The Eerie True Story Behind Netflix’s New Series, ‘The Watcher’

Consider us shaken.
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If you’re a fan of every single hair standing up on the back of your neck, then you might want to get involved in Netflix’s new limited series, The Watcher. Based on a true and extremely eerie story (and directed by American Horror Story‘s Ryan Murphy), it has all the makings of a spine-tingling, chilling, binge-worthy spectacle. 

The cast is also a huge selling point—Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale lead as Nora and Dean Brannock, a couple who move into their dream home with their children, only to be plagued with ominous letters from a person who calls themselves ‘The Watcher’. Meanwhile Jennifer Coolidge stars as the overly enthusiastic real estate agent who sells 657 Boulevard to the unsuspecting couple.

Of course, Murphy took some liberties in dramatising the true-story, so the entire, terrifying tale onscreen didn’t happen verbatim in real life (thank heavens), but the crux of it did happen—and it all revolved around the real-life Broaddus family. 

Below, we look at the true story that inspired The Watcher.

(Credit: Netflix)

The Watcher true story

The Watcher is based on the chilling events that circled Derek and Maria Broaddus and their three children when they moved into 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey in 2014.

According to The Cut, a person who called themselves ‘The Watcher’ sent the family a string of letters, telling them they had been watching the property for years and thanking them for bringing “young blood” to the home. 

A freaky addition to the story? The Watcher sent the first letter to the family before the home had even been listed for sale—they really did keep a close eye on it. 

“657 Boulevard 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,” the first letter read. 

“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.”

The note continued: “Who am I? There are hundreds and hundreds of cars that drive by 657 Boulevard each day. Maybe I am in one. Look at all the windows you can see from 657 Boulevard. Maybe I am in one.”

The envelopes addressed to the family were written in a messy script, but the letters within were written with a typewriter. The Watcher also signed off their name in a different cursive font. Petrifying.

(Credit: Netflix)

Derek, who worked at an insurance company in Manhatten, was understandably spooked. He made it is mission to find out who The Watcher was—but to no avail. He told New York Magazine in a 2018 article that the family “think about it every day”. 

The family took the case to the local police, as well as a retired NYPD officer, a forensic linguist and an FBI agent who attempted to help them identify The Watcher. 

How many letters did the family receive? 

In total, the family received three letters, each containing specific details about Derek and Maria, as well as their three children. They also contained threats to the family, which added more pressure on the family and police to solve the investigation. 

Does the family still live at 657 Boulevard? 

Quite understandably, no. The family moved out of the house and rented it to another family, and in 2019 they sold it at a loss of $400,000. They were clearly ready to get rid of it ASAP.

Was The Watcher ever caught?

Nope. A terrifying reality, but The Watcher has never been identified despite a full police investigation and numerous interviews of neighbours and locals. 

That said, after the Broaddus family moved out it’s been claimed The Watcher didn’t post any more letters to the new residents. 

Consider us well and truly spooked. 

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