“Stranger Things” will haunt viewers long after it has ended. Even the idea of it ending is tragically terrifying. Built on a sinister kidnapping of a young Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) in Season 1 and most recently filled out in terms of The Upside Down mythology in Season 4, complete with a slimy squelchy villain named Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower), the Netflix series has no shortage of jump scares, creepy concepts and more.
Whether you’re a fan of graphic gory scenes or more psychologically thrilling moments, “Stranger Things” has four seasons’ worth of fright. Season 4 has been said to be the most scary, and the Duffer Brothers even listed “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Hellraiser” as inspirations for the most recent season in contrast to the slightly more innocent “E.T.,” “Goonies” etc. for the earlier seasons, in which the kids were still actually kids.
We’ve rounded up 11 (in honor of the mage herself) of the scariest “Stranger Things” moments below, with photos that could send shivers down your spine. Season 5 will be sure to throw off this list (we have some big questions), but while we’re waiting, here’s what we have so far.
Steve’s fight with the demobats vs. When Max figures out she is Vecna’s next target (Season 3)
Yes, we’ve already lost Bob (Sean Astin), Alexei (name), Barb (Shannon Purser), Billy and Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn), but the threat of losing Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) or Max (Sadie Sink) aside from our original group of five is the scariest idea yet. For Steve it stems from how he still hasn’t found his true love (cough cough Nancy) that if he were to die, all would be for nothing. Max has a close call with Vecna early on in the show and then bravely offers herself up as bait in the finale.
The sequence in which she puts all the clues (Ms. Kelly’s paperwork, the victims’ symptoms and her own) together about Vecna’s strategy and process ends with a chilling vision she has of the grandfather clock that appears to all of the villain’s targets. The realization that she is next combined with the suspense of black screen a la end of the third episode really unsettles viewers.
Victor Creel (Robert Englund) at Pennhurst (Season 4)
The magic of this moment mainly comes from Robert Englund’s background playing Freddy Kreuger in “Nightmare on Elm Street.” His appearance as Victor Creel in “Stranger Things” both pays homage to that work of horror and creates a new one. Creel has scratched his eyes out in an attempt to “join” his dead wife and children after Vecna took them (the same way he took Chrissy) years ago. Robin (Maya Hawke) and Nancy (Natalia Dyer) visit him at the Pennhurst Asylum after they discover his past with the “demon” that is Vecna. The asylum itself provides the perfect grounds for an eerie environment, with patients incapable of fully expressing themselves due to brain-altering, and likely traumatic, events. Creel is also scraping his fingernails into a metal table (eek) with his back turned, before he reveals his scarred face to the girls in an homage to “The Silence of the Lambs.”
On top of the physical presentation, the story he tells Robin and Nancy about the vengeful spirit that haunted his house adds the extra touch to push the terror over the edge.
Chrissy’s Death (Season 4)
All of the deaths at the hands — or claws — of Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) are deeply disturbing, but Chrissy’s is number one on this list because Chrissy is, unfortunately, Vecna’s first victim. The circumstances leading up to the fateful night create an environment in which Vecna’s process becomes all the more scarier. Chrissy goes to Eddie’s trailer to buy drugs stronger than weed after they bond over an incomplete weed deal he tries to make with her during school in the woods. Eddie and Chrissy struck up quite a bond that could have lead to a friendship, but then, after torturing her with twisted memories and horrible visions, Vecna takes her so gruesomely, snapping her limbs one by one (in the silence of Eddie’s trailer) and sucking in her eyes so that blood drips from them like tears. The build up time of Chrissy’s trance when Eddie tries to snap her out of it also fuels the suspense and shock at her scary death.
Children Murdered by One in Season 4 Opening
Eleven’s distorted memory of her victorious encounter with One after he reveals who he actually is to her creates a distinct segue into Season 4, crossing a line of horror that viewers had not yet seen before. For those who wondered what happened to Eleven’s “siblings,” episode one of the penultimate season answers first by making it seem like she killed them, but we learn later in the season it was really One/Henry/Vecna who slaughtered the children under the guise of trying to find Eleven a way out of the Hawkins Lab. The bones bent at unnatural angles and bloody eye sockets would look frightening on anyone, but their appearance on young children hits hard.
Eleven digging mindflayer limb out of her ankle and losing her powers (Season 3)
When Eleven suffers a wound from a Mind Flayer tentacle, emergency sirens should go off in every viewer’s brain because she is the one thing standing between Hawkins and this menace of a monster. For squeamish ones or those not fond of blood, gore, infected skin, etc., it is advised you look away in the scene where Jonathan prepares and attempts to get the leftover piece of Mind Flayer stuck in Eleven’s leg out. She eventually does it herself with much pain, but it doesn’t end there because somehow with this connection between the monster and Eleven, she loses her powers! It seems the force that is the Mind Flayer leeched Eleven of her powers, stripping them for Vecna’s later use to open portals into Hawkins.
