Netflix on Wednesday renewed the summer streaming phenom “Stranger Things” for a second season, which you probably know by now. Let’s tell you something you may not already know: Montauk’s Camp Hero once had a starring role in this series, and in fact was the basis for the Duffer brothers’ hit until they transported the show’s setting to the Midwest. The Montauk connection was thence lost in time — which seems appropriate under the circumstances. (“Things” — among many things — is about time manipulation, after all.)
Back to Montauk, and Camp Hero — now a 700-plus-acre park astride Montauk Highway that overlooks the broad blue Atlantic to the south. Commissioned in 1942 and named for the Army’s chief of coastal artillery (Maj. Gen. Andrew Hero Jr.), the facts essentially end here . . . and the speculation and conspiracy theories begin. They are vast, legion, complicated and also the basis for the hottest TV series of the summer.
Why Matt and Ross Duffer decided to relocate their series to Indiana and rename it “Stranger Things” (yes, “Montauk” was the original title) is possibly even the subject of another conspiracy theory, although it is accurate to note that Long Island is an expensive place to film, and permits must be secured (the site is also relatively isolated).
The Duffers went west, and the Montauk connection ended. However, website Thrillist has reconstructed in considerable detail the vast web of conspiracy theories linking “Stranger Things” to Camp Hero and another famous conspiracy theory (the Philadelphia Experiment). There have been many others that came before, notably “Montauk Chronicles,” a 2015 documentary by Christopher P. Garetano, and a book series, beginning with 1992’s “The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time” by Preston B. Nichols and Peter Moon.
The long and short of this very complicated conspiracy theory: In 1943, the Navy carried out an experiment at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard that made the destroyer U.S.S. Eldridge disappear. The “experiments” later shifted to Long Island, and Camp Hero, taking place in a vast underground bunker, where abductees (many of them children) underwent teleportation; a wormhole in time was created so people could travel to just about any point in time they chose; contact was made with extraterrestrials; mind-control experiments took place; and metahumans were created.
What are we missing?
Oh yes, one of those extraterrestrials made his way back through the wormhole to Camp Hero and ate some researchers.
Here’s how Netflix innocently described the series back in April 2015, when first announced:
“[A boy] vanishes into thin air [and] as friends, family, and local police search for answers, they are drawn into an extraordinary mystery involving top-secret government experiments, terrifying supernatural forces, and one very strange little girl.”
Neither Netflix nor the Duffers made mention of the still-vanished U.S.S. Eldridge.
But there’s always the possibility of a third season, too. Lots of time to sort all this out.
Meanwhile, Long Islanders are left to rue what might have been. The Duffers would have certainly created an alluring, nostalgic portrait of Long Island in the '80s.
And the view from those bluffs at Camp Hero State Park would have served as a spectacular setting for a TV series.
It's what lies beneath those bluffs that must give pause.