In one of my fanfiction novels, Eleven is required to enter the Void on multiple occasions. I realized that I needed to get a handle on the “rules” of the Void, and this is what I came up with. I invite anyone to speculate more about the Void or offer any insights. It’s an underdeveloped concept in Stranger Things, though used more and more each season.
According to the canon, the Void is the black expanse of nothingness that represents Eleven’s mind while she is using her psychic power to connect with people. In the first season, set in 1983, she could only enter the Void easily while immersing herself in a bath, or a sensory deprivation tank. She first did this in flashbacks, to spy on Russian agents for Dr. Brenner. Then she used a makeshift bath to locate Will and Barb in the Upside Down. But she didn’t always need a bath. Before finding Barb and Will, she entered the Void to communicate with Will by using the high-powered radio at the Hawkins school. She couldn’t see him this way, but she could channel Will so that she and the boys could hear him screaming for help, and so that his mother could both see and hear him at home (where he was in the same space as his mother, but in the shadow dimension).
By the following season, the year of her cabin exile in 1984, Eleven’s psychic skills had improved so that a bath was no longer necessary. She was able to enter the Void simply by shielding her eyes with a bandana and resting in close proximity to the white noise of a TV or radio. This was how she “visited” Mike all year around, though he couldn’t see her (and could only vaguely hear her sometimes). It was also how she located and tracked her mother, then communed with her mother telepathically while in her presence, then located the old Lab doctor she and Kali intended to kill. In two cases, she didn’t even need the bandana and TV/radio. She was able to check in on her father and Mike back in Hawkins just by concentrating. She was also able to locate and track Kali to Chicago without the bandana and white noise, by concentrating on the vision of the young Kali she had received telepathically from Terry Ives.
By the time of the third season she was a pro, and was even using the Void to spy on people for the fun of it, most notably when she caught Mike and Lucas belching and farting and bitching about the female species. I’ve listed everything below. The two events highlighted in blue represent the times Eleven actually communed with someone in the Void — when she got inside their heads and accessed their memories. The first case was her mother, who was a willing subject. In the case of Billy, that backfired on her, and he was able to trap her (temporarily) in the Void, inside a hostile version of Hopper’s cabin.
||What Eleven does to Connect in the Void
||What Eleven does in the Void
||Season & Episode
|Will||AV Club Radio||Channels Will, audibly to herself and the boys, and also visibly to Joyce at home, who is in the same “space” as Will||1, 4|
|Russian Agent||Bath; photo of the Russian agent||Locates the agent and listens in on his conversation [flashback]||1, 5|
|Barb & Will||Bath||Locates Barb (dead) and Will (in Castle Byers)||1, 7|
|Mike||Bandana/TV||Visits Mike throughout the year, tries to communicate with him; Mike cannot see her, but sometimes vaguely senses her||2, 2|
|Terry Ives||Bandana/Radio; photo of Terry||Locates and tracks her mother to Larrabee Road||2, 4|
||Communes telepathically with her mother and gets a vision of the chain of events that pushed Terry into a catatonic state||2, 5|
|Kali||Photo of Kali (fails at first attempt with the bandana and TV in conjunction with the photo; succeeds at second attempt with only the photo, mostly by concentrating on the vision of young Kali that El got telepathically from Terry Ives)||Locates and tracks Kali to Chicago||2, 7|
|Lab Doctor||Bandana/Radio; photo of the doctor||Locates and tracks the lab doctor to his home||2, 7|
|Hopper and Mike||Nothing (aside from concentration)||Sees and hears what is happening to Hopper and Mike back home in Hawkins||2, 7|
|Mike & Lucas||Bandana/Radio||Spies on Mike and Lucas, as they belch and fart and lament the female species||3, 3|
|Billy||Bandana/Radio||Spies on Billy and sees him doing something to some girl||3, 3|
|Heather Holloway||Bandana/noise from public showers; photo of Heather||Sees Heather undergoing trauma, and the address of Heather’s home||3, 3|
|Hopper||Bandana/TV||Locates Hopper walking to Illinois with Joyce||3, 5|
|Billy||Bandana/TV||Locates Billy sitting alone in his bedroom||3, 6|
|Billy||Bandana/TV||Communes telepathically with Billy in order to access his memories and locate the source of the Mind Flayer; Billy is able to trap her inside the Void as a result — inside a hostile version of Hopper’s cabin||3, 6|
|Dustin||Bandana||Locates Dustin inside a movie theater||3, 7|
Basically this table can be summed up in two “rules”:
- In order to connect to someone in the Void, Eleven must either already met the person, seen the person physically, or be holding a photo of the person. (Which means the writers slipped in the case of Billy, in episode 3 of the third season. Max doesn’t give El a photo of Billy, and El doesn’t meet Billy for the first time until the end of the episode.)
- The more familiar the person, and the more experience she has acquired entering the Void, the less likely Eleven will need to rely on devices such as baths and bandanas/white noise.
Also, the Void is sparse in what it shows. Sometimes a bit of furniture — and in Will’s case, Fort Byers — but otherwise Eleven doesn’t see much of the surrounding details of whomever she is spying on. And certainly no other people. In the case of Mike struggling to get past lab guards, for example, Eleven only sees Mike.
But is the Void really only accessible to Eleven, or is it a shared psychic space?
The canon insists on the former, but there is the problem of the demogorgon. She came across the demogorgon in the Void without looking for it, or even knowing that it existed. The intrusion of the demogorgon could imply that the Void is a shared psychic plane of existence.
Also: Can Eleven use the Void only to connect to living beings?
Or could she use the Void to find out what is happening at a particular place, instead of what is happening with a particular person? She hasn’t done this yet in the series, but I don’t know why she couldn’t if she needed to.