As geologists, we love a tunnel. We also believe in the work of the Department of Energy or its equivalents – but in the rural town of Hawkins, Indiana, all is not what it seems.
Welcome to Netflix’s original series, Stranger Things – an American science fiction horror television series created, written, directed and co-produced by the Duffer Brothers.
Without giving too much away, the nearby Hawkins National Laboratory ostensibly performs scientific research for the United States Department of Energy, but secretly does experiments into the paranormal and supernatural, including those that involve human test subjects. Inadvertently, they have created a portal to an alternative dimension called ‘the Upside Down’, where we encounter Demodogs and the Mind Flayer. The influence of the Upside Down starts to affect the unknowing residents of Hawkins in calamitous ways.
Series two involves a lot of time spent underground, exploring a network of tunnels beneath the town, where danger lurks and strange creatures stalk our heroes. Stranger Things is far from the first use of tunnels in fiction to create a sense of mystery, unease or adventure – they pop up everywhere. There’s even a subgenre in fiction known as ‘subterranean’, focusing on underground settings.
Here are a few more of our favourite examples of tunnels in fiction – let us know which ones we’ve missed in the comments!
Alice in Wonderland
The most famous fictional tunnel must be that which Alice tumbles down in the opening to Lewis Carroll’s popular children’s book. ‘Down, down down!’ she falls into the earth, landing with a ‘thump! thump!’ Charles Dodgson, Carroll’s real name, was a frequent visitor to the town of Ripon, a place which has been severely affected by sinkholes – thought to be the inspiration for the story.
For more on sinkholes and Alice in Wonderland, you can watch Tony Cooper’s recent London Lecture at the Society:
There’s more of a passing reference in the tunnels of Stranger Things to the classic 1990 monster film Tremors, in which the residents of a small, isolated town in the Sierra Nevada face strange creatures tearing through the desert beneath them. Billed as ‘Jaws in the desert’, it’s a classic of the ‘what lies beneath’ genre…
Journey to the Centre of the Earth
The original subterranean classic – Jules Verne’s 1864 novel follows the theory of German professor Otto Lidenbrock that there are ‘volcanic tubes’ stretching to the Earth’s centre. With his nephew Axel and guide Hans, Lidenbrock descends into the Earth via the Icelandic volcano Snæfellsjökull. Adventures ensue.
Verne was inspired by the work of geologist Charles Lyell, particularly his ‘Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man’ (1863). His book in turn has inspired a number of film, television and radio adaptations, of which Henry Levin’s 1959 version is the most well known, starring Pat Boone, James Mason and….Gertrude the duck.
What have we missed? Let us know your favourite fictional tunnels in the comments section..
Geoadvent challenge update!
Well done to those who are keeping up with the geoadvent challenge – to name the plate tectonic story represented in each of our geoadvent windows.