The Duffer Brothers, born and raised in Durham, drop quite a few Durham-area references in the Emmy-winning hit sci-fi series “Stranger Things” that they write, direct and produce. Chuck Liddy Video produced by John Hansen
The Duffer Brothers, born and raised in Durham, drop quite a few Durham-area references in the Emmy-winning hit sci-fi series “Stranger Things” that they write, direct and produce. Chuck Liddy Video produced by John Hansen

Durham County

The place names in ‘Stranger Things’ aren’t the only NC references

By Camila Molina

cmolina@newsobserver.com

November 07, 2017 11:13 AM

UPDATED November 08, 2017 12:51 PM

The premiere of “Stranger Things 2” in October brought a new wave of excitement for North Carolina viewers who noticed some Durham and Triangle references, such as the Eno River and Jordan Lake, in the show.

Now the show’s creators, Matt and Ross Duffer, who grew up near a tobacco farm just a few miles from Duke Forest, have revealed some other local surprises.

“When Dustin’s talking on the phone he’s pretending to talk about the cat, he’s talking to Mr. McCorkle,” Matt Duffer said in an interview this week. “Mac McCorkle was our neighbor next door.”

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And in the first season, when the friends are playing Dungeons and Dragons, King Tristan is named.

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

“Those are some of the deep cut childhood references, but in terms of landmarks or street names, I think people have honestly picked up on all of them.”

Duffer said he’s sure viewers will pick up on more North Carolina references in future seasons now that our attention has been piqued.

So is the show’s setting, the fictional town of Hawkins, Ind., really Durham?

Actually, Hawkins is a mix of things, Duffer said.

Some viewers have speculated that “Stranger Things” is solely based on an alleged government experiment called “The Montauk Project,” which is claimed to have been conducted at Montauk Air Force Station in Long Island, N.Y., Business Insider reported in 2016. Theorists say the operation involved psychological warfare techniques and even time travel.

And after all, Netflix picked up the show in 2015 by the name of “Montauk.”

But the town of Hawkins is a combination of conspiracy theories, fictional towns in Stephen King books, suspense scenes in 1980s horror movies, and locations in Georgia (where the show is filmed), as well as Durham, Duffer said.

The supernatural forces that plague Hawkins will probably continue for at least two more seasons, The News & Observer reported in October.

Duffer said the brothers actually would’ve filmed the show in North Carolina, but Atlanta has tax incentives that made the production more feasible.

The North Carolina General Assembly voted to end film and TV production tax credits after 2014 and replaced them with a one-year, $10 million grant program.

Last year the legislature voted to increase the grant to $30 million for the 2017 fiscal year.

“Good Behavior” was the only scripted television series that was filmed in North Carolina this year.

“Hopefully one day” they’ll film “Stranger Things” in their home state, Duffer said. “We would love to give back to the community if we could.”