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Is Freddy Krueger Real? The True Story That Inspired "A Nightmare on Elm Street"

Updated on November 1, 2014

The Southeast Asian Nightmare Deaths That Inspired Freddy Krueger

The new Freddy Krueger (portrayed by Jackie Earle Haley) features realistic burns, compared to Robert Englund's famous portrayal of Freddy.
The new Freddy Krueger (portrayed by Jackie Earle Haley) features realistic burns, compared to Robert Englund's famous portrayal of Freddy.

With razor sharp claws and singed flesh, Freddy Krueger set out to terrorize a new generation of audiences in Samuel Bayer's remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street in 2010.

A serial killer who specifically targeted children, Freddy is eventually caught for his string of murders in the first A Nightmare on Elm Street. However, he is not convicted for them because of a legal technicality. When he gets out, a group of parents seek vengeance for the lives of their children and set fire to a building with him inside. He dies, but in a horrific twist, his spirit lives on and continues to kill children—only now he kills them in their nightmares.

And while audiences may be thrilled by violent images of the child predator invading the nightmares of Elm Street teens, a question might hold them back from fully enjoying the film: Is Freddy Krueger real? And if not, has there ever been someone who was killed by a nightmare?

Believe it or not, a real-life story out of Southeast Asia actually inspired Wes Craven's Freddy Krueger and the now-infamous series that tells his story.

Is Freddy Krueger Real? The True Story of People in Cambodia Suddenly Dying In Their Sleep

Robert Englund's portrayal of Freddy Krueger.
Robert Englund's portrayal of Freddy Krueger.

In the early 1980s, American newspapers ran a series of short stories chronicling a phenomenon in Southeast Asia that claimed the lives of a number of young adults.

These relatively healthy men, all without a history of mental disorders, began reporting horrific nightmares driving them to forgo sleep in order to avoid these terrors in the REM cycle.

The consumption of coffee and other stimulants helped the men remain awake, initially, but eventually each man went to sleep. Hours later, the men would be found screaming and violently thrashing in their beds before dying from unknown causes.

This phenomenon was covered in the New York Times in an article titled "Nightmares suspected in bed deaths of 18 Laotians":

"We didn't think anything mysterious was afoot until the third and fourth death happened very quickly," Dr. MGee [assistant medical examiner for Ramsey County, Minn.] said, "but then we began to wonder."

He said that his own search of the medical literature had disclosed the startling possibility that the four who died in St. Paul, all apparently healthy young men, might literally have been frightened to death.

When Craven heard about these cases of people dying in their sleep, he was especially intrigued by the fact that, even after autopsies, doctors could not find a reason for death.

The medical journal Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences published an article titled "Is sudden unexplained nocturnal death a breathing disorder?" In it, researchers discuss a condition that eventually became known as sudden unexplained nocturnal death syndrome (SUNDS) and explain that SUNDS is known by various names in Asia: "Lai Tai" in northeastern Thai dialects, "Bangungut" in Tagalog, and "Pokkuri" in Japanese. It usually occurs during the REM cycle of sleep in healthy young male adults. The abstract of the article explains:

The condition has been recognized by the people in the northeastern part of Thailand for many years. Elderly people in the region have described "Lai Tai" victims as making loud groans and showing signs of difficulty in breathing or labored respiration, who become rigid and die. Data, from relatives or those who had witnessed the episodes of deaths, revealed that the deaths usually occurred in the same manner as described by the elderly. The data also reported that the patients were unresponsive and difficult to arouse. From these reports it is likely that the instability of the physiological systems, especially respiration, in particular during the REM phase, may play some roles in precipitating the sudden death.

Some in Southeast Asia believed that demons invaded the dream realm of these men and eventually claimed them in their nightmares. These stories became the foundation for a story Wes Craven would use throughout his career a horror director and producer.

Other Inspirations for Freddy Krueger

Freddy Krueger was also inspired by two people from Craven's childhood: a school bully named Fred Krueger and a gruff homeless man from Craven's town.

The school bully worked the same job as Craven (a paper route), and harassed him for several years. In his very first movie, The Last House on the Left, Craven also used Fred Krueger as inspiration for the villain, naming him Krug Stillo.

