Must Read: Montauk the World's Weirdest Conspiracy Cult
The following article was found within the depth of the Internet; an article, which already by 2001 realized the truth about Stewart Swerdlow. It is actually very well written, so enjoy the read.
The following appeared in GEAR magazine, November 2001, pp. 76-82. Back issues of GEAR can be ordered at $10 per issue from GEAR, Customer Service, 450 West 15th Street, New York, NY 10011.
"It Came From Outer Space" Doomsday time travelers or sex cult? The worst things about the Montauk Project may be buried deep in your memory.
Written by Chris Ketcham Photography by Virginia Conesa
Were the Montauk Boys victims of aliens, or victims of the World's weirdest conspiracy cult?
In the wild labyrinths of conspiracy theory, double agents are everywhere. The Government is lying; your best friends are lying; fact and proof and substantiation recede into a hall of mirrors. So when I traveled to Montauk Point at the easternmost tip of Long Island, New York to investigate one of the weirdest conspiracy theories of all time, I put on my believer's hat. Maybe, I said to myself, just maybe the cover-up was real -- maybe something really terrible happened out there at the notorious Air Force radar station called 'Camp Hero' where a rusting dish 80-feet high lords over the sea.
Officially, the Air Force will tell you that the now defunct and abandoned tower scanned the skies for Soviet bombers during the Cold War. But the legends say otherwise. In the 1970s and early '80s -- so the story goes -- the soaring Camp Hero radar was used in vast black-budget experiments to control the brains of millions of unwitting Americans. Code-name: Montauk Project.
No one had heard about the Montauk Project until 1992 when a goofy radar expert named Preston B. Nichols revealed he was once a spook who worked for shadowy powers at Camp Hero -- powers that connected to the highest rungs of a "secret government". Never mind that Nichols hadn't a shred of evidence. His books sold more than 100,000 copies. And the myth of Montauk shot to cult status, drawing from the same believer marker of conspiracy buffs that makes the X-Files so successful. Montauk websites now offer "evidence" and earnest confessions from dozens-upon-dozens of people who say they have seen -- in their dreams, in the other lives -- the experiments that Nichols described. Nichols had a method for unearthing these victims' vague memories of mind control. He would massage their bodies with his fingers -- a process he called "energy probing".
And that's where the story becomes very strange. When I went out to Camp Hero last January, I wanted simply to chart how a conspiracy theory had transformed into something like a religion. I ended up uncovering the bizarre sex rites of the "Montauk Boys."
In 1984, Preston Nichols -- now 56 -- was working as a radio frequency engineer at Airborne Instrument Labs -- a Long Island defense contractor that builds radar for the military. This much is true. But Nichols claims he was also working with a number of psychics in his off hours, operating out of his little cedar-sided home in East Islip, New York, tracking what he described as a radio signal that interfered with psychic ability -- a signal that he finally traced 60 miles east along the South short of Long Island to Camp Hero.
So he took one of his psychics out to the windswept base which had officially closed in 1981 -- a casualty of progress and under-funding. That must have been some visit. The psychic -- a Vietnam veteran named Duncan Cameron, then 31 -- stood among the weeds and the empty bunkers and closed his eyes. He started to tremble and then howl. And then he collapsed to the ground in an agony of revelation, seized with the certainty that "something terrible had happened here" thousands of teenage boys had been victimized in ungodly experiments ex-Nazis had been out here and government agents and CIA and a stranger presence aliens, perhaps. And the teens -- the boys just turned 13 and 14 -- Cameron could hear them wailing still. They were kept in cages.
The real shocker, however, was that he --Cameron -- had been involved. And so had Nichols. "You were her," Cameron told his friend. "I remember you here!" And slowly Nichols began to remember, too. He had worked at Camp Hero. He built the mind-control machines that powered the radar. But all his memories had been erased by the Men-in-Black.
So the pair pooled their "experiences", weaving the strands of their separate "memories" until they came to surreal truth of what had happened to them. It turned out that Cameron had been the chief psychic in the experiments. He was strapped in a device called the "Montauk Chair", psychotronically linked to a computer, and sexually stimulated. In this inflamed state, his telepathic powers reached stunning heights. "The energy from my erection," Cameron explains today, quite solemnly, "was used as horsepower for the Chair."
His handlers -- Nichols among them -- told him to project thoughts -- programmed suggestions, propaganda -- which were then amplified and beamed through the giant radar on Extremely Low Frequency electromagnetic pulses. Turned out, too, that the Montauk Chair could be used to cleave dimensional wormholes and space-time portals through which the Government sent agents on missions. Sexual excitement was key to its functioning. Prolonged, tortuous tantric excitement because the Montauk machine fed on the biorhythms of an enraged libido. The CIA, Nazis, and the aliens were together monkeying with "powers of God" using the powers of the male orgasm.
