‘Stranger Things’: Was the Mind Flayer One of Dr. Brenner’s Subjects?

When audiences were first introduced to Hawkins, Indiana, in Stranger Things, we were also introduced to an entirely new world called the Upside Down. Essentially a parallel universe, the Upside Down was the home to at least one monster that we knew of at the end of season 1. By the end of season 3, we now knew there was a whole host of horrors to be discovered in the ashy wasteland. 

The one thing viewers did notice is that the monsters seem to be attracted specifically to the character of Eleven. Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown, was experimented on by Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine) and his team of goons as they tried to exploit her telekinetic powers. She finally escaped, but it turns out humans were the least of her worries. Does the Mind Flayer recognize her somehow?

A shot of the Mind Flayer from 'Stranger Things' Season 2.
The Mind Flayer | Photo courtesy of Netflix

Some fans think the Mind Flayer is 001

Eleven received her nickname from the tattoo on her arm reading 011. At first, no one was really sure what its significance was, but in Stranger Things Season 2, the show introduced Kali in season 2, episode 7, ‘The Lost Sister.’ Kali had 008 tattooed on her arm, and fans gave a collective gasp as it was now evident that there are at least 10 other kids with special powers like Eleven.

This leads us to the theory that the Mind Flayer was initially a subject of Dr. Brenner. He somehow escaped and transformed into the monster we’ve all seen on screen. This Redditor wrote, “My theory is that the Mind Flayer is 001, and that the Upside Down, and the entities that populate it, is the manifestation 001’s demented psyche.”

If the Mind Flayer was one of Brenner’s test subjects, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to believe that he knows who Eleven is. From there, fans could speculate on the relationship the two had during their time in the lab, but absolutely nothing has been confirmed.

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Jody Houser, writer of the ‘Stranger Things’ comic book, isn’t allowed to mention one thing in particular

Fans of the show are probably aware that Dark Horse has a comic book series that also focuses on the kids of Stranger Things and other events involving the Hawkins Lab. In one comic spinoff series, different numbers of kids from the lab are integral parts of the story. Houser was given plenty of freedom to tell the stories she wanted. However, she told Gizmodo that she wasn’t allowed to talk about one thing.

“We’ve been given, actually, more freedom than I expected, honestly. Especially in terms of creating new characters from the program. Really the one restriction we got was we couldn’t use the number One. Other than that, any other number was up for grabs. I was able to put in a 9.5, cause there’s set of identical twins and one has powers and one doesn’t.”

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Was the Mind Flayer originally human?

This is the question that poses the biggest hole in the theory. If the Mind Flayer was ever a subject of Dr. Brenner’s, wouldn’t that have to make him human at one point?

We know the Mind Flayer refers to himself as “he/him” because he uses those words when communicating with Will Byers in Stranger Things Season 2 and then with Billy Hargrove in season 3. This would imply that it was possibly human at one point. But how does someone go from being a human to a giant creature made out of the blood and guts of people from Hawkins?

In season 3, the monster is specifically looking Eleven. Fans don’t know if that’s because it fears her telekinetic powers or for other reasons unknown. We know that Eleven lost her powers at the end of last season. Plus, it happened when she removed the bit of the Mind Flayer from her leg. Could it just want to absorb her powers instead?

The cast and crew of the show have been very tight-lipped. No one has uttered a peep about Stranger Things Season 4’s plotline. Thankfully, fans won’t have to wait long. The fourth season of the show will premiere in 2022.