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6 Indisputable Reasons ‘Stranger Things’ Is Actually Set in Tennessee

Is Hawkins, Indiana a real place? It might be more real than you think.

By Cara Sanders on July 10, 2019

Stranger Things
Courtesy of Lowtrucks under a CC 2.0 license.

If you’re anything like us, you consumed all eight episodes of the third season of Netflix’s hugely popular show “Stranger Things†in record time and still want more. We’ve entered a “Stranger Things†spiral more intense than the Upside Down and truly cannot get enough. 

The spooky, supernatural series sparks a lot of questions:

Could any of this actually happen?

What will happen next?

Is Hawkins, Indiana a real place? 

We don’t have answers to the first two, but we think we can help with the last one.

An old Reddit thread has been resurrected about the similarities between the fictitious Hawkins, Indiana, and East Tennessee. Here are seven weird connections that “Stranger Things” has to Tennesseecaution: spoilers ahead

1. Basically every reference to anywhere in the greater Hawkins area is actually a reference to a city or county in Tennessee. 

First off, the show is based in Hawkins, IN, and though there isn’t a Hawkins, Tennessee, there is a Hawkins County in Tennessee. 

Even better, in several scenes throughout the show, viewers see signs indicating that Hawkins, Indiana, is in Roane County. Coincidentally (or not!) there is a Roane County, Tennessee. For example, in Season 1 a school bus says “Roane County School District” and then there is the Roane County Coroner’s Office. In Season 2, Bob Newby (RIP) references being scared of clowns at the Roane County Fair when he was younger. 

Other callouts to East Tennessee include a reference to searching for Will Byers in Cartersville – there’s a Cartersville, Tennessee! – and when Hopper questions a potential witness who says something about going fishing in Etowah. Etowah is a small town in Tennessee near Chattanooga.  

Oak Ridge TN
Oak Ridge / Photo by U.S. Department of Energy; Oak Ridge National Laboratory

2. Hawkins National Laboratory has a few striking similarities to Oak Ridge National Laboratory. 

While some believe that the show was inspired by the Montauk Project, a conspiracy theory that the U.S. military conducted experiments on children during the 1980s, others believe that it’s all about Oak Ridge

Like Hawkins National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) began as a secret government lab that played a major role in the Manhattan Project and the Cold War. Plus, the lab is situated along Roane County’s border. 

Prior to the Manhattan Project, the community of Oak Ridge did not exist, and most people recruited to work at the site did not have details about where they were going, hence the nickname of the ‘Secret City.’ Today, ORNL employs 4,500 people, drawing scientists and engineers from all over the world to Oak Ridge to work on high-tech projects like large-scale 3D printing. 
















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3. …and a new project at ORNL sounds a lot like the Upside Down. 

Today, ORNL physicist Leah Broussard is working to find a “mirror” universe. Though the setup is pretty complicated, Broussard plans to run a beam of subatomic particles down a 50-foot tunnel, past a powerful magnet and straight into an impenetrable wall. Then, if the setup is right and the universe is on our side, some of those particles will transform into mirror-image versions of themselves, allowing them to tunnel through the wall. Though it’s unlikely to find a mirror version of yourself, you might find mirror rocks, atoms or maybe even planets and stars creating a collective shadow world. Basically, it’s a real life version of the Upside Down. 

4. Even the music hails from East Tennessee.

Perhaps our favorite connection to East Tennessee involves the “Stranger Things”‘ soundtrack. Seasons 1 and 2 each featured a Dolly Parton hit, which was music to our ears. 

In season 1, Nancy and Jonathan raid the local Army surplus store for supplies to hunt down the Demogorgon as Dolly’s “The Bargain Store” plays in the background. Then, during the second episode of Season 2, Bob and Joyce dance around the living room to the Dolly’s iconic duet with Kenny Rogers, “Islands in the Stream.” Seriously, Dolly is the crown jewel of East Tennessee, so hearing her music is a treat.

5. The Hawkins Fun Fair features a World’s Fair T-Shirt. 

In the background of a scene taking place at the Hawkins Fun Fair, a worker can be seen setting up rides wearing a 1982 World’s Fair t-shirt. The 1982 World’s Fair was held in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Coincidence? We think NOT. 
















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6. Nancy Wheeler is from Tennessee.

Okay, this one is a biiiiiiit of a stretch, but we’re just as desperate to make a connection to Hamilton as Steve is for girls’ affection. 

Natalia Dyer AKA Nancy Wheeler is originally from Nashville, Tennessee. She grew up in the area and attended Nashville School of the Arts, a performing arts high school in the area. Fun fact: she also appeared in “The Hannah Montana Movie.” Who knew?

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Array ( [0] => 151567 [1] => 151517 [2] => 151487 [3] => 151188 [4] => 150280 [5] => 150265 [6] => 146472 [7] => 122911 [8] => 122894 [9] => 122881 [10] => 119747 )

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