The Hawkins National Laboratory, connected to the U.S. Department of Energy, was located in Hawkins, Indiana. It was a federal complex 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 secure; it was surrounded with barbed wire fence and guarded by military police. It was composed of one multi-story building that leads 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.
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. Some of these particular experiments could have been held at Hawkins Lab, although the facts remain unclear.
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
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 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.
On November 6, 1983, Brenner decided to repeat the experiment. However, when Eleven made contact with it, a tear in reality was created and the Monster entered their dimension. In the ensuing chaos, Eleven somehow managed to escape from the lab. That evening, Will Byers was abducted by the Monster while heading home on the road that passed by the laboratory.
While looking for the escaped Eleven, scientists investigated the Gate, from which strange biologic matter slowly unfurled and spread into the underground complex.
Hopper later broke into the lab again. The second time, he was with Will's mother, Joyce Byers. Brenner gave them permission to enter the Gate to search for Will, believing their decision to be suicide and therefore unlikely to expose the laboratory for what it really was.
- Dr. Martin Brenner - scientist and researcher
- Connie Frazier - agent
- A lead agent with an unknown name
- Shepard - scientist
- Scientist with an unknown name
- Head of Security
- Dr. Owens
- An agent posing as a repairman
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.