As I mentioned in my post last week, Montauk is one of my favorite places ever. I love that it’s close enough to drive to for the day or for an extended stay - so no matter what time of year, it’s easy to escape the city when you need to.
There are so many little historical sites, restaurants, bars, and fun things to do out in Montauk that I definitely want to tell you all about. Places like Montauk Brewing Co., The Surf Lodge, the Montauk Lighthouse, and Gosman’s are popular destinations for visitors from all over, but what I want to tell you about today is a little off the beaten path.
Ever watch the Netflix series Stranger Things? If you haven’t you are MISSING OUT, my friend. Basically it has to do with human experimentation, interdimensional travel, a unassuming small town, Dungeons and Dragons, and a spunky group of heroes under the age of 12. It’s fantastic, it’s set in the 80’s, just go watch it.
Anyway, not a lot of people know this, but Stranger Things is loosely based off of one of my favorite spooky spots in Montauk, Camp Hero State Park. Located on Montauk Highway right before you enter the parking lot for the lighthouse, the sign for Camp Hero almost sneaks up on you, the driveway hidden in a mess of overgrown brush and trees.
It’s a New York State Park, so certain times of the day/year you’ll have to pay $10 to get in, but luckily I’ve always found a way to avoid that and still get to look around this creepy little outpost.
Unless you drive straight past the entrance to go visit the bluff overlook (which has such a beautiful view of the lighthouse and ocean), you can drive through the park to where the real fun stuff is like the radar tower, old battery dunn, and abandoned buildings that housed soldiers and other facilities when it was a military base in the 1940’s.
There’s a lot of really cool history behind Camp Hero and believe me, I could go on and on about not only its recorded history, but the stories and conspiracy theories that surround the abandoned base in the 1980’s, when many have come out and alleged to be a part of various psychological and time travel experiments called The Montauk Project underground.
If you want to dig a little deeper there, Wikipedia isn’t super helpful so visit this Dan’s Papers article where you’ll get a general overview of why this place is so shrouded in mystery.
My favorite thing to do is head straight for the picnic area past the tower to where there are a group of abandoned barracks, bunkers and various buildings (that may or may not be entrances to secret underground facilities). The majority are boarded up with ‘DO NOT ENTER’ plastered anywhere paint would possibly stick. While my love for the lore behind Camp Hero was definitely creating some internal paranoia about the place, something about walking around those ominously silent grounds made me not want to even try to enter.
I’ve been here several times before, but this was the first time I climbed up behind a few of these buildings and saw that one of them was completely broken down in the back, leaving a very accessible opening to a long, dark interior. The reality was the inside of what seemed like this sort of old armory was just covered in tags and debris - no ghosts, demogorgons, or men in white lab coats looking for any willing (or unwilling) human participants. But you better believe I snapped this picture and hauled ass out of there.
One of my favorite stories from last summer was right around this building below, when my friends and I had stopped by after a beach day at Ditch Plains. As we’re wont to do, we were snooping around for openings in these buildings to see what was inside.
After trying to peek behind a piece of plywood hanging off the back, a gigantic black bird breaks the silence around us and swoops down, almost skimming the top of our heads. I decided, for my own sanity, that it was just an osprey we pissed off by being in its territory, but nevertheless it was terrifying.
Camp Hero is such an awesome place to go if you want to scare yourself and get lost in all those campfire tales, but also if you want to hop on some of the best and unfrequented hiking trails on the eastern end of Long Island.
When I was there last spring, the park was basically empty and the trees were still a little bare, making for a chilling walk up to the bluff overlook, but gave way to arguably one of the most beautiful view of the lighthouse ever. I hope this inspires you guys to go and explore the unseen parts of some more popular destinations - sometimes the creepy, the unknown and even the macabre make for the best stories.