Urban Legend

Even 24 years after Freddy Krueger slashed his way into popular culture, few people know that our streets — the intersection of East 86th Street and Wade Park Avenue, to be specific — spawned the iconic villain of the film franchise A Nightmare on Elm Street.

As a horror fan, I was aware that Wes Craven, the writer and director who spawned the Nightmare series, spent his formative years here.

I even knew that actor Robert Englund, who portrayed the evil Freddy Krueger in the films, got his break as Judas in the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival’s 1971 production of Godspell.

But it wasn’t until I ran across an article Craven penned for CosmoGirl in 2004 that I learned the Freddy character was born of a chilling childhood memory.

Craven recounted watching a yellow-toothed, cackling drunk shuffle past his family’s home late one night. Dressed in a felt hat, striped sweater and work boots, the creep shot young Wes a maniacal leer that terrified him, and Craven exhumed the memory years later as the inspiration for his Elm Street slasher.

Even more intriguing to me was that the article detailed the approximate location of Craven’s childhood home. I found it exciting that, with a little work, I could visit the place where Freddy Krueger was born.

So I went to the Cleveland Public Library and waded through its microfilm archives. It wasn’t long before I found the address.

When I drove there, I was dismayed (but not totally shocked) by what I found. I arrived at 1458 East 86th Street on a typically bleak and overcast fall day to discover that Craven’s childhood home no longer existed — another victim of urban blight. The hallowed ground of Freddy Krueger’s beginnings has been reduced to an anonymous vacant lot.

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