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Does the name Freddy Krueger sound familiar? If you’re a horror fan, chances are you’ve seen images of the man in the knitted sweater and knived gloves. A Nightmare on Elm Street is a franchise that now includes nine films, books, and more. It is now considered to be one of the American classic horror movies, gathering a large fan base and following. The first film was released in the United States on November 9, 1984, and the most recent being released on April 30, 2010.

A Nightmare on Elm Street follows the story of teenagers in Springwood, Ohio, being terrorized by Freddy Krueger, a victim of murder at the hands of the parent’s of his own victims. His deformed face is a result of being burned alive in the boiler room in the local school, a death that gives anyone chills up their spine. He haunts and hunts the teenagers in their dreams; if they die in their dreams, they die in real life. They are terrorized with the only hope of escape being waking up in the real world.

What some may not know is that this famous franchise is loosely based on true events. Articles in the Los Angeles Times about some men who were afraid to sleep drove the main plot like for A Nightmare on Elm Street, the story ending with the men dying in their sleep. The men were immigrants from South East Asia and came to the United States to escape genocide. The phenomenon was ultimately pinned “Asian Death Syndrome” to describe the unexplained passings of men. They would attempt to stay awake for days at a time, ultimately succumbing to the fatigue. They were found screaming in the middle of the night, dying before help could arrive.

While those stories were the inspiration for the dream component of A Nightmare on Elm Street, the vision for Freddy Krueger came from the first director’s, Wes Craven, own childhood. Craven encountered an old man on the street and was startled; his appearance prompted the aesthetic of Freddy. The name, on the otherhand, is said to have come from one of Craven’s childhood bullies also named Fred Krueger.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is yet another classic American horor film that has roots in true stories, adding an eerie layer of reality to a story many think of as pure fiction.

​​Photo by Khoa Võ:

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