensional beings who appear in the works of Clive Barker, including the novella The Hellbound Heart and the eight Hellraiser films. They are also mentioned, in passing, in the novel Weaveworld. They are mentioned by Immacolata who calls them “The Surgeons from Beyond.”


The term cenobite is an archaic word meaning simply "a member of a communal religious order". Indeed, the original novel mentions the Cenobites as "Theologians of the Order of the Gash"; they are also referred to as Hierophants. They can reach Earth's reality only through a rupture in time and space (referred to as a "Schism") which is opened and closed using certain unearthly artifacts. The most common form for these artifacts is an innocuous-looking Chinese-style puzzle box called the Lament Configuration.


Clive Barker stated that his inspiration for the Cenobites was visits to S&M and fetish clubs in New York and Amsterdam.


The Cenobites all have horrific mutilations or body piercings. The best known of the Cenobites in the Hellraiser films is Pinhead, who appears in all eight films and is played by actor Doug Bradley. Pinhead’s mutilation consists of pins that have been hammered through his flesh into his skull in a grid pattern and six open wounds on his lower torso with the flesh peeled back, and also fish-hooks embedded in the back of his head. Other Cenobites have much more severe mutilations.

Originally enforcers for Leviathan, Lord of Hell, Cenobites were charged with retrieving anyone who solved the Lament Configuration, also known as the Lemarchand Box, a wood and brass puzzle box, which if solved opens a gateway between our world and Hell, highly sought after by the greatest of hedonists for its promise of unparalleled pleasures. The Cenobites were then directly responsible for the pleasure/pain torture of said individual.

Originally believed to have always been Cenobites since the creation of Hell, it was revealed that some Cenobites had once been human, the first four seen who had unlocked the Lament Configuration and others “recruited” by Pinhead. Some Cenobites were tragic villians (like the original four from the first two films) trapped to serve Leviathan, while some were truely (Channard Cenobite, etc.) or turned (Dreamer, Camerahead, etc.) evil on the inside. The rest, such as Angelique, the daughter of Leviathan, were never human at the start.

Differences between film and written descriptions

  • The leader of the Cenobites, who does not appear until the end of the novella, is the mysterious Engineer. In the film series, the leader of the Cenobites (later known as “Pinhead”) appears at the beginning during Frank’s initial encounter with them. The title of Engineer does not appear in the film series until Hellraiser: Inferno, in which it is used for an unidentified serial killer. (A non-Cenobite inhabitant of the Cenobites’ realm is seen in the first film chasing Kirsty out of Hell. Although not identified within the film, the film’s credits refer to this creature as “The Engineer.”)
  • Pinhead’s head is gridded with incisions, but his counterpart in the novella has a grid tattooed on his head. This counterpart is not the leader of the four initial Cenobites. The leader in the novella is a character whose wounded eyelids and lips are held open by hooks on chains that are woven through the bones of its skull.

Powers and abilities in the films

The physical composition of Cenobites gives them each a number of unique abilities, but there are a few traits common to all. When summoned, they seem to be able to decide exactly when, where, and by what means they will appear. In Hellraiser, the Cenobites appeared immediately in the hospital room where Kirsty called them. Later, they appeared from the darkness of the attic when she led them to their quarry. In Hellraiser II, when the configuration was solved, they caused the rooms they manifested in to take on the stonework and cyclopean properties of their native Labyrinth. They all appear to be telekinetic to a degree, able to control the hooked chains that are their trademark, as well as snatch small objects at a distance (as Angelique recovered the box in Hellraiser IV). Though not entirely confirmed, they seem to be able to summon forth their chains from any nearby shadows. They each seem to possess great strength, heightened resistance to damage, and some degree of super-natural empathy. They also tend to be rather sharp, patient, logical, and discerning.

Individual abilities vary widely. In the two earlier movies, there was little difference among them until Dr. Channard was created, presenting the ability to generate custom tentacles and spears. However, he seemed to represent an element of the shifting powers of the Labyrinth. When the Pinhead character’s inhuman evil manifests in the world in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth it seems to have nearly unlimited and highly versatile powers. His human side suggests that he is no longer bound by the rules governing other Cenobites (suggesting others among them might have such power). He can telekinetically control vast areas, transmogrify matter, create and control fire, animate objects, and the like. In any case, he creates Cenobites in both the third and fourth movies that have powers unique to their forms, such as a man that launches razor edged CDs, a pair of twins that can crush people between their bodies, a man with a pneumatic camera eye that can impale targets, and so forth.

