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 secure; 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.

The laboratory caught wind of Will Byers's disappearance, and quickly deduced that, since Hawkins was usually an uneventful and law-abiding town, his disappearance must be related to the Monster. They took steps to cover up any possible connection to the lab, creating a fake body and planting it in a nearby water-filled quarry, ready to be 'discovered' by state police.

While investigating Will's disappearance, Hawkins Police Chief Jim Hopper took a tour of the facility with his two officers Powell and Callahan. He soon realized 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.

Hopper later broke into the lab twice. 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.


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.



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

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