Stranger Things series 4 is arguably the best yet, and that’s partly down to the arrival of Eddie Munson – but did you know the character is based on real life convict Damien Echols?
Although Eddie Munson is portrayed as an outcast and freak in the Netflix series, he’s easily become one of the most popular characters.
But few people realise that the leader of the Hellfire Club is actually based on a real life person called Damien Echols.
Damien, who is still alive, is one of the ‘West Memphis Three’.
So who is Eddie Munson inspiration Damien Echols, where is he now, and what was he accused of?
Is Eddie Munson in Stranger Things based on Damien Echols?
Stranger Things fans will know that Eddie Munson arrived in series 4 with a bang.
And Eddie (played by British actor Joseph Quinn) quickly became one of the most beloved characters in Hawkins.
While the basketball-playing jocks saw him as a metalhead freak, fellow nerds Mike and Dustin found solace in Eddie’s Hellfire Club.
But when cheerleader Chrissy Cunningham died in horrifying circumstances, the blame quickly fell on Eddie despite his innocence.
Why? Because he was ‘different’ – not sporty, not popular and not willing to conform (and that’s why we loved him).
At the end of episode 7 of Stranger Things (volume one of season 4), Eddie remained a wanted man for Chrissy’s murder.
Now, in an unsettling revelation, Netflix Geeked has revealed that Eddie Munson is based on Damien Echols.
They said: “Stranger Things Hellfire Club storyline – and especially the character Eddie Munson – were inspired by the documentary series Paradise Lost.
“Eddie is loosely modelled after writer and artist Damien Echols, who was a member of the West Memphis Three.”
Stranger Things Eddie Munson: Who is Damien Echols and what did he do?
Damien Echols was 18 when he was arrested for murder.
A schoolboy at the time, Damien Echols became known as one of the ‘West Memphis Three’.
Understandably, tension was high when three eight year olds were murdered in West Memphis.
Police found the dead bodies of Steve Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers dumped in the woods.
(Stranger Things fan will know that one of the characters in the Netflix drama is called Will Byers).
Suspicion soon fell on teenager Damien Echols and his friends.
Police eventually arrested him, along with 16-year-old Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, 17.
Damien, Jason and Jessie have always protested their innocence.
The three continue to fight for justice nearly 30 years on.
What happened in the case of the West Memphis Three?
On May 5 1993, eight-year-old Steven Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers disappeared.
The three friends went missing from their neighbourhood in West Memphis, Arkansas.
Tragically, their bodies were found the next day dumped in woods nearby.
Their killers had stripped and bound them, before throwing their bodies in a creek.
The case became known as the Robin Hood Hills murders.
The local community were devastated and suspicion soon turned on Damien Echols.
Damien was an 18-year-old ‘goth’ who lived in the neighbourhood.
The ‘misfit’ teenager loved heavy metal, grew his hair long, wore black clothes, and had expressed interest in the art of magick.
Something that was seen as ‘Satanic’ in Bible Belt America at that time.
Damien was also known to the police, having been arrested for shoplifting and burglary in the past.
He also had a medical history of mental health issues.
Police arrested Damien and his friend Charles Jason Baldwin (known as Jason) after another schoolboy called Jessie Misskelley confessed.
However, it later transpired that the police had interrogated the 16-year-old – who had an IQ of 68 – for 12 hours unsupervised.
What was Eddie Munson inspiration Damien Echols convicted of?
The subsequent trial was accompanied by tabloid headlines reporting a ritualistic killing by a Satanic cult.
Some might say, the three boys were found guilty before they’d even stepped foot in the court.
Damien’s behaviour in court also raised eyebrows…
He made rude gestures and remarks, revealing later that he truly believed he couldn’t be convicted on such little evidence.
There was no DNA evidence linking Damien, Jason or Jessie to the crime.
In fact, there was no connection to the boys at all, and Jessie’s story changed frequently in the run up to the trial.
The teens even had alibis for the time of the murders.
A jury eventually convicted Jessie and Jason of triple murder and sentenced them to life imprisonment without possibility of parole.
Damien, who had been labelled the ‘ringleader’ as a result of his age and attitude, was also convicted of triple murder but given the death penalty.
On March 19 1994, Judge David Burnett sentenced Damien Echols to death by lethal injection.
How long did Damien Echols serve?
Damien Echols served 18 years in prison in total.
For most of that time, he was on death row with the upcoming threat of lethal injection.
He used those years to study magick, meditate and campaign for his release.
Was Damien Echols in solitary confinement?
Damien spent 18 years in prison, including 10 years in solitary confinement.
In an interview with the Guardian in 2013, Damien said: “You don’t get used to being in prison in a single day.
“And you don’t get used to being out of prison in a single day.
“For several months, I was in a state of profound shock and trauma.
“I’d been in solitary confinement for 10 years, so I wasn’t even used to having human interaction.”
Many death row prisoners are kept in segregation or solitary conditions.
How did he get released?
In 2007, DNA testing became available.
Although it was not able to exonerate the West Memphis Three, it did cast doubt on their convictions.
DNA testing produced evidence that hairs found at the crime scene did not match any of the convicted men.
Based on this, the defendants asked for a new trial.
In September 2008, Judge Burnett denied retrials for all three saying the new evidence was “inconclusive”.
In 2011, they were offered an “Alford plea” – the same plea used by The Staircase’s Michael Peterson.
The Alford Plea allows someone to maintain their innocence, but agree to plead guilty.
This allowed the case to be closed in the eyes of the State, but opened up possibilities such as parole.