In written works

In Hellraiser series

  • Hellraiser (1987)
    • Pinhead—Dark Prince of Pain, Angel of Suffering, Leviathan's Lord of the Damned. During the first World War, Captain Elliot Spencer witnessed many atrocities, his appetites were indulged, but it was through the Lament Configuration that a world of experience beyond limits would open up to him and eventually become his domain.
    • Female Cenobite—Sister Nikoletta's devotion to her church waned as the seeds of lust and wanting grew secretly within her. A stranger seeking shelter sensed her needs and gave her the gift of the Box.
    • Butterball—Laslo was a despicable character in life. His gluttony for dark sin and perverse pleasure guided him like a moth to the flame that is the Lament Configuration, but with its opening came unimaginable pain and a life of servitude as one of 'The Cenobites', however, with his eyes sewn shut, tormenting him further, denying him the sights he would enjoy so much.
    • Chatterer—A child of misery who sought redemption from the Lament Configuration and only found the indulgence of pain. His solitude and misery forever accompanied by the echoes of the sound of his Chattering teeth.
    • The Engineer—(Note—not actually a Cenobite but a demon that stalks Hell’s corridors. The Engineer is a Cenobite in the original novella.) A guardian of Hell. A salamander-like, yellowish demon with four arms and a sharp tail. The hind arms hold itself up and propel it along. It created the Chatterer.
    • Puzzle Guardian—(Note—the tramp that follows the girls around is also not actually a Cenobite but an entity which protects the Lament Configuration. These were explored further in the EPIC comic series.)
  • Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
    • Pinhead—Captain Elliott Spencer, The Black Pope of Hell, The Angel of Suffering, The Dark Prince of Pain.
    • Female Cenobite—Sister Nikoletta.
    • Butterball—Laslo.
    • Chatterer II—In all worlds the ambitious and those who excel are rewarded. The world of hell is no different and so in honor of his visceral 'gift' for tortured ecstasy, his skills in the manipulation of bloodied flesh and his loyalty and servitude at Pinhead's side within the ranks of the order of pain Chatterer would receive the gift of his sight.
    • Channard Cenobite—Celebrated neurologist Philip Channard, co-founder of the famed Channard Institute spent a lifetime trying to unlock damaged minds when in truth his own mind was the most damaged of all. Leviathan gave him his re-birth and obliged him to execute all of his putrid fantasies.
    • The Engineer—(Cut from film.)
  • Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
    • Pinhead—Captain Elliott Spencer, The Black Pope of Hell, The Angel of Suffering, The Dark Prince of Pain.
    • Camerahead—Daniel Erwin “Doc” Fisher. Formerly a cameraman for Channel 8 and Joey’s friend. He was decapitated in the Boiler Room by Pinhead and remade into a Cenobite, with a camera lens where his right eye should be. Anything photographed by the lens explodes almost instantly.
    • CD—The Boiler Room's resident DJ Jimmy "See-Dee" Hammerstein found himself unwittingly recruited into hell's dark army in the form of a 'Pseudo Cenobite'. He stores razor edge compact disks in a retractable panel in his torso which he throws like shuriken.
    • Barbie Cenobite—Richard "Rick" Bloodstone as just an English bartender working the "Boiler Room" that fateful night when Hell was unleashed on earth. As a Cenobite, he has barbed wire wrapped around his body and face, and he carries a glass and mixer filled with gasoline. He breathes fire, which ignites the gasoline. His eyes are shut.
    • Dreamer—Terri, a homeless girl who found the Pillar of Souls for JP at the Pyramid Gallery. She was made into a Cenobite by Pinhead, with a cigarette coming out of a neck wound and the skin of her hands peeled back.
    • Pistonhead—JP Monroe, the owner of the Boiler Room. A collector of strange art, he acquired the Pillar of Souls for his collection. He was among those killed/converted by Pinhead.
    • The Puzzle Guardian
  • Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)
    • Pinhead—Captain Elliott Spencer, The Black Pope of Hell, The Angel of Suffering, The Dark Prince of Pain.
    • Angelique—Angelique is a summoned demon, who took the sensuous form of a woman, and tried to destroy the order of the cenobites and the gateway that is the box. When her plans failed she was violently inducted into Pinhead's order, emerging as an erotic collision of beauty and manipulated flesh, truly The Princess of Torment.
    • Siamese Twins-Formerly twin brothers, Mark and Michael Norrington worked as security guards for Merchant’s office building. While doing a routine security check, they ran into Pinhead, who assured the two they would “never be parted from each other,” turning them into conjoined Cenobites. They attack first by separating, then flanking a victim, and finally rejoining whereupon the victim is crushed/absorbed between the two of them.
    • Chatter Beast- A Cenobite Pet. Created from human flesh, these people were not worthy of being true Cenobites.
  • Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)
    • Pinhead—The Black Pope of Hell, The Angel of Suffering, The Dark Prince of Pain.
    • Wire Twins-Leviathan's Sisters of Tormented pleasures. Two Perfect Twins in their human form who stumbled into the dark world of the labyrinth. Now their eternity is spent in the sisterly sharing of the torments of the flesh of their victims
    • Torso-Possibly the most brutally altered human in all of the history of the cenobites surgical practices in the pursuit of perpetual pain and suffering. Conformed to mirror the image of his sadistic creator, 'Torso' walks the corridors of hell's dark labyrinth in search of his master, 'Chatterer.'
    • Faceless Killer—AKA “The Engineer” AKA “Joseph Thorne” (Note—not actually a Cenobite but a being representing Joseph’s desires).
  • Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)
    • Pinhead—The Black Pope of Hell, The Angel of Suffering, The Dark Prince of Pain.
    • Stitch—The 17th Century daughter of a French Priest. Gabrielle found no comfort in the pages of her father's bible. . . her lust for sin and the black arts saw her condemned to burn as a witch. Her salvation, the brass etched box given to her by a stranger the night before her execution.
    • Surgeon—The dexterous hands of "Deacon Vranian" were said to be that of the most skilled surgeon ever, but one error cost him his reputation, his sanity and sent him on his own dark quest for "The Box" and the redemption of The Cenobites.
    • Bound
    • Chatterer III—The Angel of Suffering.
    • The Puzzle Guardian
  • Hellraiser: Deader (2005)
    • Pinhead—The Black Pope of Hell, The Angel of Suffering, The Dark Prince of Pain.
    • Chatterer III—The Angel of Suffering.
    • Little Sister
    • Stitch—Gabrielle.
    • Bound II
    • Spike—(Cut from film.)
  • Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)
    • Pinhead—The Black Pope of Hell, The Angel of Suffering, The Dark Prince of Pain.
    • Bound II
    • Chatterer III—The Angel of Suffering.
    • Siamese Twins

