Stranger Things Eddie Munson is based on a true crime story

Warning: Stranger Things season 4 spoilers ahead!

Resident metal head and Hellfire Club president Eddie Munson stole our hearts in the opening episode of Stranger Things season 4, and actor Joseph Quinn definitely earned the title of this season’s breakout star. If Eddie’s outcast-turned-scapegoat storyline seemed a little bit familiar to you, it may be because the writers based his arc on a real-life true crime story that took place in the early 1990s.

Eddie’s long, scraggly hair, obsession with Dungeons and Dragons, and penchant for heavy metal made him a target for bullies at Hawkins High. The United States in the ’80s was rampant with the Satanic Panic, a mass hysteria in which many believed that ‘satanist’ cults were committing ritualistic murder and taking over the country. Though this was led by propaganda and had no basis in fact, many individuals were wrongly accused and even convicted for sadistic crimes in which they had no involvement. 

Parents in the 1980s became wrought with hysteria, labeling bands like KISS and Metallica as “the devil’s music” while some Christian groups and leaders alleged that a harmless board game like D&D was promoting witchcraft, suicide, and influencing kids to commit real-life murders and other terrible crimes. The Satanic Panic is mirrored in Stranger Things season 4, with the townspeople of Hawkins, desperate for an answer to Chrissy Cunningham’s gruesome murder, developing the herd idea that the Hellfire Club is a Satanic cult – and not just a group of friends rolling dice.

The official Twitter account for Netflix Geeked confirmed (opens in new tab)that Eddie Munson’s story is, in fact, inspired by the documentary series Paradise Lost, which chronicles the wrongful conviction of three teenagers from West Memphis, Arkansas. Eddie is loosely modeled after author and artist Damien Echols, who was falsely pinned as the ‘ringleader’ of the West Memphis Three.

Because Chrissy was killed by Vecna in Eddie’s trailer, Jason (blinded by rage and grief and determined to avenge his girlfriend’s death) and the rest of his basketball clique become convinced that the murder was part of a satanic ritual led by Eddie and decide to hunt him down – and hurt anyone who stands in their way. Jason’s belief in this supposed demonic cult becomes so ingrained within him that, when he stumbles upon Lucas guarding Max while she’s in Vecna’s trance, he assumes Lucas has used his “evil powers” to put her in the trance – and decides that the only logical way to save her life is by attempting to beat Lucas to death.

Echols himself was targeted by residents of West Memphis essentially for having long hair, wearing Metallica shirts, smoking cigarettes, and keeping to himself. Much like Eddie, his being ‘different’ made him an easy target (though Chrissy’s murder did occur in Eddie’s house, making the accusation a lot less of a stretch than that of the real-life case). Echols, Jessie Miskelly Jr., and Jason Baldwin were wrongfully convicted in the triple homicide of three eight-year-old boys in 1994, because the police and people of this small Bible belt town were desperate to pin the heinous crime on anyone at all, even if there was hardly any evidence. While the three were eventually able to accept an Alfred plea that ultimately led to their release, they still remain guilty in the eyes of the court some 30 years later.

Sadly, in Stranger Things season 4, volume 2, Eddie does not manage to escape to freedom. Instead, he risks his life to avenge Chrissy and ultimately save Hawkins from Vecna’s wrath – regardless of the widespread belief that Eddie was the culprit. It’s a heartbreaking juxtaposition: He goes out as a hero, and the media continues to paint him as a cult leader while announcing his disappearance and presumed death on live TV. Similarly, Damien Echols, despite being sentenced to death by his hometown, continues to fight for evidence to be introduced into the case in order to finally bring the real murderer to justice.

For more, check out our Stranger Things season 4, volume 2 ending explainer for the answers to all of your burning questions and our round-up of who dies in Stranger Things season 4, volume 2.

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