Billy Getting Possessed by the Mind Flayer (Season 3)
The Mind Flayer’s use of Billy (Dacre Montgomery) as a vessel to join the Upside Down with Hawkins provides a vein in Season 3 that constantly scares. There’s the Sauna Test, where he goes from Billy to overheated monster that cries to try to break through the glass, and there’s his kidnapping of future Flayed people like Tom and Heather. A particularly sinister scene takes place early on in Season 3 when Max and Eleven have tracked Billy to Heather’s house, where he and Heather (post-flaying) are acting creepily calm and normal since they have been possessed by a monster trying to sneak in from an alternate dimension. Dacre’s deadpan look when he revs up Billy’s pace to prevent the kids from leaving Starcourt and fleeing the physical monster as well as his invasion of Eleven’s consciousness seals the deal.
Eleven Closing the Gate (Season 2)
The deep dark abyss that forms to house the gaping wound that separates Hawkins and the Upside Down becomes a gathering place for numerous demodogs, summoned back by the Hive Mind to stop Eleven from closing the raw Mother Gate, through which the shadowy spidery Mind Flayer senses Eleven. As if El doesn’t already have enough pressure on her to complete a daunting task, the lurking monster attempts to squeeze through the gate once it realizes she is trying to seal the gigantic crack shut. Luckily Hopper (David Harbour) is there to keep the demodogs at bay with two guns. Eleven’s victorious moment of shutting the Mind Flayer down in a powerful way that she learned from her long lost sister is triumphantly terrifying. The goosebumps at the end started out bad, but turn out to be good.
Will Possessed by the Mind Flayer (Season 2)
When the Mind Flayer takes Will, it’s almost worse than Billy. Of course the scene where the sporey particles invade Will’s being and put him in a trance spooks viewers. It’s when Will responds to the attempted burning of the tunnel system by falling and shaking and seizing on the ground that things get intense. His voice deepening to speak for the Mind Flayer, whether to say “He likes it cold” or to demand they turn the heaters off in the finale, cements the combination of the concept and Noah Schnapp’s acting as a solid scare.
Will’s Fake Body (Season 1)
Will’s death is so fear-inducing, especially when the source of it remains ambiguous. Hopper’s expert technique of barging into places where he technically doesn’t have jurisdiction uncovers such a sinister plot of covering up the source of Will’s supposed death. Joyce’s spidey senses tell her that her son is not dead but missing. Even the coroner’s procurement of her (not) dead son’s body can’t convince her. She gets a good look at the body and storms out of the clinic declaring that the body is not her son. Hopper trusts her instincts and goes to examine the corpse more closely. Cutting into a fake but engineered (!) rubber corpse to find cotton on the insides instead of intestines has to have sent chills down some spines.
Barb Getting Eaten by the Demogorgon at Steve’s Pool (Season 1)
Barb’s encounter with the demogorgon in Season 1 can’t get much scarier. Her cut finger and drop of blood attracts the creature, and her position sitting on the edge of the pool calls to mind the thrills of “Jaws.” The unknown creature dragging Barb into the pool (still having not visibly appeared fully on camera) adds to the suspense of figuring out what it is and looks like. Jonathan’s photographic evidence from that night also conjures spooky thoughts since he managed to catch the figure of the creature in the dark. The contrast of such a suburban setting with a supernatural beast turns up the fear factor. Plus there’s tension of Steve and Nancy hooking up while Barb is fighting for her life.
Will Getting Kidnapped (Season 1)
The event that started it all. Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) rides home on his bicycle with Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) after a tone-setting campaign of Dungeons and Dragons at Mike Wheeler’s (Finn Wolfhard) house. Lucas and Dustin split off at their respective domiciles while Will keeps riding down the street they’ve nicknamed Murkwood. Before the three took off, lights at Mike’s house flickered, which later becomes the telltale sign that the demogorgon is near. The creature’s silhouette confronts Will before he can make it home safely. All that’s left after the creature kidnaps Will is his fallen bicycle with one spinning wheel. Diehard fans who have watched since the beginning have pointed out that the chiming of Vecna’s creepy clock can be heard in this sequence. Others have likened the supposed Demogorgon’s figure to that of Vecna. Was it actually Vecna who kidnapped Will in the first place? This might be the scariest thought of them all.