A list of Durham NC references in Netflix’s Stranger Things

Netflix released the first volume of new “Stranger Things” season 4 episodes last week, so of course we were all over the place, scouring the scenes for local references inserted by the show’s creators, natives of Matt Durham and Ross Duffer.

The Duffer Brothers, as they’re known professionally, set their hugely popular retro-horror-sci-fi adventure series in Hawkins, Indiana (with excursions this season to California and Russia), but from the start they made sure their family, friends and fans in Durham knew they hadn’t forgotten their roots.

The series, which the brothers say draws inspiration from the movies and books they consumed growing up, is set in the 1980s, following a group of nerdy friends as they battle evil from a hellish landscape beneath their city.

Here’s a look at some of the Durham references from “Stranger Things” seasons 1-3, as well as some references we managed to catch in season 4 (perhaps you spotted some more?).

To note: The second part of season 4 (two additional episodes) will be released on Netflix on July 1, 2022.

Also note: You may find spoilers ahead, but nothing too major.

References to Durham NC in season 1 of “Stranger Things”

Durham Roads: Some main roads in Durham are mentioned in “Stranger Things”, and perhaps none more often than cornwallis. This is probably because the Duffer brothers grew up in a neighborhood in West Cornwallis near Duke Forest.

  • In one instance, the kids tell the police that the place where Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) disappeared, which the kids call “Mirkwood” (a JRR Tolkien “The Hobbit” reference), is a wooded area at the intersection of the Cornwallis and Kerley Roads in Hawkins. The West Cornwallis and Kerley roads intersect at Durham and it is a mostly wooded area near Duke Forest.
  • The series also mentioned Mount Sinai and Kerley roads, which also intersect, and which are not far from W. Cornwallis Road.

Childhood friend: In an episode in which children play “Dungeons & Dragons”, the name “King Tristan” is mentioned. Matt Duffer told The News & Observer in November 2017 that Tristan was a friend.

“Tristan was our neighbor,” Duffer said then. “And he made movies with us throughout his childhood, and he was our closest friend.”

An owl attack? No, false alarm. In the Season 1 premiere, Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) visits Police Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) to report that her son Will is missing. Hopper tries to convince her that it’s probably nothing and that she shouldn’t worry: “Joyce, it’s Hawkins, okay? You want to know the worst thing that’s ever happened here in the four years I’ve worked here? You want to know the worst part was when an owl attacked Eleanor Gillespie’s head because he thought her hair was a nest.

Many people know that after the death of Kathleen Peterson in Durham in 2001 (for which her husband Michael was later convicted of murder), a theory that she actually died from an owl attack ( on the back of the head) has gained popularity.

We contacted the Duffer Brothers through their assistant in 2017 and they said the reference was unintentional.

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(Left to right) Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson and Joe Keery as Steve Harrington in Season 4 of the Netflix series “Stranger Things.” Courtesy of Netflix

Durham NC mentions in ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2

The Eno River and Lake Jordan: As Bob Newby (Sean Astin) helped Joyce try to figure out where Hopper was trapped, he recognized two bodies of water from some of Will’s drawings and realized the drawings were a map of Hawkins. . “And if it’s Lake Jordan, then you can probably find…the Eno River,” Bob tells Joyce.

Neighbors: In an interview with The News & Observer in 2017, Matt Duffer revealed that a second “Stranger Things” character was named after a neighbor in Durham. “When Dustin is talking on the phone and pretending to talk about the cat, he’s talking to Mr McCorkle“, said Matt Duffer. “Mac MacCorkle was our next door neighbor.”

Trick-or-treating with the rich: In episode 2, the Loch’ora District in Durham is mentioned. In the episode, the children decide where to go and a character suggests that they go to Lochn’ora: “That’s where the rich live, isn’t it?” Later, a neighborhood sign reading “Loch Nora” is displayed. John Snyder, then president of the Lochn’ora Home Owners Association, told The N&O at the time that the spelling was incorrect, but the distinctive font was correct.