The West Memphis Three were then able to accept a plea bargain.
This also meant that the state would not be held accountable for any miscarriage of justice.
In return, their sentences were all reduced to time served, and they were finally released after 18 years with 10-year suspended sentences.
They all were released immediately.
When was Damien Echols released?
Damien Echols was released in 2011, after serving 18 years.
After weeks of negotiations, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were released from prison as part of a plea deal.
They walked free on August 19 2011.
In the documentary West of Memphis, Jason states that he didn’t want to take the plea deal…
But, if he hadn’t, then it would have likely resulted in Damien’s death by lethal injection.
Where is Damien Echols now? Is he free?
Damien Echols is now a writer and lives in New York.
Upon his release from death row, he wrote several autobiographies, including a memoir about his time in prison.
He’s also published spiritual books, and a collection of love letters he sent to and received from his wife, Lorri Davis, while in prison.
He has been featured in multiple books, documentaries, and podcasts about his spiritual works and the West Memphis Three case.
He continues to fight to clear him name.
After finally being released, Jessie Misskelley removed himself from the public eye, and reportedly returned to the trailer park where he had previously lived in West Memphis.
Jason Baldwin spent his time studying law while in prison, and now works closely with Proclaim Justice and The Innocence Project – charities which try to release those who have been wrongfully convicted in the US.
However, due to his conviction, Jason can never be a practicing lawyer.
How old is he now?
Damien was born on December 11 1974.
He is currently 47 years of age.
Damien was born in Marion, Arkansas, and lived with his mother and father until their divorce when he was 8.
The family frequently moved around and Damien attended eight schools before the age of 10.
Along with his mum and stepfather, Damien eventually settled in West Memphis, Arkansas.
However, Damien was still in the ninth grade at the age of 17 due to his staggered schooling.
Is Damien Echols related to Johnny Depp?
Damien Echols is not related to Johnny Depp, but they are firm friends.
Like many celebrities and important figures, Johnny campaigned for the release of the West Memphis Three.
Johnny has been vocal about his support for Damien, and the pair often appear on the red carpet or in interviews together.
In fact, the pair even have tattoos inspired by each other.
Damien Echols has said: “He’s been with us every single step of the way.
“Since we’ve gotten out, he’s become like a brother to me.
“And that’s one of the things we always do just as part of that bond is whenever you get tattoos like that, it’s something you carry with you through the rest of your life and it’s really meaningful.”
Rock musicians including Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Black Flag’s Henry Rollins and Natalie Maines of Dixie Chicks fronted campaigns for their release or a new trial.
Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson also put his own money into investigations to support their defence.
Are Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin still friends?
Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin were close friends at school.
They bonded over their similar tastes in music and fiction.
Reports say Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols’ friendship suffered a major blow due to the movie Devil’s Knot.
According to Damien Echols, the movie drove a wedge between the two of them.
Eddie Munson Stranger Things: What religion is Damien Echols?
Damien Echols studied magick while in jail.
He also holds exhibitions of his art inspired by this belief system.
Magick, sometimes spelt Magic, is a system of beliefs, rituals or actions employed in the belief that they can manipulate natural or supernatural beings and forces.
It is a category into which have been placed various beliefs and practices sometimes considered separate from both religion and science.
The urban dictionary describes it as the “art of utilising natural forces around us to bring about change.
“Magick is neutral, neither good, nor evil.
“The practitioner decides how they would like to focus this natural energy.”
What is Damien Echols’ real name and why did he change it?
Damien Echols was born Michael Wayne Hutchison.
At the age of 13, he changed his birth name.
He took on a new first name, choosing Damien.
Damien adopted the last name of his stepfather Jack Echols.
Of course, his name became a matter of controversy after his arrest, with some believing Damien chose his name after the antichrist character in the Omen films.
However, Damien stated at trial that he’d chosen the name because he’d briefly explored Catholicism, and was fascinated by the saint, Father Damien, who had worked with lepers, eventually becoming infected with the disease.
Eddie Munson in Stranger Things: Damien Echols married and does he have a child?
During his time in jail, Damien turned his cell into a monastic-like sanctuary and practiced meditative rituals for up to eight hours a day.
It was during this time that Damien met his wife Lorri, who assisted in the uncovering of new DNA evidence that would eventually free him.
Lorri Davis, a woman Damien had never met, began a campaign that would eventually set him free.
She wrote to him after seeing a documentary about the murders.
Lorri took up his case, taking out personal loans to fund his defence.
In 1996, Damien Echols met his future wife Lorri Davis, a landscape architect.
They began a romantic relationship, and married in a Buddhist ceremony in December 1999.
It was held in the prison visiting room.
Does Damien have a son and how old is he?
Damien has a son called Damian Seth Azariah Echols.
He is the product of a relationship between teenage Damien and his ex-girlfriend Domini Teer.
Domini was pregnant before her boyfriend Damien was arrested.
Their son was born before the trial.
He is now be believed to be in his mid-twenties, and keeps out of the public eye.
How much is Eddie Munson inspiration Damien Echols worth?
Damien Echols’ net worth is reportedly around $500,000 – that’s £400,000.
According to Celebrity Net Worth, he has amassed his modest fortune from his career as a writer.
His memoir Almost Home: My Life Story Vol. 1 was published in 2005 while he was still serving his time in prison.
He released an album with Michale Graves of The Misfits titled Illusions in 2007 and co-wrote the lyrics to a Pearl Jam song in 2006.
Strangers Things series 1 to 4 is currently available to watch on Netflix.
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