|Camp Hero SAGE Radar Tower, Photo: Christopher Villano, Cramptphotography.Com|
Camp Hero and the Montauk Project Mystery
By Oliver Peterson
For local teens growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, Montauk was once a playground of abandoned and decaying buildings and facilities left wide open to explore.
The formerly graceful Montauk Playhouse was, at the time, a blighted place, perfect for taking edgy photos during daylight hours or climbing the stage rafters and drinking beer in the dead of night. (Another favorite, accessible only by small holes in the earth above the bluffs, was the network of underground World War II bunkers and tunnels beneath Montauk Point. The structures were a history lesson as well as terrifying rite of passage for the truly brave.) Meanwhile, the Concrete Cottage, also a vestige of WWII, served as a landmark for a key local surf break. But most notorious of them all was the sprawling former Army base and, later, Montauk Air Force Station, known as Camp Hero.
Built in 1942 and steeped in legend, the now defunct Camp Hero is home to the towering SAGE radar tower (with a 120-foot, 70-ton “dish”) and numerous outbuildings, bunkers and gun emplacements. For years the 278-acre site stood crumbling, smothered in overgrowth and completely off-limits (legally) before it was finally opened to the public as a state park in 2002 (though it was actually deeded as such in 1984).
Perhaps it was this early veil of secrecy that earned the base a reputation for much more than housing soldiers and protecting Montauk’s vulnerable shores. Since the 1980s, conspiracies have circulated alleging that experiments in psychological warfare, teleportation and time travel occurred there and, some believe, continue at the site today.
For years, a handful of these conspiracy theorists held furtive meetings about their beliefs and explored the abandoned base, gathering evidence. Then, in 1992, Preston Nichols and Peter Moon published The Montauk Project, their now classic book chronicling a laundry list of sinister tales, including claims that Nichols himself was technical director for the project—which he alleges discovering after accessing repressed memories.
A number of others have come forward claiming to be both victims and perpetrators of the Montauk conspiracy, most notably the late Al Bielak, who said he worked on teleporting a battleship in the original Philadelphia Experiment before coming to Montauk, and Stewart Swerdlow, who claims he survived genetic experiments at Camp Hero, leaving him with psychic powers.
Of course, as the Montauk Project conspiracy gained momentum and exposure, increasingly bizarre stories were added spanning all manner of sci-fi plot. Today there are hundreds of accounts, including child abductions and torture, extraterrestrial beings, inter-dimensional travel, Nazi scientists, UFOs, reptilian beings, a sasquatch-like beast and much more. . . .
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