Everyone loves a good mystery. From unsolved crime documentaries to ghost story podcasts, audiences are constantly seeking new riddles to unravel. However, every so often, those harmless tales tread a bit too close for comfort. For a young family in Westfield, NJ, that fear quickly became a reality. While New Jersey has been the site of many films and series, the mystery of NJ’s Westfield “Watcher” shows an eerie part of the Garden State. Still unsolved, this mystery will soon become a Netflix mini-series produced by Ryan Murphy, the co-creator of “American Horror Story” and “Glee.”
The Mystery of NJ’s Westfield “Watcher”
Have you ever felt like someone is watching you? A cold chill rolls up your spine, urging you to glance behind your shoulder. It’s an unnerving, yet surprisingly common phenomenon. And unfortunately, it was a feeling the Broaddus family knew all too well.
In June of 2014, Derek and Maria Broaddus, along with their three children, purchased a beautiful house in Westfield, NJ. 657 Boulevard was a $1 million home in one of the safest neighborhoods in the state. In fact, the town was recently named one of the best places to live in America. After years of hard work and dedication, the family would finally be able to experience the wondrous community of Westfield for themselves.
Or so they thought.
Three days after closing the deal on their new home, a strange letter appeared in their mailbox. It was addressed to “The New Owner,” and welcomed the family to 657 Boulevard. Yet as Derek read further, the letter turned from kind to bizarre:
“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 (…) 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.”
It went on to identify the Broaddus family’s minivan, renovation plans, and even details about the children. The only identifying factor from the suspect was the signature towards the bottom. It read: “The Watcher.”
Can Anyone Watch The Watcher?
Upon receiving the letter, Derek immediately alerted the authorities. As the police department opened an investigation into the matter, he decided to contact the previous owners of 657 Boulevard. Has this happened before? Was this “watcher” someone to fear?
Interestingly enough, the Woods family had received a similar letter several days before moving out. It, too, mentioned a family watching the house from afar. However, it was the first time they’d encountered such a letter in their 23 years of living there. As a result, the Woods family disposed of the letter and disregarded its contents.
For two weeks, the Broaddus family remained on high alert. Maria and the children stayed in their previous home while Derek canceled business trips and surveyed the house. Renovations continued, along with strange occurrences, like signs torn from their yard. Eventually, Maria returned to the house to evaluate paint samples and collect the mail.
Caught in the Sights of NJ’s Westfield Watcher
The letter addressed the homeowners by name this time, noting changes made to the house. The revelation that NJ’s Westfield “Watcher” was close enough to hear Maria and Derek’s names led to significant paranoia. Worse yet, the letter listed the children by birth date and nickname. It inquired about one particular child, who often painted on the porch.
“Is she the artist in the family?” the letter asked. “All of the windows and doors in 657 Boulevard allow me to watch you and track you as you move through the house. Who am I? I am the Watcher and have been in control of 657 Boulevard for the better part of two decades now. The Woods family turned it over to you. It was their time to move on and kindly sold it when I asked them to.”
Understandably, the Broaddus family stopped returning to the house. Instead, they remained in their old house as investigations continued. Derek sought the help of a former FBI agent and a security firm to reveal the author’s identity. However, despite numerous attempts using forensics, criminal profiling, and interviews, the case has yet to be solved.
Six months after purchasing the house, the Broaddus family decided to sell the property. Unfortunately, given the rumors about the letters, every offer fell through. During this time, speculations circulated about the case. Was it the next-door neighbors, who had a perfect view of the home and purchased the lot during the time frame the Watcher mentioned? Could it have been a nearby couple whom police noted played a video game featuring a “watcher” character? Or, perhaps, was it the Broaddus family themselves?
Shut the Front Door
With little evidence and limited suspects, each lead was quickly struck down. In 2016, to put the matter to rest, the Broaddus family proposed to tear down and rebuild the house. While this might have prompted relief for many neighbors, it spurred frustration in the Watcher. Several days later, a final letter appeared––much more threatening than the last. The Watcher vowed to punish the family, should they go through with their plan.
“Maybe a car accident. Maybe a fire. Maybe something as simple as a mild illness that never seems to go away but makes you feel 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 wonder who The Watcher is? Turn around idiots.”
The house finally sold in 2019, losing roughly half a million dollars in value. Due to the unpredictable nature of the letters, the Broaddus family was willing to risk the financial strain. Safety far superseded their ties to the property. As they departed the house, so, too, did any answers concerning who was behind the letters.
Inspiring “The Watcher” Netflix Miniseries
The Westfield Watcher isn’t just a popular mystery among New Jersey residents. After a bidding war between six other studios, Netflix won the rights to the tale. The limited series has already begun production––though there’s no set premiere date––and will star Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale.
The biggest question remaining is whether or not this series will provide a conclusive ending to the disturbing stalking incidents. Despite this, one thing is certain––now everyone will be watching “The Watcher.”
Feature image courtesy of Sasha Freeman
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