Even though “Stranger Things” is a series with fantasy elements, the Netflix hit was inspired by real events. Both imagined and actual secret experiments of the US government served as a basis.
Stranger Things is a series featuring man-eating monsters from another dimension and children with telekinetic and telepathic superpowers. It should be clear that the Netflix hit is not a one-to-one retelling of a true story. Still, creators Matt and Ross Duffer took inspiration from some real-world narratives and events. We explain to you which true events and conspiracy theories are behind the Netflix hit.
The Montauk Project
“Stranger Things” wasn’t always called “Stranger Things”. The Netflix series’ original working title was “Montauk,” referring to the eponymous location at the tip of Long Island, New York. At the airbase there, the US government conducted secret experiments on topics such as time travel and mind control, according to a conspiracy theory popularized by author Preston Nichols’ “Montauk Project” series of books. In their pitch to Netflix, the Duffer brothers described their series as follows (via ScreenCraft):
“Everybody loves a good conspiracy. We have the most famous of them […] often seen in film and television. Yet the Montauk Project, one of the most bizarre conspiracies in our country’s history, remained untouched. […] No one knows for sure what the experiments were about, but rumors run up and down the scale from the insane to the wonderful. Alien contact… time travel… telepathy… alternate dimensions… mutated monsters… take your pick: someone said it happened there.”
“Stranger Things”: Season 5 urgently needs to fix one of the biggest mistakes in the Netflix series
So the “Stranger Things” makers have oriented themselves very closely to the conspiracy theories surrounding the alleged secret experiments, which have never been proven to this day. Originally, the Netflix series was even supposed to be filmed in Montauk itself. But then the Duffers decided to create the fictional location Hawkins and a new title was needed. Having pitched “Montauk” to Netflix as “a love letter to the golden age of Steven Spielberg and Stephen King,” the duo ultimately chose to call it “Stranger Things,” a nod to the King novel Needful Things : “In a small town”).
“Stranger Things” is not only based on conspiracy stories, but also on very real experiments by the US government, which were even woven into the fictional plot of the Netflix series. We are talking about the secret CIA research program MKULTRA, which was carried out from 1953 to 1973. Here, hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD were used on often unsuspecting subjects to test their effects. One of the aims was to develop a truth serum that would have been used during the Cold War to interrogate enemy spies.
The exact extent of the MKULTRA program is difficult to determine, since CIA Director Richard Helms had almost all records illegally destroyed in 1973. However, there are numerous allegations that innocent people died as a result of the experiments.
In “Stranger Things” the MKULTRA program also exists. dr Brenner (Matthew Modine) carried out LSD experiments in the Hawkins laboratory. Pregnant college student Terry Ives was one of the test subjects, and as a result gave birth to a daughter with supernatural abilities: Jane (Millie Bobby Brown). However, due to her telepathic and telekinetic talents, Jane was snatched from her mother, renamed Eleven, and subjected to further experiments with several other gifted children. In the series plot, Elfi was created by the MKULTRA program.
Season 4’s Eddie also has a true background
Not only Eleven, but also Eddie (Joseph Quinn) has a real background. The Season 4 fan favorite is loosely based on Damien Echols, one of the so-called West Memphis Three. These are three innocent men convicted of the 1993 murders of three eight-year-old boys. At that time, however, they were still teenagers themselves, but ended up in prison anyway. It was not until 2010 that new DNA analyzes revealed that they had been wrongly convicted, which is why they were acquitted shortly thereafter.
Who knows if the creators of Stranger Things will take some real-life events as inspiration again for Season 5? Since the series action has now arrived in March 1986, it would be conceivable to address the Chernobyl disaster, which took place in reality on April 26, 1986. (possibly there is also the upside-down behind it?). Our YouTube editor Sebastian has summarized the questions that the final season must answer in any case in the following video: