The Hawkins National Laboratory, connected to the U.S. Department of Energy, was a federal complex located in Hawkins, Indiana. It was most likely controlled by the CIA or NSA, and was one of several national laboratories which grew out of the scientific endeavors of World War II.

The lab was very secretive and private; it was surrounded with barbed wire fence and guarded by military police. It was composed of one multi-story building that led down to an underground complex. It was located within a secluded forest with only a single road leading to it.



Following the second World War, Hawkins Lab was established as one of several national laboratories across the United States.

Project MKUltra

Main article: Project MKUltra

From the 1950s to 1970s, a program of experiments on human subjects was designed and undertaken by the CIA, known as "MKUltra". Dr. Martin Brenner, a high-ranking member in the U.S. Department of Energy, had a hand in these experiments. In 1953, MKUltra came to Hawkins Lab and began experimentation.[1]

In these experiments, participants would be given psychedelic drugs and placed in isolation tanks in hopes of “expanding the boundaries of the mind”. At some point in the '70s, MKUltra was exposed and along with it, the alleged abuse of the test subjects. Despite this, the lab managed to block any inquiries.

One test subject, college student Terry Ives, was unknowingly pregnant while undergoing the experiments, which resulted in her daughter being born with various psychokinetic abilities. Immediately after she gave birth, her daughter was taken by Brenner, with the lab covering the kidnapping up as a miscarriage along with erasing any traces of her existence. Terry tried to file a lawsuit against Brenner and his employees, but was unsuccessful due to a lack of evidence.

Experimentation on 011

Main article: Eleven

Terry's daughter was renamed '011' and raised in the laboratory, where she was subjected to harsh treatment and secluded from the outside world. Psychological tests were conducted to exploit the telekinetic abilities she was born with. A room in the lab's underground complex contained a sensory deprivation tank used to enhanced Eleven's psychic powers; when sensorily deprived, Eleven could become immersed in an inner mental void, in which she could psychically reach out to other living creatures.

The Cold War was at its heights in the early 1980s, with the United States and Russia in conflict. Brenner and his associates decided to exploit Eleven's power to gain intel on a Russian enemy. Eleven was lowered into the tank before entering her Void; while she succeeded in finding the agent, she unwittingly encountered a creature from another dimension. Eleven panicked and the experiment was aborted. However, Brenner was intrigued by the creature.

Season One

On November 6, 1983, Brenner decided to repeat the experiment and encouraged Eleven to make contact with the creature. However, when Eleven made contact, a tear in space-time was somehow created linking Eleven's dimension with the creature's dimension, cracking open in the wall of the tank room. In the ensuing chaos, the Monster entered the dimension and killed a scientist, while Eleven somehow managed to escape from the lab. The entire east wing was subsequently evacuated, while the underground complex was sealed off following quarantine protocol. That evening, Will Byers was abducted by the Monster while heading home on a road that passed by the laboratory.

While looking for the escaped Eleven, scientists investigated the Gate, from which strange tendrils and membranes slowly unfurled and spread into the underground complex. Agents found Eleven at a local diner - killing the diner owner and staging his death as a suicide - but Eleven escaped into the nearby woods.

When the lab intercepted Joyce Byers's phone call to the police, they quickly deduced that her son had been taken by the Monster. Later that day, Brenner and a team of agents investigated the Byers' shed, finding traces of some bizarre, supernatural energy.

When a piece of ripped cloth was discovered on the edge of a drainpipe that lead to the lab, Hawkins Police Chief Jim Hopper became suspicious. The following day, Hopper took a tour of the facility with his two officers Powell and Callahan. They were escorted into the facility by the head of security, who allowed them to view the surveillance footage from the nights of the 6th and 7th. As the officers were leaving, Hopper realized the storm that had occurred was absent in the footage, making him believe the staff was presenting misleading information. Meanwhile, test pilot Shepard began an expedition into the alternate dimension at the command of Brenner. This exploration was cut short when Shepard was brutally savaged and killed by the Monster, leaving behind only a fragment of his hazmat suit.

In order to draw away any suspicion for Will's disappearance, the lab created a fake body. The body was planted in the quarry, ready to be “discovered” by state police. The lab also instructed a state morgue worker to fake Will's autopsy.

After discovering that Will's body had been faked, Hopper broke into the lab. As he was searching the building for Will, he unknowingly stumbled upon Eleven's room. Heading deeper into the complex, he was soon pursued by agents, taking an elevator in order to evade them. After exiting the elevator, he found the tank room where the Gate was located. Before he could investigate further, he was knocked unconscious by several agents. Hopper later awoke in his trailer and discovered the lab had bugged his place.

Upon discovering Will's location in the Upside Down, Hopper and Joyce resolved to break into the lab to save him. However, they were apprehended before they entered the building. Hopper made a deal with Brenner, agreeing to reveal Eleven's location if they were allowed to save Will. Brenner gave them permission to enter the Gate, believing their decision to be suicide and therefore unlikely to expose the laboratory for what it really was.


Ground floor/upper floors

  • Eleven's room
  • CCTV monitoring room
  • Surveillance room
  • At least one cell
  • Experimentation rooms
  • Interrogation rooms

Underground complex




Test Subjects

  • Eleven (formerly)
  • Terry Ives (formerly; possibly experimented on in alternate research facility)
  • Unnamed test subject (did not have psychic abilities; played a role in one of Eleven's tests)



Behind the scenes

  • The filming location used for the exterior scenes is the Georgia Mental Health Institute which operated from 1965 to 1997 near the Emory University in Briarcliff, Atlanta. It was bought by Emory University in its entirety from the state in 1988 and housed a number of actual research projects for some years, but is now defunct and primarily used for shooting film and television.
  • In the original pilot script, Hawkins Lab's role in the story was instead fulfilled by Camp Hero in Montauk, Long Island.
  • The same building was used for filming of the 2017 horror movie Rings.



  1. "New Poster, Official Release Date & Synopsis Revealed For ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2" The Playlist. July 11, 2017.

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