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. It controlled several subsidiaries, including Hawkins Power and Light.[1] The lab was headed by Dr. Martin Brenner until the events of November 1983, whereafter Dr. Sam Owens took over as Director of Operations.

In the mid 20th century, the lab was host to MKUltra experiments, and at some point began abducting children to experiment on as well. During one experiment, a child test subject named Eleven made contact with the Demogorgon, accidentally opening the Gate to the Upside Down. For a year, an alien biological growth, stemming from the dimension, consumed the lower levels of the lab. Despite the lab's attempts at containing the growth, the Gate was able to grow to a gargantuan size with a series of tunnels extending from it beneath Hawkins.

In 1984, an inter-dimensional entity called the Mind Flayer unleashed a pack of adolescent Demogorgons throughout the town. However, the Mind Flayer and his army was stopped when Eleven closed the Gate. Soon after, the lab was shut down following a disclosure of the lab's involvement in Barbara Holland's death.


The lab was very secretive and private; it was surrounded by a 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.[2]

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, 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 enhance Eleven's psychic powers; when sensory 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.


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 and cracking open 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 and killed the owner, but Eleven escaped into the nearby woods. The owner's death was staged as a suicide.

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 a storm had occurred but was absent in the footage, making him believe the staff was presenting misleading information. Brenner and some agents in hazmat suits installed a security line in the Tank Room 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.


After Will experienced an episode at The Palace, Joyce picked him up from school the next day and had taken him to the lab. There he got a check-up with Dr. Owens. After a session with Will in the lab, Joyce, Hopper and Owens talk in private, where Owens explained that Will’s condition will only get worse because of the "Anniversary Effect" which will bring back traumatic memories, and that she should just “treat him normally” and also assured them to trust him. Joyce and Will walked outside and then drove home. After they were gone, a woman in a lab coat came to inform Owens that “they” were ready for him.

He took the elevator down to the sub basement and watched some soldiers burn some kind of vines.

Later on, Nancy and Jonathan went to the local park. After they had seen multiple people were staring at them, they head back to their car. They tried to start it, but were unsuccessful. A man knocked on the window and said that he would give them a lift. They accepted, and were taken to the lab. They met with Owens and he told them the importance of keeping the Gate a secret, so that the Soviet Union, or some other rival faction didn’t try to replicate that, for they could use that as a weapon.

Later, Will had a vision of Hopper in the Hawkins tunnel system. Soldiers of the lab went to rescue Hopper and then started burning the weeds that had trapped Hopper. But as soon as the burning began, Will had a seizure and collapsed to the ground before he was rushed to the lab. It was revealed that the burning affected Will's memories as he only recognized his mother and Mike, but failed to recognize Dr. Owens, Bob and Hopper or recall the events of him helping to save Hopper. The doctors experimented on him by taking a tendril that they found near the gate and burnt it with a blowtorch. Will screamed that it hurt everywhere.

Some agents argued over burning the tunnel system as Owens thought that it might kill Will. But the agents proposed that it’s worth the risk and it wasn't possible for them to save Will. When an agent was complaining Owens over trusting Will to find the Mind Flayer's weakness, Hopper brushed him off by calling him a Jackass and told him to shut up. As Will revealed the likely location of the tunnel where the shadow monster feared to let him see it, being convinced, Dr. Owens sent some soldiers then went down to the rift. However, when Will revealed that it was a ploy by the Mind Flayer to reveal the location, Mike tried to warn Hopper and Owens of the trap but it was too late. With Hopper and Owens witnessing the soldiers entering the tunnels, from the control room, the soldiers were horrifyingly ambushed by Demodogs and began to reach the lab.

The demodogs started to break through the windows and Owens sounded the alarm. Hopper rushed all the scientists out of the room. Hopper and Owens went through the stairs, while the other scientists took the elevator. Some soldiers called the elevator to check out what was going on in the lower levels, but were instead greeted by the scientists' corpses and three demodogs. Mike, Joyce and Bob sedated Will to prevent the shadow monster from revealing their location. Hopper and Owens bashed into Will’s room. However, they could see holes being broken in a nearby door and the demodogs were reaching after them, to which Hopper responded that they had to go. As the demodogs surrounded and killed everyone on sight, the group resorted to hiding in a CCTV monitoring room.

Bob Newby volunteered to reset the breakers in the basement, as the demodogs had triggered a power outage. He successfully reset the breakers and opened the doors. Before he went upstairs, he was blocked by a demodog. He activated the sprinklers in the main corridor. The sound drove the demodog away, as Hopper, Mike and Joyce took Will out of the lab. Joyce stood back to wait for Bob. Bob hid in a closet from a demodog. When he was clear, he opened the door and runs to the entrance. He smiled at Joyce before he was viciously killed by a demodog and three more came and feasted on his flesh. Overencumbered by the overwhelming demodogs, Hopper brought out a terrified Joyce and together with the group, headed for the Byers household.

After Joyce had burned The Mind Flayer out of Will, Eleven and Hopper went back to the lab, coming across massacred scientists and eventually found Dr. Owens, who is heavily wounded. As Eleven and Hopper reached the Gate, she held his hands in fear but after Hopper's assurance, she began closing the gate. With Hopper distracting the demodogs from her, Eleven focused on facing the monster in a final showdown and after channeling her anger, closed the Gate. Hopper embraced an exhausted Eleven and commended her for her bravery as they both returned back.

A month later, an MP Officer hopped in a buggy and drove away from the lab. Murray Bauman waved to him, and the officer put up his middle finger. The lab was closed and locked down, for now.


Ground floor/upper floors

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


Underground complex

Beneath the complex




Test Subjects



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 on Briarcliff road in 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. 1.0 1.1 "Calling Hawkins Power will give you 'Stranger Things' clues" CNET. October 23, 2017.
  2. "New Poster, Official Release Date & Synopsis Revealed For ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2" The Playlist. July 11, 2017.
The Upside Down
Locations The Upside DownThe GateHawkins National LaboratoryPublic LibraryPortalsHawkins tunnel system
Entities D'ArtagnanThe DemogorgonDemogorgon (species)The Mind FlayerHawkins tunnel systemVines
Visitors Joyce ByersWill ByersElevenBarbara HollandJim HopperShepardNancy Wheeler
Miscellaneous Upside Down eggThe Upside Down (episode)Dungeons & DragonsThe Void
Articles may contain spoilers.