Skip to main content

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

I am a writer that enjoys sharing the details behind your favorite movies.

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.

The Nightmare Deaths That Inspired Freddy Krueger

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.

The True Story of People in Cambodia Suddenly Dying In Their Sleep

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.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


bob on June 12, 2019:

Freddy is not real he is play by an actor call Robert.

Rosie on June 22, 2018:

Last night I had a dream about him scratching me with one claw and I woke up with a scratch

Grace Chloe on May 29, 2018:

I hate this horror movie it's just terrible

Joao Silva on January 14, 2018:

Freddy told me last night that you lot need to face the truth... he's not real!

winter on October 25, 2017:

I have a dream about freddy

woutrina fick on August 31, 2017:

i had a dream about freddy krueger he is real

Desiree Ramirez on June 05, 2017:

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

sham sham on February 12, 2016:

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

Trenityhiggs on January 22, 2016:

That ant ture he ant real

DejaVu on November 05, 2015:

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.

iluvthedick on October 25, 2015:

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

Julie on September 10, 2015:

Night more. Robert England. His birthday

6 June

Julie 9 June.

Flair Nevaeh on July 17, 2015:


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

leAnn on May 24, 2015:

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

freddy krueger on May 19, 2015:

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

freddy kreuger on May 19, 2015:

don't sleep or i will kill you all

mercedes on April 14, 2015:

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

alan on March 22, 2015:

Freddy is real

John on February 08, 2015:

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

price on January 24, 2015:

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.

price on January 23, 2015:

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?

s. krueger on January 17, 2015:

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

Malarie Ziemer on January 07, 2015:

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

Fuck him on December 28, 2014:

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

abygail on November 21, 2014:

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

michael on November 14, 2014:

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.

Candice on November 14, 2014:

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.

Vivianne Garzon on April 01, 2014:

HE IS REAL!!!!! and he was caught on camera by the local news

jenny on February 17, 2014:

he's real like Bloody Mary

top dog 216 on January 26, 2014:

he is fake they pant him

topdag 216 on January 13, 2014:

jason is cool

topdag 216 on January 12, 2014:

he is fake

kaila ross on December 21, 2013:

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

chucky on November 22, 2013:

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

Nancy Erickson on October 27, 2013:

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!

Kaya Ashby on October 24, 2013:

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

Klynnwilder on August 19, 2013:

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..

draco on July 09, 2013:

freddy is cool though even if he kills people lol

draco on July 09, 2013:

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

kyanna on March 05, 2013:

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

lele on January 20, 2013:

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

josh on January 20, 2013:

Freddy is a fart

Lance on January 16, 2013:

You are stuip

lance on January 16, 2013:

I had a dream

you dont know then i dont care on November 22, 2012:

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


Hannah and Jennifer on November 08, 2012:

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

danielle merrrrt on November 06, 2012:

okay i agreeeeeee with her mert

mam 2 on November 06, 2012:

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.

mam on November 06, 2012:

ok he is real, from danielle yeyeyee awwwwwwww xoxoxoxo

Angela on October 20, 2012:

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

alan on July 30, 2012:

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

jackson galaxy on July 07, 2012:

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

sydney on June 30, 2012:

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

Felicia on June 25, 2012:

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!!

Andrew 232 on June 08, 2012:

He has dry skin

Andrew on June 08, 2012:

He ate BRAINS !

Andrew on June 07, 2012:

Freddy is a zombie now

Andrew on June 07, 2012:

Freddy is a zombie now

Andrew on June 07, 2012:

Freddy woke up from the undead

Andrew on June 07, 2012:

The movie is so awesome

Andrew on June 07, 2012:

The movie is so awesome

Andrew on June 07, 2012:

You rock freddy

Andrew on June 06, 2012:

Hi Freddy I hope you have a wonderful day

Trevor on June 06, 2012:

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

Andrew on June 06, 2012:

I love freddy fighting in moral kombat 9

Andrew on June 06, 2012:

I love freddy fighting in moral kombat 9

Eric on June 06, 2012:

How are his fingers claws

Andrew 14473 on June 06, 2012:

He died all ready

Andrew 14473 on June 06, 2012:

He died all ready

Freddy Kruger on June 06, 2012:

Watch out for me

Andrew on June 06, 2012:

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

Andrew on June 06, 2012:

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

freddy on June 04, 2012:

I think Freddy Krueger is hot

freddy kruger on May 20, 2012:

Im coming after you evan for saying im not real.

Nicole on May 20, 2012:

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

Elise Renee Gingerich on April 29, 2012:

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 :)

evan on April 20, 2012:

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

ian on April 19, 2012:

he is real

kira jones on April 10, 2012:

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!!!

Braden Brecker on April 06, 2012:

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

Slenderman on April 03, 2012:

And Freddy Krueger's name came from a bully.

LALA on April 02, 2012:


ELIZABETH on March 25, 2012:

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

HE IS H.O.T!!!!

bob on March 25, 2012:

i hate Freddy Krueger really bad!!!!!

ELIZABETH on March 20, 2012:


bugs on March 12, 2012:

don't fall asleep i just dream about freddy

watch out!!!!

bella on March 11, 2012:

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

tweetygirl on February 25, 2012:

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.

duhhhh ≥,≤ on February 05, 2012:

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!!?,?

valdemar d. hansen on February 05, 2012:

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

lmfao is the best thing i ever saw seen heard i love you redfoo! on January 29, 2012:

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

freddy krueger on January 29, 2012:

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

to elizabeth and jorden from freddy krueger on January 29, 2012:

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

BlahBlah on January 26, 2012:

i got scratch by freddy krueger

elizabeth & jordan on January 22, 2012:

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.

anonymous on January 21, 2012:

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!


ilikepoop on January 20, 2012:


freddy krueger on January 19, 2012:

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

freddy krueger on January 19, 2012:

im real don't go to sleep

Chris on January 19, 2012:

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