Fans of true crime and serial killer shows mostly find them more thrilling because they know that the chilling incidents depicted actually happened to real people. The Watcher, which premiered on October 13 2022, is the latest addition to the Netflix stable of TV series based on a true story. The scariest part? Its real story, which is centred on an idyllic house at 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey, is a mystery that remains unsolved even today.
Created by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, The Watcher explores the psychological aspect of true crime that leads to mental agony for its victims, besides causing financial losses for them.
It is a seven-episode miniseries starring Naomi Watts as Nora Brannock, Bobby Cannavale as Dean Brannock, Mia Farrow as Pearl Winslow, Terry Kinney as Jasper Winslow and Noma Dumezweni as Theodora Birch. There are others in minor and recurring roles.
Murphy is joined in the directorial credits by Paris Barclay, Max Winkler and Jennifer Lynch.
Here are some details about the strange true story of 657 Boulevard, the house in The Watcher
The plot of The Watcher
The story of The Watcher revolves around a house called 657 Boulevard. But before jumping to conclusions, let it be clear that there is nothing supernatural about it. There are no ghosts or apparitions haunting families in beautiful manors or expansive farmhouses such as those in The Amityville Horror (2005), The Conjuring (2013) and The Shining (1980) — the last of which is a legacy sequel.
The Watcher is also not about grisly crimes of serial killers or psychopaths, as depicted in shows such as True Detective (2014– ), Mindhunter (2017-2019), and Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story (2022).
The plot revolves around the Brannock family who buy a house in Westfield, a posh American suburb in New Jersey, only to find themselves receiving sinister threats by an anonymous person sending letters signed as The Watcher. Neighbours are not of much help, and the family suspects that any one of them could be The Watcher.
A real-life couple who could not live in a million-dollar house
The Brannocks in The Watcher series are based on the real-life couple Derek and Maria Broaddus. Their harrowing tale was first reported by the New York Magazine in 2018, which also covered an update to it in 2022.
According to the real-life story, the Broadduses bought the beautiful house 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey, in June 2014 for USD 1.4 million. They planned to move into the six-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom estate with their children.
But three days after buying the American property, they received a letter that seemingly warned them of being watched.
The writer of the letter hinted that there could be something hidden behind the walls of the house, which was built in 1905. The writer claimed to be the son of someone who “watched” the house in the 1960s and the grandson of another who did the same in the 1920s.
“As it approaches its 110th birthday, I have been put in charge of watching and waiting for its second coming,” the letter read.
Following the letter, police searched the house but found nothing odd in the walls. The Broadduses discovered that a similar letter was sent to the previous owners of the property — John and Andrea Woods, who concealed the fact from the Broadduses. The Woods had been living on the property for 23 years before selling it off.
The Watcher sent three more letters over the next five years. Each was more threatening and more personal than the previous. The Watcher apparently was watching the family and the children closely whenever they arrived at the house.
Is it someone from the neighbourhood?
The police investigated the neighbourhood and collected DNA samples. Based on the DNA collected from the letters, authorities continue to believe that the writer is a female, older, and a resident of the area around 657 Boulevard.
After trying to sell off the property unsuccessfully, the Broadduses finally managed to get it off their backs in 2019 for USD 959,000 — a loss of close to USD 400,000. The loss would be more because the Broadduses also had the property renovated in the hopes of living in it one day, which they never could. Yet, the family informed the new owners of the letters they had received. Interestingly, the new owners have not received any such letter.
It is also interesting to note that when the Broadduses planned on selling the house to a developer, it was met with vehement rejection in a meeting of the Westfield Planning Board. Some locals were concerned over the possibility of the developer demolishing the building and erecting two homes, which would in turn negatively affect the rates of other properties in the neighbourhood.
Anyway, suspicion danced from one to the other in the area over who could be The Watcher. But so far, no one has been arrested. Eerily, this means that The Watcher could still be out there.
Are there any differences between the true story and The Watcher TV series?
Yes, there are some. For instance, the Broadduses never moved into the house while the series shows the Brannocks moving in.
The money spent by the Brannocks to buy the property is almost doubled to USD 3.2 million, which, according to Netflix, is to show something that causes “considerable financial strain” on the protagonists in the series.
Watch The Watcher here.
(Main and Featured images: Netflix)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia India