Staff Writer: Kelsey Wink
A couple’s dream home turns into a total nightmare in Netflix’s The Watcher. The limited seven-episode series from creator Ryan Murphy is based on a true story that is almost too horrifying to believe.
In the series, Dean and Nora Brannock (played by Bobby Cannavale and Naomi Watts), are a couple who exhaust their savings to purchase their dream home in the suburbs and move to an idyllic New Jersey neighborhood where they assume their kids will be cocooned from the evils of the world.
However, these suburbs hide something sinister, and shortly after settling into their new home, the couple starts receiving mysterious letters from the Watcher, who promises to keep a constant eye on the home and its new residents.
As more and more unsettling incidents befall the family, the list of suspects grows. The Brannocks are determined to find who this cloak-and-dagger writer is.
Prior to the creation of the series, this unsettling case was featured in an episode on BuzzFeed Unsolved: True Crime. This web series follows the “ghoul boys”: conspiracy theory enthusiast Ryan Bergara, who deep-dives into mysteries surrounding notorious unsolved crimes in order to convince his dubious friend Shane Madej that, sometimes, the evidence isn’t always as it seems.
The episode aired back in 2019, called “The Eerie Case of the Watcher.”
It went viral among the BuzzFeed Unsolved fandom and later inspired the name, Watcher, for the ghoul boys’ own channel once they made their break from BuzzFeed.
The video is about twenty minutes long and it retells the facts of the disturbing case and mentions possible suspects who could have done it.
But it left us all with one question. Who was the Broaddus family’s mysterious stalker at 657 Boulevard?
The real-life-Brannocks are Maria and Derek Broaddus.
In June 2014, they were getting ready to move into 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey, with their three children. This was the Broadduses’ dream home due to its proximity to Maria’s childhood home, spacious layout, and location in the “30th Safest City in the U.S.”
Three days after completing the sale, a letter arrived in their mailbox, addressed to “The New Owner,” in “thick, clunky letters.”
The typed letter read,
“Dearest new neighbor of 657 Boulevard, allow me to welcome you to the neighborhood. 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. … 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 too [sic] me.”
The author then signed as “The Watcher,” in a cursive font.
After receiving the letter, the Broaddus family reached out to the previous owners of the house, a couple named John and Andrea Woods.
The Woods family told the Broaddus family that they had only received one letter from “The Watcher” in the twenty-three years they had lived at 657 Boulevard, but since it had happened mere days before the Woods Family moved out of the house, the letter was discarded without much concern.
The Broadduses decided to go to the police and disclose what was happening, but the police instructed them to keep quiet about The Watcher, as their neighbors were now all deemed suspects.
Two weeks later, while the Broadduses had still not moved in, a second letter arrived.
The letter read,
“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. 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.” After receiving this letter, Maria and Derek stopped bringing their children to the house, halting their plans to move in, causing a third letter to read “Where have you gone to? 657 Boulevard is missing you.”
After a year of investigating, there were still no leads.
This put stress on the Broaddus family. Six months after the arrival of the letters, the Broadduses decided to sell the house, but could not, due to the rumors surrounding 657 Boulevard.
It wasn’t until 2016 that the Broaddus family found a family willing to rent the house from them, and within two weeks of the new arrivals, a third letter appeared addressed to “The vile and spiteful Derek and his wench of a wife Maria.”
In the spring of 2016, about two years after the first letter had arrived, the Broadduses found a family willing to rent the home from them, on the condition that they could back out if another letter arrived. Within two weeks, the house received a letter addressed to “The vile and spiteful Derek and his wench of a wife Maria.”
The letter continued,
“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 fell sick 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.”
Although the letter spooked the tenants, they agreed to stay as long as more cameras were installed, and they were.
While investigating the crime, there were no fingerprints, no digital trail, and no way to place a suspect at the scene of the crime.
This was very difficult for the police, but they managed to put together three suspects: a man nicknamed “The Gamer” due to his penchant for playing violent video games as a character called “The Watcher,” Michael Langford for his tendency to literally “watch” his neighbors, and the Broaddus family themselves, due to suspicion of buyer’s remorse and possible movie deals.
To this day, no one knows who “The Watcher” of 657 Boulevard is. There are no lead suspects, so the investigation has remained inactive.
However, the case isn’t closed.
Authorities believe the suspect to be older, female, and someone who lives near 657 Boulevard, based on the DNA evidence found on the envelope.
So for now this case has remained unsolved.
Buzzfeed Unsolved Episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBoKesAQFHU
Netflix Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HDkw100sXQ