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Is 'Stranger Things' influenced by a US conspiracy theory?

Stranger Things takes place in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, and centres on several eerie incidents of the supernatural kind that happen primarily to the town’s children. The themes of the show have made it one of the most popular TV shows of the 21st Century.

Whilst the nature of the show is indeed fictional and the result of the intelligent storytelling of the Duffer Brothers, it has also been pointed out that it bares a resemblance to a famous conspiracy theory. The theory in question is the Montauk Project, an eerie US research project.

The theory details the suspected fact that several US government research projects were undertaken at Camp Hero and the Montauk Air Force Station in Montauk, New York. The project aimed to develop several psychological warfare tools whilst exploring the possibility of scientific technologies, including time travel.

The rumours of the project have been stirring in the conspiracy cauldron since the early 1980s. Preston Nichols came forward to give testimony as to the reality of the experiments. Nichols was born in 1946 and is said to have degrees in parapsychology and psychology as well as a breadth of knowledge in engineering.

Nichols claims to have been kidnapped and forced to take part in the projects and subsequently had his memories erased. However, eventually, he reclaimed those memories and authored a number of books on the Montauk project. The first chapter of the first book reads, “Whether you read this as science fiction or non-fiction, you are in for an amazing story.”

The books explain how the US government were experimenting with the use of time travel and mind control and trying to make extra-terrestrial contact. This is startlingly close to the themes found in Stranger Things, and the show even once had the working title ‘Montauk’.

The Duffer Brothers also received a plagiarism complaint from filmmaker Charlie Kessler, who argued that the duo had stolen their ideas from his 2012 short film Montauk, as well as its feature-length counterpart script. The Duffer Brothers responded, saying that Kessler’s claims were “completely meritless” even though Kessler claimed to have pitched the idea to them in 2014.

Regardless of whether or not the Duffer Brothers directly stole Kessler’s ideas of the Montauk project, the fact remains that there is a clear link between Stranger Things and the conspiracy theory at large. They once noted that they found it “painful” to have to drop the ‘Montauk’ title from their early formulation of the show, which goes to suggest that they may have had at least some form of inspiration from the conspiracy.