"From beneath you, it devours."
Hellmouths are places of increased supernatural energy. According to the mythology of the "Buffyverse", this is the area in which the barriers between dimensions are weak. The Hellmouth has a focal point, which serves as a portal between earth and Hell. For these reasons, the Hellmouth attracts demons and other supernatural creatures, becoming a "hot spot" for supernatural activity. The television series has confirmed that there are Hellmouths under Sunnydale, California and Cleveland, Ohio, as well as other unspecified cities around the world (cf. "Chosen").
The Hellmouth is first mentioned by name in "The Harvest", the second episode of Buffy, when Rupert Giles claims that the original Spanish settlers of Sunnydale called the area "Boca del Infierno," which Giles then translates to "Hellmouth" in English.
The energies emitted by the Hellmouth can have strange effects. Sunnydale High, positioned over the focal point, bore most of this supernatural phenomena. Buffy described the effects thus; "where the way a thing feels kind of starts being that way for real". For example, a shy girl who is completely ignored by teachers and students alive turns invisible and is taken away to a school for other invisible children. A boy suffering from stress literally explodes. The ghosts of dead high-school lovers haunt the school. In Season 7, when the Hellmouth becomes more active than during any other time in the series, competition between social cliques escalates into full-blown war. Inexplicable feats of science become possible. People (mostly teachers and students as well as police) become drawn to do evil things.
In both "Prophecy Girl" and "The Zeppo", large, multi-tentacled demons seem to be immediately inside the Hellmouth, until Buffy Summers and her friends slew them in the latter episode. In the episode "Doomed", Buffy entered the Hellmouth where it was revealed to be a large, empty cavern. Three years later, the First Evil bred thousands of Turok-Hans inside the Hellmouth, preparing to unleash a worldwide assault.
The Sunnydale Hellmouth lies underneath the library of Sunnydale High school during the first three seasons of the show, until the School's destruction at the end of Season 3. In the Season 4 episode "Doomed" the Hellmouth is seen as a narrow but incredibly deep pit in the ruins of the school. When Sunnydale High is re-built at the beginning of the 7th Season, Xander Harris says that the new principal's office is now located directly over the Hellmouth.
In the 7th Season episode "Conversations with Dead People," a never-before-seen artifact, the Seal of Danzalthar, located in the school's basement below the principal's office, covers the opening of the Hellmouth.
The Seal of Danzalthar
The Seal of Danzalthar is a fictional device resembling a demonic symbol, featuring an inverted pentagram and a goat's head. It is located over the Hellmouth in the basement of the rebuilt Sunnydale High School, though no explanation is ever given as to how it got there or why it was never seen any of the previous times the Hellmouth was seen.
The Seal is first seen in Season 7 of the series, in the episode "Conversations With Dead People". Andrew Wells is seduced by First Evil in the form of Andrew's dead friend Warren Mears into opening the Seal. The Seal can only be opened by a blood sacrifice, so Andrew murders his friend Jonathan Levinson who, because he is anemic, doesn't have enough blood to open the Seal. Jonathan's body and the Seal are found by Principal Robin Wood and buried.
The First Evil sends its minions, The Bringers, to capture Spike. They bind him over the Seal and bleed him. The Seal opens sufficiently to allow one Turok-Han (a.k.a. "Ubervamp") to slip through. The first Turok-Han is killed shortly thereafter by Buffy.
In the episode "Storyteller," the Seal is wreaking havoc on the Sunnydale student body, inspiring all-out warring amongst cliques, the spontaneous combustion of one student, and the invisibility of another. Five students perform a ritual over the Seal which causes it to emit white light. The students are transformed into Bringers. Buffy, stating that Andrew may be able to communicate with the Seal, takes him to it. Actually, Buffy and Willow have deduced that while blood opens the Seal, tears of remorse close it. Buffy forces Andrew to face up to his actions in murdering Jonathan and his tears fall upon the Seal, closing it and temporarily stopping its deleterious effects. By the time of "Touched," the Hellmouth has grown so powerful that Spike is able to freely enter and exit human residences without being invited.
In the series finale, "Chosen," Buffy, Faith and several Potential Slayers cut their hands and bleed on the Seal, opening it. They enter the Hellmouth itself and engage the forces of The First Evil on its own ground. After a pitched battle, an amulet worn by Spike begins to glow. A beam of sunlight shines down into the Hellmouth, focused and amplified by the amulet. The forces of The First Evil are destroyed, the Seal and the Hellmouth are collapsed and the entire town of Sunnydale is consumed in the destruction. As of the events of "Chosen", the Sunnydale Hellmouth is permanently closed and inactive.
The Seal was referenced by Blizzard Entertainment as an epic ring in the game World of Warcraft.
The location of the second Hellmouth is first suggested in the episode "The Wish". In an alternative timeline, Giles mentions that "there is a lot of demonic activity in Cleveland", where Buffy is located due to the effects of Cordelia's wish.
After the final battle in "Chosen", and the characters express relief that their struggle is finally over, Giles humorously adds that "there's another one in Cleveland". In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight comic "No Future For You", Giles refers to Cleveland, where Faith is stationed, as a "second-rate Hellmouth". In Angel: After the Fall, the Senior Partners express interest in purchasing property in Cleveland, following the destruction of the Sunnydale Hellmouth.
References in other works
- On an episode of Saturday Night Live John Larroquette portrayed Bob Vila on This Old House, remodeling the Amityville Horror house which included a "garden variety Hellmouth," which he suggested converting into a fireplace.
- In episode 10 season 2 of Eureka, one of the characters suspects that "GD was built over a Hellmouth."
- Hellmouth is the name of Oliver Morris' science fiction shop in Coupling.
- In the play Zombie Town, by Tim Bauer, one of the theories given for the zombie uprising in Hayward, TX, is that the town is built over a Hellmouth. A character notes that both Cleveland and Sunnydale are built over Hellmouths, the latter being "well documented."