From there, Nichols says, the Montauk narrative goes completely haywire, packed with so many subplots and sub-projects that you need a tree chart to track the twists and the players. Log on to one of 10,000 Montauk-related websites worldwide and you'll learn that the Montauk cabal had a hand in the "creation" of AIDS, the murder of JFK, the death of the dinosaurs, and quite possibly your negative credit rating as well. The Montaukians could find a conspiracy in a pizza crust. So by the time the 6-volume Montauk series comes to its breathless close, it's no surprise the Camp Hero operatives are at long last outed as part of that mega-cabal the New World Order elite, who are now -- we learn -- manipulating History through time-travel.
Deep in this maze, I got an urgent phone message. "I was the Montauk drummer," the person said and gave his name as Jimmy Abbatiello. "I played on the mind-control subliminal recordings," he explained. Of course: there was a house band at Montauk too, part of a "psychedelic rock 'n' roll" conspiracy. Abbatiello -- a Long Islander now in his late 30s -- was an unbalanced man, apparently. Peter Moon -- an excitable, puffing, and superbly earnest 48-year-old -- is the publisher and co-author of many of the Montauk books including Nichols The Music of Time. Moon told me that Abbatiello once had a parrot -- his best friend. But the bird turned on him and Abbatello had to kill it.
Attempts to reach Abbatiello were unsuccessful. But in The Music of Time, Moon and Nichols claim Abbatiello was one of the original "Montauk Boys" -- the ones who believed they were Camp Hero sex victims and who came to Preston Nichols for salvation.
I got my first glimpse of Nichols with the help of Richard Metzger, an amused 35-year-old who produces Disinfo.com -- one the Web's umpteen conspiracy theory forums. Early last year, Metzger videotaped nearly 20 hours of Mountaukians telling their stories (he eventually aired 9 minutes of his expose on his British TV show Disinfo) and he was kind enough to supply me the unedited tapes, which he called "mind-rot at its finest".
"Preston Nichols," he said, "is a fat fibber."
Onscreen, Nichols indeed looked big. In a high voice with the dancing lilt of someone reading a children's story, he explained to Metzger his uncanny talent for deciphering human frequencies. Specifically Montauk frequencies, programmed mind control pulses, the psychic residue of the experiments.
Metzger took the opportunity to test Nichols' powers on camera. What can you read about me? Metzger asked. "I can't just look at you," Nichols replied. "I really have to feel your your aura, your frequencies. I do it through hand-scans. It has to be close-on."
The tapes also showed a squinting 45-year-old named Steward Swerdlow, who has 5 children and makes his living as a clairvoyant healer on Long Island. Swerdlow was a "Montauk Boy" -- one of the first -- and wrote a book about it, Montauk: The Alien Connection. He says he was kidnapped as a teenager and brought to Camp Hero, prodded, rectally-probed, and caged with thousands of other children whose fear was "harvested" with emotion-absorbing electronics. He said the "Nazi types" at Camp Hero preferred blond-haired, blue-eyed boys -- model Aryans --for their tests. His discoveries, he said, were largely the result of Preston Nichols "close-on" techniques.
Being bland-haired and blue-eyed myself, this was on my mind when I finally met Nichols in a dimly lit basement in Bellmore, Long Island, a quiet suburb. I had been invited to the monthly meeting of the Montaukians which was a sad sight, 8 graying men and women in attendance on plastic chairs and silent as rabbits, curious about the truth behind the Camp Hero legends. Nichols sat among them. He was a friendly, pear-shaped man with mussed hair and a wattled chin. He had a habit of crooking his head like a curious dog. And his eyes were constantly bugging as if he couldn't help it. (He suffers from mild cerebral palsy -- or so I was told -- which might account for his odd mannerisms.) He wore a sweatshirt that looked like it had absorbed weeks of spilled dinners. And he slouched deep in a sofa chair, eating chocolates and popcorn, and cradling a microphone strung to a squat 20-watt amplifier near his feet which gave his chewing a mild echo.
Nichols was accompanied by Moon who claims to be a one-time close confidant of L. Ron Hubbard, the charlatan behind Scientology. Moon met Nichols in 1992 and decided -- following his defection from the Sea Org ranks -- to become the promo guy for Montauk. Moon, therefore, did most of the talking (first he tried to sell the books at $19.95 a piece). The audience listened intently while Nichols masticated through the amp.
