Does time travel exist? Most signs point to no, considering we’re not all zipping through time, visiting Louis XIV at Versailles, or doing the Charleston at a speakeasy in the 1920s. Or perhaps time travel is real, but it’s something this is being hidden from us. Maybe, like the aliens at Area 51, there’s a secret government facility somewhere in the US and time travel is being perfected as we speak.
This is not something I used to think much about. Conspiracy theories seemed too removed from my everyday life to sit around and ponder them—aliens appearing in dusty, desert landscapes hundreds of miles from the nearest people, or men-in-black working in remote facilities. Though there were times I’d contemplate the existence of a time machine, for the most part, conspiracy theories felt more like fairy tales than reality.
Then I found out about the Montauk Project—a conspiracy theory surrounding an old abandoned military base on the very tip of Long Island. Not only was it rumored to house a time machine under the ground, it was also accessible to the public; the old base, Camp Hero, had recently been reopened as a state park. I could go there. I could see for myself what it was like, and maybe find proof of a conspiracy theory.
But first I needed to do research. And the more I discovered, the creepier it became. The Montauk Project was supposedly born out of Project Rainbow, a World War II government initiative that tried to create paranormal weaponry. This initiative began with the Philadelphia Experiment, where the government used light waves to turn a Navy destroyer invisible. But they “screwed up,” and transported it through time and space instead. During that shift, the sailors on board became fused to the ship, and some went insane. Undeterred by the threat to human life, the government built a facility under the Camp Hero army base to further study paranormal activities.
The government commandeered Nikola Tesla, an inventor and engineer who was responsible for discovering alternating current, and tasked him with running the experiments. Though he died in 1943—the same year the Montauk Project was created—the theory is that he faked his own death in order to work for the project. It was under his guidance that a time machine was created in the depths of Camp Hero.
The machine worked by tapping into worm holes. But not only could they allegedly send people through time, they also connected with an alien race called reptoids—half-man, half-reptile creatures. Women claim to have been attacked by these aliens as they walked along the Montauk shore. There were also reports of mind-control projects, torture devices, and young boys being kidnapped for experiments. Dozens of eye-witness statements came forward, books were written, and yet the Montauk Project remains a relatively unknown conspiracy.
After discovering all of this, I knew I had to go visit. Not just to see if the conspiracy was out in plain sight, but also to do research. For a novelist, the Montauk Project was a narrative goldmine. I knew I wanted to write about the time travel elements that may or may not be out there still. So I started plotting out what would become my debut novel, So Close to You, and I made plans to visit the park as soon as I could.
I had never been to the Hamptons, but it was exactly as I had imagined: stately houses tucked into the trees, long private drives that curved down to the beach. East Hampton was like a greeting card, and I passed Tommy Hilfiger and Starbucks as I drove down the main highway. When I finally entered the town of Montauk, I felt more at home. It was smaller, less grand, a little rougher around the edges. It felt like a beach town from the sixties, frozen in time, with fishing boats still bobbing along the horizon. Camp Hero was at the very end of the peninsula, framed by the ocean, and in the shadow of the historic Montauk Lighthouse. I drove through the entrance and out to a parking lot that looked over the bluffs. The ocean was spread out everywhere, but you could see an old, rusted radar tower in the distance rising over the low, tangled trees of the forest.
Inside the state park, the scars of the military camp were everywhere. There were rusted fences that went nowhere, boarded up buildings hidden in the trees, and these strange bunkers that were tucked into the sides of man-made hills. The bunkers were originally used to house weapons during World War II, but with their sealed doors and vines crawling up the crumbling concrete, they looked more like post-apocalyptic structures. I parked the car and wandered around the old barracks. All of the buildings were abandoned and closed up tight, graffiti splashed across the surface in bright streaks. It was a place that screamed conspiracy theory—just accessible enough to explore, but peppered with signs that warned you to keep out at every turn.
As I left the park that day, armed with a notebook filled with scribbled descriptions and plot ideas, I couldn’t stop thinking about everything I had seen—and not seen. Could Nikola Tesla really have helped create a paranormal lab? Does time travel really exist? Are there men-in-black out in Montauk right now, hidden far below the ground? I doubt I’ll ever know the answers to these questions, but I finally understand the appeal of conspiracy theories. Because you don’t need to know the answers to believe…sometimes wondering and hoping is enough.
Want to know more about Nikola Tesla? Watch this episode of DARK MATTERS from the Science Channel (fast forward to 28:16 to get to the section on Nikola’s paranormal experiments!)
So what’s your theory? Do you think time travel already exists or will it exist in the future? Do you think Nikola Tesla faked his own death in order to work on the Montauk project? Debate in the comments below!