‘The Watcher’: What we know about the menacing true story that inspired Netflix – National

It’s such a scary house that it now has its own Netflix series.

If you’ve spent any time online lately, chances are you’ve seen the hype for the streaming giant’s new limited series. Viewers.

What you might not know, however, is that seven episodes of a macabre break-in based on a true story left a New Jersey family paralyzed with fear.

How it all started

In 2014, Westfield, NJ residents, Derek and Maria Broaddus, purchased a gorgeous 6-bedroom Dutch colonial home for $1.3 million. Their intention is to renovate it and then move in with their children.

This photo shows the home of Derek and Maria Broaddus frightened away because of creepy letters from a stalker, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in Westfield, NJ

AP Photo / Julio Cortez

However, as they completed the purchase of their dream home, amazingly anonymous letters began to appear in the mailbox.

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The first letter to the “New Owner”, in a very cordial opening speech, welcomed the Broaddus family to the neighborhood. But the correspondence quickly changed appallingly.

“My grandfather viewed the house in the 1920s and my father viewed it in the 1960s,” the letter read. “Now is my time. Do you know the history of the house? Do you know what lies within the walls of 657 Avenue? Why you’re here? I’ll find out.”

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That letter acknowledged the contract workers who had moved into the property, hired by Broadduses to renovate the house before the day they moved in.

“I see that you flooded 657 Avenue with contractors so you could demolish the house as it was supposed to. Tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk. You don’t want to make 657 Avenue unhappy,” read the typed letter.

The letter went on to mention the couple’s three young children, calling them “young blood”, and asking if there were more along the way.

“Is it necessary to fill the house with the child’s blood that I ask to enter the house? Better for me,” it reads, before registering with “The Watcher”, typed in a cursive font.

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Just the beginning

The first letter made the Broaddus family understandably shudder, and Derek contacted police the next morning. Unfortunately, there was nothing the police could do for him, just a DNA test of the letter. New York Magazine published a piece, on which it was inspired by the Netflix series, reporting that the police searched the walls of the house and found nothing.

Derek and Maria have also been in contact with the home’s former owners, John and Andrea Woods, who say they only received a letter from The Watcher, just days before they moved out.

On June 25, 2015, file photo, a newspaper lies in the driveway of Derek and Maria Broaddus’ home in Westfield, NJ

AP Photo / Julio Cortez

Woodses said they had lived in the house for 23 years and had never heard of The Watcher before, so they assumed it was a joke and immediately threw the letter away.

However, police told Broadduses that all of their new neighbors are now suspects and advised them not to tell anyone else about the letter.

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Two weeks passed before they received another letter.

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“The workers have been busy and I have watched you unload your personal belongings,” wrote The Watcher, according to The Cut, who has long reported on the sinister letters. “Dumpers are a nice touch. Have they found anything in the walls yet? In time they will. The letter also mentioned the couple by name and Derek and Maria began to feel they were being watched very closely and frequently.

The Watcher noted that the family had yet to move in and asked if parents would allow their children – “young blood” – to play in the basement of the house.

“Or are they too afraid to go down there alone? I would be scared if I were them. It is far from the rest of the house. If you stay upstairs you will never hear them scream,” they wrote.

The Watcher said in that note that they “pass through several times a day. 657 Boulevard is my job, my life, my obsession. And now you are too Broaddus family”.

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According to The Cut, Derek and Maria stopped bringing their children home after the second letter, which identified the children by their nicknames and birth order. The letter also mentions one child in particular, whom The Watcher says they have seen using an easel inside the enclosed porch of the house.

Their absence from home resulted in a third letter: “Where have you been?” The Watcher asked. “657 Avenue is missing you.”


As the family continues to receive letters, police are working to apprehend a suspect.

Due to the writer’s familiarity with the family and their clear view of the house, police interest turned to nearby residents – perhaps someone hostile to the idea of ​​newcomers the area or don’t like that there are renovations going on to the historic home.

Attention was turned to the next-door neighbors – a family of quirky ducks named the Langfords who had lived on the street for years and had several adult children in their 60s living with their 90-year-old mother.

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Michael Langford, one of the sons, was brought in for questioning by police but denied his family had anything to do with the letters. Again, without admission, the police told Derek and Maria that there was not much they could do.

Frustrated and growing fearful, the Broadduses begin their own investigation. They hire private detectives to locate the neighborhood and dig into the background of their neighbors.

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All investigations stalled, as The Cut noted: “The letters could be read carefully for possible clues, or dismissed as the senseless ramblings of a murderer. sociology.” A priest was even called in to bless the house.

Six months after owning the home, paralyzed with fear and wanting to escape their terrible situation, the Broadduses decided to sell. At the time, however, the rumor mill in a small town was still in operation, and very few people wanted to move into what is now known as the cursed house.

657 Avenue, taken on Google Maps in 2022.

Screengrab / Google Maps

The money was rich, the family moved to rent, but that didn’t stop the letters from pouring in.

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A crossroads for the worse

The Broadduses were desperate to get the property out of their hands and had an idea: what if they demolished the house and put two brand new homes in its place?

However, when the idea was presented to the neighborhood planning committee, it was voted down. Not only has that dream gone up in smoke, but some members of the community have begun turning on Broadduses for bringing drama and fear to the area. Others speculated that perhaps Derek and Maria were mailers to themselves, an act of desperation in the face of buyer remorse.

Click to play video: 'New Jersey family stalked by 'The Watcher' sues town for demolition after creepy letters'

New Jersey family stalked by ‘The Watcher’ sues town for demolition after creepy letters

The Cut reports that the Westfield Leader even published an article during that time where anonymous neighbors questioned Broadduses’ motivations – why they kept renovating the house they didn’t. move in? Why did Maria publish a Facebook page with pictures of her children? However, the newspaper noted that the police DNA test did not match Maria’s.

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Questions still unanswered

To this day, The Watcher has never been identified. Derek’s own investigation as well as that of the police has ended, despite asking neighbors to voluntarily submit DNA samples as evidence. Not wanting to paint themselves as a suspect, most of the neighbors sent samples, but none of them matched.

In 2019, the Broaddus family sold the home for $400,000 less than they originally paid, after deciding to reveal the macabre letters to potential buyers.

The Cut, in a new piece published this week, reports that Broadduses sent a letter to the home’s new owners, a young family, as the sale closed.

“We wish you nothing but the peace and quiet we’ve dreamed of in this home,” they wrote, attaching a picture of The Watcher’s handwriting in case the new family receives it. same threatening letter.

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The Cut also addresses other theories that have emerged since their first work on 657 Avenue was published; Several other suspects, including a local teacher, were eventually ruled out. The US Postal Inspectors looked into the case – maybe a disgruntled mail carrier? – but left empty-handed. Cameras were installed in Westfield’s library and post office, trying to identify the person who wrote the letter, but they revealed nothing.

Broadduses decided to speak in Westfield, but still faced judgment from some of the townspeople. Both Maria and Derek said they are still struggling with the emotions and stress of their difficult ordeal. With the exception of giving Netflix the rights to adapt their stories, they have largely turned down appearances on network television and turned down help from documentary crews. They told The Cut they had no plans to watch the Netflix series.

To this day, no one knows if The Watcher is still there, following the tabs on 657 Boulevard.


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