As for the homeless man, Craven described their encounter in his DVD commentary for A Nightmare on Elm Street:

When I looked down there was a man very much like Freddy walking along the sidewalk. He must have sensed that someone was looking at him and stopped and looked right into my face. He scared the living daylights out of me, so I jumped back into the shadows. I waited and waited to hear him walk away. Finally I thought he must have gone, so I stepped back to the window. The guy was not only still looking at me but he thrust his head forward as if to say, 'Yes, I'm still looking at you.' The man walked towards the apartment building's entrance. I ran through the apartment to our front door as he was walking into our building on the lower floor. I heard him starting up the stairs. My brother, who is ten years older than me, got a baseball bat and went out to the corridor but he was gone.

Know of any other inspirations for Freddy Krueger? Are there any updates on the causes of unexplained nocturnal death syndrome? Leave a note in the comments.

Comments

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    • profile image

      Desiree Ramirez 2 months ago

      I know it is true but...A boy in my class says Freddy is not real and he does not evan have proff????

    • profile image

      sham sham 18 months ago

      Hi am shamoya i just been searching an wondering if this thing about freddy is real i wanna know if he is really real or not

    • profile image

      Trenityhiggs 19 months ago

      That ant ture he ant real

    • profile image

      DejaVu 21 months ago

      Hello I have been searching the web for any information on others who have had nightmares about freddy before watching the movie (or having any knowledge of it) this happened to both me and a friend of mine.

      I am not trying to convince anyone anything. No there isn't a way for me to prove this to the skeptics. In fact before I experienced these things I would not have believed them. The reason I'm writting this is to find out if anyone els experienced what we did.

    • profile image

      iluvthedick 22 months ago

      Turn up take it.. Flip me on the bed vampire bite me oo papi rail me

    • profile image

      Julie 23 months ago

      Night more. Robert England. His birthday

      6 June

      Julie 9 June.

    • profile image

      Flair Nevaeh 2 years ago

      #freak-a-leek

      freddy is like da bom of the slasher world peoples

      pps : all y'all who likes Freddy look up

      Freddy krueger x reader fanfictions

      later xoxo flair .n

    • profile image

      sweety* 2 years ago

      Dunno if he's real but will check it out* :)

    • profile image

      sweety* 2 years ago

      Dunno if he's real but will check it out* :)

    • profile image

      leAnn 2 years ago

      You movie is awesome I like all your movies you my favorite character...

    • profile image

      freddy krueger 2 years ago

      i will kill all of you foolish people don't go to sleep

    • profile image

      freddy kreuger 2 years ago

      don't sleep or i will kill you all

    • profile image

      mercedes 2 years ago

      I think Freddy Krueger is real do you think he is real or fake?

    • profile image

      alan 2 years ago

      Freddy is real

    • profile image

      mus*** is a piece 0f dohme! 2 years ago

      ding dang duy, sang day ding like a someboooooooooodey dang duy

    • profile image

      John 2 years ago

      The Dent Schoolhouse in Dent, Ohio & A Nightmare on Elm Street are similar.

    • profile image

      price 2 years ago

      They got rid of my post so what I said they don't want you all to know watch out he's still here FREDDY KRUEGER he never left. Think about it all movies have some truth to it, so does this there really is an elm street there were real deaths. Everything else would not be in the headlines why they don't want to alarm the public some people wouldn't be able to handle it. It happen to me and some of my friends but we can't remember were not supposed to but ive been remembering little by little each day im sure the others too.

    • profile image

      price 2 years ago

      He is real and for those of you who don't believe that's good he can't hurt you if you don't believe but for the few who do believe becarful that's how he gets in. I should when I was younger he came for me twice both times I had a witness the thing is just by me telling you this just like me I would never believe it. But its not going change the fact that it happened I saw him I felt him I fought for my life and im still here the question is am I the only one or are there more people out there like me and if so where is he now?