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(Left to right) John Paul Reynolds as Officer Callahan, Rob Morgan as Officer Powell, and Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler in Season 4 of the Netflix series “Stranger Things.” Courtesy of Netflix

References to Durham in Season 3 of ‘Stranger Things’

Cornwallis, again: In episode 2, Nancy and Jonathan, both now working at the Hawkins Post newspaper, interview a woman living at 4819 Cornwallis Road.

Fancy a BBQ? In episode 4, Hopper and Joyce study a map and point out important places near Lake Jordan. One of the places mentioned by Joyce is “oxen”, but it does not say whether it is a road, a farm, a business or a person’s property. But anyone who knows Durham the least will think of the famous Hillsborough Road barbecue as soon as they hear the name.

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In a scene from Season 4 of the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” Murray and Joyce call Russia from California, but use a computer to place the call through Durham, North Carolina, the hometown of the creators of the Matt and Ross Duffer show. Netflix screenshot

Season 4 mentions Durham in “Stranger Things”

In fact, Durham! By far, the best Durham reference in “Stranger Things” comes in Season 4, when the actual town of Durham is referenced. This happens in episode 2 when Joyce and Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman) make a phone call from Lenora Hills, California to Russia, and Murray “spoofs” the number to make it look like they’re calling from Durham , North Carolina.

You can’t party without Cornwallis. In episode 6, Dustin, Steve, Nancy, Lucas, Max and Robin get a call from Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) who is hiding out at Skull Rock. Eddie asks if they know where it is and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) says, “Yeah, it’s near Cornwallis and -” then Steve (Joe Keery) adds, “Garrett – yeah, I know.”

Cornwallis and Garrett roads are not too far apart, but they do not meet. They are almost parallel to each other. The closest meeting of the two roads would be at the end, closer to Cornwallis Road Park or Duke Forest, both off West Cornwallis Road.

Is the town of Hawkins, Indiana based on Durham, North Carolina?

Hawkins is a mix of things, The Duffer Brothers previously told The N&O.

The town of Hawkins is a combination of conspiracy theories, fictional towns in Stephen King’s books, suspenseful scenes in 1980s horror films, and locations in Georgia (where the series is primarily filmed), as well than in Durham, said Matt Duffer.

Duffer Brothers memories of growing up in Durham

In a November 2017 interview with NPR’s “Fresh Air” the brothers talked about growing up in Durham and how they started making short films in year three – sometimes for fun, sometimes to help their classmates with school projects.

From this interview: “We flirted with popularity in high school, when people realized that our videos, if used for a class assignment, would get you an automatic A,” Matt Duffer told interviewer Sam Briger. “It took me a few months to realize I was just being used,” he laughed.

“They only hung out with us while we were making the movie for them. And then once they got their A I would never hear from them again until they needed another video.

For a high school World War II history project, Ross said a “cool kid” called one day and asked him to film the capture of Normandy at Jordan Lake. This is the scene that opens Steven Spielberg’s movie “Saving Private Ryan,” which was hugely popular in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Ross describes adjusting the color and shutter speed of his camera, then shaking the camera as kids “with water guns and rafts” ran around. Then he extracted audio from “Saving Private Ryan” during the edit, he said.

“If you put that with a camera shaking kids, suddenly that thing came to life. For ten years, history lessons still showed this project. I’m sure maybe now they’ve quit,” Ross continued. “But that was the catalyst…after that, every weekend we had to shoot a movie for people.”

Why isn’t ‘Stranger Things’ filmed in North Carolina?

Hawkins’ scenes in ‘Stranger Things’ are filmed in Georgia, but California Season 4 scenes were filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexicoreports the decision maker.

The Duffer Brothers told The N&O in a previous interview that “the tax incentives made production more feasible in Atlanta.”

This story was originally published May 31, 2022 3:43 p.m.

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Brooke Cain is from North Carolina and has worked at The News & Observer for over 25 years. She is the editor of service journalism and writes about television and local media for The N&O’s Happiness is a Warm TV blog.

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