The original Stranger Things Season 1 began on the night of Nov. 6, 1983. After a game of Dungeons and Dragons at Mike’s house, Dustin, Lucas, and Will biked home on a cold rainy night. The following day, Will was missing. Meanwhile, a small preteen girl with a shaved head wearing only a hospital gown wandered into a diner. Fans thought that’s when it all began, but the new season reveals the events that led to that morning in Hawkins actually began much earlier. Even so, the Stranger Things 4 timeline is still a bit murky with all the time jumps.
Warning: Spoilers for Stranger Things 4, Vol. 1 follow. The real story of Hawkins Lab and the Upside Down began a much earlier than anyone believed — 24 and a half years before the disappearance of Will Byers, to be exact. Let’s run down the events in chronological order:
March 1959: WWII veteran Victor Creel used his wife’s inheritance to buy a new home in Hawkins, Indiana. He, his wife, Virginia, his daughter, Alice, and his son, Henry, moved in. Victor claimed they were moving up in the world, but as Number One revealed to Eleven, his parents’ move was to give Henry a fresh start after his teachers and doctors suggested institutionalizing him.
April 1959: Disturbances began in the Creel household — nightmares, dead animals, spider invasions. Victor believed they were the work of a demon, but Virginia recognized the truth: Her son’s psychic powers were behind it.
July 1959: After months of torture, Virginia accepted the inevitable and convinced Victor that Henry needed psychiatric help, and they prepared to put him in a new program run by Dr. Martin Brenner. Henry responded by murdering his mother and sister, but spared his father to be the fall guy for the atrocities.
August 1959: Henry woke up to discover Dr. Brenner had tracked him down, and he became labeled 001. When Brenner realized he could not control Henry, he turned him into Patient Zero, the DNA source for the children born into Project MKUltra.
July 1971: Jane Ives was born to Terry Ives, one of 15 children birthed between 1964 and 1973 (the official dates that Project MKUltra ran), all using a combination of Henry’s DNA and dosing the mother with LSD while the child was in the womb. She was labeled 011.
Spring 1975: After searching for four years, Terry Ives located her daughter and attempted to retrieve her, only to be captured and tortured by Brenner’s staff, leaving her catatonic. The encounter was witnessed by Number Eight, who became determined to escape, finally doing so around 1979/1980.
The rest of this timeline does not have exact dates, but Young Eleven (Martie Marie Blair) appeared to be about nine years old in the following scenes, which would peg this to be around 1980 but could be more like 1981. That would fit with the state of Hawkins Lab in Season 1, where the opening to the Upside Down has been actively growing for at least a few years.
Here are the events in Hawkins Lab, in order:
Late winter: Eleven was befriended by one of the Lab’s orderlies, who seemed to pity her and her lack of abilities.
Early spring: Despite not being able to access telekinetic abilities on command, Eleven had become a clear favorite of “Papa’s,” sparking jealousy among the others, especially the older group, whose ringleader was the oldest and most powerful, Two.
Mid-year: Eleven accidentally beat Two in a telekinesis battle after the orderly’s coaching. Two rounded up his gang, including Six and Five, and they beat up Eleven. Brenner proceeded to punish Two for his behavior. Meanwhile, Eleven witnessed Brenner and his nurses taking the orderly into a room and punishing him.
A few weeks later: The orderly agreed to help Eleven escape if she helped him by removing the Soteria implant in his neck that Brenner implanted to keep him imprisoned.
Autumn: The orderly’s plan was implemented, including revealing to Eleven a tunnel that would lead her out of Hawkins Lab. But upon removing the Soteria, she discovered the orderly is actually One; the implant had suppressed his powers. Upon being freed, One proceeded to massacre everyone he could find in Hawkins Lab, except for Eleven, who he believed to be a kindred spirit. Horrified, Eleven defeated One, shoving him through time, space, and the fabric of reality, ripping the tear that became the gate to the Upside Down. As One attempted to use his powers within the Upside Down, his flesh was ripped away, and he became Vecna.
There are still several questions to be answered, but for now, this seems to be the most accurate reading of events. Hopefully, Volume 2 will provide more clarity.
Stranger Things Season 4, Volume 2 premieres July 1.