Joseph Quinn smiles as Eddie Munson in season 4 of 'Stranger Things'

Real Life Inspiration for Eddie Munson Reacts to the ‘Stranger Things’ Fan-Favorite Character

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Eddie Munson is a character that many flocked to when Stranger Things 4 was released. As the Dungeon Master of the D&D Hellfire Club at Hawkins High School, Eddie is a sensitive, artistic metalhead who is falsely accused of a series of “Satanic” murders that are actually perpetrated by the monstrous Vecna. Eddie, played brilliantly by actor Joseph Quinn, is beloved by the younger members of the club, especially Dustin Henderson, who refuse to believe that he’s guilty and try to help him and clear his name. Stranger Things creators The Duffer Bros. have said that Eddie’s character was inspired by artist and writer Damien Echols, who was one of “the West Memphis Three,” and a real-life victim of the Satanic panic that swept America in the ’80s and ’90s.

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The “West Memphis Three” case centered around the death of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993 and found teenagers Jessie Misskelley, Jr., Jason Baldwin, and Echols as the main suspects. The teenagers had been accused of petty crimes in the past and were outsiders to “the prevailing cultural climate of West Memphis, situated in the Bible Belt.” The three were charged and sentenced for the murders, alleged to have been conducted as part of a “Satantic ritual,” despite a lack of evidence and a clear bias against them. They have since spent years fighting back against the charges and trying to use DNA evidence to rid them of the guilty verdict. After almost two decades of legal battles and attention called to the injustice of the case by moviemakers, musicians, and other public figures, they were finally released from prison on Alford pleas in 2011, sentenced to time served. All three men spent eighteen years in prison for crimes they did not commit, and they are still not technically exonerated by the legal system.

While the legal case to clear Echols’ name is still on-going, it is clear when watching Stranger Things just how much Munson was inspired by the case. Much like Echols, Eddie was an outcast because of his love of metal music, his role in the Dungeons & Dragons community (and the moral panic that existed regarding the game, which the show does touch on), as well as being looked down upon because he lives in a trailer park. All of that is important to who Eddie is as a character but is also drawn from Damien Echols’ own story.

Now, Echols has since answered the question about his feelings on Eddie Munson on Twitter. “In case anyone else is wondering, I was tremendously honored by it,” he wrote. “And I greatly appreciate all the new eyes and hearts it has brought to our fight. I was watching it at 3 am in the morning, and when I heard the very first chords from Master of Puppets, my heart exploded.” In the season finale of Stranger Things season 4, amateur musician Eddie takes a heroic stand and plays a show-stopping version of Metallica’s classic song “Master of Puppets” to distract a hoard of demonic bats from hurting his friends.

Eddie Munson and Damien Echols

We get to see the frustrating, wildly unfair side of Echols’ story through Eddie Munson. We get to see his innocence, see how people react to him, and we get to feel that frustration because no one is listening. It’s easier to scapegoat Eddie, an outsider to the community, than to discover the truth about the real evils happening within it. An additional tragedy that resulted from the West Memphis three case is that the biased witch hunt against the young men meant that the real murderer or murderers remain at large.

Even in the end of Stranger Things, when they’ve all proven that there’s something bigger going on in Hawkins, Eddie is still seen as a social pariah responsible for “the Munson murders,” and his uncle is fighting to get answers to what happened to him. And that is still relevant in Echols’ own life today. He’s still fighting the court system to give him his exoneration and actually find who did this to the three victims, Steve Edward Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore.

Justice still hasn’t been served. As recently as June 23rd, 2022, Brown and Echols were in court trying to petition them to use DNA to prove their innocence and actually help find who murdered the three victims, but the judge didn’t rule in their favor because Echols was not in prison anymore.

All of this to say that hopefully, with the immense popularity of Eddie Munson from Stranger Things, the surge in interest in the West Memphis Three case will help find justice for those victims and prove the innocence of the men wrongfully accused. And knowing that Echols found joy in Eddie? That’s actually really cool.

(image: Netflix)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her current obsession is Glen Powell's dog, Brisket. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.