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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Monster in Stranger Things, Part III - The Weird

This is Part III of an exploration into the nature of Demogorgon (or The Monster, as I prefer to call it) in the Netflix sci-fi/horror masterpiece, Stranger Things. You can read Part I here and Part II over here. Spoiler alerts will follow.


I am going to tell you about a few more films that relate to the nature of The Monster in Stranger Things. After that we will discuss a few conspiracy theories that relate to the same subject. After that you will be given a theory about what the true nature of The Monster is, with proof. So let’s go.


Myth, literature, film and psychology are full of references to The Shadow, the id, the ti-bon-ange, the personal demon, the qareen, the familiar spirit, an imaginary friend, etc. It is the part of us that is bad, selfish, evil, animalistic, certainly violent, sexual and mostly hidden from our conscious mind. We don’t like to face the fact we can be bad, bad people. The part of us that does evil that hides from the light? That is your shadow, and it is hidden for a reason.

The Dark Half is a flick about an author that likes to write as an alter ego. As his alter ego, he writes a series of books about a character named Alexis Machine who is a vicious, cold, evil gangster. These books become popular, but when the author decides to stop writing the books, his alter ego literally rises from the grave to kill everyone responsible for his retirement and make the author write about him, again. At the end of the film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the main character also meets his own dark half.

Authors like Helena Blavatsky and another author on the occult, Alexandra David-Neel, talk about a thing called a tulpa, which is an incarnation of a thought form that eventually becomes real when enough people believe in it, or one person concentrates on it enough. Alvin Schwartz, the creator of Superman, claims he ran into Clark Kent in a taxi one day in New York City. Even Alan Moore, author of the Hellblazer comic book series claims to have met his own imaginary creation.

According to Tibetan mysticism, a tulpa is a sign that the universe is just an illusion. What is in the world is in the mind. What is in the mind is in the world…or can be put there if there is enough horsepower to make it happen. In The Dark Half the character created by the author is partially him, but partially Alexis Machine. The author made the tulpa perfect in his head, so he is. Eleven was probably goaded into doing just that.

If you were to combine the concepts of a tulpa with Jung’s Shadow, the combination would be monstrous, indeed.


But before that film there was Cloak & Dagger, about having an imaginary friend that is real. A young boy who plays a role playing game based on James Bond stories (which is very similar to an RPG I played growing up called Top Secret S/I) has an imaginary friend named Jack Flack, who is the ultimate spy, replete with military uniform, black beret and all the right moves. The spirit is a lot like the boy’s own father, who is just a pilot that flies 747’s for a large airline.

The boy and Jack Flack are drawn into an adventure of global national espionage with dire consequences if the bad guys get the MacGuffin. At one point, (spoiler alert) Jack Flack dies, and the boy must confront the fact that his imaginary friend never existed as his hero vanishes. Only the boy can see this tulpa, not other people, and it is during a grim time in the film when the harsh reality of real life death sets in.

Jack Flack, of course, represents the boy’s image of his father…perfect, unstoppable, unreal and daring. Later, his father performs a few heroics of his own, and you get the idea that the tulpa has somehow infused his being, making him better, as if the combination of his boys faith in his father, and the energy released from the discarnate tulpa, has given him the power to save the day.

Now that we’ve studied the occult, we all understand that Jack Flack and the villain in The Dark Half are the same thing, right? A tulpa, which is basically a demon you summon out of yourself.

We’re all familiar with the literary horror masterpiece, Doctor Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. Edith Wharton’s Triumph of Night has a scene where a character encounters an image of his own fiendish evil, standing across the room by a chair. The audience loves seeing this phenomenon at work on the page or screen. Did you notice that Dracula seems to be the exact opposite of Van Helsing? He is an incarnate, utter refutation of everything Van Helsing believes when he devotes himself to science. Van Helsing is benevolent, scientific order. Dracula is supernatural, occult evil.


