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This article is about the dimension. For the episode, see The Upside Down (episode).

The Upside Down is an alternate dimension existing in parallel to the human world. Most, if not all, flora and fauna present in the dimension are linked together in a hive mind controlled by the Mind Flayer, essentially forming an enormous superorganism. A key component of this hive mind was a species of humanoid predators, dubbed Demogorgons, which originated from the dimension.

In 1983, during an experiment hosted at Hawkins National Laboratory, a child test subject named Eleven made inter-dimensional contact with a Demogorgon and unintentionally opened the Gate. Through this gateway, the Mind Flayer began using its dominion over the Upside Down to invade the town of Hawkins, spreading toxic biological matter presumably with the goal to eventually invade the entire Earth. However, this plan was stopped when the Gate was closed, supposedly severing the dimension's connection to the regular world.

History

Background

Stranger Things 1x06 – Gate Cracking

The Gate opens.

The history of the Upside Down prior to November 1983 remains a mystery. Exactly how long it had existed for, and how and why it came into existence, is unclear. However, its existence is heavily implied to be linked to the Mind Flayer.

1983

In one of Hawkins National Laboratory's experiments, a test subject labeled Eleven was immersed in a deep psychic state via sensory deprivation tank. She could observe people in different physical locations while in this frame of mind. Dr. Brenner sought to use this power to spy on enemy Russians.

While Eleven eavesdropped on a Russian spy, from within the Void, she accidentally encountered the Demogorgon. At Brenner's request, Eleven made contact with the Demogorgon while it fed off a large, yellow egg. In the moment contact was established, a gate between the two dimensions cracked open in the wall of the tank room, causing panic and confusion among the scientists. Amidst the chaos, Eleven escaped from the lab and the Demogorgon set foot in the human world and proceeded to attack its first victims.

The Demogorgon moved through dimensions by creating temporary wounds in the fabric of time and space: It began harvesting the bodies of humans and animals, storing them in the Upside Down public library. Around the same time, Hawkins Lab began investigating the dimension and discovering exactly what it contained.

Nancy enters the Upside Down

Nancy Wheeler enters the Upside Down through a portal.

At one point, Nancy Wheeler entered the Upside Down through a temporary portal in the base of a tree. She realized it was dangerous to stay in the dimension, quickly leaving before the Monster could find her.

Although Will Byers was taken into the Upside Down by the Demogorgon, he managed to evade capture for several days. During that time, he attempted to communicate with his mother after he realized he could manipulate electricity in his home dimension. On one occasion Will found a temporary portal in the wall, briefly talking to his mother directly through it before it resealed. The Demogorgon eventually found him inside Castle Byers and took him to the library. Hopper and Joyce later entered the Upside Down via the Gate, eventually finding Will attached to a tendril extending down his throat, which they immediately removed. After Will was resuscitated, the three returned to their home dimension, presumably back through the Gate.

At the Hawkins Middle School, to protect Mike, Dustin and Lucas, Eleven used all her remaining strength to disintegrate the Demogorgon and vanished away. However, it was revealed that she was actually transported back to the Upside Down. Eleven later escaped the Upside Down by enlarging a portal to the real world.

1983 - 1984

One month later, everything had seemingly returned to normal in Hawkins. However, Will's time in the Upside Down had severely affected him. He began to see visions of the Upside Down temporarily flicker into existence around him.

By 1984, the Hawkins Laboratory staff was changed from its previous workers, with Dr. Sam Owens taking over as Head of Operations. After finding out about his episodes, Joyce began taking Will to the lab where he'd be looked over by Owens.

Meanwhile, the lab continued to study the still open Gate and the Upside Down, placing a probe-like machine within the dimension, presumably to gather data. In an attempt to keep the growth under control, they began to periodically burn the vines and tendrils extending from the Gate. Despite these attempts, the Gate eventually grew to an enormous size, extending far beneath the lab and forming a series of tunnels.

1984

On the evening of October 29, as Will was at the Palace with his friends, he began having another episode. He walked out the door and witnessed what appeared to be a red electrical storm.

