Pinhead, or the Hell Priest, is a fictional character and the recurring antagonist of the Hellraiser franchise, first appearing as an unnamed figure in the 1986 Clive Barker novella The Hellbound Heart. When Clive Barker adapted the novella into the 1987 film Hellraiser, he referred to the character in early drafts as “the Priest” but the final film gave no name. The production and make-up crew nicknamed the character “Pinhead” and fans accepted the sobriquet, which was then used in press materials, tie-in media, and on-screen in some of the sequel films.
Barker drew inspiration for the cenobite designs from punk fashion, Catholicism and by visits he made 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. Barker’s original “Hell Priest” sketches for Pinhead were eventually adapted into an officially licensed mask by Composite Effects, to be released in limited quantity to the public on 24 March 2017. This was done in celebration of the 30th Anniversary of Hellraiser.
After securing funding in early 1986, Barker and his producer Chris Figg assembled a team to design the Cenobites. Among the team were 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. Rather than gold or jeweled pins, the character would have black iron nails decorating his head. In terms of lighting, 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.
Barker’s original concept art for Pinhead was adapted into a Hell Priest mask in 2017.