'Stranger Things' Subject of Lawsuit by Maker of 'Montauk'

The Montauk radar tower when it was installed in 1958 East Hampton Star Archive

A short film devoted to the rumors surrounding government experiments at the now-dormant military installation Camp Hero in Montauk is at the center of a lawsuit involving the hit Netflix series “Stranger Things.”

Lawyers for Charlie Kessler filed the suit on Monday in Los Angeles to claim damages for what he sees as an implied breach of contract with Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer. Known informally as the Duffer brothers, they are the producers who brought "Stranger Things" to Netflix in 2015.

Back in 2012,  Mr. Kessler showed “Montauk,” a seven-minute short film, as part of the Hamptons International Film Festival's Students Awards Program. The narrative film had a plot based on conspiracy theories made popular in an earlier book “The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time” by Preston Nichols and Peter Moon. The film was done in a found-footage “Blair Witch Project” style and featured the radar tower and other backdrops familiar to those who have been in Camp Hero.

According to the lawsuit, Mr. Kessler shared his idea for a feature film with the Duffer brothers at a party at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014. He became aware of their series for Netflix in 2016 when "Stranger Things," set in Indiana, was released with similar themes including portals to an alien world, psychic abilities, and monsters.

The suit includes instances of the show being originally referred to as “Montauk,” as it was in the Hollywood Reporter in a story from April 2, 2015, when the series was picked up by Netflix. From the article: “The series centers around the disappearance of a boy in Montauk, Long Island, in 1980 and is said to have supernatural elements involved.”

Other online sleuths have found early casting calls with the series referred to as “Montauk.” Last year, East, The Star’s sister magazine, noted some of the similarities in an article titled “Stranger Montauk” in its summer issue.

The Duffers’ attorney released a statement this week calling the suit “completely meritless,” adding that the brothers had never seen “Montauk” nor discussed the project with Mr. Kessler. 

Mr. Kessler and Netflix did not respond to emails seeking comment as of this writing.

A scene from when Montauk was armed and dangerousEast Hampton Star Archive
An image from a trailer for "Montauk" posted on YouTube