One final film to discuss before we go back to the Upside/Down is Altered States, a 1980 sci-fi film about a man played by William Hurt who goes through a series of scientific experiments to find out what happens when you use drugs, hypnotism, sensory deprivation, human isolation and psychology to see how far you can send a man down his own subconscious rabbit hole.

Aided by the power of ayahuasca, he at first experiences intense, primal hallucinations that seem as if he is looking into different worlds of existence until his body starts to transform into different forms representing human’s evolutions back into the beginning of time. This eventually results in the man becoming a primal, blob-like mass of bioplasma that destroys the lab with waves of psychic energy. At the end of the film he says nope to dope and "ugh" to drugs, evolving back to normal.

This concept of science studying psychology only end to end up high on drugs studying the paranormal, is again very similar to the concepts we see at work in Stranger Things. I still haven’t explained why The Monster looks the way it does, where it came from, how it came from there, where it is and how Eleven ended up meeting it. Follow me, we are almost there. Step carefully…the Qliphoth is all over the place.


When Eleven recognizes Will, she just sees his photograph on the wall. She then flips over a black game board, says the boy is in the Upside/Down, and places the boy’s figure (represented by a wizard) on the game board. She then grabs the figure of a demon, Demogorgon, to represent The Monster chasing Will. Did she run into Will in The Vale of Shadows? No, because she never went there. How does she even recognize Will at all? She isn’t told what the boy looks like. Will isn’t in the same place as Eleven, though, but later on she tracks the boy with her mind to the clubhouse in the woods for his mother. How is this happening?


The boys describe this evil, dreadful place as The Vale of Shadows. We see the place as a dark, lightless place that resembles a nightmarish copy of our world. It seems to be haunted by shimmering motes, and entities contained within can interact with electrical devices. The Vale of Shadows seems electrical. Even The Monster seems to travel through things that contain bioelectricity, electricity or things that can transmit electricity. That is Eleven’s power, after all. She controls electromagnetism. Similar to the girl in Firestarter, who controls fire.

The interesting detail is that in old skool Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, there is no Vale of Shadows. In the game reality is comprised of many dimensions, organized like clockwork, containing heavens, hells, other planes of existence and everything in between.

The Manual of the Planes is a book released by TSR back in the 80’s that defined this multiverse for adventurers who apparently couldn’t get enough. It even came with a handy-dandy chart. My players didn’t like this book. My pit traps used to drop you down five levels deeper into the depth of the dungeon. Once I read The Manual of the Planes, my pit traps dropped you into Hades.

The Demiplane of Shadow is a close contender. Like most “evil” dimensions in AD&D, going there would probably kill you. A gloomy, disturbing place comprised of shadow where mysterious, energy-draining creatures lurked, anyone going there probably wanted to leave, because the realm was indeed poisonous. Things lived there, but it was otherwise a dark image of our world.

The Negative Material Plane is also similar. A nasty place just as bad as the one we just talked about, undead spirits lived there, and if you stayed too long the place killed you and turned you into an evil ghost. Thanks a lot. Necromancers, demons and devils also hung out there. If your Dungeon Master arranged for you to be there, he was probably a jerk.

The Ethereal Plane is a plane that helps us understand what is going on when characters enter The Vale of Shadows in Stranger Things. Gloomy, shadowy, foggy and creepy, The Ethereal Plane didn’t seem to be as intrinsically evil as the other places we just looked at. But a lot of bad things could come out of this place to get you. An odd dimension that was somehow connected to all other dimensions, it consisted of several levels.

The Border Ethereal was where creatures went when they wanted to interact with our world. Like standing in the ocean close to the shore, being here meant you were in the Ethereal plane but you could still interact with the normal world. This is where ghosts hung out, and it was a pain in the ass when the Dungeon Master attacked you with something from here. Usually, you couldn’t hurt them but they could hurt you.

