The true horrifying experiment that inspired ‘Stranger Things’
(Credit: Netflix)

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The true horrifying experiment that inspired 'Stranger Things'

Stranger Things is nothing short of a pop-culture phenomenon ever since its inception in 2016. The Duffer Brothers’ love letter to the 1980s stars Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Sadie Sink, Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb Mclaughlin among others in major roles, and has developed a massive cult-like following.

The meteoric success of the show can be charted by taking a closer look at how it managed to infuse every child’s dream adventure sequence into the web of the sci-fi and metaphysical, involving interdimensional time travel, evil government experiments, ruthless bureaucracy, dysfunctional families, mysterious portals and a despicable monster albeit with flower petals on its head. It is a nostalgic ode to the enigmatic ’80s and is set in the fictional town of Indiana, Hawkins.

While the showrunners did not hold back in evoking a sense of nostalgia via grunge aesthetics, ominous background score and vivid imagery in the sleepy town of Hawkins, Indiana, Matt and Ross Duffer were keen to establish a connection between science and the supernatural elements. This led them to incorporate one of the most sinister experiments in the history of the United States within the narrative.

In 1953, the CIA created the MKUltra Project to develop mind-control techniques to give the United States of America a subtle advantage against Russia in the Cold War, as revealed in various CIA documents.

While it started out as a volunteer-based programme, it soon turned into a ruthless operation where unwilling participants were unwittingly tricked into various forms of physical, mental and emotional abuse after being subjected to sleep deprivation, psychedelic drugs and other experimental elements and then kept under observation.

One of the most notorious experiments, Operation Midnight Climax tried to test LSD on men who visited brothels within San Francisco safe-houses without informing them. Sinister and vile, the research was eventually shut down in 1965 and most of the documents were destroyed.
However, some of the information was leaked and inspired the shady operations by Dr Brenner at Hawkins National laboratory in the show. The Duffer brothers called it the Montauk Project which would also later be the first-ever proposed show title.

In the show, Eleven’s mother is one of the test subjects of these experiments when she is pregnant, leading to Eleven being the experimental hamster who is gifted with psychokinesis due to the methods of sensory deprivation, LSD and other tools used on her mother.

Held captive in the lab for years, Eleven lacks basic social and communication skills before she escapes and meets Mike Wheeler and his friends, thus embarking on a way more dangerous rollercoaster ride.

Stranger Things season four will arrive this year in two parts, with the first volume scheduled for a May 27th, 2022 release and the second slated to premiere on July 1st, 2022.