The terrifying true story behind new Netflix show ‘The Watcher’

An anonymous person terrorised a family in a still unsolved letter-writing campaign, dramatised in a new series starring Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale

The anonymous letter writer appeared to feel a connection to the house, writing: 'I am the Watcher and have been in control of 657 Boulevard for the better part of two decades now'. Photo: Netflix
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In mid-June 2014, the Broaddus family were getting ready to move into their dream home, a six-bedroom property at 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey, an affluent town about 250 kilometres from Newark.

Mum Maria, and dad Derek were kept busy with the renovations, overseeing a steady stream of contractors before the family settled into the $1.3 million home.

Later that afternoon, Derek went down to the mailbox to find an envelope with the words “the new owner” on the front. Inside was a handwritten note that would kick-off an anonymous campaign of terror, in which an entire community became suspect in a mystery that endures today.

‘Do you know what lies within the walls of 657 Boulevard?’

The first note began: “Dearest new neighbour at 657 Boulevard, allow me to welcome you to the neighbourhood”, then quickly turns dark, asking: “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,” the letter says. “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.”

More letters followed, which showed the writer was aware not only of the family’s cars, daily movements and children’s names, but also of where things had been placed inside the house, such as a child’s easel, asking: “Is she the artist in the family?”

You have children. I have seen them. So far I think there are three that I have counted,” it says, adding:

“Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested? Better for me … Once I know their names, I will call to them and draw them to me.”

The Broaddus family, with Maria and Derek portrayed by Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale, were terrorised by an anonymous letter writer calling themselves The Watcher. Photo: Netflix

Maria and Derek contacted the previous occupants, the Woods family who had lived there for 23 years. They had never received any letters, apart from one a couple of days before they moved out. Thinking it was a joke, they threw it out.

The Broaddus family took the letters to the police and decided not to move into the house, keeping their children away until the case could be solved. However, they continued to stop by 657 Boulevard to check up on the renovations, finding another letter.

“657 Boulevard is anxious for you to move in,” it said. “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.”

Adding: “Who am I? I am the Watcher and have been in control of 657 Boulevard for the better part of two decades now … I pass by many times a day. 657 Boulevard is my job, my life, my obsession. And now you are too Braddus [sic] family. Welcome to the product of your greed! Greed is what brought the past three families to 657 Boulevard and now it has brought you to me.”

A community of suspects

The show, which also features Mia Farrow and Terry Kinney, reveals how an entire community became suspects in the campaign against the Broaddus family. Photo: Netflix

Suspicions turned to neighbours and the community at large, with one family, the Langfords coming under particular scrutiny.

Local postal workers were investigated, as was anyone who might hold a grudge against the family. But with no evidence as to who could be behind the letters — and no fingerprints on the paper — police were at a loss.

The family set up cameras and hired a private investigator, as well as two former FBI agents, one of whom believed the letters had been written by someone older and who was angry at new people coming into the area.

“The house is crying from all of the pain it is going through,” The Watcher wrote. “You have changed it and made it so fancy. You are stealing it’s [sic] history.”

When another letter arrived, which read: “657 Boulevard is turning on me. It is coming after me. I don’t understand why. What spell did you cast on it?", Derek and Maria decided to put the house back up for sale without having ever moved in, losing $400,000 when it was sold in March 2019.

Accusations that it was a hoax have been debunked as the Broadduses lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and apart from later forensic testing which decreed the saliva on one of the envelopes came from a woman, there have been no named suspects and no charges.

While online sleuths continue to be fascinated by the case, lack of evidence and motivation has revealed no fresh leads and The Watcher, whoever they are, is still out there. Watching.

The Watcher is available to stream now on Netflix

Updated: October 14, 2022, 11:24 AM