The Watcher, a horror story set in a suburban neighborhood on Netflix, has captivated audiences.
Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale play a married couple who are terrorized by a mysterious stalker named The Watcher.
With their three young children in tow, Derek and Maria Broaddus bought their dream home at 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey, in 2014. This is the real-life origin story of the Netflix thriller The Watcher.
Things swiftly deteriorated, however, when The Watcher began sending threatening letters to the family.
Although Ryan Murphy’s The Watcher is inspired by the true story, which was first depicted in a 2018 New York Magazine article, he has taken considerable artistic license with many details in an effort to shield the real-life family from unwanted attention.
Find out what elements of The Watcher are based on the genuine tale before the second season premieres.
The Watcher True Story
The events described in a 2018 piece by Reeves Wiedeman for New York Magazine/The Cut serve as the basis for The Watcher. Based on a true event, it follows Derek and Maria Broaddus, a married couple, as they settle into their new home at 657 Boulevard in the picturesque New Jersey neighborhood of Westfield.
They had high hopes for the $1.3 million property, which they planned to renovate into their ideal home, but before they could move in, they got an unsettling letter addressed to “The New Owner.”
The author of the message signed themselves “The Watcher,” claiming to keep vigil over the home until its “second coming.” The Broadduses gave The Cut access to the letters, the first of which read: “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.”
In the 1920s, my grandfather kept watch, and in the 1960s, my father did. It’s my turn now. Can you tell me about the home’s past? Is there anything you can tell me about the contents of 657 Boulevard? Why are you even here? I intend to learn.”
The Watcher also mentioned the couple’s kids, urging them to bring “young blood” into the home.
“You’re a parent. As for me, I have actually witnessed them. There are at least three that I can recall at the moment,” they wrote.
After consulting with police, the Broadduses were told that it was likely that one of them had mailed the letters and that they should not discuss the contents with their neighbors.
“[It was] a very different experience for us because we were only the actors and Ryan had created very different details,” she explained. “I don’t know if my character existed in the lives of those people.
“That storyline covered the basic outline… but the details are Ryan Murphy. So, I don’t know who the family was. I don’t know if I ever knew. But I’m sorry for them and everything. Hopefully they don’t see the series.”
Has Anyone Ever Apprehended the Watcher?
The authorities have always had a hunch that someone from the Westfield area was responsible for the letters. Next-door neighbor Michael Langford, whose family had resided in the area since the 1960s and who was described by another neighbor as “kind of a Boo Radley character,” was initially believed. Lacking substantial proof, Langford was never taken into custody.
When it was discovered that the DNA on the envelope belonged to a female, officials began looking into Michael’s sister, real estate agent Abby Langford, and the former owner of the home, Andrea Woods. They were both wrong. Maria’s DNA was checked as well, but the results showed she was innocent.
Authorities also ruled out a man who was said to be into “really dark video games” and frequently portrayed a character entitled “The Watcher,” but who never showed up to any of the several meetings with them that had been scheduled.
Some locals told New York Magazine that they suspected the Broadduses were behind the spooky notes, saying that the couple might have realized they couldn’t afford the house and penned the letters themselves to back out of the transaction.
Some even speculated that the couple was a con attempting to make a quick buck in the film industry. (The Broadduses allegedly declined multiple offers and served Lifetime with a cease-and-desist letter after the network-based a 2016 film, The Watcher, on their story.)
Almost three years after The Watcher’s initial interaction with Derek, Derek admitted sending anonymous letters to his neighbors who had criticized him on Facebook.
When he received notes from “Friends of the Broaddus Family,” he thought they would be supportive of his efforts to clear his family’s name, but instead, they made him feel even more hopeless. “It’s like cancer,” he told New York Magazine in 2018. Every day, we consider this possibility. Westfield police have been looking for The Watcher for quite some time, but thus far without success.
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