Publisher’s Note: Vermonter Tim Matson is an author, photographer, natural pond designer, and supporter of a 2nd Vermont Republic (2VR). In this interview, he connects the dots between Netflix’s wildly popular “Stranger Things” series and “Project Montauk,” a secret Deep State project buried by the US government – until now. The above photo is entitled “Montauk 1968″ – shot by Tim Matson.
Q: People know your Earth Ponds books and photos of the Pilobolus Dance Theatre. Mostly black and white. How do you get to this color Montauk shot and the connection to the Netflix series Stranger Things?
A: A lot of photographers work in black and white, or color, but not both. I shoot both. I like the qualities of both. It’s just that most of the color photos have never been seen.
Q: Like this Montauk picture?
A: Yes, it’s one of my favorites. A lot of things come together here, composition, subject, the magic of photography. When you get right down to it, photography is time travel. In some magical way a moment in time decades ago lives on. You can go back. For me Montauk is a trip back to the Sixties.
Q: Is there something in this Montauk shot that will interest younger folks?
A: Sure. Have you seen Stranger Things? It’s set in the 1980s, with ’80s music and games and food, and so it’s nostalgic for millenials. What they may not know is that the series is based on real events in Montauk, New York. Strange things. Like experiments in time travel. The house in the picture is in a psy ops experimental area. It’s gone now, part of the government coverup. And the show writers switched the location, but Montauk is what it’s really about. So the picture is photographic time travel to a place involved in… time travel! If you like Stranger Things, you’ll love Montauk.
Q: Go on…
A: Stranger Things is about a town with a secret government experiment going on, which begins to affect the people. The government is experimenting with mind control and time travel, teleportation. Children are being abducted, experimented on. The series is set in Indiana, but the story is based on events in Montauk beginning after World War II. The producers probably changed the setting to avoid charges of plagarism from authors and filmmakers of books and films and blogs about what is called “Project Montauk.” Some written by people who claim to have taken part in the experiments. Maybe the government demanded the producers set it at one remove from Montauk, for security reasons. But Project Montauk is no secret. It’s all over the net. Of course the government denies the nasty stuff.
Q: Are your Montauk photos connected to what went on there?
A: I think so. If you look carefully at the photos you can see what looks at first glance like a country house, perhaps a farmhouse, but is not that at all. Several windows are recessed and framed, but they’re solid concrete. And the slots between floors and under the eves? Just like the German pillboxes you see in WW II movies and photos. Observation posts, places to shoot from. The clapboards are not wood, they’re concrete. It’s pretty realistic, at least from a distance. But most of the house is built of concrete, cast to look like a farmhouse. It’s fake. The house was near the edge of the dunes overlooking the Atlantic on the flats just east of Montauk village, about a mile short of the lighthouse at the point. The ocean is off frame to the right.
Q: And this was when?
A: The photo was taken in 1968, maybe 69. I had just gotten out of the Army. I was living in New York. I used to go to Montauk on weekends, to get away from work and the city. My father had a house along the Old Montauk Highway, overlooking the ocean. I knew Montauk pretty well. Back then, Montauk was remote, unfashionable, rural, mysterious. There was a forgotten, left behind feeling to the place, especially off season. The place was eerie. Especially the faux farmhouse.
Q: How did you find it?
A: Exploring Montauk with friends. It was on the dunes. The doors were busted, it was easy to get inside. At first we were mystified by the farmhouse impersonation. Was this the way houses were built on the dunes, to weather storms? With concrete windows and clapboards? But after asking around, we found that the houses were in fact bunkers built during WW II, for spotting U-boats, and if needed, to fight off German landings. By then the war was twenty five years behind, and the bunker abandoned, with graffiti on the walls, and broken bottles on the floors.
Back then I gave little thought to why the bunker had been abandoned. It was simply a spooky artifact of the war, a mysterious place to visit, an adventure. But as I’ve learned more about the Montauk Project, it seems that supervision of the area changed agencies. The military, the CIA, who knows? The experiments needed to be covered up. Clandestine labs, radar, underground tunnels. For some reason the farmhouse bunker missed the “clean up”. Sometime after the photograph was taken, I understand that the farmhouse was removed.
But some things won’t go away. Stranger Things has revived interest in Project Montauk. And recently a couple of documentaries appeared on line, showing the secret history of a windowless skyscraper in New York City. 33 Thomas Street. It is, or was, a communications spy hub for NSA and communication agencies. The Thomas Street design looks reminiscent of the concrete farmhouse at Montauk Point. What’s really strange is that construction of this New York City monolith began in 1969, with plans starting in 1968, the same time I shot the picture in Montauk. And what year did Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey come out? With the iconic monolith? 1968. Interesting coincidences, eh?
Q: Project Montauk has been called an east coast Area 51.
A: For anyone who is interested, check it out on the net. The photograph catches the Stranger Things vibe. The picture is time travel, Project Montauk is time travel. The farmhouse is a deception, Project Montauk is a deception.
Q: The reflection in the color photo suggests two versions of reality. The picture doubles reality and then turns it upside down.
A: Yes, and that is the essence of Project Montauk and Stranger Things.
Tim Matson’s book Pilobolus (Random House 1978) won two awards from the American Institute for Graphic Arts. His photos are in private collections and at The Rauner Special Collections Library and The Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. Archival giclee prints of Montauk Point 1968 are available from Tim Matson. Contact: email@example.com. The second season of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” begins on October 27, 2017.