If Eddie Munson’s character in the new season of “Stranger Things” sounds familiar to true crime fans, there’s a reason why. He is based on a key character in the infamous West Memphis Three affair.
In the fourth season of the popular series, which released last week, viewers were introduced to the metal-loving character played by actor Joseph Quinn.
Munson is a social outcast, drug dealer, and leader of the Hellfire Club, a group for Dungeons & Dragons fans. The first episode opens with him mocking reports that corny roleplaying leads to Satanism and even murder.
Soon, Munson himself is charged with murder.
Matt and Ross Duffer, who created the series, recently said in an interview that Munson is based on Damien Echols, who was controversially convicted, along with two friends, in the 1993 murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas.
The Duffer Brothers said “something we really wanted to get into this year was the satanic panic.”
“So that brought us back to the lost paradise documentary series with [West] Memphis Three, and that brought us back to Damien Echols,” Ross said. “We really wanted this character who’s a metalhead, he’s in Dungeons & Dragons, he’s ultimately a real nerd at heart. But from an outsider’s perspective, they can say, ‘He’s somebody. one that’s scary. So that’s really where Eddie’s idea came from.
Photo: Getty images; netflix
The documentary series “Paradise Lost”, directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, explored the case. Three boys – Steve “Stevie” Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore – were discovered murdered in a ditch in West Memphis, Arkansas on May 6, 1993. Damien Echols, then 18, Jason Baldwin, then 16, and Jessie Misskelley, then 17, was identified as a suspect and arrested; all three were convicted the following year. Misskelley and Baldwin received life sentences, but Echols was sentenced to death.
The teenagers were portrayed as social outcasts who loved metal music, and their controversial lawsuit centered on Echols’ interest in paganism and the books of Stephen King. The apparent “satanic panic” (a fear in the 1980s and 1990s that Satanism was rampant in society) element of the case was central to the documentary series, and questions about the teenagers’ beliefs intensified.
New DNA evidence emerged in 2007, casting further doubt on the trio’s guilt, which fueled attempts to have the case retried. After years of legal battles, the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2010 ordered a lower court judge to reconsider the case, particularly whether new DNA evidence might have exonerated the three.
With a new trial seemingly on the horizon, Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley reached a plea deal with prosecutors in 2011. The three men would enter a Alford pleawho allows an accused to maintain his innocence, but recognizes that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict him. The judge hearing the case overturned the previous convictions and ordered a new trial, in which case the three pleaded Alford and were sentenced to time served.
In other words, they were released.
Since his release, Echols has published four books on magic and rituals, one of which is called “High Magick: A Guide to the Spiritual Practices that Saved My Life on Death Row”.
Of the new Echols-based character, Matt Duffer said, “The sad thing about his story is that the people who know him love him, and the people who didn’t judge him horribly. Just because of the way he dresses and just because of his interests.