The following morning, Hopper was called to Merrill's farm to investigate a strange rot that had decimated the entirety of the pumpkin patch. During his appointment at the lab later that day, Will told Owens about his vision. Will told him that he believes an evil force wants to kill everyone. Instead of taking heed of this warning, Owens told Joyce and Hopper that the increased number of Will's visions was simply caused by the “Anniversary Effect”. That night, Will experienced another episode while in his living room, witnessing the door swing open to reveal the Upside Down. He stepped outside, seeing the silhouette of a massive spider-like creature.

Hopper continued his investigation of the rotten crops and discovered that the rot had begun to spread to the nearby trees. That night, as Mike, Lucas, Dustin, Max, and Will were trick-or-treating, Will again had another vision of the Upside Down. He watched as the massive shadow monster ascended into the sky and began pursuing him.

When returning home that night, Dustin found a small pollywog-like creature in his trashcan, naming it D'Artagnan. When Dustin brought Dart to school the next day, Will believed it to originate from the Upside Down due to its resemblance to the slug he had coughed up a year before. After warning his friends, they took Dart to the AV room where they witnessed it grow a pair of hind legs. Mike tried to attack Dart, causing it to flee and run loose throughout the school. Will eventually found it in a bathroom; Dart screeched at him, causing Will to run away. As he ran through the halls, he suddenly began having another episode, being transported to the alternate version of the school. Running outside to the field, he was again met by the gigantic shadow monster. Instead of running, Will tried screaming at the monster to go away. The shadow monster then engulfed Will in one of his tornado-like appendages, allowing a part of himself to latch onto Will.

From that point on, Will gradually became possessed by the shadow monster. His body temperature dropped and he developed an aversion to heat. He also began experiencing what he called “now-memories”, where he could see and know what the shadow monster did. In order to better explain his now-memories, Joyce asked Will to draw what he saw. He began frantically drawing what at first appeared to be random scribbles, but Joyce and Hopper soon realized that the drawings were all connected. After assembling the drawings in the correct order, they discovered the drawings depicted a strange maze-like pattern.

Believing the drawings to depict vines, Hopper went back to the pumpkin patch. By digging into the earth, Hopper discovered the existence of the underground tunnels, overgrown with biological matter from the Upside Down. While traversing the tunnels, Hopper became entrapped in vines, unable to escape. Will learned of his predicament through his connection with the shadow monster, and with the help of Bob Newby, they were able to pinpoint his location within the tunnels. After Joyce and Bob successfully freed Hopper, soldiers from the lab arrived and urged them to leave. As the soldiers began burning the tunnels, Will suddenly collapsed and began convulsing on the ground.

Will was taken to the lab were he was quickly sedated. When Will awoke, he could not remember Owens, Bob, or Hopper, and was barely able to remember Mike. In a test involving a severed vine from the Upside Down, Owens asked if Will could feel anything as another scientist used a blowtorch to burn the vine. Through this, they determined that Will had some sort of “virus” that connected him to all other infected hosts in a hive intelligence.

Dustin soon discovered that Dart was actually a baby Demogorgon and trapped it in the storm cellar. He then enlisted Steve's help in dealing with it. However, when they entered the cellar, they discovered that, not only had Dart molted again, but it had also escaped through a tunnel it had dug in the earth. Dustin and Steve, along with Lucas and Max, came up with a plan to lure Dart to the Junkyard using raw meat. While this plan succeeded, they had also managed to attract several other members of Dart's species. While the pack was attacking the bus, they suddenly stopped and began heading towards the lab.

Demodog at the Gate

A Demodog near the Gate.

Claiming he knew of a way to beat the shadow monster, Will pointed out a location in the tunnels, saying “he doesn't want me to see there.” As the soldiers entered the tunnels, Will revealed that the shadow monster had forced him to deceive them. The soldiers were ambushed and killed by a pack of Demodogs. Shortly after, Demodogs began invading the lab. While the group was escaping the lab, Bob was tackled and killed by several Demodogs. Everyone else, excluding Owens who had stayed behind, managed to escape the lab.

