The Hellraiser Timeline Explained

With 10 films and more on the way, the "Hellraiser" franchise is one of the longest-running horror series of all time. Based on the mythology and characters from the highly creative yet utterly perverse imagination of Clive Barker, the extensive tales of the devilish creatures called Cenobites and the victims unfortunate enough to cross their paths have been told in novels, comic books, and short stories. The result is a rich universe spanning centuries and dimensions of existence. 

At the same time, the ultimate villain of the extremely nightmarish series, Pinhead, has evolved into one of the most well-known horror icons who stands pretty much shoulder to shoulder with the other greats of the genre, like Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger. As the saga is expanded to with further stories that continue to reveal more of the supremely abysmal world it takes place in, Pinhead always plays a pivotal role. Let's open up the puzzle box that is the surprisingly sprawling backstory of Pinhead and the "Hellraiser" timeline. We have such sights to show you.

The creation of the Lament Configuration

Although the realm of Hell and the dark god Leviathan have an unfathomably primaeval existence beyond our comprehension of time, the history of the horrific puzzle box that starts off the "Hellraiser" series is far more recent. Officially known as the Lament Configuration, the device has often been called Lemarchand's box because of its creator.

Clive Barker is eerily vague when describing the history of the many puzzle boxes. "Named after their French designer, the devices were known simply as Lemarchand's boxes," the horror master writes in "The Scarlet Gospels." "In more knowing circles, however, they were also branded with the more truthful name: Lament Configurations. They existed in unknown numbers all around the world."

"Hellraiser IV: Bloodline" does go into more detail about the origin of Lemarchand's box. In 1784, the toymaker Philip Lemarchand constructed the first Lament Configuration. Shortly after, the puzzle box was used to open a gateway to Hell, and the demon princess Angelique emerged from that nightmarish realm to terrorize humanity.

Elliot Spencer transforms into Pinhead

Several decades before the events of "Hellraiser," the demon lord of the Cenobites was once a mortal named Elliot Spencer. Born in the late 1800s, Spencer joined the British Army as a young man and become an officer not long after. In "Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth," we learn that the captain fought in one of the Battles of Flanders during World War I. Afterwards, Spencer was so traumatized by the horrors of war that he lost faith in both humanity and God. The bleak mentality led him down to a deep descent into a darkness from which he would never return.

Spencer's hedonistic pursuits eventually bring him to India, where he discovers the Lament Configuration and becomes obsessed with solving it. When he opens the box, he transforms into the Cenobite known as Pinhead, a supernatural being of immense power and incomprehensible cruelty. In his new demonic form, Pinhead becomes the master of the Order of the Gash, a Cenobite faction within the realm of Hell.

Frank Cotton opens Lemarchand's box

In the 1980s, a man named Frank Cotton bought the Lament Configuration. In the original novella that inspired "Hellraiser," "The Hellbound Heart," Clive Barker describes the steps leading up to the purchase: "It was in Düsseldorf, where he'd gone smuggling heroin, that he again encountered the story of Lemarchand's box. His curiosity was piqued once more, but this time he followed the story up until he found its source. The man's name was Kircher, though he probably laid claim to half a dozen others. Yes, the German could confirm the existence of the box, and yes, he could see his way to letting Frank have it."

In the movie version of "Hellraiser," Cotton procures the box from a foreign merchant in Morocco. Once back home, he opens the puzzle box, unleashing Pinhead and the Cenobites who seize his soul before disappearing back to Hell. Years later, Frank's brother, Larry, moves into the abandoned house with his family and suspects that Frank had lived there but has vacated. Along with Larry are his daughter, Kirsty, and her stepmother, Julia.

While moving in, Larry cuts his hand on a protruding nail and from his spilled blood, inadvertently resurrecting Frank as a flayed monstrosity. We eventually learn that before marrying Larry, Julia had an affair with Frank, and when she encounters the undead creature he had become, she helps him ensnare victims to feed upon. The two then even turn on Larry, with Frank stealing his skin to wear. Kirsty manages to see through it, however, and uses the puzzle box to summon the Cenobites, who drag Frank back to Hell.

Dr. Philip Channard defeats the Cenobites

"Hellbound: Hellraiser II" takes place shortly after the events of the first film. Kirsty Cotton has been taken to a psychiatric hospital, the Channard Institute, where she unsuccessfully tries to get people to believe her story. The police have found the blood-soaked mattress where Julia died at the end of "Hellraiser," and Kirsty — fearing that Julia could return from Hell the same way Frank did — desperately pleads with the detective to burn the mattress.

Unbeknownst to Kirsty, Dr. Phillip Channard has a disturbing infatuation with Lemarchand's box, and uses her information to gruesomely resurrect Julia. Channard then provides her with bodies to consume, while using another patient, Tiffany, to solve the puzzle of the Lament Configuration. At the same time, Kirsty has received a horrific message from her father scrawled on her wall in blood: "I AM IN HELL. HELP ME." For the love of her dad, Kirsty willingly enters the nightmare with Tiffany to save him. She's devastated to find she has been deceived by Frank.

