Saturday, November 8, 2014

Nightmare on Elm Street

When Flagstaff was still a young town, the early pioneers who succumbed to disease or old age were buried in a place known simply as “City Cemetery”. One of the handful of early settlers who was buried there was a decorated Civil War veteran named Frederic James Krueger.

As the city continued to spread to the west, the leaders of the community came to the realization that the cemetery on the west side needed to be moved to another location in order to facilitate the growth of the town. As a result, the Catholic Calvary Cemetery was established in 1892, and Citizens cemetery was established a few years later.

The vast majority of the burial sites at City Cemetery were transferred to either Calvary or Citizens, but (inexplicably) the grave of Frederic James Krueger never made the journey, As a result, it’s entirely possible that his unmarked grave still lies undisturbed in the part of the town that has since become known as Thorpe Park, which is located less than a mile from the current location of Flagstaff High School.

Calvary Cemetery was built close to an area that was known as “Shantytown”, which was populated by a largely Hispanic (and pious) population. “Shantytown” incorporated a statue of the Sacred Heart at its core in order to ward off the spirit of the “weeping woman”, who is known as “La Llorano” in Hispanic communities. After the establishment of Calvary Cemetery, the statue was moved to the entranceway of the cemetery, Although Calvary has had no record of ghostly apparitions, at least 2 residence halls at Northern Arizona University continue to have numerous reports of strange sights and sounds within their walls, which would lead credence to the fact that La Llorano may actually be more than an urban legend.

One of the bodies buried at Calvary Cemetery was a young boy who died of mysterious causes a few days after being born in the early days of 1962. Due to the brevity of his life, his gravestone is simply marked “baby boy Krueger”, and the name Krueger slipped into obscurity - until Halloween of 1982.

Prior to 1924, students who wanted to attend high school attended the former Emerson school for grades 1 through 9, and attended grades 10 through 12 at the college that was then known as NANS.

In the 1960’s, Emerson School achieved more than bit of notoriety when the school janitor hung himself in the 2nd floor janitor’s office shortly after killing his wife and child at their home a few blocks away. Although Emerson School was ultimately torn down and replaced by the Flagstaff Library , visitors to the library (even to the present day) frequently report seeing visions of a shadowy figure walking up the stairs to the 2nd floor of the one story structure.

Ultimately, the town came to the realization that it needed a more permanent location for their high school, and construction of Flagstaff High School started in 1923. The first graduation class was the class of 1924.

By the 1950’s, Flag High had outgrown its original building, so construction was started on a new building that was located at the same location, 400 W. Elm Street. The first class to graduate from that location was the class of 1955. One of the young men who played on the varsity football teams of 1980 and 1981 was named Tony Cullen. After graduating from Flag High, he ultimately earned both bachelors and advanced degrees in Education before returning to Flagstaff, where he became a prominent local figure. Today, he can frequently be seen in areas in, and around, Flagstaff High School.

One of the more unusual architectural features of the new high school is a subterranean corridor that was built beneath the library. Officially, it’s called the “700 wing”, and it’s composed of a mere 11 rooms. Two of those rooms are numbered 716, but only one of them is used as a classroom. The other room, known as “the dungeon”, has NEVER been used as a classroom, and it’s not hard to imagine why.

On Halloween Day of 1982, 3 local teenagers (Tina, Rod, and Glen) were slashed to death in their homes, and one adult (Marge) later disappears under very unusual circumstances. The killer was never apprehended, and the case remains open today. Fortunately, no further deadly incidents have occurred, so it appears that the danger has passed, at least for now.

One of the teenagers lived at 218 W. Elm Street, an eerie looking (and vacant) residence that is directly east of the high school. Few people pay much attention to the structure today, but I’ve always gotten an uncomfortable feeling in my bones whenever I’ve walked past it.

When director Wes Craven heard about the slayings in Flagstaff, he wrote a movie script that incorporated the events of that evening. In order to protect the identity of the town, he created the fictional town of Springwood, Ohio. In order to give a name to the evil spirit that briefly terrorized the town, he randomly chose the name “Freddy Krueger”, and the same character re-emerged in 2010, when a remake of the original film was released.

“Nightmare on Elm Street” was a huge commercial success, and is considered to be one of the best films of 1984. Released a week after Halloween in 1984, it earned enough in the first week after its release to cover nearly 100% of its production costs.

“Nightmare on Elm Street” today is largely an historical footnote, but its legacy lives on today at Flagstaff High School, in particular for those student and faculty members who remain in the building after the close of the school day. If those students or faculty members happen to be in the area of “the dungeon", and they hear strange sounds coming from that room,

a little Halloween music

they should be very, very afraid - and leave the building as soon as possible.

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