Stranger Things is back for a third season, and I have some questions. Mostly pertaining to whether or not this show is based on a true story, and if so, how scared should I be of monsters from the Upside Down?! Turns out that Stranger Things *is* low-key inspired by real events (think: the U.S. government performing mind control experiments), and there's also an insane conspiracy theory that the show secretly takes place in Tennessee, not Indiana.
But before we get into it, please note: there are no spoilers for season 3 below, so no need to @ me.
First of All: Hawkins Isn't Real
Sorry. Or actually, not sorry because Hawkins is the most f*cked-up place ever. But please note that this fictional town is located in the also-fictional Roane County, Indiana, which will be important in a moment so STAY TUNED.
The Show Is Low-Key Based Off the Montauk Project
In fact, it was originally going to be called Montauk, that's how inspired the Duffer Brothers were by this whole mess. And by "this whole mess," I mean the Montauk Project, a long-held conspiracy theory that the U.S. military conducted experiments on children in Montauk during the '80s.
"It’s based on a place in Montauk, New York, called Camp Hero," Gaten Matarazzo (aka Dustin) said. "There was, like, rumors of secret government spies doing human experiments to fight in the Cold War. It’s based on that one government lab."
True believers claim that children were kidnapped and abducted, and had mind control experiments conducted on them for psychological warfare research...and time travel. If you've seen Stranger Things seasons 1 and 2, this is probably starting to sound pretty familiar.
The experiments were allegedly conducted at both Camp Hero and Montauk Air Force Station, and Preston B. Nichols, one of the purported abductees, ended up publishing a book about his experience called The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time. Just a light summer beach read, no bigs!
But Also, Let's Talk About MKUltra
Obviously, the Montauk Project is just a wild conspiracy theory. But! The fact is, the CIA did conduct a similar program called MKUltra. The purpose of the project was to develop drugs that could weaken people through mind control, and it was organized in collaboration with the U.S. Army Biological Warfare Laboratories. Like, WHAT?!
MKUltra is a notable part of the Stranger Things plot in both season 1 and season 2—it's actually where Dr. Brenner (who raised Eleven) worked before moving to Hawkins Lab. And get this: Eleven's mom was one of the MKUltra test subjects, and she was pregnant with Eleven at the time.
Then There's the East Tennessee Theory
This is so weird and random, but honestly I'm obsessed. Basically, there's an entire Reddit thread devoted to the theory that Hawkins is actually just East Tennessee. Why? Who knows, maybe the show is just trolling fans, but I'm here for it, and there's tons of evidence.
1) A "Roane County" School Bus appears in the show's first episode. Roane County doesn't exist in Indiana, but it is a county in East Tennessee!
When you're watching Stranger Things and then you realize it takes place in Roane County pic.twitter.com/Qmjv3aDHPE— Rachel Mutter (@rachel_mutter) August 1, 2016
2) Hawkins is also a county in East Tennessee.
3) In episode 2, Hopper says "We've been searching all night. We went all the way to Cartersville." And—yep, you guessed it—Cartersville is a community in East Tennessee's Hawkins.
4) In that same episode, a character mentions going fishing in "Etowah." Another town in freakin'! East! Tennessee!
5) In season 2, Bob Newby mentions Roane County by name, saying he met a terrifying clown at a fair there. Normal.
6) East Tennessee is home to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory which is eerily similar to Hawkins National Laboratory. Apparently, "This lab played a major role during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War and it's on Roane County's border."
7) Oak Ridge did weird tests on people in the '40s, including a man named Ebb Cade who checked into hospital with a broken leg, and was secretly injected with Plutonium 239 and labeled "Human Product 12."
In conclusion, weird sh*t definitely happened in small town America, and you can expect a monster to emerge from the Upside Down and straight into your living room any day now, bye.