The introduction of Eddie Munson to Stranger Things filled an archetype gap the show’s longtime fans hadn’t realized was missing: the dirtbag metalhead with a heart of gold. But like all the characters in Hawkins, Eddie was more than just a caricature; by the end of the season, his badassery and vulnerability gained him a passionate fan following. Included on Team Eddie is writer Damien Echols, who served as the IRL inspo for Eddie’s character. Echols’ recent tweet about Eddie in Stranger Things made it clear how he feels about the tribute.
Warning: Spoilers for Stranger Things 4 follow. Eddie’s story is tragic. When Vecna murdered Chrissy Cunningham, it happened in the Munson trailer, making Eddie an immediate suspect. Hawkins residents, especially the “good Christian” types, concluded Eddie was guilty, not because of any concrete evidence, but because Eddie plays Dungeons and Dragons.
When viewers first met Eddie, he was reading aloud a story from Newsweek that detailed how Dungeons and Dragons was tied to the occult, and how those who play it worship the devil. That may seem ridiculous, but it was a common belief at the time and part of an overall Satanic Panic that swept the nation.
That panic, and the belief D&D was tied to occult practices, had real-life consequences. States tried murder cases — and the suspects were convicted by juries — purely based on the idea that they must be guilty because they played this particular board game. One of those cases featured suspects who became known as “The West Memphis Three:” Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, who were tried and convicted of the murder of three 8-year-olds.
Echols was sentenced to lethal injection. However, he kept at it in the courts and managed to stay his execution long enough for DNA testing to be invented. Eventually, DNA tests proved the three teens were most likely innocent. In 2010, all three were exonerated.
Echols has since become an New York Times bestselling author, and his story inspired the Duffers to create the character of Eddie. When asked on Twitter how he felt about being the inspo for Eddie, Echols was effusive in his praise.
“In case anyone else is wondering, I was tremendously honored by it,” he wrote. “And I greatly appreciate all the new eyes and hearts it has brought to our fight. I was watching it at 3 a.m. in the morning, and when I heard the very first chords from ‘Master of Puppets,’ my heart exploded.”
Stranger Things Seasons 1 through 4 are now streaming on Netflix.