Obviously, “Stranger Things” isn’t exactly worried about factual accuracy, but season four of the hit Netflix show does take inspiration from two major real events. The first volume of “Stranger Things” season four dropped on May 27, and both the story of the Creel House and the town’s reaction to the Hawkins murders are clearly inspired by real events from the 1970s and 1980s — the Amityville Horror and the satanic panic.
You might be most familiar with the story of the Amityville Horror from the series of films it spawned. But originally, the story was told in a 1977 book by Jay Anson called “The Amityville Horror: A True Story.” The book tells the story of George and Kathleen Lutz, a recently married couple who moved with Kathleen’s children into a house in Amityville on New York’s Long Island. The relocation was meant to be a new start for them — much the way the Creel House in Hawkins was meant to be a new start for the Creels.
But, the Lutzes got such a good deal on the house because 13 months earlier, Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered six members of his family in the house. The Lutzes are spooked by this fact, but are committed to living there. But soon, they’re haunted by paranormal occurrences including, according to the book, hearing voices, changes to their and the children’s behavior, and strange slime seeping out of the walls. The priest that tried to help them also developed a fever, blisters all over his body, and stigmata. Only 28 days after they moved in, the Lutzes fled.
The actual “truth” of this account has long been under debate, but the book was adapted into the 1979 film “The Amityville Horror,” and at least 25 horror movies have used “Amityville” in their titles, whether or not they were actually adapting the alleged events. Watching “Stranger Things” season four, it’s clear the Duffer Brothers were inspired by the basic tropes of the Amityville Horror when crafting the story of the Creel House — and the unlucky family who lived there.
The Satanic Panic and “Stranger Things”
During season four, as the town of Hawkins is terrorized by a series of unexplained murders, the residents turn to an explanation that many people in the real 1980s also turned to: it must be demons, and our children are being influenced by them! They even blame the Hellfire club specifically, which is actually just a group of nerds who love playing Dungeons and Dragons. In the show, the ringleader of this is Jason (Mason Dye), a cruel basketball player who’s able to whip the town into a frenzy.
During the 1980s, America was gripped with this same moral panic about the influence of the so-called occult on children and teens. It was eventually named the “satanic panic.” Dungeons and Dragons specifically was accused of having a corrupting influence on youth. Pop culture in the 1980s gave lots of supposed examples of satanic abuse. The 1980 book “Michelle Remembers” purported to be a truthful account of one girl’s abuse at the hands of a satanist cult; it was eventually debunked. Geraldo Rivera aired a 1988 documentary called “Devil Worship” that purportedly brought NBC its best ever ratings and explicitly blamed rock musicians like Iron Maiden and Ozzy Osbourne for influencing teens with satanism in their music.
Of course, the people of Hawkins aren’t quite as off about all of this as their real-life counterparts: there are literally demons and monsters attacking their town. But it’s because of the Upside Down, not because of Dungeons and Dragons and rock music.
In “Stranger Things” season four volume one, we don’t fully see how the townspeople’s frenzy will affect our intrepid heroes, but it seems like it will come back to haunt the kids during volume two.