While speculating the shadow monster's weakness, Lucas, Mike, Dustin, and Max theorized that if they destroyed the monster, they would also destroy the monster's army. When they realized that the shadow monster controlled everything in a hive mind, they compared it to the Mind Flayer, a monster from Dungeons & Dragons that similarly controls the minds of its victims. The boys' D&D manual also stated that the Mind Flayer's goal was to spread and take over other dimensions, making them speculate that the shadow monster wanted to do the same. The group then planned to interrogate Will to find the shadow monster's weakness.

After making the backyard shed unrecognizable, they attempted to interrogate Will. While the Mind Flayer had taken over a majority of Will's mind and body, a part of Will managed to subconsciously signal to them in Morse code. Deciphering his message, they discovered the way to stop the Mind Flayer: closing the Gate. Soon after, the phone in the Byers' kitchen rang, giving away their location. A pack of Demodogs quickly surrounded the house. Before they could attack, Eleven arrived and eradicated them.

After taking Will to Hopper's cabin, Joyce, Nancy, and Jonathan restrained him, surrounding him with numerous heaters. This eventually caused the piece of the Mind Flayer possessing Will to be expelled from his body. Hopper guided Eleven through the lab to the Gate, so that she may finally close it for good. Drawing on all her strength and pain, Eleven successfully used her powers to seal the space-time rift, presumably cutting off the Mind Flayer from Earth.

On December 15, during the Snow Ball, the Mind Flayer loomed over the Upside Down version of Hawkins Middle School.

Nature

The connection between the Upside Down and its opposite dimension was seemingly established when Eleven made contact with the Demogorgon using her psychic abilities, causing a gate to rip open in Hawkins National Laboratory. It contains the same locations and infrastructure as the human world, but it is much darker, colder and obscured by an omnipresent fog while ash-like spores drift through the air. It is devoid of human life, instead being overgrown with ropy, root-like tendrils and biological membranes covering practically every surface.

There is little proven knowledge concerning the Upside Down, as it remains shrouded in mystery. In spite of this, the dimension possesses a few observable properties and characteristics. Such as, light, gravity, and sound appear to function the same way as in the regular world. Furthermore, noise and sound originating from Hawkins is somehow faintly audible in the Upside Down, almost like an echo effect. This allows Will to hear Joyce's voice when he is trapped in the Upside Down; similarly, Joyce hears Jonathan's voice when she visits the dimension's version of her house. However, sound from the Upside Down is not seemingly audible in Hawkins, unless there is a nearby inter-dimensional portal which it can pass through. At one point, Jonathan and Nancy are able to talk to each other despite being in separate dimensions, as they are located near one such portal.

Hawkins Lab scientists said the atmosphere was toxic to humans, hence why they wore hazmat suits to enter the dimension. However, it seems the atmosphere is only damaging after prolonged exposure, as Nancy entered for a brief moment and showed no signs of damage, whereas Will was exposed to the air for a week and became very sick. This toxicity appears to also extend to the dimension’s flora and fauna. When a series of subterranean tunnels extending from the Upside Down began to spread and grow beneath Hawkins, they caused several farmers’ crops to rot overnight. Trees in the woodlands in close proximity to the affected farms were also observed to have the same rot. When Hopper explored the aforementioned tunnels, he was sprayed in the face by a growth on the ceiling, causing him to lose consciousness almost immediately and upon waking up, vomit a black substance.

Will the Wizard and the Demogorgon

Eleven's analogy, which attempts to explain the Upside Down.

Mike, Lucas, and Dustin's theories on the Upside Down are primarily based on their knowledge from Dungeons & Dragons. At one point, Eleven, who appears to have instinctual knowledge of the Upside Down, flips their Dungeons & Dragons game board upside-down, before placing Will's player piece on top along with the Demogorgon's. Mike eventually realizes that Eleven is essentially explaining that Will is trapped in an alternate realm hidden from sight but inherently connected with their own, just like the underside of the game board. This analogy inspires the boys to refer to this realm as "the Upside Down". Dustin compares the Upside Down to the fictional "Vale of Shadows", of Dungeons & Dragons lore. Mike's notes on the Vale refer to it as "a dimension that is a dark reflection, or echo, of our world. It is a place of decay and death, a plane out of phase, a place of monsters. It is right next to you and you do not even see it".

