Creepy Things That Seem Real But Aren’t is a series that explores modern urban legends, bringing you a new tale each week.
At the eastern end of Long Island’s southern point, there is an abandoned air force base. In the base sits an enormous radar dish. The dish, which had been installed by the government many years ago, was intended to provide warning of incoming Soviet threats from the Atlantic during the height of the Cold War. But as is the way with such things, as technology advanced, the dishes were rendered obsolete, and the site was closed in 1969. The area, called Montauk Point, has since become a public park.
But the radar dish is still there. And there are… stories. Tales of something going on, something bigger than the ghosts, real or metaphorical, that haunt every abandoned air force base and army site. Because you see, the experimentation with electromagnetic shielding hadn’t ended with the Philadelphia Experiment. It continued. And that continuation was known as THE MONTAUK PROJECT.
The idea was born of the surviving researchers from the Philadelphia Experiment. In 1952, they met together and discussed their desire to continue their work. This time, though, they had a new goal in mind: Rather than using the technology to cloak ships, they wanted to investigate its use as a means of psychological warfare.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, when the scientists appeared before Congress for approval and funding, they were denied. But the scientists weren’t willing to give up that easily, so instead, they went directly to the Department of Defense. Where Congress had been wary of the experiments due to the possible danger involved, the Department of Defense was intrigued. How, asked the scientists, would you like to have a weapon in your arsenal that would be capable of causing the enemy to surrender before a battle had even begun? We can do that, they said. We can develop a weapon that would, at the flick of a switch, allow you to render the enemy helpless. The Department of Defense said yes. And so the project began in earnest.
The project was initially housed at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the town of Upton, New York on Long Island. Known as the Phoenix Project, it made good headway; however, its scientists soon discovered that they had need of equipment the Brookhaven National Laboratory couldn’t provide. Furthermore, the extremely public location of the lab allowed for governmental watchdogs to keep a closer eye on the project than the scientists—or, for that matter, the Department of Defense—would have liked. What to do?
As luck would have it, the government had a solution: Not far away, there was an old air force base that was set to be decommissioned. The base housed a Semi-Automatic Environment, or SAGE, radar system. The radar system and dish were exactly the type of equipment the scientists needed to carry out their experiments; furthermore, the nature of its location would keep it far from the prying eyes of those who would try to shut the project down. Beneath the surface of the base, you see, was an immense government facility that stretched downward for miles. And so the researchers moved to the sleepy town of Montauk—not yet the vacation destination it would one day become—and the project gained a new name: The Montauk Project.