“So are you having any sleep issues? Nightmares?” a stern man in a lab outfit asked each person entering Hawkins National Laboratory. His intense eyes and frown lines were discomfiting. He jotted some quick notes and moved on.
Then a video came on featuring Dr. Sam Owens (played by Paul Reiser), director of operations. “We’re excited to serve the great community of Hawkins,” he intoned cheerfully, then informed the participants not to take any photographs, or else “our important work here could be compromised.”
From there, 30 or so people were shepherded into what is known as “Stranger Things: The Experience” at Pullman Yards in Kirkwood. Calamity and death await ― though not for the participants. The experience pays homage to the hugely successful Netflix horror drama that debuted in 2016 and is shot largely in Georgia, though is set in a fictional Indiana town called Hawkins in the mid-1980s.
The experience debuted last month and is open Wednesdays-Sundays. Tickets are currently available through Jan. 15, 2023. It’s a little pricier than some other experiences in town, including “Harry Potter: The Exhibition” (starting at $29) and “Claude Monet: The Immersive Experience” (starting at $33.10), in part due to its length, complexity and employee count. Tickets, available at feverup.com, start at $49 for adults on weekdays and $72 on weekends.
“We worked with the show creators to make sure everything we’ve done is in line with the ‘Stranger Things’ narrative and thematics,” said Isis Arias, who handles marketing for the experience.
The 45-minute storyline in Hawkins Lab features many of the major actors from the series in video and audio form, including Matthew Modine as Dr. Martin Brenner, Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven, Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin and Sadie Sink as Max. Danger lurks. Objects move. Employees are equally shifty. Demodogs join the fun.
There are plenty of 3D-induced scares and a few laughs as well, and attendees are encouraged, using hand movements and mind melds, to channel Eleven’s paranormal powers.
Once the heroes save Hawkins yet again from an apocalypse, guests can spend unlimited time in the expansive Mix-Tape area, where photography is welcome and food, drink and souvenirs — including a Hellfire Club denim jacket for a 2022 price of $98 — are available for purchase.
Touchstones from all four seasons are evident, from Joyce Byers’ creeped-out living room set in Season One, the bustling Palace arcade from Season Two, the Scoops Ahoy mall ice cream parlor from Starcourt Mall in Season Three and a part of the Rink-O-Mania skating rink from Season Four.
There are Instagram and TikTok-friendly areas to shoot video and photos (including the mouth of a Demogorgon), and glass-encased props from the show including an outfit Eleven wore, an Eggo waffles box used on set and a Ghostbusters backpack from Season Two.
Several actors portraying Hawkins residents as Scoops Ahoy and Surfer Boy Pizza employees cosplay like it’s 1986, befuddled and fascinated by visitors carrying smartphones. A girl flirts with the annoyed manager of the Family Video rental store while an eager young reporter for the Hawkins newspaper asks questions and hands out business cards.
There are photo booths, old-school phone booths, a “Stranger Things” pinball machine and an arcade of free-to-play 1980s classic video games such as Dig Dug, Centipede and Space Invaders. The Upside bar features themed cocktails and mocktails. The Demogorgon cocktail, for instance, consists of bourbon, orange, maple syrup, angostura bitters and a Luxardo cherry, topped with a miniature stroopwafel.
“We’ve had cast and crew from the show come in and they’ve had a great time,” Arias said.
Attendees typically spend 90 minutes to two hours at the experience in total, she added.
IF YOU GO
“Stranger Things: The Experience,” 4-9 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays. $49-$72 for adults $45-$54 for ages 5-17. Pullman Yards, Building 1, 225 Rogers St. NE, Atlanta, feverup.com.