Comic stories

  • Canons of Pain
    • Grillard Cenobite—An ancient Cenobite at the time of the crusades; his weapon of choice is Hell’s “Spears.”
  • Dead Things Rot
    • Clown Cenobite—Sometimes referred to as “Winky Dink”; a permanently smiling Cenobite dressed in black, in life he was a TV Clown on the Mr Winky Dink Show.
  • Original Sin
    • Bright Eyes & The Voice—Twin sisters, one with her mouth barred shut and the other with her eyes removed.
  • Under the Knife
    • Saucy Jack—Cenobite version of Jack the Ripper who committed murders in Victorian London to get into Hell.
  • Demons to Some, Angels to Others
    • Legion —Bloated Cenobite with four heads, summoned by the Genesis Revelation.
  • The Devil's Brigade Part 18: Reckoning
    • Griot Cenobite—Obese cenobite who tattoos the history of Hell upon his body.
  • The Devil's Brigade Part 18: Reckoning
    • Praetor Abatur—The judge of hell who tried in vain to turn Hell against Pinhead.
  • Diver’s Hands
    • Hunger Cenobite—A very thin Cenobite with a large mouth and bulbous eyes.
  • Death, Where Is Thy Sting?
    • Aparius Cenobite—Bee-keeper of Hell, in charge of Cenobite-bees.
  • Mazes of the Mind
    • Orno Cenobite—Hell’s scientist who creates new guardians and avenues into Hell.
  • The Harrowing
    • The General—Leader of Hell’s army under Leviathan.
    • Merkova—Leader of the lucky six sent to eliminate the Harrowers, has an animal skull face.
    • Turpis—Member of Merkova’s lucky six, killed by the Harrowers.
    • Cattleskull—Member of Merkova’s lucky six, killed by the Harrowers.
    • Fulgar—Member of Merkova’s lucky six, killed by the Harrowers.
    • Haloblades—Member of Merkova’s lucky six, killed by the Harrowers.
    • Cowboy—Member of Merkova’s lucky six, killed by the Harrowers.
  • (Various)
    • Balberith Cenobite—An old woman with glasses sewn to her face; she carries a book made of human flesh.
    • Abigor Cenobite—a female Cenobite, a vasa inquitatis.
    • Face Cenobite—Staples other people’s faces onto his own; in life was an actor, strongly implied to have been Lon Chaney sr.
    • Atkins Cenobite—A soldier in Vietnam; Hell’s armourer, known as Hell's "bastard son".

In Hellraiser fan films


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