    • profile image

      s. krueger 2 years ago

      It would be cool if he was real and if i was related to him

    • profile image

      Malarie Ziemer 2 years ago

      Freddy os real but i herd he was in india on elm street and killing young men so make sure to be safe

    • profile image

      Fuck him 2 years ago

      He is so fake y are u people so believing in him how could some of u people even love him the one where it says 1,2 freddy is coming for u is just to scare u and to make it like a poem ok so stop been pussies and even such a pusssy cunts I used to think he's real just for an hour then looking at them comments I knew it is fake and to scare people I can't believe u people believe he's real WOW JUST WOW

    • profile image

      abygail 2 years ago

      I just sall freddy kruger on my steps call 911 i live on 2nd avenue

    • profile image

      michael 2 years ago

      I dreamt of Freddy before the movie came out. In my dream, thisdark guy with a hat and stripes was scuttling around my room flattening out and lashing at me from under the bed and slipping behind the book shelf. His claws on one hand were 3 feet long and hooked like wes craven's original design. Years later, I was walking through the neighborhood late at night, crossing a local street called elm st.when I realized I had started running before realizing I heard a noise a few houses away of the scraping noise on the drain pipe of someone's gutter! I ran through the yards and continued to hear it on the next street. Running through the next yard I got caught in the treeline, stuck in the brambles. I was never so afraid in my whole life. Whatever it was chasing me was the true embodiment of fear.

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      Candice 2 years ago

      When I was a child I used to believe in all of these monsters and Freddy was one of them. I used to have dreams of him and wake up with scratches all over my arms and legs. I still wake up with them but I don't remember what I dream about. Do I believe Freddy is real no. Do I think demons can get you in your sleep yes.

    • profile image

      Vivianne Garzon 3 years ago

      HE IS REAL!!!!! http://pizza.tumblr.com/post/81147333958 and he was caught on camera by the local news

    • profile image

      jenny 3 years ago

      he's real like Bloody Mary

    • profile image

      top dog 216 3 years ago

      he is fake they pant him

    • profile image

      topdag 216 3 years ago

      jason is cool

    • profile image

      topdag 216 3 years ago

      he is fake

    • profile image

      kaila ross 3 years ago

      Why is every so scared I. Watch. Scary. Movies. And im only 11 year old and im in 4th grade so stop cry

    • profile image

      chucky 3 years ago

      I am freddy frurgers wers nightmare he is not scare I geve him nightmare

    • profile image

      Nancy Erickson 3 years ago

      My older brother died in his sleep... He had nothing wrong with him... If Freddy is behind his death I will personally send him to HELL!!! So u had better watch out Krueger.... I'm your worst nightmare!

    • profile image

      Kaya Ashby 3 years ago

      I have had so many dreams about Freddy Kruger for months now...I just hope to god that I don't die from that son of a bitch...god please help me

    • profile image

      Klynnwilder 3 years ago

      I believe in him... I've never seen him but i think this shit is dope its crazy what goes on in Your dreams and if you think about it when u dream you aren't in this world your in a subcouncious state of mind where anything is possible even things that aren't even humanly possible..

    • profile image

      draco 4 years ago

      freddy is cool though even if he kills people lol

    • profile image

      draco 4 years ago

      i had a near fatal encounter with freddy once he sliced my neck and i almost died I woke up pouring blood luckily my wife was nurse and she patched me up freddy is real !!! be careful in your dreams

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      kyanna 4 years ago

      freddy is not real but some might think he is but he is just a scary fairy-tale he might even be real but we may never know the truth it will always be a secret idk y they wanted to keep this from us it's just plainly stupid they got little kidz scared to go 2 sleep at night like really that's y I got on to read this cause I wanter to find out the truth it may be another story some were the true story so im going on elm's street to find out who wants to come with me just bring fire freddy is scared of fire and bring wated if jason comes yes i know all about these people

    • profile image

      lele 4 years ago

      im wathing it now im 8 years old it not scary to me I don"t think he he is real is is just made up if you grown im you scared youa punk im 8 yall older then me yall needto be real in stop being a bitch

    • profile image

      josh 4 years ago

      Freddy is a fart

    • profile image

      Lance 4 years ago

      You are stuip

    • profile image

      lance 4 years ago

      I had a dream

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      you dont know then i dont care 4 years ago

      you guys are the stupidest people. i mean come on do you guys really actually believe that. well, anyway you don't know if its true because you don't have any prove, so ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ahhhhhhh i saw freddy krueger.PEACE OUTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!

      ha ha ha :) just kidding i still cant believe that you believe all that stupid junkAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

      I JUST CAN'T BELIEVE YOU!

