Stranger Things fan theories that just might be true

Any show with a following as massive as Stranger Things is going to have fans throwing theories around, and over the last two seasons, viewers have scrambled for answers to a number of questions. Some involve the mysteries of the Upside Down. Others tackle Eleven's origins. And some are just predictions of where future seasons may take some fan favorite characters. Plenty of these ideas are just plain wacky, but a number of them seem just plausible enough to be true. Here's a look at some of the Stranger Things fan theories that may end up being accurate.

Hopper's daughter isn't dead

The first season explains that Chief Hopper's young daughter died years before the show began, but some have suggested that her death might have ultimately been a cover-up for her abduction. The people behind the Hawkins Lab already proved they could fake a death with Will in Season 1, and we now have confirmation that the children they put through the program are abductees. It seems totally possible that Hopper's daughter was one of their experiments—perhaps Number 1-7, 9, or 10.

If there's any reason to doubt this, it has far more to do with character implications than plot ones. Hopper's arc centers on him coping with grief and PTSD after his family has fallen apart, and it's developed beautifully in Season 2 with Eleven becoming his surrogate daughter. It certainly doesn't actively disprove the theory, but revealing that Hopper's daughter is still alive could undo a lot of the emotional potency of these first two seasons. And with this being a show that prioritizes emotional truth over plot twists, it'd be an incredibly out-of-character move by the Duffer Brothers.

The Upside Down is the future

Our assumptions about the Upside Down are largely shaped by those of the show's characters. We're told it's a parallel dimension and, as this isn't a show that deals much in deception, we're inclined to believe it. But it's important to remember that even the characters in the show who study the Upside Down know very little about it. That's where an interesting theory comes in: the Upside Down isn't a parallel universe. It's the future.

The Upside Down is characterized by images of a Hawkins ravaged by destruction, decay, and rot. The characters assume that that's the nature of the parallel world they're exploring, but what if what they're seeing is a look into Hawkins' future, one taking place after being ravaged by the Mind Flayer and his forces? It would explain the town being totally deserted and destroyed. The Hawkins crew racing to prevent that future from coming true would make for a killer season of Stranger Things.

That said, parallel worlds of some sort have to exist in order for the show to make sense. Otherwise, where did the Mind Flayer and his army come from? The answer might not be as complicated as we think.

Dustin and Hopper are the Mind Flayer's new spies

Season 2 of Stranger Things sees the show's new big bad, the Mind Flayer, possess Will Byers and turn him into his spy. We still know very little about this monster, but his possession of Will at least gave us a few answers as to how he functions. The most important tidbit: contact with him can have lingering effects, namely in regards to his ability to spy on our world through those he's touched. Given this, a few fans seem to think that he's already found his next sets of eyes.

While exploring the tunnels beneath Hawkins, both Hopper and Dustin discover a strange object on the wall that shoots a strange substance onto them. They clean it off in short order and little is said of it past that, but the Duffers aren't the kind of showrunners to introduce something like that if it isn't going to pay off later. This has led many to believe that Dustin and Hopper are now infected by the Mind Flayer and will perhaps act as his new spies.

The only real evidence against this is that season 2 has already largely revolved around the concept of a Mind Flayer spy. There's almost certainly going to be some form of payoff for the slime touching Hopper and Dustin, but it seems unlikely that the Duffers would repeat an entire season's plot verbatim.

Steve will train for the Hawkins Police Department under Hopper

Steve Harrington is the MVP of Stranger Things 2. The former pretty-boy bully matured through the show's second season in a way that resonated with viewers, and more than a few noticed some parallels with another fan favorite, Chief Hopper. 

Part of Steve's arc in Season 2 revolves around his being slightly adrift towards the end of his senior year of high school. He's not sure he can get into college, he loses his primary motivation for staying in Hawkins (his relationship with Nancy), and he grimaces at the thought of working for his father. But over the course of the season, Steve seems to find his calling as a protector of the kids as they fight the Mind Flayer. A few perceptive fans see this leading to Steve signing up for the Hawkins Police Department and training under Chief Hopper. The department seems pretty understaffed as it is (we only see what, three cops around town this season?) and Steve being paired with Hopper would be very beneficial to the characters' growth.

That said, it seems at the end of Season 2 that Steve's priority is making sure Nancy is happy, and if he's wrapped up with police training, he might not have time for that. We may never get to see Officer Steve, but it certainly isn't outside of the realm of possibility for the character.

The Upside Down is a parallel dimension destroyed by the Mind Flayer

Because of how little we actually know about the Upside Down, there are quite a few theories as to what it is and the implications it holds for the world of Stranger Things. A few of these theories explore why it's the desolate wasteland we see in the show, and whether it's always been that way. One popular theory is that it was destroyed, and what we see is just the aftermath of that destruction.

The theory posits that the Upside Down is, in fact, a parallel universe, though one that has already been ravaged by sinister forces controlled by the Mind Flayer. It's stated in season 2 that the Mind Flayer is a destroyer of multiple worlds. Perhaps the Upside Down is his most recent victim, with Earth being next on his list.

The theory does call into question some timeline logistics, namely how long it takes for the Mind Flayer to do his work and when he would have destroyed it. It also largely functions under the assumption that there are answers to how the Upside Down became what it is at all. Part of what makes Stranger Things so fun is the perpetual air of mystery, and it'd be a shame if all that was explained away.