While in Hell, Julia gives Channard over to the demonically animated environment, which brutally tortures the doctor before turning him into a terrifying Cenobite. He becomes so powerful that he even manages to defeat Pinhead and the Cenobites with relative ease. Channard attacks Tiffany, but she manages to solve the puzzle, making the Cenobite lose his head. Kirsty and Tiffany then escape before the gateway to Hell seals behind them.

Pinhead breaks free from the Pillar of Souls

Although defeated, Pinhead is not destroyed. Instead, the formidable demon is trapped in the Pillar of Souls, along with the Lament Configuration. As shown in "Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth," nightclub owner J.P. Monroe purchases the pillar for decoration, only to discover that it's possessed by the imprisoned lord of the Cenobites. After feasting on a couple victims, including Monroe, Pinhead gathers the strength to destroy the pillar and free himself.

In the meantime, television reporter Joey Summerskill is investigating the story about Lemarchand's box when she's visited by the ghost of Elliot Spencer in a dream. The specter explains that whereas there used to be a sense of order to Pinhead's sadistic brutality, the Cenobite has become a creature of pure chaos and will continue to slaughter unless stopped.

Pinhead then savagely rampages through the nightclub, slaughtering all the innocent people within and creating new Cenobite followers. With the help of the spiritual form of Spencer, Joey uses the puzzle box to defeat Pinhead and send him back to Hell. She then hides the extremely dangerous device in the cement foundation of a building — a structure that once built, reveals design elements inspired by the Lament Configuration.

Pinhead restores order in Hell by traveling through time

Pinhead may have failed to make Hell on Earth, but at least he has been freed from the Pillar of Souls and returned to his own realm. His return comes just in time — as shown in the limited comic book series "Clive Barker's Pinhead," the demonic dimension has been coming apart in his absence. The order in Hell enforced by the primeval god Leviathan is on the verge of collapsing, so Pinhead travels through time to reestablish the will of his master.

Pinhead battles the powerful being responsible for the carnage, known as the Aggregate — first in the Wild West of 1876, then in France during 1728, the Mayan Civilization of A.D. 627, and finally in ancient Sumer. The Aggregate manages to escape one final time before the creature, which is really a collective amalgamation of demon parts, has its ultimate showdown with the lord of the Cenobites. Pinhead is victorious, succeeds in restoring order in Hell.

John Merchant battles with Pinhead

As shown in "Hellraiser IV: Bloodline," John Merchant, the descendant of Philip Lemarchand, designed the building constructed after Joey Summerskill put the Lament Configuration in its foundation. Later, in 1996, the demon princess Angelique discovers his existence, finding the box beneath the structure and summoning Pinhead from Hell.

Angelique meets with John, who has no idea what she truly is. He revealed to her that he's been working on a complex machine that uses lasers and mirrors to create perpetual light, called the Elysium Configuration. Upon learning about the device, Pinhead wants John to use it to keep the portal to Hell open for eternity. "The box, once thought so powerful, is only a model," the demon lord explains. "What you will give me is the true version. No longer will we have to seep into your world like pests through cracks in the baseboards. Once and for all, we will open the gates, lay low the ramparts."

However, John fails to make it work as Pinhead wants, so he is savagely decapitated. But before the Cenobite master and the demon princess can cause any more bloodshed, John's wife Bobbi uses the puzzle box to send the devilish fiends and their minions back to Hell.

Joseph Thorne finds the Lament Configuration

A few years after John Merchant's death, "Hellraiser: Inferno" picks up with detective Joseph Thorne discovering the Lament Configuration at a crime scene. After taking it (and some drugs) with him, the crooked cop proceeds to cheat on his wife with a sex worker named Daphne before making the horrible mistake of opening the puzzle box.

The next day, Joseph leaves Daphne in the motel room and goes to work. While he's at the police station, he receives a call from her as she's being assaulted by an unknown attacker. When Joseph and his partner, Tony Nenonen, find her mutilated body, it sends them down a dark path to find the serial killer known as the Engineer.

Eventually his family, Tony, and everyone else close to him has been murdered, and Joseph comes to the even more horrific realization that he will be forever imprisoned within Hell for opening the box. As part of his torture from Pinhead, the detective is forced to live through the murders again and again on repeat to the end of time, in the absolute worst version of "Groundhog Day" imaginable.

Kirsty Cotton faces Pinhead once again

In "Hellraiser: Hellseeker," Kirsty Cotton has moved on from the traumatic events of the first two films. She's been married to Trevor Gooden for five years, when the couple are in an accident that plunges their car into a river. Trevor is left unable to remember much of his life before the harrowing experience, aside from the fact that Kirsty was with him and was killed in the accident.

Gradually, through interactions with his previous acquaintances, Trevor not only remembers the affairs he had with three different women, but also that he had conspired with a coworker to murder Kirsty in order to inherit both Larry and Frank's wealth. One by one, people connected to Trevor start dying violently.

