Spoiler alert: this article discusses the plot of season one of Stranger Things.
With its blend of 1980s nostalgia, pesky kids on BMXs, Stephen King-style small town horror and pulsing synth soundtrack, Stranger Things has been one of the TV hits of the summer.
But just as strange as its plot about a missing child, a freaky Demogorgon monster, the bizarre Upside Down parallel dimension and Winona Ryder’s obsession with Christmas lights is the story behind Project MKUltra, the real-life inspiration for the show’s shadowy government research facility.
When police chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) uncovers a reference to MKUltra in the evil Dr Brenner’s past (thanks to a diligent search of microfiche newspaper cuttings), it’s a nod to viewers that series creators, the Duffer brothers, were drawing not just their love of Spielberg but also a moment when truth was as strange as fiction.
As Matt Duffer has said, Stranger Things evolved from being a paranormal story about a missing child when they started “talking about some of the mysterious government experiments that … were happening at the tail end of the cold war, right when rumoured [projects] like MKUltra were ramping down”.
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