CRIPPLE CREEK • He had no claws. No demented face. No ill intent. He didn’t go around in a top hat and striped shirt, terrorizing children in their sleep.
No, this is not Freddy Krueger.
Here beneath the cold, hard earth of Mount Pisgah Cemetery lies Fred E. Krueger, not a menace, but a poor boy of 15. A good boy, his classmates told The Cripple Creek Times upon his mysterious death in 1897.
No, this Krueger had no bearing on the sinister spirit who manifested a century later in “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” For the inspiration, creator Wes Craven has credited a homeless intruder from his youth.
As for young Fred, “he’s probably better known today than he ever was in life,” says Jim Reynolds, who goes by Jim the digger during these cemetery tours, shovel in tow. “It just so happens that his name is spelled the same and phonetically sounds the same. But everything else is different.”
Everything else so far as we know, which is very little.
More is known of the dignitaries chronicled in cemetery pamphlets by the group Jim represents, the Gold Camp Victorian Society.
More is known of Mollie O’Bryan, the only woman to hold a seat on the Cripple Creek Stock Exchange. More is known of the several fraternal associations laid here, including the Woodmen of the World, whose tombstones are most impressive, in the ornate shape of trees.
But it’s easy to imagine the boy lost in the wave of tens of thousands of families who rushed to this once-great city of gold. Cripple Creek came to know plenty famous and infamous, the glamorous and the grim alike who left legends.
Krueger is not one of these. Indeed, if it weren’t for the movie, he would rest anonymous like many a soul here, forgotten in the shadow of the mines.
“It’s an interesting side note in an otherwise historically significant area,” says Pat Lewis, portraying a fair maiden for the Gold Camp Victorian Society.
She was the fairest, Pearl DeVere. Her later grave would be protected by iron fencing and adorned with flowers. On this day, coins and confetti have been left by passers-by.
Meanwhile, just feet away, excrement from above stains Krueger’s headstone. It’s eye-catching compared to others here. Though forgotten, he is at least marked, unlike the possibly 7,000 left in the potter’s field.
His name is bold on an elegantly engraved pillar, begging the question of his family’s status.
“Priorities. Maybe they spent all their money on that,” says Kathi Pilcher, dressed as the cemetery’s real Hollywood inspiration: Dr. Susan Anderson, loosely represented in the TV series “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.”
Pilcher suspects an Arnold Krueger as the father. A resident of 109 Silver St., records show. A miner, of course, who toiled like most men, bound for a similar fate: to bury his own.
Buried in the aspen trees is James Cozad, Pisgah’s first resident of 1892. He was 7.
One stone is for Baby Girl Barnett. Another is for Baby Young, another for Baby Sealy. “Baby,” reads another. Cradle-like markers spot the ground, one for a child of 10 days.
Other aspens shade the Trouts. Here’s Jettie, 1897-98. Here’s Robert, 1899-1902. Here’s Blanche Olive, 1901-02.
“The Trout family is kind of indicative of how life was up here,” Lewis says.
Fortune-seekers weren’t ready for the elements at 9,500 feet. Tents and shanties couldn’t protect them. Nor could their bodies withstand the onslaught of disease brought by immigrants everywhere.
At the height of the flu in 1918, torches in the night glowed up on Pisgah, named for the mountain from which Moses saw the promised land. Now diggers were trying to keep up with the cartloads of dead.
Accidents happened, too. Such as the cyanide Mr. Miyake drank in the mines, mistaking it for water. Such as the explosion that claimed the life of Alexander McLean of the Woodmen of the World. Such as DeVere’s morphine overdose, in the house that is said to still carry her ghost.
And here at the cemetery, the wind is said to carry the cries of lost youth. But that is not told by the Gold Camp Victorian Society.
The guides don’t linger long at Krueger.
“Most people don’t know he’s here,” says their leader, Howard Melching.
And no disrespect to the boy, but that’s just fine by the society. Frankly, he conjures up a spooky tale that doesn’t fit into the history-preserving mission.
People can look elsewhere in Cripple Creek for the paranormal, Melching says.
“We treat this more with reverence.”