    • profile image

      Hannah and Jennifer 4 years ago

      hi my name is hannah and my friend Jennifer. She was in my bed at 2:00 a.m. and she is scared that freddie krueger will come and get her i never knew that there was such thing as this creeter so if you have a facebook comment on my page/wall just look me up as Hannah Luna and that is it for now thanks lots ttyl xox

    • profile image

      danielle merrrrt 4 years ago

      okay i agreeeeeee with her mert

    • profile image

      mam 2 4 years ago

      yeah i agree with danielle haaaaaaa ha ha ha ha ah a fredddie, 1,2 freddies coming for you, 3,4 better lock your dooooooooooooooooor.

    • profile image

      mam 4 years ago

      ok he is real, from danielle yeyeyee awwwwwwww xoxoxoxo

    • profile image

      Angela 4 years ago

      what would you do without scary movies ?love Freddy!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      alan 5 years ago

      I believe you all. freddy killed me in my dream. When I wake up I see freddy in my closet its. kreepy. i think he is real. please don't sleep people. please don't come after me freddy. your only a dream. STAY AWAY FREDDY ILL KILL YOU

    • profile image

      jackson galaxy 5 years ago

      hey! its me jackson galaxy you know, the "cat daddy"! you might be wondering why im on this sight, i just wanted yo let you all know the new season of "my cat from hell" is going to be a great one! so watch animal planet on sat's and you'll be amazed by my work! see ya on tv

    • profile image

      sydney 5 years ago

      i c him every were even in my best friend erin i mean i used 2 love him but i think he is real he has hanted me 4 6 years and steel is im 16 and even be4 i seen the movie i seen him in my dreams i don't sleep i try but i just c his face his scary smile i take medication 2 stay up i drink coffee my boy friend died in him sleep 2 years ago can someone help

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      Felicia 5 years ago

      To be technical about somethng... Everyone thinks its a mask he wears in the movie. Actually, people spend about 6 to 9 hours creating his face. These people

      are brillant thanks to the director/writer Wes!!

    • profile image

      Andrew 232 5 years ago

      He has dry skin

    • profile image

      Andrew 5 years ago

      He ate BRAINS !

    • profile image

      Andrew 5 years ago

      Freddy is a zombie now

    • profile image

      Andrew 5 years ago

      Freddy is a zombie now

    • profile image

      Andrew 5 years ago

      Freddy woke up from the undead

    • profile image

      Andrew 5 years ago

      The movie is so awesome

    • profile image

      Andrew 5 years ago

      The movie is so awesome

    • profile image

      Andrew 5 years ago

      You rock freddy

    • profile image

      Andrew 5 years ago

      Hi Freddy I hope you have a wonderful day

    • profile image

      Trevor 5 years ago

      Hi freddy is so epic in mortal kombat 9 he is my favorite guy

    • profile image

      Andrew 5 years ago

      I love freddy fighting in moral kombat 9

    • profile image

      Andrew 5 years ago

      I love freddy fighting in moral kombat 9

    • profile image

      Eric 5 years ago

      How are his fingers claws

    • profile image

      Andrew 14473 5 years ago

      He died all ready

    • profile image

      Andrew 14473 5 years ago

      He died all ready

    • profile image

      Freddy Kruger 5 years ago

      Watch out for me

    • profile image

      Andrew 5 years ago

      Freddy is so so so so so so so so so so so so awesome

    • profile image

      Andrew 5 years ago

      Freddy is so so so so so so so so so so so so awesome

    • profile image

      freddy 5 years ago

      I think Freddy Krueger is hot

    • profile image

      freddy kruger 5 years ago

      Im coming after you evan for saying im not real.

    • profile image

      Nicole 5 years ago

      I am 10 and I think FREDDY rocks he doesent give me nightmares he gives me good dreams.

    • profile image

      Elise Renee Gingerich 5 years ago

      I'm Just Wondering If There's Any Stories Online, About Real Life Child Molestors That Are Much Like The Supposed (Fictional) Freddy Krueger?? Instead Of You All Arguing About What Is Real, Or What Isn't Real, (Is Real, Isn't Real, Whatever!) What About Real Life Stories, About Real Life Child Molestors, Just Like The (Fictional) Freddy Krueger?? And Yes, Freddy Scared Me Too! (When I Was A Teenager, Freddy Scared Me Too!) From Elise Age 39 In Lawrence Kansas Usa :)

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      evan 5 years ago

      he is not really i had him in my dream onec and he stabed me in the heart i woke up and there was nothing there so stop talking about him

    • profile image

      ian 5 years ago

      he is real

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      kira jones 5 years ago

      he comes in my dreams too ive got scares and cuts please help me im soo scared hes coming for me tonight I can't sleep....AGH!!!

