The Dark and Mysterious True Story of ‘The Watcher’

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The new Netflix series was produced by Ryan Murphy (of American Horror Story and Dahmer) is based on actual real-life events.

A new month means another highly anticipated Ryan Murphy Netflix film to see, and man, does this look like the best type of high-camp horror.

The plot begins with the Brannock family moving into a spotless home. The cast includes Naomi Watts, Bobby Cannavale, Mia Farrow, and woman of the moment Jennifer Coolidge. Everything is the picture of a white picket fence until letters from a person obsessed with the house, its sinister past, and consequently the Brannocks themselves in the present begin to arrive. Beginning with all kinds of terrors and terrorising.

YouTube: Netflix

But like all the most terrifying made-for-screen urban legends, this one was based on a true story.

The Broaddus family moved into a six-bedroom, $1.35 million home in Westfield, New Jersey, in 2014 and started adapting to suburban life. However, according to a 2018 article in The Cut, the source for The Watcher, Derek Broaddus afterwards received a letter. It said this:  “How did you end up here? Did 657 Boulevard call to you with its force within? The home has been the subject of my family for decades now and as it approaches its 110th birthday, I have been put in charge of watching and waiting for its second coming. My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time. Do you know the history of the house? Do you know what lies within the walls of 657 Boulevard? Why are you here? I will find out.”

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The correspondence initially asked more questions than a curious toddler, but it soon turned hostile, criticising the family for house construction work and mentioning private family information like the nicknames of the three Broaddus children. Another letter stated:  “Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested? Better for me. Was your old house too small for the growing family? Or was it greed to bring me your children? Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them too [sic] me.”

The Broaddus family called the police, who then started looking for the offender while concentrating on the neighbours who would have had a good view. One such neighbour was Michael Langford, who vehemently denied any involvement. His family has since refuted claims that he was involved in the harassment, even after his passing in 2020.

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Speaking with The Independent, a sibling said: “It f***ing never ends. I’m his brother; I own the gn house. We got accused of doing something that we didn’t do. Did we ever get a f***ing apology from the police?” No, he added, they didn’t.

The Broadduses enlisted the aid of a private investigator who conducted extensive research on the neighbours and proposed that it might be a former resident’s employee or a resident who wanted to make an offer on the house but had sufficient income. All the inquiries came to a standstill, according to The Cut:  “The letters could be read closely for possible clues, or dismissed as the nonsensical ramblings of a sociopath.” A priest was even called in to bless the house.

The family decided to sell their home after six months of being terrorised, but rumours had already started spreading and, naturally, residents were reluctant to move into what some people perceived to be a cursed house. As the Broadduses moved into a new apartment, they began to lose money. Even DNA testing on the letters was unable to pinpoint the sender, but the letters persisted and so did everyone’s suspicions.

YouTube: Inside Edition

The family had an idea: why not demolish the house and construct two new homes on the lot if no one would buy it due to its reputation? However, it was rejected at a meeting of the neighbourhood planning committee. Some residents had started to dislike the Broadduses for drawing unwelcome attention to the neighbourhood, while others claimed that it was possible that they were the ones who sent the letters since they regretted buying the home. The family was ultimately only able to rent out the house, which didn’t pay off the mortgage.

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Even though it seems unbelievable, no one has ever been able to place The Watcher. More false leads surfaced, and when the tale gained popularity, a Reddit group even got involved in the theories. Theoretical explanations included a betrayed mistress, an irate estate agent, guerrilla marketing for a horror film, or simply “mall goths” causing havoc for laughs. And now that the events have been adapted for Netflix, even more people will be researching the case and potential suspects. The terrible circumstance had deeply ingrained itself into Derek Broaddus’ bones, and the family had no choice but to accept it: “It’s like cancer. We consider it frequently.

Netflix broadcasts The Watcher from October 13th 2022