Stranger Things: Did the experiments on Eleven happen in real life? The chilling truth

Stranger Things season 4 official trailer from Netflix

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Season one of Stranger Things followed a group of schoolchildren, who were trying to find their missing friend Will Byers (played by Noah Schnapp). At the same time, the gang stumbled across a strange girl called Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who had escaped from the Hawkins Laboratory with its staff on the hunt for the child. Through a series of flashbacks, viewers saw Eleven participating in a series of experiments at the behest of Dr Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine) whom Eleven chillingly referred to as “Papa”.

Did the Stranger Things experiments on Eleven happen in real life?

Some of the experiments Eleven participated in included being submerged in a sensory deprivation tank and having electrodes attached to her head to monitor brain activity.

Her mother Terry Ives (Aimee Mullins), too, was part of these experiments with Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds detailing how she came to part of the project.

In the show and in the novel, patients were given LSD to monitor their reactions in the hopes of discovering ways to control the human mind.

The show takes things a step further by imagining some of these experiments proved fruitful with some subjects developing telekinesis while others could listen in on conversations using their mind.

Stranger Things creators the Duffer Brothers were very much inspired by Stephen King’s novel Firestarter, which has parallels to MK-Ultra – a CIA-sponsored projects involving human experimentation using LSD.

Sadly, these type of experiments did have their basis in reality with the CIA-sponsored MK-Ultra which came to light in the 1970s.

There were even Congressional hearings in the 1970s to discuss oversight to make sure these kind of experiments never happened again.

MK-Ultra ran from the 1953 to 1973 before it was brought to a close and saw unsuspecting members of the public experimented on using LSD or being subjected to high voltage shocks.

Novel Suspicious Minds also plays off this with author Gwenda Bond using Firestarter as a reference touchstone when she set about writing her book.

Bond did extensive research into MK-Ultra and the secretive experiments as she described a young Terry taking part in the project, along with some other unwitting patients.

Speaking about the writing process, she said: “The real leap for me imaginatively as a writer was to find a way to critique what they were doing through the POV of the subjects.

“To me, the leap isn’t the Upside Down, it’s that these experiments would have worked. That’s the imaginative leap you have to get over.

“If you can believe that these things actually resulted in stuff, then you could layer any kind of world building on top of it.”

She added: “Obviously, they were junk science but it’s a really fertile ground for what if and it has so many layers of complexity and darkness because it is based on something that happened.

From her own research, she said the depiction of the experiments in Stranger Things was “very tangible”.

However, Bond said we would never know the “full story” because many of the records had been destroyed by the government.

For Stranger Things fans hoping to go further into the universe of the show, Bond’s book offers an insight into Eleven’s mother and also flashes of Dr Brenner.

During the writing of Suspicious Minds, the only brief Bond was given was not to fill in too many blanks for Brenner and leave him mysterious.

On how Dr Brenner became the monstrous figure fans meet in Stranger Things, Bond teased: “I think he would argue that he’s a hero who’s trying to protect American interests and advance science.

“I suspect there are some secrets in his background but I’m not going to speculate because it would be purely speculation.

Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds by Gwenda Bond is available to buy now

Stranger Things season 4 part 2 will be released on Netflix on July 1

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