After suffering through wave after wave of lifeless remakes, fans of iconic '80s fare such as E.T., Stand By Me and pretty much anything else that Stephen King has ever written finally have a modern TV show that's the perfect antidote to unwanted reboots.
What audiences may not be aware of, though, is that the show draws upon far more than just a love of '80s pop culture. During his investigation of the government facility that experimented on Eleven, police chief Jim Hopper uncovers a reference to MKUltra in the library's microfiche newspaper cuttings, a nod that the creators deliberately included to draw attention to the show's origins in reality.
During an interview with Vulture, the Duffer Brothers revealed that one of the key influences on Stranger Things was based in fact, not fiction:
"When we were first starting to talk about the idea [for the show], we had talked about a paranormal-missing child story line. Then we were talking about some of the mysterious government experiments that we felt were happening at the tail end of the Cold War, right when rumored [projects] like MKUltra were ramping down."
Everyone's been talking about that warm fuzzy feeling that the '80s references give viewers in Stranger Things, but make no mistake — the hit show is also based on some genuinely disturbing experiments that the government didn't want people to know existed. Here are three of the more chilling ones that would give even Mulder and Scully the creeps.
1. Project MKUltra
"Can we get control of an individual to the point where he will do our bidding against his will and even against fundamental laws of nature, such as self-preservation?"
Any government memo that opens with this sentence should be left within the realms of fictitious horror — but shockingly, this was in fact the beginning of Project Artichoke. This CIA investigation into mind control inhumanely experimented on people using hypnosis and forced addiction to harmful drugs such as morphine and LSD to produce amnesia in their subjects.
The research changed name and focus in 1953, becoming Project MKUltra, a mind-control program where hired prostitutes would lure men to CIA testing facilities and dose them with acid while scientists observed them from a safe distance.
Dubbed Operation Midnight Climax (really though), this sub-project reportedly branched out into more paranormal territory, exploring whether psychic abilities such as mind control, telepathy, ESP and remote viewing could be used in warfare against the Soviet Union.
Project MKUltra was officially shut down in 1973 and most of the programme's records were lost along with it, but a 1977 Senate select committee hearing did confirm that agents did in fact drug American citizens without their knowledge.
In the wake of information like this, Dr Martin Brenner from Stranger Things no longer seems like such an unlikely character now, does he? DOES HE!?
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2. Subproject 68
Run by Dr Ewen Cameron, Subproject 68 was apparently one of the more deplorable parts of the MKUltra program, which is certainly saying something. In an attempt to control people's minds, Cameron believed that he could find a way to break people down until they were reduced to the mental capacity of a baby, enabling him to then rebuild their personalities from the ground up.
Rather than subject people to the musical torture of 'Copacabana' on repeat, Cameron instead used sensory deprivation chambers to induce comas in his patients, which was actually one of the more humane aspects of the experiment.
Others had to endure a variety of hellish procedures, where Cameron would isolate subjects for weeks at a time, giving them electric shocks while forcing them to listen to repeated loops of recorded messages for days on end.
Glimpses of procedures like this are scattered throughout Stranger Things, where the government agents subjected Eleven to unbearable conditions during the show's many flashbacks.
3. The Stargate Project
Eleven's abilities may seem like they belong in the realm of science-fiction, but in 1978, the US government started new research into how psychic powers such as remote viewing could potentially be used to gather information.
Dubbed the Stargate Project, this group of researchers continued their work until 1995, when the CIA finally admitted that they were unclear whether paranormal phenomenon such as telepathy actually existed.
Interestingly though, the CIA may have shut down their research, but they did reveal that a statistically significant effect had been observed in the laboratory, suggesting that the existence of psychic powers shouldn't be dismissed entirely out of hand.
In other words, grab your tin foil hats, guys. Psychic powers are real and the CIA knows all about that time you drunkenly pissed on the carpet and blamed it on the dog.
Whether demogorgons and the Upside Down exist is another matter entirely, but it's highly unlikely that we know the full extent of what really happened during these old government experiments, and whether they're still being carried out today in secret.
Mulder and Scully, eat your heart out. Cue the whistling.
Whether these psychic abilities are real or not, the kids involved in Stranger Things presumably don't have any, which is why the Duffer Brothers had to use the awesome special effects that you can see in the video below instead.
Do you think any of these government experiments really happened?