stranger things Season 4 is arguably the best yet, thanks in large part to the introduction of Eddie “the Monster” Munson (Joseph Quinn), Hawkins High’s resident metalhead and leader of the Dungeons & Dragons club, Hellfire. Eddie stole the hearts of viewers in May when he took Hellfire Club members Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) under his wing and went all out to help cheerleader Chrissy Cunningham (Grave Van Dien) after she became that of Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower). new target.
But it wasn’t just his kindness that drew viewers to him. The story of Eddie – the misunderstood outcast falsely accused of murder – shook people to the core, winning everyone’s sympathy. And if his fate wasn’t sad enough, the true crime story behind his character is nothing short of heartbreaking.
The Duffer Brothers wear their inspirations on their sleeves with strange things, and revealed in an interview Deadline this former death row inmate turned writer Damien Echols largely inspired the character of Eddie:
“We wanted to explore the idea of ’Satanic Panic’ because our kids were playing Dungeons & Dragons. It was just that fascinating time that seems ridiculous now in hindsight, but it was very serious at the time. […] When we talk about satanic panic, Damien Echols was not 80 years old, but we thought he was caught up in something very similar, this mass hysteria.
The New York Times best-selling author Life after death, Damien Echols, is best known in the true crime community as one of the West Memphis Three who, in 1994, was wrongfully convicted of the murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. The case received national attention at the time, being the subject of several documentaries, including lost paradise and West of Memphis, which the Duffer brothers cite as inspirations. The case continues to stir controversy even today, 11 years after Echols and his friends were released from prison, where they spent 18 years of their lives.
The story goes as follows. On May 5, 1993, three eight-year-old boys (Christopher Byers, Michael Moore, and Stevie Branch) went on a bike ride and never returned. The following day, their bodies were found naked and tied up in a stream in a wooded area known as the Robin Hood Hills. The boys were badly mutilated and rumors, supported by the police, began to circulate that the murders were linked to devil worship. Almost immediately, a troubled local teenager, 18-year-old Damien Echols, became a suspect. Echols had had (minor) run-ins with the police before, but, like Eddie, his biggest crime was apparently being a misfit.
Comparisons with the stranger things the character is strange. Echols also loved Metallica, had long hair and tattoos, and came from a poor family that lived in a trailer park. A high school dropout with a history of mental illness, Echols’ interests included Stephen King novels and the occult, which made him highly unpopular in his home town of Bible Belt.
Local waitress Vicki Hutcheson was convinced the murders were cult-related and hatched an elaborate tale, involving an orgy of witches, which involved Echols; she later claimed that the authorities coerced her into implying her involvement. Hutcheson’s neighbor, 17-year-old Jessie Misskelley Jr., who first introduced Echols, also implicated Echols and their friend Jason Baldwin, 16, telling police they had committed the murders and that he himself was involved. It was the most damning “evidence” in their trial — and also the most infuriating, as Misskelley Jr. withdrew his confession, which he says was coerced. Not only did he have a very low IQ of 72, marking him as borderline intellectually disabled, but his initial story was inconsistent with the actual murders, and he had the incentive of a huge monetary reward to lie. In court, Misskelley Jr. also claimed he was afraid of the officers and simply told them what they wanted to hear.
Unfortunately, the prejudices of the jury were stronger than their words. The three teenagers have been charged with three counts of capital murder, despite no strong evidence linking them to the crime. Misskelley Jr. and Baldwin were sentenced to life imprisonment, while Echols – who was considered the leader – was sentenced to death by lethal injection. Echols spent nearly two decades on death row before he and the rest of the West Memphis Three pleaded Alford, in which a defendant pleads guilty to an offense but still maintains his innocence. They came out in 2011.
Although Echols may have escaped Eddie’s macabre fate, he did not come out unscathed, as he wrote in his memoir: “My heart, my soul, my body and my spirit all have scars that will never heal properly. Yet I survived.” And like the people of Hawkins, who will never know who killed Chrissy, the true perpetrator(s) of the 1993 West Memphis murders remain a mystery.
When asked how it felt to have a character based on him, Echols had nothing but good things to say, Tweeter:
“I was extremely honored by him. And I greatly appreciate all the fresh eyes and hearts he brought to our fight. I was watching him at 3 a.m., and when I heard the very first chords of Master of Puppets, my heart exploded.”
As for Joseph Quinn, the star actor loved playing Eddie, telling Squire, “There is a parable in Eddie’s story, really, that is poetic and powerful and beautiful.” Viewers agree, and despite Duffer Brother’s insistence that Eddie is indeed dead, fans aren’t ready to say goodbye just yet. Many have offered theories that make him survive, and have even started petitions to see him back. With stranger things season 5 should be released in 2024, they will be crossing their fingers for a while.
MORE: Stranger Things: Eddie Munson Needs More Time to Shine