The Deep Ethereal went even further. Things here couldn’t be seen in our world, at all, and this dimension went even deeper, touching all planes and containing its own denizens and wild, illogical, unstable geometry. Of course it was very, very dangerous and if you went there, something really powerful and bad eventually found you and taught you just how badass things got in AD&D. The Vale of Shadows, in Stranger Things, is a lot like the Ethereal Plane. There is this sense that it is a duplicate of our world, but colorless, alien and evil. One very important thing to remember, however, is that The Vale of Shadows is not The Upside Down. Eleven has never even been there. Where has she been?

The Upside Down is the term she uses for the vast, glossy black realm where people and objects appear and vanish in her mind’s eye. Eleven first uses her telepathy to track a Russian spy that is in the process of reciting a message. This makes sense…unclassified documents prove the U.S.S.R. was working on a study of ESP, telepathy, the sixth sense and all of that under the umbrella pseudo science term, “psychotronics.”

After she tracks the Russian spy, The Monster appears. Later, Eleven finds The Monster and makes contact with it. She also finds Will and the clubhouse.  But she never goes into The Vale of Shadows, and no other character goes into the Upside Down. The psychosphere is what The Upside Down is. This is an occult term used by many different writers on the subject, including Brian Lumley, Roland C. Wagner, William S. Burroughs and H.P. Lovecraft. The Oxford English dictionary defines it as, “The sphere or realm of human consciousness.” Carl Jung called it The Collective Unconscious. In Marvel Comics, it is their equivalent of the Astral Plane. According to books on astral traveling and projecting your spirit and all of that fun occult stuff, when you dream you enter (at least, mentally) the psychosphere.

In this place, ideas, spirits, concepts and the imagination form the landscape. In stories by H.P. Lovecraft like “The Dreams in the Witch House,” and “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath,” characters enter into these realms while sleeping or on drugs and see kaleidoscopic images beyond imagination, thought, space and time that they find hard to describe. My theory is that Eleven sees things with a much better focus, which is why she sees the place the way she does.

Think of the psychosphere like the Internet. When you use Google to search for something, you do it either by directly entering the name of the subject, or ideas related to it, like titles of songs or albums. You can find an author by a book, or a book by an author. Ideas connect to each other, the way Paris is in France, but also in the same way the Eiffel Tower is in Paris, or Ratatouille is a film about France, but is also a French dish, and then there are of course French fries and berets and mimes and art films and…

…you get it. Things connect in abstract ways. Eleven, however, finds people with great accuracy and focus. The Upside Down is also the place where she finds The Monster.


At one point Eleven says, near the end of the series, “I am The Monster. I opened the gate.” We know what The Monster is. What is the gate? Is she The Monster? Yes, she is. Remember, Eleven controls electromagnetism. This scientific phenomena is at the core of a lot of conspiracy theories and occult research, including the creepy teleportation story about the aircraft carrier in The Philadelphia Experiment. Eleven did open a portal, or wormhole (or…vale), into the psychosphere and pulled out The Monster inside her head.

The problem is The Vale of Shadows is another dimension, not quite in synch with our own. It is not the psychosphere, where The Monster came from. It is a new place created by the wormhole created by Eleven when she confronted the beast the kids call Demogorgon in her own head. It is an image of our own world. The Monster is basically in orbit around Eleven. He (or, she) can’t go back to the psychosphere. She can’t go back to Eleven (and when The Monster does in the last episode, they both vanish). She can’t stay in the real world for long. So The Monster roams around wormhole, tracking electrical signals, traveling through animals and conductive materials, killing people, consuming blood and perpetuating itself.

Remember the story about the flea on the rope? A wormhole is like a rope, and The Monster is attracted to blood, like a flea.

That is why Eleven says she is The Monster. She is, and she opened the gate that let it out. You’ll notice that the areas in the lab where the rift first opened are getting worse. There are also living, biological tendrils around the rift. Inside, electrical motes drift everywhere. The Monster travels through electricity, overwhelming devices it comes across. Like Eleven, The Monster can perform the same effect, opening a wormhole in the same way an electric eel unleashes energy to stun prey to eat. She then pulls her prey into The Vale of Shadows. It used to be in Eleven’s head. Now it is in a place that still looks like the inside of a human brain, full of blood vessels, nerve synapses and dreamlike images of the world Eleven encounters, consuming the electrical energy to survive.


