Conspiracies of the East End
Time travel experiments. Secret sex societies. A vortex on the south fork and a new world order on the north fork. Eastern Long Island seems to be the source of an unusual number of unusual mysteries. I’ve heard about them for over ten years from friends, neighbors and acquaintances who often tell their stories in lowered voices, as if it’s dangerous to speak of these things too loudly. “You know what they say about Brookhaven Lab, out there in the pine barrens?” a neighbor asked not long after I moved to the north shore. I shook my head, a little apprehensive at the way his voice dropped at the words Brookhaven Lab. Being new to Long Island, I’d never heard of this lab in the deep woods, but he was eager to fill me in. “Government research facility. They’re reverse engineering alien spacecraft, the one that crashed in 1992. They tried to cover it up, but me and my friend were there. We saw everything–the lights, the crash, the wreckage.” I leaned forward to hear better, and he continued in a whisper, encouraged by my open-mouthed interest. “That’s right, saw it with my own eyes, so did a lot of other people. Not for nothing, but my cousin’s friend is with the fire department that responded. He said they were blocked by men in black jumpsuits and forced to leave. Just saying…”
That was the first time I heard of strange things afoot in eastern Long Island, but not the last. At parties, business meetings and play dates I learned theories about underground tunnels, UFO hot spots and weather weaponry research. Friends debated over dinner as to whether the Montauk Monster was the horrifying result of an experiment gone wrong on Plum Island, or simply the rotting corpse of a raccoon. Someone pulled up the famous photo of MM on a cell phone and passed it around the table to prove that the creature had a beak, so it couldn’t be a raccoon. Someone else theorized that the soft tissue around the racoon’s nose had rotted away, leaving beak-shaped cartilage. Another person got excited because she was sure that sea turtles have beaks, but since MM had teeth and sea turtles don’t, this theory was quickly debunked. We left the restaurant without solving the mystery or ordering dessert.
Still, secret tunnels and beak-faced monsters are mundane compared to the strangeness surrounding Camp Hero State Park, located at the very eastern tip of the south fork. My husband Larry convinced me to visit Camp Hero based on a website that touted it as a family-friendly destination offering pristine woodland trails and stunning ocean views. We soon discovered that Camp Hero offers much more than natural beauty. At the entrance kiosk we found a map of park along with a pamphlet warning visitors not to pick up UXOs, which stands for Unexploded Ordnances. As in bombs.
UXO! WTF? According to the pamphlet, Camp Hero has a military history that spans from cannon practice site during the Revolution to military installation during the World War II and Cold War eras. As Larry and I hiked the deserted trails, it felt like we were walking through a military ghost town haunted by a ten-story radar tower, rusted to the color of old blood. Abandoned battery stations, sealed off bunkers and crumbling guard stations add to the eeriness. It was like a scene from one of those disturbing movies about the dystopian future. I nearly passed out when a group of teens appeared noiselessly from the woods, slinging backpacks and sticks with the skill of contestants from the Hunger Games.
Even more disturbing are the conspiracies out there concerning beautiful Camp Hero. A quick online search reveals pages of bone chilling stories that you do not want to read on a dark stormy night (weather experiments?) while your spouse is away on a business trip. Stories about the government conducting time travel experiments at Camp Hero that went really, really wrong–bodies fused into metal, insanity, death, disruption of the time continuum, soul swapping, you name it. Stories about kidnapped kids forced into mind control experiments that spawned reptoid creatures and homicidal monsters that roamed the woods at Camp Hero–and still do, some say. Stories about mutant sea gulls and deer with implanted spyware. This last one sent a zinger of fear through me–didn’t Larry and I see a deer there while we were hiking, and didn’t he comment on how tame it seemed?
Another chilling conspiracy was told to me by a good friend and colleague, a lifelong resident of Long Island whom I’ll call Mary. We were at an east end tasting room celebrating her recent business success, enjoying the sun and a delicious local vintage. Mary is a brilliant entrepreneur and devoted wife, but she’s one of those people for whom wine is truth serum. After three glasses of chardonnay, she had a sodium pentothal moment and revealed that she knew for a fact that the owners of the vineyard were elite members of a vastly powerful and secret organization with plans for a new world order. I won’t give specifics because she said I would die if I did. It may have been the wine talking, but I believe her, just as I believe that there are secret sex societies discreetly copulating across the east end.
Here is why I believe there’s more than a grain of truth to this particularly salacious conspiracy theory. One evening Larry and I were driving to a restaurant to have dinner with a client and his wife, alias Bob and Karen. My husband’s boss had emphasized the importance of this dinner, so I expected Larry to be a little nervous. But he seemed unusually subdued during the ride to the restaurant, and I finally asked him if anything was wrong.
“Well, I spoke to Bob earlier today, when I called him to confirm dinner,” he replied slowly. “We were making small talk, just getting acquainted, and the conversation turned to things like personal interests and family. And then Bob said ‘Me and my wife like to…’”
He paused and I waited for him to continue. “Like to what?” I prodded, a feeling of dread forming in the pit of my empty stomach.
Larry gave me a sidelong look and said, “Uh, I’m not sure if he said they like to swim–or swing.”
“Oh. I see. Well, to each his own, right?” I said, trying to be supportive.
“Right,” Larry said. “Except that right after he said that he and his wife like to swing–or swim–he invited us to come over after dinner and I said yes.
I was trying to wrap my head around this turn of events–I wasn’t prepared to either swing or swim! I didn’t even bring a bathing suit!–when we pulled up to the restaurant valet directly behind Bob and Karen. During introductions, I tried not to notice that they were an unusually attractive couple, tan and fit. Probably from all that swimming, I told myself as we were being seated. Drinks were ordered and we chatted about menu options and restaurant decor. Bob and Karen were nice people, good conversationalists with a good sense of humor, and dinner passed enjoyably. I was relaxed and finishing dessert when I heard Larry ask, “So, do you guys have a pool?”
“No, but we have a pool table,” Bob joked. We all laughed while I kicked Larry under the table. He was still limping when we got to Bob and Karen’s house, but after some wine he recovered and went off to shoot pool with Bob. Left with Karen and a bottle of pinot, I decided to solve the mystery of swing or swim.
What transpired next was a mind-boggling conversation that lasted hours. It started with the simple admission of “Bob and I like to experiment with other couples” and unfolded into the world of open marriage on Long Island, an underground community that uses passwords and secret locations to meet. I sat riveted while Karen talked about swapping events, couple raffles and a network of bartenders from Sag Harbor to the Hamptons who “will hook you up if you know the right thing to say.”
That night, after returning safely home with my husband to our un-open marriage, I searched the web using the keywords “secret sex community Long Island.” Pages of results popped up, along with images, one of which stopped me dead: dozens of people stood naked on a beach, arms outstretched to the water. Intrigued, I followed the link and discovered yet another mystery. Apparently, there is a spiritual and sexual vortex on the south fork of Long Island, on a beach called Turtle Cove in Montauk. Right next to Camp Hero. Just saying…