What happened in Montauk, Long Island between 1971 and 1983? According to the late Al Bielek, who devoted his life to unveiling an alleged military conspiracy at the New York base, Camp Hero, the answer is a series of underground, paranormal experiments that would look all too familiar fans of Stranger Things.
"They wanted a large number of programmed boys for mind control operations," Bielek said in one taped interview. "A major part of the project swept under the rug was that a lot of the kids were psychic. They descended on this and trained them as psychics."
Ring any bells? Like Eleven, Bielek claims to have been one of these boys, passing through interdimensional gates, using his psychic powers for betterment and harm, and even manifesting monsters from the depths of his imagination. A source of inspiration for Stranger Things, the "Montauk Project" is now Long Island lore, debated by skeptics and believers for over 30 years. Thanks to Bielek, Duncan Cameron, the brother Al never knew, and Preston Nichols, an ex-employee of Camp David and an obvious parallel to Matthew Modine's Hawkins-lab experimenter, Martin Brenner, what sounds like science-fiction has taken on a grave, all-too-true turn over the years. By it or not, it's a rabbit hole worth falling down.
With the help of Christopher Garetano, whose documentary Montauk Chronicles chronicles the supposed brainwashing experiments, Thrillist embarked on an investigation into the heart of the unlikely Stranger Things source material. Watch "Montauk," the first episode of Stranger Origins, above.