When it was discovered that everything within the dimension is part of a hive intelligence controlled by the shadow monster, they compared the entity to the Mind Flayer, a being from D&D that is said to travel across and take over different dimensions. This led them to theorize that the shadow monster had the same goal. If this theory is true, then it can be inferred that the Upside Down was once like the human world, but the shadow monster was somehow able to infiltrate the dimension and successfully take it over. If so, then the invasion had to have happened somewhat recently, considering such structures like Castle Byers are present.

Joyce communicates

Joyce communicates with Will via the electricity.

The Upside Down affects the electromagnetic field of the human world, often causing electricity and electronics to malfunction. This was the reason Will could manipulate the lights precisely in order to communicate with Joyce, despite the lights not being visible in the Upside Down.[1] This same effect could be seen when Joyce and Hopper were in the Upside Down; when they passed through the Byers' house, the Christmas lights in the regular world would glow, matching their corresponding location. Will also made the telephone ring and was slightly heard through noise and static, but it broke as the Demogorgon approached. Similarly, when the Demogorgon created inter-dimensional portals, the lights would flicker frantically. On a larger scale, the Gate's opening caused power surges all over East Hawkins, and was strong enough to distort the local magnetic field, causing compasses to point to the laboratory instead of true north.

When the boys ask their science teacher, Mr. Clarke, about different dimensions, he refers to Hugh Everett's Many-Worlds Interpretation, which posits that "parallel universes" exist - which he explains as being "just like our world, but just.. infinite variations of it". Going by this logic, the Upside Down could be one of these many variations.

Biology

Stranger Things 1x08 – Egg

Hopper surveys an otherworldly egg

The Upside Down contains no life recognizable to humans beyond plants and trees, instead harboring its own unique biology and ecosystem. Biological growth of various kinds, such as tendrils and flesh-like membranes, are prevalent across the dimension's version of Hawkins, permeating and covering most surfaces. These life forms appear to grow and spread in a similar fashion to fungi or plant life.

The Mind Flayer

Main article: The Mind Flayer

Presumably, all biological growth and organisms present in the dimension are part of a hive mind controlled by an enormous entity known as the Mind Flayer. Because of this, the entire dimension is virtually a giant superorganism. The Mind Flayer used his influence to spread the Upside Down’s biological matter through the Gate. Mike, Lucas, and Dustin theorized his reason for doing this was to eventually take over the entire world. If this theory holds true, it is very likely the Mind Flayer had done the same to the dimension that he currently resides in, and therefore responsible for the Upside Down’s current state.

The Mind Flayer has one glaring weakness: heat, especially fire. Everything connected in his hive mind shares this weakness. As a result, if a host is burned, the Mind Flayer, as well as all other hosts, feel the pain. The scientists at Hawkins Lab used this weakness to their advantage, periodically burning biological matter seeping from the Gate in order to contain the growth. This weakness was also exploited in order to rid Will of the Mind Flayer’s possession.

Demogorgons

Main article: Demogorgon (species)

Humanoid predators, known as Demogorgons, reside in this dimension and are a powerful and dangerous part of the Mind Flayer’s army. The creatures have a six stage life cycle that is somewhat similar to amphibian species. They begin life as small slug-like creatures, and molt several times before emerging as an adult. So far, only one fully grown Demogorgon has been seen: the one that attacked Hawkins in 1983. The creature would take captured victims to the alternate version of the public library, which housed something resembling a nest. The exact reason for this is unclear, but considering Demogorgon larvae were observed to be inhabiting the bodies of at least two of the Demogorgon’s victims (Will and Barb), it can be surmised it was for reproductive purposes.

In 1984, the Mind Flayer unleashed a pack of adolescent Demogorgons, referred to as “Demodogs”, throughout the town. When they overran the lab, they killed several scientists and soldiers, as well as Bob Newby. All Demodogs were killed when the Gate was closed.

