If you’re a fan of ‘80s horror or Steven Spielberg’s Amblin movies, chances are you’ve spent this week binging the Duffer Brothers’ new Netflix series Stranger Things. The show was added to the streaming service on Friday, just in time for cinephiles to camp out in their underwear and spend the weekend in a nostalgic haze listening to The Clash and watching a pitch perfect blend of Stand By Me, Close Encounters and Poltergeist.
While fans undoubtedly noticed the show’s homages to Stephen King, John Carpenter, and classic Spielberg, it’s possible they’re less aware of the real life conspiracy theory that fueled the mythology of the first season.
In April of 2015, Netflix issued a press release for a 2016 series from the Duffer Brothers called Montauk, a love letter to 80s classics about the infamous experiments that allegedly took place on Montauk, Long Island. While the core concept of the series stayed very much in tact, the show changed its title and central location over the course of development and the Montauk Project is never mentioned by name. However, digging into the famous conspiracy theory may shine a light on some of the more cryptic aspects of the show’s mythology, and provide some tantalizing hints about the show’s future trajectory.
The Montauk Project is in many ways the granddaddy of all nutjob conspiracy theories, as it essentially folds a vast collection of greatest hits into one big government cover-up. The theory originated with author Preston Nichols, whose bestselling book series claimed to be a nonfictional account about his own participation in the experiments. According to Nichols’ book Montauk: Experiments in Time, the United States government began the project in an attempt to harness the power of electromagnetic fields for the purpose of creating new forms of psychological warfare.
The testing process involved kidnapping innocent civilians and exposing them to extreme amounts of radiation. The process allegedly gifted test subjects with special powers, such as telekinesis and the ability to generate objects out of thin air using only their minds. However, the parallels to Stranger Things don’t end there. According to Nichols, the project also involved experiments in time travel and the creation of inter-dimensional portals. One chapter of Nichol’s book details the creation of a “time tunnel” that accidentally made contact with a malevolent alien creature that escaped containment and terrorized the secret underground base.
When it comes to the future of Stranger Things’ mythology, the Duffer Brothers certainly have an abundance of material to choose from. After the success of the first volume, Preston Nichols went on to write four more Montauk books, as he conveniently regained more and more repressed memories of his participation. Highlights of the series’ insanity include the creation of a powerful army of meta-humans, collaboration with Nazi scientists from Operation Paperclip, the staging of the “Moon Landing Hoax,” and successful time travel experiments that altered the outcome of the American Civil War and World War II. The Montauk Project might not carry a lot of credibility, but it sure makes for great TV.
For more information, The Montauk Project was the subject of an award-winning documentary in 2015 and Preston Nichols’ books are available through amazon.com. You can read Jason’s Review of Stranger Things as well