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So, Is the Upside Down in ‘Stranger Things’ Actually, Uh, Hell?

“The devil has come to America.”

These are the first words we hear from “Stranger Things” newcomer Eddie Munson, edgy high school senior and leader of the Hellfire Club, a group of friends who geek out over Dungeons and Dragons together. Eddie is painted as a cult leader, a misguided teen who’s up to “God knows what” in Hawkins, Indiana. He makes light of just about anything, but when faced with actual terror, Eddie is desperately searching for the true light. And he’s not the only one trying to run from evil. 

After years and years (and years) of waiting, “Stranger Things” is back and wilder than ever. The gang is split up around the world, from Indiana to California to Russia to — you guessed it — the Upside Down. The season four villain is none other than Vecna. From his “home” in the Upside Down, he terrorizes Hawkins residents by luring them away with grandfathter clocks and promises to “end their suffering” all before brutally murdering them.

The fourth season returns to the spook and shock of the series premiere. The boogeyman is hard to see and even harder to fight. Throughout the seven-episode season (with two more episodes coming next month), the gang digs into the past to figure out how to save their future. 

Vecna actually began as Henry Creel, a once gifted human like Eleven who took a turn for evil and ended up permanently in the Upside Down. Following the murder of his mother and sister, Henry ended up in Hawkins Lab as Dr. Martin Brenner’s pet project. His powers eventually led to the Hawkins Lab program where we first encountered Eleven. But while Eleven tries to use her powers for good, Henry was looking for control and power. His fall from grace, er Hawkins Lab, landed him as a disfigured dweller of the Upside Down. He’s begun to prey on people’s hidden lies and secrets, convincing them he can help them when he’s actually just looking to kill them for power. Sound similar to someone else you’ve heard of?

We’re not saying Vecna is Satan himself, although Dustin does refer to him as “the spawn of Satan.” But if there is some spiritual mess happening in the Upside Down, does that mean this disastrous dimension is actually, uh, hell?! 

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Let’s look at what we know about the Upside Down. Dustin theorizes that the Upside Down has been around for “thousands, maybe millions of years.” We’ve already encountered a few creatures from this world, including Vecna, demogorgons and the Mind Flayer. It’s currently a toss-up as to who is running the show in hell the Upside Down. But what we do know is that there are a lot of evil creatures working together to ruin life on earth. 

The gang has traveled to the Upside Down a handful of times over the years, and the creatures have certainly made their appearance known in Hawkins, but we still don’t understand the full scope of this other world. In the penultimate episode of the season, the older Hawkins teens enter the Upside Down through Watergate and encounter bat-like creatures in a forest. They fight them off before heading into the woods and eventually setting off for neighborhood homes. 

Some fans have theorized that each villain represents a different level of hell the kids must defeat before facing the ultimate ruler of hell the Upside Down. While this could be a plausible theory, there’s still the big question of who is in charge of the Upside Down. Hopefully the season’s final two episodes will give us some more answers.

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