"The Keys" were a type of machine built by the Russians with the sole purpose of opening Gates to the Upside Down. When activated using two special keys, the machine fired a high-powered energy ray which could open "a doorway between worlds". The Key is a volatile and often dangerous machine, discharging massive amounts of waste energy per activation; this could be fatal under certain conditions, vaporizing nearby objects and people. It requires a massive power source to function, such as an entire town's power grid.
At least two Keys were confirmed to exist: one in Russia's Kamchatka Facility, and another secretly built under the Starcourt Mall in Hawkins, Indiana. According to Dr. Alexei, many more Keys existed around Russia, but none as successful as the machine under Starcourt.
Russian experiments into inter-dimensional travel presumably began after Soviet agents caught wind of the events in Hawkins in the early 1980s. The first machines were invented sometime in late 1983 or early 1984.
Many Keys were built all around Russia, including one at the Kamchatka Facility; however, all of them ultimately "turned out wrong". A huge amount of excess energy was released in an failed activation attempt on June 28, 1984, fatally killing all of the scientists in the ray's immediate vicinity. As punishment for their failure, Major General Stepanov executed one of the scientists and gave the rest a deadline of one year to make the machine work properly.
According to Dr. Alexei, he and the other Soviet scientists realized the Key was only one half of the equation, the location of the Key itself being the other important component. Keys were unable to work properly in Russia, with Gates only briefly opening before sealing up. However, they theorized that a Key could function as intended in Hawkins, as even though the American Gate there had been closed, the fabric of space-time there was still healing, and therefore vulnerable to the Key Ray.
The Soviet Union created and carried out a nefarious plan, purchasing properties all around East Hawkins that were near transformers, using them to siphon off energy from the town’s power grid. Using the Starcourt Mall as a front, Russian scientists got to work creating a new Key.
The Hawkins Key was eventually discovered by Steve, Dustin, Erica and Robin after they had decoded a Russian transmission. The group found the Key being used while they were exploring the Russian base, and managed to escape with their lives back to Hawkins to tell the rest of the kids about their discovery. Once they met up with Hopper, Joyce and Murray, the group devised a plan for the adults to sneak into the Russian base and take down the Hawkins Key.
The three of them managed to sneak into the base disguised as Russian soldiers and explode the Key before it was too late. However, Hopper seemingly died in the explosion. in the season 4 trailer it is discovered that Hopper found his way to Russia.
|The Upside Down|
|Locations||The Upside Down • The Gate • Hawkins • Hawkins National Laboratory • Public Library • Portals • Hawkins Middle School • Hawkins Tunnel System|
|Entities||D'Artagnan • The Demogorgon • Demogorgon (species) • The Flayed • Hospital Monster • The Mind Flayer • Russian Demogorgon • The Spider Monster • Hawkins Tunnel System • Vines|
|The Flayed||Billy Hargrove • Heather Holloway • Bruce Lowe • Tom Holloway • Janet Holloway • Doris Driscoll|
|Visitors||Joyce Byers • Will Byers • Eleven • Steve Harrington • Dustin Henderson • Barbara Holland • Jim Hopper • Max Mayfield • Bob Newby • Shepard • Lucas Sinclair • Mike Wheeler • Nancy Wheeler|
|Miscellaneous||Upside Down Egg • Dungeons & Dragons • The Void • The Keys|
|Articles may contain spoilers.|