The Montauk Project, Moon said, "exploits the very deepest, darkest occult aspects of sexuality" -- the sexual magic of Satanism, the stirring of negative spiritual energies using sex acts. "One of the techniques in sexual magic is going right into the anus and stirring the energy up your rectum. If you take a man and you have sexual intercourse up the rear end, you can get sensations that make you woooo. You've probably felt it sometime when you've been in a seat and sometimes you just [here his hips leapt off his seat] you feel some energy go up your rear end. You're talking about the stirring of the kundalini and chakra energy -- a Hindu concept of an energy channel that runs up your spine to your brain."
Does that mean the Nazis and aliens were really sodomites? Not exactly, said Moon. They were using sex to crack people's brains, to bust down mental defense. "At Montauk they were playing with anything they could," he explained. "Any sort of psychic energy to get into the psychic channels. This is a manipulation they used."
Nichols spoke up. "Ever hear of MK-ULTRA -- the psych war program years ago?" he asked. "MK-ULTRA had a sexual magic side to it."
Mind-control legends in America aren't simply inventions out of the ether. Psych warfare against its own citizens is old hat for the U.S. Government. And that's why loony-toon conspiracies like Montauk succeed in attracting so many adherents. During the Cold War, the CIA, FBI, Army, Navy, and Air Force pursued some of the most ambitious brainwashing experiments in history -- mad attempts to control human behavior.
The best-known of these programs is MK-ULTRA -- the CIA's super-secret "brain-war" against Communism. Torture-proof couriers, automated assassins, a docile citizenry -- these were the goals. MK-ULTRA ostensibly lasted from 1953 to sometime in the 1970s. But many experts contend that similar testing continues today (though the CIA denies it). The program involved hypnosis, hallucinogen-induced psychosis, torture, electroshock, electrode implants, lobotomy, and even magic and voodoo. If it could break, trap, or trick the mind, the CIA tried it. According to a 1977 Congressional investigation and later exposes by the New York Times, at least 10,000 victims -- unknowingly, nonconsenting subjects -- were targeted in cover programs at more than 80 universities, prisons, military installations, and mental hospitals across the U.S. and Canada.
Was there "sexual magic" in MK-ULTRA? Were children victimized? "We do have evidence that children were used," says MK-ULTRA expert and law professor Alan Scheflin of Santa Clara University in California. "Work was done at juvenile detention centers. There were projects that involved circumcision of children and the anxiety-provoking effects this had. We know that the CIA investigated how sex could be used to obtain information from people."
If MK-ULTRA involved prestigious universities and major military bases like Fort Benning, why not also Camp Hero? Indeed, link the salient concepts of the Montauk Project to documented government programs and the myth begins to make a kind of warped sense. And electromagnetic pulses were an avid CIA interest because EM fields had long been shown to affect brain chemistry. According to neuroscientist Dr. Michael Persinger (a professor at Canada's Laurentian University), Extreme Low Frequency (ELF) EM fields -- properly pulsed -- can produce confusion, anxiety, fear, depression, and even mild auditory hallucinations.
Yes, strip away the aliens and the time-travel and at its core, the Montauk Project may not be pure science-fiction. I spoke with 2 former Air Force radar operators who worked at the base. They laughed in disbelief when I described the Project. I called up Dick White, 61, of the ancient clan of Montauk Whites who has lived near the base his whole life. "[Peter Moon] called me and asked me about things that I had seen growing up here," White told me, "and then twisted my words to fit into this cockamamie story."
Donald E. Bender grew up on Long Island, explored the base as a kid, and now heads the privately-run Cold War Research which advises the military on preservations issues surrounding abandoned sites like Camp Hero. He's become so exasperated with the proliferation of Montauk legends that he set up a website to debunk them. "I know of no evidence that suggests anything even remotely sinister took place at the Montauk Air Force station, '" he said. "The base was a small, closely knit community, which seems the worst choice of venue to conduct clandestine experiments. I mean, the Air Force even issued hundreds of passes to local fisherman so that they could have access to the shore."
Being a mind-control "victim" can be good for business. Take, for example, Stewart Swerdlow, the poster boy of Camp Hero. Swerdlow rode the Montauk legend to become a regular on the lucrative New Age/metaphysics lecture circuit, dispensing wisdom acquired from his "unique experiences" at Camp Hero. Among other things, he claims that he traveled through the Montauk vortex to bottle the blood of Christ as it dripped from the cross (part of a cloning endeavor called the Anti-Christ Project). He was also once ambassador to the planet Umo.