Trevor then remembers that he attempted to get rid of Kirsty by giving her Lemarchand's box in the hope that Pinhead would finally drag her into Hell. However, Kirsty has cleverly saved her own soul once again. To satiate the Cenobite lord, the heroine has made a deal with him, exchanging her one soul for five, which included her evil husband, his accomplice, and the three adulterous women. Like detective Joseph Thorne before him, Trevor had no idea he was already in Hell, put there after his wife shot him before the car accident and walked away unscathed.

Winter Lemarchand founds the cult of the Deaders

Not long after Kirsty Cotton avoided Hell one final time, Winter Lemarchand, another contemporary member of the Lemarchand clan, creates a death cult in "Hellraiser: Deader." After watching a video of their morbid practices, reporter Amy Klein travels to Bucharest to investigate the group, and almost immediately finds the body of one of the followers known as Deaders, along with the Lament Configuration. Like many before her, she makes the grave mistake of meddling with the curious device.

Amy's investigation leads her directly to Winter, who tries to recruit her as a Deader. Instead, Amy hurls Lemarchand's box away from the cult, opening the portal to Hell. Pinhead and the Cenobites then emerge to punish Winter for the audacious belief that he could use her cult to control the puzzle box. Amy sacrifices herself before they can reap her soul as well, causing the Lament Configuration to explode and obliterate the building.

Teens are addicted to the Hellworld video game

Elsewhere in the world, Cenobite fandom has gone mainstream with the release of the "Hellworld" video game. No one knows it was based on reality in any way, but the popular game has attracted many addicted fans. In "Hellraiser: Hellworld," a group of friends play together until one of them, Adam, mysteriously commits suicide.

Two years later, Adam's father is still livid over his son's death, blaming everyone other than himself. Through his twisted logic, he has determined that his son's friends were at fault, and  he's devised a plan to get revenge. Using the game they all loved to trick them, the vengeful father manipulates the group into attending a private Hellworld party held in a mansion. Once he has ensnared them within his trap, the host drugs the friends and buries them alive, forcing them to hallucinate their own violent deaths as the extreme stress causes their bodies to fail. 

From beyond the grave, Adam manages to alert the authorities and save two of his friends, Chelsea and Jake. Meanwhile, Adam's dad has discovered the Lament Configuration among his son's belongings, realizing the game was never fiction in the worst way possible as he's cut to pieces. 

The Lament Configuration is discovered in Mexico

"Hellraiser: Revelations" takes place several years later, after Nico Bradley and Steven Craven have gone missing in Mexico. The police present their families with the possessions they were able to recover, including a video recorder. The videotape inside is incredibly disturbing, showing the two friends opening the Lament Configuration. The following year, Steven's sister Emma finds the puzzle box in her brother's belongings, and suddenly Steven returns to them. 

Shortly after, the families are horrified to discover that what they thought was Steven has in fact been Nico wearing his dead friend's skin. After killing his own father with a shotgun, he holds the rest of them hostage with the goal of trading Emma's soul to Pinhead in exchange for his own. However, when the Cenobite lord arrives, there is no bartering. They are all killed or dragged to Hell ... except for Emma, who somehow still seems intrigued by the puzzle box even after all she has witnessed. 

Heaven intervenes in Pinhead's affairs

In modern times, it's become a major problem for the Cenobite faction and the Stygian Inquisition of Hell that technology has given so many people the ability to satiate their dark desires through the internet. "Hellraiser: Judgement" begins with Pinhead and the Stygian Auditor working together to figure out how best to reap souls in the 21st century. 

Meanwhile, three detectives — brothers Sean and David Carter and Christine Egerton — are on the trail of a serial killer called the Preceptor who kills those who break the Ten Commandments. During the investigation, Sean is taken captive by the Inquisition, but the angel Jophiel forces the demons to let him go. It's later revealed that Sean is the Preceptor, and heaven has intervened on his behalf so that he may continue to terrify sinners. Furious over Jophiel's interference in his affairs, Pinhead not only makes sure Sean dies, but he also slays the angel as well. For these transgressions, God punishes the Cenobite master by turning him back into a mortal man with no more power. 

The Elysium Configuration destroys the gateway to Hell

"Hellraiser: Bloodline" begins in 2127 when Paul Merchant, a direct successor of Philip Lemarchand, takes control of the space station he created called Minos and moves it out of orbit. The engineer then uses a robot to open the Lament Configuration, summoning Pinhead and Angelique from Hell. Before he's able to take further steps in his master plan, security forces arrive on Minos to detain Merchant and investigate what's happened on the station.

The Cenobites begin to slaughter the officers, who are caught completely unaware of the extreme danger they're in. One of the officers, Rimmer, releases Merchant in time for the engineer to distract Pinhead with a hologram while the duo escape on a shuttle. Merchant then reveals his ultimate trap — Minos is, in fact, just a disguise for the colossal Elysium Configuration. Once he sets the massive machine in motion, the Lament Configuration is destroyed and the gateway to Hell is finally severed for good.