    • profile image

      Braden Brecker 5 years ago

      He is real and ive seen him in my dreams before. Just before he got me I woke up. These facts are real there are demons that can take any form. They mess with you in your dream. Until you let your guard down your there dinner

    • profile image

      Slenderman 5 years ago

      And Freddy Krueger's name came from a bully.

    • profile image

      LALA 5 years ago

      I THOUGHT HE WAS REAL

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      ELIZABETH 5 years ago

      I like Freddy Krueger he is cool !!!!!!!!!!

      HE IS H.O.T!!!!

    • profile image

      bob 5 years ago

      i hate Freddy Krueger really bad!!!!!

    • profile image

      ELIZABETH 5 years ago

      THIS IS REALLY SCARY I FEEL LIKE IT'S GONA HAPPEN TO ME THIS NIGHT.;_

    • profile image

      bugs 5 years ago

      don't fall asleep i just dream about freddy

      watch out!!!!

    • profile image

      bella 5 years ago

      i think freddy is real because i see all the movies and he rock!!!!!

    • profile image

      tweetygirl 5 years ago

      Yeah when I was younger I seen every one of these movies, I had the nightmares, but it didn't stop me from sleeping and I continued to watch them. Now that I an adult I own every one of the movies and I laugh at them more than anything. Freddy is awesome, Robert Englund is a great actor. And I still have dreams with Freddy, but when I wake up I laugh about it, it doesn't bother me.

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      duhhhh ≥,≤ 5 years ago

      it don't mtter if freddys rl or nt cuzz the story bout southeast asia is stll so damn ineresting nd if freddy is rl tht be sick bro lk who g doesn't wnt 2 gt klld by hm?woooooooooooooooooooo!!?,?

    • profile image

      valdemar d. hansen 5 years ago

      i most say i have a dream with freddy krueger be reborn in to our world creepy:(

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      lmfao is the best thing i ever saw seen heard i love you redfoo! 5 years ago

      lmfao is waaaaaaay betta then fk. exc. you giyz are obsessed about fk. LMFAO ROCKS PPL!

    • profile image

      freddy krueger 5 years ago

      sry its look at the song ANONYMOUS POSTED. take my word. sry agn

    • profile image

      to elizabeth and jorden from freddy krueger 5 years ago

      look at the song annonymous poated. listen to it take my word

    • profile image

      BlahBlah 5 years ago

      i got scratch by freddy krueger

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      elizabeth & jordan 5 years ago

      We don't thunk he is real. it seems like its all fake. it is interestig and we do want to read more but in the movie it seems like he us fake and never rreal. we don't believe he is but we do want to know if he is and what happened to make so many people believe he is real. leave a comment to tell us ifbhe is real to you or not.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      one two freddys comin for u. three four lock your door. five six get your alarm fixed. seven eight stay up late. nine ten DON'T GO OUTSIDE AGAIN!

      BEWARE OF FREDDY KRUEGER

    • profile image

      ilikepoop 5 years ago

      pooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooop

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      freddy krueger 5 years ago

      freddy krueger above me you are not reel. you think you can fool thees people. you are my next victum/

      mwahahahahahaha watchout im coming to get you all

    • profile image

      freddy krueger 5 years ago

      im real don't go to sleep

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      Chris 5 years ago

      I just had a dream with him last night. My uncle ran him over with a truck multiple times along with Jason voorhees

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      chrysten 5 years ago

      listen i hav had nightmares and me an my friends hav seen him and were only 11 an 12 years old its very creepy we hav the feeling sumone is alawys is always watching us every where we look hes there pleez freddy if ur out there don't hurt us my friends an i always get txt messages from him i hate wes craven now and i hate freddie there the scariest thing on the face of the earth is there any one out there who has these expeiriences if so HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! he is a demon from Down u no where an i don't get scared easily im the kind who beleive in ghost and things but this is officially the worst please HELP!!!!!!!

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      Fred 5 years ago

      Don't fall asleep

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      valeria resendez 5 years ago

      he is not real he is just acting and he has a mask on so he is toataly fake