2022 has been pretty good for lovers of true crime and documentaries. We’ve had The Puppet Master: Hunting the Conman, We Need to Talk About Cosby, Pam & Tommy, Inventing Anna, Tinder Swindler, The Dropout, Perfect World: A Deadly Game, WeCrashed, The Girl From Plainville *deep breath* Jimmy Saville: A British Horror Story, Gaslit, Candy and of course, Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.
With this absolute glut of content for viewers to devour, it seems that everyone is trying to adapt anything they can into content for streaming platforms in this same vein. Enter stage right, Netflix’s latest series The Watcher.
When I first saw this show pop up in my Netflix feed, I was intrigued to see how they would handle this story. At the time of writing the case of The Watcher is currently unsolved so they certainly had some freedom in that department but there was always the possibility that they would overthink it and try and get too crazy with over-the-top twists and inconsistent tones. Unfortunately, I was proven right within the first episode and was unable to continue watching. I know some people will enjoy this, but I found the real-life story this series purports to be based on much more intriguing.
The madness begins in June 2014 at 657 Boulevard Westfield, New Jersey. Derek and Maria Broaddus, along with their three young children had just moved into their new 6-bedroom $1.3 million house which was described by them as their “Dream Home” with it being located just a few blocks away from Maria’s childhood home. Three days after closing the sale and before the Broaddus family arrived, a letter was entitled “the new owner”. The letter began:
“Dearest new neighbour at 657 Boulevard,
Allow me to welcome you to the neighbourhood.”
The contents of this letter, however, were less than welcoming.
“How did you end up here? Did 657 Boulevard call to you with its force within?
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.
My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time.
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.
Look out any of the many windows in 657 Boulevard at all the people who stroll by each day. Maybe I am one.”
Certainly creepy but the specific details the letter mentioned were even creepier.
“You have children. I have seen them. So far I think there are three that I have counted. 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 to me.”
After receiving this letter, the Broaddus family contacted the previous owners that had sold them the house, John and Andrea Woods, who said they had never received a letter like that in the 23 years they occupied the house… except once, a few days before they moved out. While they thought the note was odd, they had never felt unsafe while they had lived at the house, rarely feeling the need to lock their doors and as such, disposed of the note without a second thought.
Despite that, the Woods did accompany the Broaddus family to the police to report the letters. The police instructed the couples to not tell anyone about these letters as their neighbours were all deemed suspects.
Two weeks later, the Broaddus family had still not moved in, and a second letter arrived for them. This letter contained more details about the new owners – family name, children’s birth order and children’s nicknames. The letter also referenced seeing their daughter painting on an easel in an enclosed porch space, asking “Is she the artist in the family?”. Other parts of this second letter read:
“It has been years and years since the young blood ruled the hallways of the house. Have you found all the secrets it holds yet? Will the young blood play in the basement? Or are they too afraid to go down there alone? I would [be] very afraid if I were them. It is far away from the rest of the house. If you were upstairs, you would never hear them scream.
Will they sleep in the attic? Or will you all sleep on the second floor? Who has the bedrooms facing the street? I’ll know as soon as you move in. It will help me to know who is in which bedroom. Then I can plan better.”
Understandably after receiving this letter, Maria and Derek stopped bringing their children to the house and put a hold on their plans to move in. several weeks later, a third letter arrived asking:
“Where have you gone to?... 657 Boulevard is missing you.”
Unfortunately, by the end of the year, the police investigation into the Watcher’s identity had stalled. There was no digital trail, no fingerprints, and no way to place someone at the scene of a crime. The stress and paranoia inflicted on the family due to these letters led them to sell the house just six months after the first letter arrived.
However, due to the rumours about the property, buyers were hesitant. The Broaddus family sued the Woods’ for failing to disclose the threatening letter they’d received. A local reporter found the complaint which included extracts from the original letter. The resulting media circus making them unable to find a buyer, the Broaddus family considered selling it off to a property developer who could demolish the house and subdivide the land.
However, the neighbourhood planning board rejected the property developer’s submission due to the subdivided land being too small for the mandated size of that neighbourhood. Maria Broaddus is quoted as saying the following in their appeal:
“This is my town, I grew up here. I came back, I chose to raise my kids here. You know what we’ve been through. You had the ability, two and a half years into a nightmare, to make it a little better. And you have decided that this house is more important than we are.”
Two years later in the Spring of 2016, the Broaddus’ found someone to rent the house out to. They had two large dogs, full grown children and had a clause in the lease that let them vacate if there was another letter. Sure enough, within two weeks another letter arrived.
“To the vile and spiteful Derek and his wench of a wife Maria.
657 Boulevard survived your attempted assault and stood strong with its army of supporters barricading its gates. My soldiers of the Boulevard followed my orders to a T. They carried out their mission and saved the soul of 657 Boulevard with my orders. All hail The Watcher!!!
Maybe a car accident. Maybe a fire. Maybe something as simple as a mild illness that never seems to go away but makes you fall sick day after day after day after day after day after day. Maybe the mysterious death of a pet. Loved ones suddenly die. Planes and cars and bicycles crash. Bones break.
You are despised by the house… And The Watcher won.”
As The Watcher has never been caught at the time of writing I have to say it seems like he did indeed win. He inflicted horrible psychological damage on this family for years and has not faced justice for his actions. However, there are always varying theories and for me personally, I like the theories put forward by Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej (video below). The real-life story of The Watcher that I’ve described above is already so intriguing and unnerving that Netflix’s adaptation can’t help but fall flat in comparison.
(c) Buzzfeed. Video supplied courtesy of Youtube.
What did you think of the Netflix series The Watcher? And which theory do you most agree with? Let me know in the comments below.
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