Tinfoil Hat Time: And This is Why Stranger Things Started Out as a Series Called Montauk

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My friends, won’t you please join me and don your finest tinfoil hat, for we have a little trip to take. That trip is from Stranger Things‘ Hawkins, Indiana, all the way to Montauk, Long Island, and something I mentioned in yesterday’s ST post. You know, I didn’t think much of it when the Netflix series title was changed from Montauk; one of the thoughts I’d had was that TPTB simply decided to differentiate it from Showtime’s The Affair, also set in Montauk. My, oh, my, was I wrong. I’m surprised we didn’t all — especially me — connect the dots sooner; I’m forever sniffing out governmental secrecy behind almost everything I read. Having lived in areas where hidden goings-on (I’m talking to you, Plum Island) are often going on, and seen things like the Montauk Monster in the news, I’m duly ashamed this particular connection temporarily escaped me. No worries though; here we all are now.

As first sussed out by others, including Thrillist, Stranger Things’ former setting was likely the referential connection to Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) and Company’s experiments on Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who accidentally opened the portal to the Upside-Down, which seems to have allowed the monster, aka the Demogorgon, into the real world. What does this have to do with Montauk, LI, you might wonder? According to our friends and neighbors (conspiracy theorists) and Preston B. Nichols’ book The Montauk Project: Experiment in Time, since the late 1960s, our government has been conducting teleportation, time travel, and telekinetic testing at an Air Force facility known as Camp Hero, located at Montauk Point.

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Purported events at the experimental station, where contact with extraterrestrial beings and Nazi connections are also alleged, is covered in 2015’s Philip K. Dick Film Festival Best Documentary winner Montauk Chroniclesthe filmmakers spoke with Nichols, who claims he took part in experiments, and worked on something called the “Montauk Chair” (p. 27). A person could sit in this chair, be wired up (a la Eleven) with sensors and, using certain technology, that person’s thoughts could be read and translated to an onscreen display; in essence, the chair became a “mind-reading” device.

Solid signals that would change with a person’s thoughts were actually coming out of the receivers. This device was actually reading the human aura which is a word that psychics and metaphysicians use to describe the electromagnetic field that surrounds the human body. In the same way that human speech is carried via radio waves, this device was carrying thoughts (which theoretically manifest in the aura).

Nichols further describes the Montauk chair being employed to transmit a person’s thoughts to someone else and, eventually, mind-control and physical manifestation and manipulation of objects were achieved. I don’t know about you, but this is a windy rabbit hole (to the Upside-Down?) I could get lost in all day week. On page 32, under the header “XI – Creation from the Ether”, Nichols speaks of a psychic named Duncan Cameron visualizing and materializing objects using the Montauk Chair transmitter:

Whatever Duncan could think up would appear. Many times, it would be only visible and not solid to the touch. Like a “ghost”. Sometimes, it was a real solid object that was stable and would stay. Other times, it was a solid object that would remain as long as the transmitter was turned ‘on’ and then fade out as the transmitter was turned ‘off.’

Later, Duncan learned to manipulate time; he was “taught” to open portals in time and walk through them (p. 36):

Duncan would start out sitting in the chair. Then the transmitter would be turned ‘on’. His mind would be blank and clear. He would then be directed to concentrate on an opening in time from say, 1980 (then the current time) to 1990. At this point, a “hole” or time portal would appear right in the center of the Delta-T antenna. You could walk through the portal from 1980 to 1990! There was an opening that you could look into. It looked like a circular corridor with a light at the other end. The time door would remain as long as Duncan would concentrate on 1990 and 1980.

Finally, the author discusses the use of “derelicts” and children (ahem), especially one kid he describes as a sort of “tractor beam”(p. 40):

But there was one kid at Montauk who would go out and get other kids and bring them to the project. He was like a “tractor beam”. He lived in Montauk and would circulate around very effectively. There was also an entire corps of these around the New York metro area that could get away for 6 hours-or-so without being missed. They were specifically trained to go out and bring in other kids. Some kids returned home, some didn’t.

So: kidnapped children, secret governmental experimentation, opening portals in time and space (“side portal” p. 64) to other dimensions — “artificial reality created by aliens” (monster/Demogorgon) — that all sounds pretty familiar, no? Stranger Things‘ apparent basis in *reality* only makes me love it more, and I can’t wait to go read more about the Montauk Project. We should probably thank the Duffer Brothers for sending us on another fantastic adventure.

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis has been writing about the entertainment industry for ​over seven years, and is the ​Editor-in-Chief at Oohlo, where she muses over television, movies, and pop culture. Previous Senior News Editor at Pajiba, and published at BUST.

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