Project MKULTRA is one conspiracy theory that is mentioned a lot in Stranger Things. The horror film Jacob’s Ladder dealt with a similar issue, which is that nefarious elements within the government and CIA are grabbing people and performing mind-control experiments for the purposes of espionage, mass manipulation, and murder. It is just one of many, however. The Duffer Brothers went further and farther than anyone. After I give you the answer I shall further explore the conspiracy theories, occult references and literary ideas that make up the mythology of The Monster. But first we have to talk about Project MKOFTEN.


There are many conspiracy theories out there. The people who write about them vary in sanity, intelligence and credibility, but some names stand out in the dark that the industry rates higher than the others. Jim Marrs, Douglas Hoagland, William Cooper and, finally, Peter Levenda, who is an author of many books about the occult and evil government hijinks including Sinister Forces and Unholy Alliance. One of the lovely things about Levenda is how he connects the shadowy experts in the occult world with hidden government agents that operate with technocratic impunity.

Amateurs discuss Project MKULTRA. The awesome discuss Project MKOFTEN. According to these theories, there were many projects conducted by the CIA, in conjunction with the military under the auspices of the government, that were performed specifically to use magik and the paranormal to fight communism. Project MKOFTEN is important to Stranger Things because of a few key points Levenda and other authors repeat.

These points are that Project MKOFTEN was intended to find spies working for the Soviet Union that had psychic powers using the mind to do it. The government wanted to locate them and kill them from a distance by unconventional means. One of the final goals was to summon demons. MKOFTEN used everything to do this, including black magik. CIA agents consulted with experts on the occult, according to Levenda and other authors. After many years of playing with spells, hypnosis, drugs and sensory deprivation, they found a technique that worked which included taking people with psychic powers and putting them inside Faraday cages.

A Faraday cage is a copper-lined cell that blocks out electromagnetic interference so that the person inside can focus without any other energies affecting his work. According to the conspiracy theory, psychics locked in Faraday cages ended up with amplified powers, similar to Professor X when he sits in Cerebro. Scientists studied their powers and worked with them to improve their abilities. When you combine this detail with conspiracy theories about other operations including The Philadelphia Project, Project Spellbinder, The Montauk Project and Project MONARCH (which deals with the concept of torturing children to create multiple personalities for the purposes making programmed assassins), you end up with the answer to the true nature of The Monster.


Eleven is psychic. She controls electromagnetism. Eleven can also use the psychosphere to find other psychics. The scientists running the project want her to kill spies, but she won’t. So she was psychologically and sexually tortured to create a splinter personality, or alternate identity, to kill the Soviet spy. Part of this torture involved being put in an isolation chamber that was also a Faraday cage (pay attention when she has a flashback about being taken from her father and locked in the prison…the walls are lined with copper). Deep in her subconscious, a tulpa (or demon) formed, and when it appeared The Monster looked like her father, a tulip (tulpa…tulip…get it?), a lion and a nightmarish beast. It killed the Soviet spy, and the scientists decided to make her contact it. She did so, but the horror of confronting her id, her shadow, her personal demon, caused her create an electromagnetic pulse that opened a gate AKA the wormhole into The Upside Down AKA the psychosphere, forming The Vale of Shadows. This is why there is a crack in the wall of the lab. The Monster needs electrical energy and blood to survive. It eventually escapes and proceeds to do just that. Eleven recognized Will because The Monster found him, first, and she is it. At the end of the series, Eleven touches it and they are fused together, but as a result she is thrown into The Vale of Shadows.

Now you know why Demogorgon is important. He is a demon, because that is what The Monster is. By the way, it is technically a she.


Yes. I know. That is a lot to consider. Be back next time as I continue to explore the worlds of Stranger Things using the occult, quantum physicis and modern conspiracy theory mythology as our guide. Until then, be careful what you think about, you never know what might come out!

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