Stranger Things is Based on Real Government Experiments + 8 More Amazing Facts

Stranger Things Eleven


One of the most beloved original shows to come from Netflix, Stranger Things has amassed an enormous fan base. It’s an incredible homage to countless 1980s films, TV and books, and tells a gripping and thrilling story which the right balance of humour and horror. Here are 9 things you didn’t know about the show…

1) The Duffer brothers set out to create a Spielberg-King hybrid 

When the Duffer brothers started to pen the script for Stranger Things, their initial premise was very simple: ‘What if Steven Spielberg directed a Stephen King book?’ And this comes across very strongly in the series. From the obvious call backs to 80s Spielberg classics like The Goonies and ET, through to the suburban terror of Stephen King novels like Needful Things and IT, along with nostalgic boyhood stories such as Stand By Me. 

2) The show was going to be called Montauk 

In the initial script, the series was set in the real-life coastal town of Montauk on Long Island, and the Duffer brothers intended to name the show after its location. Filming in winter on Long Island would have proven too difficult for the production, though, and so the location of the series was moved to the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, which is now an iconic part of Stranger Things. 

Eleven crushes a Coke can in Stranger Things

3) Stranger Things was inspired by ‘real’ government experiments

There’s a reason the Duffer brothers were going to base their series in the Long Island town of Montauk. A conspiracy theory surrounding the town arose back in the 80s, after people started to claim that they had been kidnapped by the government as children, and had been used in the ‘Montauk Project’. This project allegedly involved experiments around time, space and other dimensions, and it’s even claimed to have opened up portals. Obviously the Duffer brothers found this source material delicious, because it’s the basis of the Stranger Things we know and love, and Eleven was part of such experiments onscreen. 

Interestingly, Montauk was also the inspiration for the island of Amity in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Jaws

4) It took a lot of auditioning to find the right kids 

In their hunt for the roles of Eleven, Mike, Dustin, Lucas and Will, the Duffer Brothers auditioned one hell of a lot of children. In fact, for the male roles, over 900 boys read lines, and for the role of Eggo-loving telekinetic Eleven, they saw over 300 girls try out for the iconic part. All of the child actors had to read lines from Stephen King’s Stand By Me. 

Stranger Things Sheriff Hopper in Fedora Hat

5) Hopper’s hat is a homage to Indiana Jones

In yet another reference to a classic Spielberg title from the 80s, David Harbour, who plays lovable sheriff Hopper, asked the Duffer Brothers if his character could wear a fedora in homage to whip-wielding archaeologist adventurer Indiana Jones. He also asked if he could have a boulder chase after him. They at least granted his first wish. 

6) The Duffers pulled a very dark practical joke on Noah Schnapp’s Mum 

For the morgue scene in season one of Stranger Things, the practical effects team created an extremely realistic likeness of Noah Schnapp, who plays Will in the series, to use as the teen’s corpse. With their slightly dark humour, The Duffer Brothers told Noah’s mother they had something to show her, and took her into a dark room where the fake lifelike corpse of her son was laid out, which gave her a fright. 

Billy Hargrove in Stranger Things

7) Dancing shirtless to Come on Eileen bagged a baddy his role

Dacre Montgomery knew he had to stand out as much as possible when sending in his audition tape for the role of Max’s villainous older brother, Billy. His tape involved him dancing around topless to Dexy’s Midnight Runners. It worked, though, and the Duffer Brothers have since said it’s one of the most memorable audition tapes they’ve seen. 

The character of Billy Hargrove is actually based on Randall Flagg – a manipulative villain who appears in several of Stephen King’s works. 

8) In season 2, Eleven’s hair is CGI’d for flashback scenes

Millie Bobby Brown famously agreed to having her head shaved off for the role of Eleven, back in season 1. She said it made her father cry when he saw it being cut off. Skipping forward to the production of Season 2, her hair was starting to get some length to it.

Season 2 includes some flashback scenes, which cut back to the time where Eleven’s hair is scalp-short. The Duffer Brothers said they didn’t want to make Millie shave her head again for the sake of some flashbacks, and so they had her hair CGI’d, to make it look as short as in season 1 – at great expense to the production! 

Stranger Things Halloween Trick or Treating In Ghostbusters Fancy Dress

9) The Ghostbusters costumes needed Ivan Reitman’s approval

A fantastic part of season 2 is when the boys go trick or treating at Halloween as 1980’s supernatural-arse-kickers the Ghostbusters. But in order to use the costumes for these scenes, the Duffer Brothers had to call the film’s director Ivan Reitman to ask for permission. They explained later on that they were very anxious about the call, and had prepared a speech about how much they loved the film, but Reitman had already decided they could use the costumes before the call. 

There you have it – 9 pieces of Stranger Things trivia! Check out the original Season One trailer below…

Stranger Things: Season One trailer

Stranger Things Gift Guide

Love Stranger Things, or know someone that does? Why not treat yourself or a friend to one of the goodies from our Stranger Things gift guide?

Check it out: Stranger Things Gift Ideas

More supernatural TV shows you might like

If you like Stranger Things, here are a couple more supernatural TV shows you might like…

Firstly, we recommend The X Files. FBI agents Mulder and Scully investigate paranormal cases that the Bureau doesn’t want to give to anyone else. Mulder is a hardened believer, whereas Scully is a stern skeptic.

Secondly, with horror and comedy at its heart, you could try Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Similarly to Stranger Things, it follows a powerful female lead and her high-schooler friends as they try to battle supernatural entities.