Join Adam as he takes everything you thought you knew about pop culture and entertainment, but actually…
Stranger Things may have happened…
Anybody who’s anybody seems to be infatuated with the latest season of Netflix’s original series, Stranger Things (Don’t worry, no season 2 spoilers here). A scintillating sci-fi romp set in the eighties, the series follows a group of prepubescent boys in search for their lost friend. After receiving help from a mysterious girl known only as Eleven the mystery unravels and the audience is introduced to the much larger world of the “Upside Down”. The Upside Down is basically a dark matter universe that runs parallel to our own. Super powers, monsters, and really cool soundtracks ensure, ostensibly the makings for a stellar sci-fi romp. Given the supernatural elements and implicit genre it would be easy to assume Stranger Things is nothing but a flight of fancy, but actually… Stranger Things may have happened.
It’s important to note that the working title for the series when sold to Netflix was “Montauk” and instead of the sleepy small town Indiana setting, the gang’s weekly D&D sessions were going to be held in Long Island, New York. Why is this important? Because in the 1980’s (the same time period of Stranger Things) Long Island hosted very curious government testing known as the Montauk Project; hence the original title and setting for the series. What went on there? Sorting truth from rumor and folklore is a bit of a Gordian knot but take Preston Nichols account in his book The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time, wherein the writer claims to have worked at Camp Hero on Long Island as part of the Montauk experiments. Specifically, Nichols claims to have worked on a project known as the “Montauk Chair” which was a piece of furniture that allegedly used electromagnetics to amplify a person’s psychic powers. These experiments, culminating in 1983, were said to have been intended to explore means of combating our Cold War enemies through psychic warfare.
Let’s take a minute to consider the main thread that weaves throughout Stranger Things of a clandestine military base that performs psychic-based experiments very similar to the exercises that Nichols describes in his book. As Nichols himself states, “The first experiment was called ‘The Seeing Eye.’ With a lock of person’s hair or other appropriate object in his hand, Duncan could concentrate on the person and be able to see as if he was seeing through their eyes, hearing through their ears, and feeling through their body. He could actually see through other people anywhere on the planet.” Essentially a form of “remote viewing”, this method may sound far-fetched but it is a chronicled and avowed experimental method of spying and espionage attempted in the past by divisions within the U.S. Air Force and is mirrored in the exercises put upon Eleven during her initial stay at the military installation.
The “Duncan” referenced by Nichols was Duncan Cameron, an alleged test subject at Camp Hero. If the account, corroborated by Nichols, is to be believed Cameron exhibited a high psychic aptitude and is said have had the ability to manifest objects seemingly out of thin air when sitting in the aforementioned Montauk chair. Individual psychic testing were not all that the Montauk experiments were investigating. According to Al Bielek, who claims to have been a part of the Montauk experiments, the facility’s psychic efforts were aimed at opening a portal where people or objects could travel through time. In fact, Bialek claims the alleged Philadelphia Project of the 1940s was a progenitor of Montauk and that the USS Eldritch, which is rumored to have vanished as a result of the Philadelphia experiments, materialized at Camp Hero after they effectively created the other end of the portal with their own psychic and electromagnetic meddling.
Stranger Things’s Eleven is named such because she is the eleventh of multiple children forced to perform these strange tests at the behest of government agents. Likewise, real-life test subject Duncan Cameron claims that Montauk also experimented primarily on abducted children in and around the Long Island area; to which Nichols corroborates referring to them as the “Montauk Boys”. After Cameron and Nichols came forward with their accounts other alleged former Montauk Boys supported their accounts including Michael Ash, whose history there can be referenced in his Montauk Survivors series of audio recordings, and Stewart Swerdlow, who later authored Montauk: The Alien Connection. The efforts of these Montauk Boys are said to have culminated in traveling across the portals that their physics-breaking experiments apparently opened, shockingly similar to Eleven’s travels in Stranger Things.
But don’t take their words alone. When asked during a YouTube Q&A session astrophysicist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, talked specifically about the potential for a dark matter universe. “Right now we don’t know what it [dark matter] is. It’s a source of gravity in the universe that has no known origin. And that’s why we can imagine a scenario where there is another universe adjacent to ours whose gravity we feel as this mysterious force when it’s just ordinary matter doing ordinary things.”
Even former United States Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, didn’t rule out the scenario stating on an episode of Chelsea with Chelsea Handler, “First of all, I have never seen it [Stranger Things], but I’m aware of it. Secondly, I believe this fictional D.O.E. laboratory was operating in the 1980s. You can draw any inference you need from that. Third, I will note that actually we do work in parallel universes.” Moniz clarified, “We are also a big supporter of very basic science and that includes trying to understand the basic particles of nature and the structure of the universe. Theoretical physics…looks at things like higher dimensions than three dimensions and parallel universes.”
Okay, so we have parallels for the clandestine military installation in Stranger Things with Camp Hero and the eerily similar psychic experiments. Preston Nichols, who admits to conducting similar experiments on abducted children, is a stand-in for the show’s Dr. Brenner. Child testee Eleven in a cipher for alleged real-life test subjects like Duncan Cameron, Michael Ash, and Stewert Swerdlow. But what about the monsterous Demogorgon? Surely, that was solely birthed from the minds of showrunners the Duffer Brothers. Well, actually…
According to Nichols in his book, “We finally decided we’d had enough of the whole experiment. The contingency program was activated by someone approaching Duncan while he was in the chair and simply whispering ‘The time is now.’ At this moment, he let loose a monster from his subconscious. And the transmitter actually portrayed a hairy monster. It was big, hairy, hungry and nasty. But it didn’t appear underground in the null point. It showed up somewhere on the base. It would eat anything it could find. And it smashed everything in sight. Several different people saw it, but almost everyone described a different beast.”
Despite being corroborated by Nichols, the accounts of Bialek and Duncan are difficult to swallow, especially since both men claim to be the same person separated through their travels through time. A claim only more dubious when it is revealed that the revelation emerged as a result from regressive hypnotherapy. Whether or not Stranger Things is a work of pure fiction, influenced by fanciful Long Island campfire stories or something much, well, stranger remains to be seen. Regardless, the next time you watch an episode and your friend across the sofa scoffs at the lack of believability in the plot the next words out of your mouth may just be, “Actually…”
And they say I’m no psychic.