The Upside Down is a gateway dimension

The Mind Flayer and his Demagorgon/dog friends have to live somewhere, and we've always assumed their realm is the Upside Down. But one Reddit user posits that this might not be the case—that the Upside Down could function as something more than just a run-of-the-mill parallel world. Instead, it could be a sort of interdimensional gateway that links all parallel worlds together. This would explain why the dimensional gate opened in Season 1 led to the Upside Down specifically rather than other worlds. It would also explain the presence of the Mind Flayer and his army there. They have to get to Earth somehow, after all.

That said, it doesn't quite explain why the Upside Down is in a state of rot, nor why the Mind Flayer never seems to go back to his home dimension. Furthermore, making it a multidimensional gate means that we'd have to see more dimensions, and Stranger Things isn't really the kind of show that would dedicate the amount of time and energy necessary to fully realize this idea. It isn't really about the Upside Down—it's about kids playing Dungeons and Dragons and going on adventures.

The Dungeons and Dragons games are a foreshadowing device

Here's a fan theory that leans more conceptual than predictive. A few observant fans noticed some interesting parallels between the Dungeons and Dragons games the kids play in Stranger Things and the adventures they go on throughout the show. It's even stated verbatim in a season 2 episode that each kid's personality aligns with their DND player type—ranger, mage, bard, cleric, and paladin. And with the first game in season 1 foreshadowing Will's first encounter with the (real life) Demagorgon, it stands to reason that future games of DND could be glimpses of what's to come on the show. We didn't get quite as much time at the game table with the kids in season 2 but the upcoming seasons are sure to feature a game or two.

If anything stands in the way of this being a reality, it's that overusing a foreshadowing device this way could lead to story beats being far too blatantly telegraphed. It worked well the first time, but the Duffers can only pull that move so many times before the show starts spoiling itself for its viewers.

Eleven is Hopper's daughter

We've already mentioned that many fans are convinced that Hopper's daughter isn't dead and that she'll be revealed as one of the children the lab experimented on. But some think it goes even further. Some fans believe we've already met Hopper's daughter—and she's a certain Eggo-munching psychokinetic. It's a Hail Mary of a twist if it's true, but (ahem) stranger things have happened. With Eleven and Hopper's bond becoming stronger over the course of season 2, it'd certainly make for an emotionally potent twist. Hopper discovering that his surrogate daughter is actually his biological daughter would bring on the waterworks hard.

The only problem? A twist like that would be a bit of a jumping-the-shark situation. It's tough to imagine viewers being willing to suspend their disbelief to that extent. Plus that sort of makes the pair's arc in season 2 redundant, with Hopper effectively adopting Eleven at the season's close. That moment loses some emotional poignancy if Eleven ends up being his biological daughter after all. This particular extension of the original theory might be a bit unbelievable, but it's not an entirely impossible revelation.

Kali and her friends will get their own show

Season 2 of Stranger Things saw a first for the series: an episode that departed completely from events taking place in Hawkins. That seventh episode, "The Lost Sister," saw Eleven traveling to Chicago to find her "sister" from the Department program, Kali, also known as 8. Kali introduces her to a ragtag band of rogues who invite her to join them, using Eleven and Kali's powers to track down the men who abused the pair in the program. Due to how stark a departure it was, containing its own unfinished narrative and introducing a multitude of new characters, some have theorized that the episode is actually a backdoor pilot for a Stranger Things spinoff. It's not entirely unlikely—the world of the series is totally ripe for further exploration outside Hawkins.

The only problem? "The Lost Sister" is the single most maligned episode of the series, and it's been widely panned. Fans would almost certainly love to see a Stranger Things spinoff or two. But focusing the first one on the least popular chapter of the entire series seems unlikely.

Future seasons will jump forward in time to the '90s

The time jump between seasons 1 and 2 of Stranger Things was roughly one year. And it's hinted at the end of the second season that the next series will pick up, at the very earliest, one year later. But many fans posit that the show will jump forward further in future seasons—a theory that's been confirmed by the Duffer Brothers, though the extent of the jump forward has yet to be revealed. 

It stands to reason that the jump forward may end up being more than a year, and possibly even as far ahead as the '90s. The actors who play the party members are at that particular early-teens age where they're growing up fast, and the showrunners will need to compensate for that lest they have a show about 14-year-olds who look far older. It's also important to remember that the show's popularity has left many of the actors booked up for the foreseeable future. It might be a while before they can start shooting new episodes.

Seeing as how the Duffers have confirmed this one, there's pretty much no chance of the time jump sticking to one year for season three. But whether the show just jumps forward a few years or launches all the way into the next decade remains to be seen.

Steve and Zac are the fathers of Jean-Ralphio and Zac Efron

With all of the talk going on about Eleven's parentage, the fate of Hopper's daughter, and the truth behind the Upside Down, it's easy to forget the first real Stranger Things fan theory to go viral: the suspicion that Steve Harrington is secretly Parks and Recreation character Jean Ralphio's father. With their matching hair, hailing from the same state, and strangely similar demeanors, this one took fans by storm to the point that it was—perhaps facetiously, perhaps not—confirmed by the actors. It hasn't been mentioned on the show, but depending on what you consider canon, this one might be as good as official.

More recently, fans have begun to see a similar resemblance between season 2's Billy and Hollywood star Zac Efron. And with the birthday math lining up, theories that Billy might secretly be Zac Efron's father are running wild. As this one is in reference to a person and not a TV character, it'll probably stay nothing more than a joke. But with Efron having mentioned wanting to be on Stranger Things, it's not entirely impossible for an Easter egg in a future season.