Most horror movie fans will agree: A Nightmare On Elm Street is one of the classics. Not only was the premise utterly terrifying for anyone trying to sleep afterwards, but in the year that it was released the thriller managed to get under your skin and seem just a little too real. As it turns out, maybe it was…
In the film, several people are hunted by a serial killer stalking them in their dreams, who uses supernatural powers to create nightmarish situations before slashing them with his glove made of knives.
One of the characters begins to realize that the only way for them to stay alive is to stay awake, with no one else understanding why. A scary concept, and one that must have come from the darkest region of Wes Craven’s (director) mind. Only it didn’t.
During the 70s, a rash of young men dying in their sleep prompted several news stories about the strange circumstances surrounding the deaths. The weird part was that in all of the cases, the victims refused to go to sleep for days on end, and when they finally did, that’s when they died.
Craven found this fascinating,”What if the dreams they were having actually killed these men? And what if they were all sharing a common frightening dream?”. He decided to create a villain that existed only in the minds of his victims, where anything could happen and making it almost impossible for anyone but each other to believe their stories.
But wait, what about the news story? What was causing all of these sleep deaths? And why were they all fighting the urge to go to sleep only to perish once they closed their eyes?
It turns out the answer was something almost as horrifying, and it was very, very real.
By the time A Nightmare On Elm Street was released in 1984, government officials had discovered a few commonalities in the cases of sleep death. The Federal Center for Disease Control launched an inquiry into the matter and found that it was a primarily southeast Asian population being affected by the phenomena.
Labelled “Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome”, dozens of recorded cases turned up until they finally peaked in 1981 when 26 men died in a single year from SUNDS.
Within the community, the myth of evil spirits taking the lives of young men began to be supported by reports from survivors of the symptoms. Was Freddy Krueger more than fiction?
In 1988 there was a breakthrough. Researchers had found that certain heart defects were common in those who had succumbed to SUNDS, and many other victims were likely exposed to chemical gases in Cambodia and other locations across Asia.
Doctors are now able to spot the warning signs of the disease, and can provide pacemakers which ‘shock’ the heart when someone has a strong reaction.
Nowadays, the deaths still occur. Even with the proof of medical science, many still believe that the evil spirits are out there choosing victims, and according to doctors that can be just as dangerous.
Have you ever had a nightmare you thought was real? Share your terrifying experiences with us below!