For $145, Swerdlow can look at your "auric field" for an hour-and-a-half. And for $75, he'll sell you a "Box of Stones" -- crystals and quartz -- all "cleansed" and "energized". He offers dream analysis, "mind pattern" analysis, and fertility consultations. Apparently Swerdlow can do just about anything for your personal health. He plugs his powers from the moral high ground of passionate sincerity (sincerity is the currency of the believer market).
But from afar, his act looks like mountebank self-promotion. Before Montauk, he was presumably the same Stewart Swerdlow who in 1992 pled guilty to bank fraud after embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Long Island food distributor. He was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison. Then he claimed he was brainwashed into diverting funds as the fall guy in a larger conspiracy that no doubt involved his own sexual programming at Camp Hero.
And Nichols? Nichols wasn't in it for the money, wasn't pawning New Age pendant crapola on his home page, or selling clairvoyance over the phone. He didn't even have a website. Being a true believer, he gave his services for free. And it was his genuine fervor that in the mid- and late-1990s brought new "Montauk Boy" converts out of the woodwork like ants. Young men who traveled from Long Island and around the country to visit his "Space-Time Laboratories" (the new incantation of Nichols' models Islip home). One was a 20-year-old named Anthony Kraft [name changed], a kid who had been in-and-out of institutions for years. Kraft was Nichols' favorite because he was a fanatic believer.
She asked me not to use her name because "these people know where I live." We'll call her Julia. Julia fell in love with Kraft 10 years ago, when she was 15. She dated him on-and-off for 8 years and watched as what she calls the "Montauk crap" began to rule his life.
Julia helped me located a phone number for Anthony's "soul brother" -- a 23-year-old named Brandon Kihl, a Project zealot who spoke with me from the remote town in Arizona where he now lives with his family. And though Kraft, now 27, didn't return my calls, between Kihl the believer and Julia the cynic and others who knew Kraft, I pieced together the "truth" -- if we can call it that -- about what drove the "Montauk Boys" in the hands of Preston Nichols.
Kraft was the eldest of three boys. His father died in a plane crash when he was 8. His mother, unable to cope with him -- he had been suicidal from the age of 5 -- put him away in a group home where he was abused by other boys. As a teenager, he was a "long-hair metal-head-wigger": a fan of Danzig, Overkill, Metallica.
Kraft claimed "all kinds of strange things". One woman who dated him -- a 37-year-old named Alexandra "Chica" Bruce -- told me. "This was after he went to a lecture by Preston in 1995. He really believed that he had been mind-controlled. He started saying that I was involved, too -- that I was an assassin from another planet. I would get calls from him at 4:00 in the morning: 'Quick! Write this down: I am master of the Moonstone.' I was having nightmares associating with him."
Julia said he was an alcoholic who liked to bang his head into walls. She once tried to stop him. But he threw her across the room, said he was a werewolf and watch out. He had always been obsessed with demonology and pre-Sumerian gods. When he read about Montauk in 1995, it was simply a matter of making the switch from one set of gods to another.
Julia told me there were at least 25 hardcore Montauk Boys in the mid- and late-1990s. They read the books, contacted Nichols through Peter Moon, and made the pilgrimage from as far off as California and New Mexico. Kraft had become close with Nichols by the time Kihl telephoned the Space-Time Laboratories in 1997, claiming memories of Montauk. Nichols said he couldn't effect his deprogramming over the phone. He needed to conduct a "hand-scan" -- his "Reichian energy probe" -- and that meant physical contact. At age 19, Kihl left his family in Arizona to come to Long Island and ended up staying 3 years.
"They never had formal gatherings. Iit was usually just hanging out," Julia told me. "Anthony and Brandon rented a place together. Preston would come to the house, and there'd be 4--or-5 guys sitting around. Each guy would go into a bedroom with Preston -- alone. They'd come out wild-eyed with all sorts of stories, and Preston would come out covered in sweat. And every week, there was a new story, a new discovery."
Indeed. There was Kraft as an operative of the Project; an interstellar assassin; Kraft who went back in time and created the Universe; Kraft and Kihl who were twins from the "21st parallel dimension"; Kraft as an age-regressed Vietnam veteran; Kraft as a '60s rock star (he even had a hit song "My Baby Loves Love", singing lead for the band Edison Lighthouse).
"The crap they would spew!" said Julia. "Anthony was being confused by it all. And how could he not with all the information he was being fed? He was told to seek inside his own mind. And whether it was dreams or past-life memories or stories he'd read, he was told it was all fact. If I thought that all the things I dreamed were true, I'd be insane."
