Horrific real-life tragedy of young boy that inspired A Nightmare on Elm Street

Nothing raised the hair on people’s necks more than hearing the voice of Freddie Krueger following the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street – but the story behind the plot of the cult classic horror film is even more frightening.

When Wes Craven wrote the slasher back in the early 1980s, he drew inspiration from real-life events, ranging from his childhood bullies and newspaper articles to a man he’d seen on the street when he was younger.

The film sees Krueger, the spirit of a child murderer who died in a fire, haunting the dreams of teenagers.

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The antagonist's character is named after Craven’s childhood bully Fred Kruger, it has been previously reported.

The film director has also added that when he was a kid, he saw a creepy man walking outside his home on the pavement outside his window. The elderly man glanced over to Craven, startling him, before walking off.

However, one of the biggest inspirations for the central premise of the film came from an article Craven read in the LA Times about a family that fled Cambodia and managed to go to America – and it is truly horrifying.

The family were among the Hmong refugees who fled to America in the 1970s because of the war and genocide in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Many refugees suffered from nightmares that made them refuse to sleep and some of the men, aged between 19 and 57, are said to have died in their sleep soon after. Medical professionals went on to call the phenomena of sudden unexplained death Asian Death Syndrome.

Later dubbed Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome (SUNDS), more than 100 people had died by the time A Nightmare on Elm Street hit cinemas.

Among the victims was a young boy who had “disturbing nightmares” that made him reluctant to sleep for days at a time.

According to Craven, when he finally slept, his parents thought the crisis was over. However, they heard him scream in the middle of the night and before they could reach him, he had died.

Craven told Vulture Magazine: “I’d read an article in the L.A. Times about a family who had escaped the Killing Fields in Cambodia and managed to get to the U.S. Things were fine, and then suddenly the young son was having very disturbing nightmares.

“He told his parents he was afraid that if he slept, the thing chasing him would get him, so he tried to stay awake for days at a time. When he finally fell asleep, his parents thought this crisis was over.

“Then they heard screams in the middle of the night. By the time they got to him, he was dead. He died in the middle of a nightmare. Here was a youngster having a vision of a horror that everyone older was denying. That became the central line of Nightmare on Elm Street.”

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