Tunnels

Main article: Hawkins tunnel system

By 1984, a series of tunnels based near the Gate had formed. These tunnels were not made from earth and were essentially one enormous creature. Their purpose was to serve as the medium by which the Upside Down would take over the human world.[2] The conditions in the tunnels were exactly like the Upside Down’s, with a toxic atmosphere, spores floating through the air, and vines and tendrils covering every surface.

As the tunnels expanded beneath Hawkins, they caused the deterioration of crops and other plant life. Eventually, an entire section of the tunnels served as a "graveyard" where animals were consumed. They were also noted to go around any bodies of water. When the Gate was closed, the tunnels, as well as all matter originating from the Upside Down within them, died.

Spores

Spores filled the atmosphere of the Upside Down, perpetually drifting through the air. After the Gate opened at Hawkins Lab, spores began to float in the corridors. The spores were also present in the tunnels. A growth found on the ceiling of the tunnels could produce a sort of “spore-spray”. This spray appears to be highly toxic, as Hopper collapsed almost immediately after he was spraying directly in the face, and vomited at least twice.

Known visitors

Behind the scenes

Conception

Stranger-things-concept-art-forest-rift-pic

Concept art of the Upside Down during the day.

Like the Demogorgon, the Upside Down was designed by Aaron Sims Creative. In early development, there was consideration of time changes between the Upside Down and the regular world. Meaning, if it was daytime in Hawkins, it would've been nighttime in the other dimension and vice versa. In the end, they chose an all around dark, nightmarish design.[3]

The Duffers named Alien and Silent Hill as inspirations for the Upside Down. Sims was also influenced by the works of the Polish painter Zdzislaw Beksinski, whose works often depicted "...an otherworldly, hellish world, surrounded by a thin layer of something we can’t quite make out." Sims didn't base designs on any scientific theory of alternate dimensions, but around “the exploration of terrifying images and art.” Taking the idea of mold and the film that covers things that have decayed, they sought to create an image of a world that was basically "dead." The falling ash-like spores were designed with the intent to help viewers visually distinguish between the two worlds. The spores were also hinted as possibly being connected to the Demogorgon.[3]

Mythology

The Duffers have revealed that they have a 30-page document that intricately explains the Upside Down. While the lack of what has been revealed regarding the dimension's mythology is due in part to time constraints, they have also noted to intentionally keep details scarce. In order to preserve the mystery and horror, they deliberately keep most knowledge of the Upside Down from the point of view of the characters. Matt explained that “it’s scarier when you don’t fully understand what’s happening.” What is revealed also depends on the story. For instance, the Duffers wanted the first season to have a simple drive, focusing mostly on Will’s disappearance, while hinting at the larger mythology behind the Gate and the Upside Down. [4]

However, they are sure to not let logic dictate all of their decisions. As long as it’s not cheating the audience and feels like it belongs in their world, the Duffers often use ideas that simply excite them. Explaining any gaps in the mythology that arise is not their greatest concern.[5]

Trivia

  • Joyce's way of communicating with Will through the lights and hearing him in the walls of the house is an allusion to the 1982 horror film Poltergeist, in which young Carol Anne goes missing in another dimension and can be heard through the TV and walls. Also similar to Joyce, Carol Anne's mother ended up entering the other dimension to save her child.
  • In the original script the Upside Down was referred to as the Nether (although Upside Down was still the name the characters used in dialogue). The popularity of the in-universe nickname on the set led to it being referred to almost exclusively by that name instead.[6]

Gallery

Concept Art

References

  1. "Stranger Things Rewatch | Behind the Scenes: Duffer Brothers on Christmas Lights | Netflix"
  2. "Inside How Stranger Things 2 Created a Bigger, Badder Upside Down" TV Guide. December 12, 2017
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Exclusive ‘Stranger Things’ Art Reveals ‘Upside Down’ Secrets and Barb’s Alternate End"Screen Crush.August 22, 2016.
  4. "‘Stranger Things’ Finale: Duffer Brothers Talk Cliffhangers, Death and Season 2" Variety. July 18, 2016.
  5. "The Duffer Brothers Recap Stranger Things 2, ‘Chapter Three: The Pollywog’" Vulture. November 1, 2017
  6. "The Upside Down was called the Nether in every season one script and on set" Insider. November 8, 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.