dr Brenner (played by Matthew Modine) is a menacing presence in Stranger Things as a chief scientist conducting experiments at Hawkins Lab. Throughout the series, he is presented as a callous researcher determined to crack the mind, no matter the human cost. Hawkins Lab and Dr. Burners could be fictional entities dreamed up by Stranger Things’ creators, the Duffer Brothers, but the writers took very close cues from the story.
based dr Stranger Things burner on a real person?
The duo were inspired by Stephen King’s novel Firestarter, in which several characters were on the run from shadowy state agents after participating in government experiments.
Although the paranormal elements are fictional, the experiments had echoes of the very real MK Ultra project.
MK-Ultra was part of the US government’s effort to gain military advantage over the USSR during the Cold War and involved human experimentation, including administering drugs such as LSD to patients and administering electric shocks in hopes of harming the human Spirit unlock for the purpose of espionage.
The project was about controlling and manipulating the human mind and trying to protect prisoners of war from revealing state secrets.
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Between 1953 and 1973, much of the evidence and documentation surrounding MK-Ultra was destroyed, but some of it remains and has offered a disturbing glimpse into the efforts the US government made as part of its warfare strategy.
After the truth about MK Ultra came out, there were even meetings in Congress to make sure these kinds of experiments – which violated the Nuremberg Code – could never happen again.
Nonetheless, there are records from various institutions across America conducting MK-Ultra experiments, some of these tests are mentioned in Stranger Things, such as dip tanks and sensory deprivation.
The goal of MK-Ultra was to develop effective psychological warfare against the enemy.
In addition to appearing in the show, these experiments are explored in the official prequel novel Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds (2019) by author Gwenda Bond, whose book follows the backstory of Eleven’s (Millie Bobby Brown) mother Terry Ives (Aimee Mullins) researched. and how she got to one of Dr. Brenner’s lab rats became.
Suspicious Minds is set 20 years before the show’s events with the Vietnam War in full force as the Cold War descends into live conflict.
The story follows Terry as she is in Dr. Brenner’s Sphere arrives and he performs experiments on her and eventually comes into possession of their child, Eleven.
While writing Suspicious Minds, Bond was given free rein to shape the novel and received advice from the programmers who were working on the third season at the time.
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, author Bond said of MK-Ultra’s portrayal in the Stranger Things universe: “Based on my research and reading, I think it’s very tangible and real. And for my book, I tried to do it the same way, using the same things they would have used: sensory deprivation tanks.
“Obviously there are jumps here and there, but I think a lot of that is a fair representation of what might have been going on in some of these cases – or certainly what people wanted to do. There were definitely a lot of proponents of this kind of junk science and parapsychology.”
While it’s unclear if the Duffer Brothers Dr. Brenner was based on a real-life figure, but they were certainly also many scientists working on these government-sanctioned, CIA-sponsored projects that involved unethical human experimentation on ignorant test subjects that may have inspired the authors.
One of these personalities was Dr. Harris Isbell, the director of the Addiction Research Center at the Public Health Service Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, who conducted various barbaric experiments on drug addicts and inmates.
According to an Arcadia University article entitled “Was it all just a hallucination? The CIA’s Secret LSD Experiments, Dr. Isbell and his cohorts exploited people who had been hospitalized.
Her subjects were addicts hoping to break their drug addiction, but were instead offered heroin to “voluntarily” participate in these experiments.
Neither ethics nor its test subjects were taken into account. In one experiment, Dr. Isbell and his collaborators injected subjects directly with LSD for 77 days to monitor the effects.
At the time, the US government was afraid that the USSR might capture soldiers and give them LSD to extract information, so developing a tolerance to the drug was an important part of Isbell’s experiments.
Similar to Dr. Brenner came Dr. Isbell’s experiments in human torture parallel the supposed advance of science and psychological warfare.
Reflecting on writing about the rogue scientist, Bond said: “My only direction with Dr. Brenner, my main direction, was to keep it a little mysterious. As if we didn’t want to fill in everything.
“So I suspect we will get more this season. I just have to get into him based on the research and what these guys were like, obviously based on the way he carries himself.
She continued, “It’s interesting, I did a panel with Matthew Modine and he told me about the development of this character and how the vision for him was a bit different initially.
“He said, ‘I want to be like Carey Grant in North By Northwest, wear suits and be very precise and buttoned up.’
“And we see even more of that precision from everything in his house early in that eight minutes [of season four] and I feel good about it because that was very much my vision of him, that he’s someone who likes order. He likes people who stick by his rules and he likes things to go a certain way.”
Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds by Gwenda Bond is available now
Stranger Things Season 4 Part 2 arrives on Netflix on July 1st