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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 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.

In the mid 20th century, the lab was host to a series of questionable experiments involving sensory deprivation and drug use. This led to the birth of at least one child with psychokinetic abilities, who was kidnapped and terribly mistreated by Dr. Martin Brenner and his team of scientists. Further experiments on the girl lead to the accidental creation of a doorway to a horrifying alternate dimension, in early November 1983. An alien biological growth, stemming from the alternate world, began to consume the lower levels of the lab.

Supernatural forces began to bleed into Hawkins after this event, and the girl managed to escape. The lab desperately attempted to cover their tracks, using their 'subsidiary' Hawkins Power & Light[1] and other devious methods to spy on local residents, while they began to study the nature of the alternate dimension.

By October 1984, Hawkins Lab had been re-organized and placed under new management. In the year that had passed, the lab had attempted to stall the spread of the alien growth while also continuing to study it. After an entity from the alternate world began interfering with events in Hawkins, a pack of strange humanoid predators was let loose in the town. This led to the deaths of many staff at the lab, which in turn resulted in the lab's shut-down that December.



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.

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 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. 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.

Season Two

After Will experiences an episode at The Palace, Joyce picks him up from school the next day and takes him to the lab. Here he gets a check-up with Doctor Owens. After will is done in the lab, Joyce and Owens talk in private, where he explains that Will’s condition will only get worse, and that she should just “treat him normally”. Joyce and Will walk outside and then drive home. After they are gone, a woman in a lab coat comes to inform Owens that “they” are ready for him.

He takes the elevator down to the sub basement and watches some soldiers burn some kind of vines.

Later on, Nancy and Jonathan go to the local park. After they see multiple people staring at them, they head back to their car. They try to start it, but are unsuccessful. A man knocks on the window and says he’ll give them a lift. They accept, and are taken to the lab. They meet with Owens and he tells them the importance of keeping the Gate a secret, so that the Soviet Union, or some other rival faction doesn’t try to copy it. Because they could use it as a weapon.

Later, Will has a vision of Hopper in the Hawkins tunnel system. Soldiers rescue Hopper and then burn the weeds that had trapped Hopper. Will has a seizure and is rushed to the lab. They experiment on him by taking a tendril that they found near the gate and burn it with a blowtorch. Will complains that it hurts everywhere.

Some agents argue over burning the tunnel system, Owens as that it might kill Will. But the agent says that it’s worth the risk, which Hopper responds to by calling him a Jackass and telling him to shut up. Some soldiers then go down to the rift, and are ambushed by Demodogs.

The demodogs start to break through the window and Owens sounds the alarm. Hopper rushes all the scientists out of the room. Hopper and Owens take the stairs, while the other scientists take the elevator. Some soldiers call the elevator to check out what’s going on in the lower levels, and are greeted by three corpses and three demodogs. Hopper and Owens jump into Will’s room. They can see holes in a nearby door, to which Hopper responds that they have to go. They hide in a CCTV monitoring room.

Bob Newby goes to reset the breakers in the basement, as the demodogs had triggered a power outage. He successfully resets the breakers and opens the doors. Before he gets upstairs, he is blocked by a demodog. He activates the sprinklers in the main corridor. The sound drives the demodog away, as Hopper and Joyce take will out of the lab. Joyce stays back to wait for Bob. Bob hides in a closet from a demodog. When he is clear, he opens the door and runs to the entrance. He smiles at Joyce before he is killed by a demodog and three more come and feast on his flesh.

After Joyce had burned The Mind Flayer out of Will, Eleven and Hopper go to the lab. Eleven faces the monster in a final showdown and closes the gate. Hopper embraces her and tells her that she did a good job.

A month later, an MP Officer hops in a buggy and drives away from the lab. Murray Bauman waves to him, and the officer puts 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
  • Interrogation rooms


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)Library TendrilThe Mind Flayer
Visitors Joyce ByersWill ByersElevenBarbara HollandJim HopperShepardNancy Wheeler
Miscellaneous Upside Down eggThe Upside Down (episode)Dungeons & DragonsThe Void
Articles may contain spoilers.

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