Stranger Things is based on a terrifying real-life CIA experiment

8 July 2022, 12:05

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Sam  Prance

By Sam Prance

Ever heard of Project MKUltra or The Montauk Project? There's actually more truth to Stranger Things than you may think.

Stranger Things might be a supernatural drama but the beloved series is based on a CIA experiment that actually happened.

There's no denying that Stranger Things is one of the biggest series in the entire world right now. Ever since the first season came out in 2016, fans haven't been able to get enough of Hawkins and the supernatural antics that happen there. In fact, the show is so popular that Stranger Things 4 is responsible for sending Kate Bush to the top of the charts in 2022.

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However, what fans may not realise, is that there's an element of truth to the show and the real story behind it is horrifying.

Is Stranger Things based on a true story?

Is Stranger Things based on a true story? This is the real-life CIA experiment that inspired it
Is Stranger Things based on a true story? This is the real-life CIA experiment that inspired it. Picture: Netflix

Don't worry! Vecna isn't real and there's no chance of you being sent to The Upside far as we know. However, the show does take inspiration from a real-life CIA experiment. Chatting to Rolling Stone in 2016, Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer explained: "We wanted the supernatural element to be grounded in science in some way."

The brothers then confirmed that Dr. Brenner's experiments on Eleven were inspired by a real, illegal human experimentation program named Project MKUltra. Project MKUltra was conducted by the CIA between the 1950s and the 1970s in a bid to develop mind control techniques to help the Americans beat the Russians during the Cold War.

People originally volunteered to take part in the program. However, as time passed, people were taken into it without their consent and abused both mentally and physically. Participants were often deprived of sleep and forced to take drugs like LSD. It goes without saying that the experiments violated multiple human rights.

MKUltra was officially shut down in 1973 but it was brought to public attention in 1975 after declassified CIA documents began leaking. In other words, while the Project MKUltra experiments didn't give anyone real powers of telekinesis like Eleven, the origins behind the story of Stranger Things aren't so farfetched.

In fact, in season 1 we learn that Eleven's mother was actually an MKUltra test subject when she was pregnant with her. Brenner's experiments on her mother, unwittingly gave Eleven her powers.

Is Stranger Things based on a true story? Project MKUltra and The Montauk Project explained
Is Stranger Things based on a true story? Project MKUltra and The Montauk Project explained. Picture: Netflix

The series is also partly inspired by another government conspiracy called The Montauk Project. While there's less physical proof to support it, many people believe that the government held human experiments, similar to those shown in Stranger Things, at a military base called Camp Hero in Montauk, Long Island in the 1980s.

Over the years there have been several books and documentaries inspired The Montauk Project. In 2011, a documentary called Montauk Chronicles was released and it featured interviews with three men who say they were brainwashed and forced into secret government experiments at Camp Hero in Montauk.

The official synopsis of the film reads: "Alfred Bielek, Stewart Swerdlow, And Preston Nichols all tell tales of experiments that were conducted on nearly one hundred thousand people over the course of about ten years. Kidnappings, murder, torture, time travel, mind control, and extra terrestrial contact are all said to have occurred at Camp Hero."

Stranger Things was actually originally titled Montauk and set around Camp Hero but the Duffer Brothers later relocated it to Hawkins, Indiana. So, while there may not have actually been any children with telekinetic powers like Eleven in the 1980s, there is an element of truth behind Stranger Things.

Read more about Stranger Things here:

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