Over the phone, Kihl has a mild, clipped, tuneless voice. Talking about the Montauk Project does not excite or incense him the way it does Julia. There was no fanfare or reticence or even hesitation when describe Preston Nichols' "hand-scans".
So what would happen in those rooms alone with Nichols? According to Kihl, the subject undresses and lies down. Nichols massages the legs and arms and chest and head, "scanning" for frequencies. Then he takes the penis and strokes it, still scanning. Nichols masturbates the subject until the edge of orgasm, freezing the subject in a kind of pre-orgasmic dream-state that was suppose to reverse -- and thereby nullify -- the "sexual magic" of the Montauk Chair. To "ground" his subject against EM interference, Nichols grips the testicles. Sometimes, he attaches electrodes to the ears. (In response, Nichols said: "Not all of them would come to orgasm.")
Stewart Swerdlow, Jimmy Abbatiello, and at least 12 others had all been "deprogrammed" in this manner. This was how they discovered their involvement in the Project, and they gladly submitted for they believed -- needed to believe. "None of us ever had a problem with the process," said Kihl. "The process was always very regimented. It was straight-out work. There was never anything uncomfortable about it. Often, there were multiple people present, observers taking notes."
If you grew up and spent your entire life in the western United States, I asked, then when exactly were you at Camp Hero?
Kihl sighed. He didn't know for sure. "Well, from what I've been told [by Preston Nichols], there were times when I was out there." He faltered. "I don't know. There's a lot that I don't know. But as time goes on, everything seems to just reassure me that I was involved."
I went to see Nichols at his home. His hysterical terrier hound Cupid flogged me with its paws. And his ancient father Bob sat across from us in a Barcalounger. Bob stared forward into the night out a wide dirty window of the Space-Time Laboratories.
I had a lot of questions. And of course I would get no straight answers. Was the "deprogramming" simply closet homosexuality with the "conspiracy" an elaborate denial mechanism? Was Nichols a pathologic predator feeing his Boys information under hypnosis, toying with them, in effect brainwashing them? "I didn't get any pleasure out of it, I'll tell you that," Nichols said. "These people would end up balled like a fetus, weeping. It was a horrible experience."
It was a consensual one, too, perfectly legal. The boys were all of age and some -- like Stewart Swerdlow -- were middle-aged and married. No one I know of has ever come forward to attack Preston's motives or impugn him with charges of sexual assault, molestation, rape. There is nothing in the legal record against him. And as far as I can tell, Preston Nichols really thought he was doing good, exorcising the sorrows of mind-control victims. He was psychotically sincere. He showed me the Montauk Investigation Vehicle in his driveway -- a rickety 1979 mini-school bus festooned on the roof with antennas. He told me about the tampered lug nuts on his car and surveillance operations from the neighbor's house and how he had evidence that Montauk really did happen Ã¢â¬Â¦ But he couldn't show it to me, no Ã¢â¬Â¦ it was getting late and "besides, it's hidden".
Bob listened awhile and finally spoke. "Very strange things," he said cryptically, in a weak voice. And then nothing more.
"What about the camera?" Preston offered, rousing his dad. "The camera that watches the house?"
"There was something reflecting the light off the chimney across the way," the old man said. "And the light would come off it, through the door and onto me Ã¢â¬Â¦ and I felt it was a camera, watching me. Watching me."
Bob lurched forward, lowering his La-Z-Boy, planted his feet in the carpet, and pushed himself erect slowly an Olympian effort finally standing in that hunched heavy old-man way an staring out the window into the night. He raised an arm, pointed, "Out there. It was out there."
There was blackness outside and cold February night. All I could see was the old man's reflection lit in the window.
And watching Bob there as he looked for the light, I understood what Montauk was all about. Conspiracy theory is popular because it speaks to real possibilities -- the reality of MK-ULTRA, for example -- even if it does so in unreal ways. Possibilities that the World is not just what it seems or what we are told -- that there is "more" to events. It finds meaning behind the mundane; erects vast forces of good and evil contending for the World; and places the conspiratologist -- who knows what's really going on -- at the heart of the drama, suffering for the truth no one else has the courage to champion. Preston Nichols: prophet, hero, seeker, savior to lost souls like Anthony Kraft.
Nichols told me he gave up his deprogrammings some 3 years ago. But he is still sought out. A young Hotmail user from Red Hook, New York wrote on a Montauk message board, "I have a few memories of Montauk," the kid wrote. "I know that you personally can detect in an individual was involved. Can you do this via remote? It is very important to me, and it would help me to clear up some personal issues."
Someone logged on as "Preston Nichols" replied, "I have not had success of [Montauk Boy] detection from a distance. We would have to meet if this is possible".