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The True Story Behind Netflix's 'The Watcher' Is Really That Bizarre

The Broaddus family received a series of mysterious and menacing letters after moving into their dream home in Westfield, New Jersey, inspiring Ryan Murphy's Netflix series "The Watcher."

By Cydney Contreras
Bobby Cannavale in The Watcher

When Derek and Maria Broaddus paid $1.3 million for their Westfield, New Jersey home in 2014, they imagined themselves raising their kids and growing old in the house. 

But those plans began to go awry when they received a mysterious letter signed by a figure who called themselves “The Watcher.” This anonymous person — whose antics are the basis for Ryan Murphy’s new Netflix show of the same title — made menacing comments about the Broaddus’ new home, which they claimed to have monitored for years. 

“657 Boulevard is anxious for you to move in. It has been years and years since the young blood ruled the hallways of the house. Have you found all of 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,” The Watcher wrote, according to letters reviewed by New York Magazine’s The Cut

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The Broadduses reported the creepy letter and the ones that followed to the police, who began investigating the terrifying missives. But that did little to comfort the Broadduses as they prepared to move into the home, along with their three children.

“We kept screaming at them to stay close,” Maria told The Cut. “People must have thought we were crazy.” 

As letters continued flowing in, the Broadduses decided to hire multiple former FBI agents to investigate, who could be the author of the mailings.

Michael Langford, an older man who lived with his mother next door, was interviewed multiple times by the police, according to The Cut. But DNA found on one of the letters did not match Langford and there was no other evidence suggesting he was indeed The Watcher. Langford was never charged with any crime, and authorities do not consider him a suspect.  

Bobby Cannavale in The Watcher

By the end of 2014, the private investigators and even the police had found nothing to indicate who was sending the threatening letters. Union County Assistant Prosecutor Scott Kraus told The Cut, “It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.” 

The lack of evidence fueled the Westfield rumor mill, with some suggesting that the Broadduses had sent the letters themselves because they had buyer’s remorse. The Broadduses have consistently denied the accusations, and there is no credible evidence to support the claim.

The Broadduses continued to delay their move into the six-bed, four-bath home — even though they’d spent thousands of dollars renovating it and installing a security system. These changes alone upset The Watcher, who wistfully wrote about the home’s glory days, before the Broadduses updated it with modern touches.

“The house is crying from all of the pain it is going through. You have changed it and made it so fancy. You are stealing it’s [sic] history. It cries for the past and what used to be in the time when I roamed it’s [sic] halls,” they wrote. 

The mention of these renovations raised suspicions that someone from the community disliked the fact that the Broadduses were outsiders—after all, The Watcher wrote in one letter, “Are you one of those Hoboken transplants who are ruining Westfield?” 

But The Watcher wasn’t just annoyed by the renovations — the family’s reluctance to move in seemed to anger them too.

“I will be patient and wait for this to pass and for you to bring the young blood back to me. 657 Boulevard needs young blood. It needs you. Come back. Let the young blood play again like I once did. Let the young blood sleep in 657 Boulevard. Stop changing it and let it alone.” 

The Watcher’s request did nothing to encourage the Broadduses, who ultimately put the house up for sale at a loss after the local planning board denied their request to demolish the home and build a new residence. They went on to buy a second home in the area, where they decided to live until the so-called Watcher could finally be apprehended.  

Then, in 2017, a family decided to rent 657 Boulevard from the Broadduses, with the understanding that they could move out if The Watcher continued to terrorize the home. Two weeks into their stay, the renters received their first letter from The Watcher, according to The Cut.

“You wonder who The Watcher is? Turn around idiots,” the letter read. “Maybe you do know and are too scared to tell anyone. Good move,” the letter added.

The Broadduses never moved into 657 Boulevard, fearing that The Watcher would hurt them. They sold the house in March 2019 for $959,000, reported The Patch

The new owner has never received a letter from The Watcher, according to a 2022 update from The Cut.

To this day, authorities are still baffled by the case and have identified no suspects or persons of interest. 

Oxygen.com reached out to the Westfield Police Department for comment on the case, but at the time of publication has not heard back.

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