The Watcher on Netflix is the platform’s newest bone-chilling show and it’s just in time for Halloween. Even more frightening? The limited series is based on a true story that took place right here in New Jersey.
The series, which stars Bobby Cannavale and Naomi Watts as Dean and Nora Brannock, is written around an adapted version of the real-life Derek and Maria Broaddus’ story. The young couple bought their dream home for $1.3 million at 657 Boulevard in Westfield, NJ, only to never fully move in. They planned to live there with their three children, but a sequence of terrifying, anonymous letters prohibited them from ever doing so.
Upon purchasing the home in June 2014, the couple began renovations in preparation for the move-in. That’s when they received the first in a series of threatening letters from a person who called themselves “The Watcher.” The first letter read:
Dearest new neighbor at 657 Boulevard,
Allow me to welcome you to the neighborhood. 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. 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.
I see you have already flooded 657 Boulevard with contractors so that you can destroy the house as it was supposed to be. Tsk, tsk tsk… bad move. You don’t want to make 657 Boulevard unhappy.
The letters continued on to name the Broaddus’ children, even referring to them as “young blood.” The Watcher also questioned if it was necessity or just greed that brought the family to this Westfield mansion.
The family eventually bought another home and continued paying for 657 Boulevard— which was difficult to get rid of due to the press. In 2016, the Broaddus family was able to rent the house out, but upon the first set of renters arriving, another letter arrived. In 2019, the family was finally able to sell the house at a $400 thousand loss.
Each letter from The Watcher was as much a threat as it was a love letter to the home itself. They often touted the mansion’s architecture and cited the family’s renovations as ruining the home. When the Broaddus’ never moved in, The Watcher claimed victory and complimented the other “soldiers” on the block as helping them reach that point.
Many think The Watcher could be anyone from a previous owner to a neighbor on the block. Some Westfield residents at the time of the letters even suggested the Broaddus family themselves as being the suspect. These baseless accusations cited the family as getting too far in over their head financially with the home and looking for a way out— possibly through a movie deal.
The Netflix adaptation draws many parallels from the real-life story while adding several twists and extra characters. The seven-episode series is addictingly horrifying. For New Jersey residents, the terror is even more real— this story took place recently and locally. With a now-popular screen adaption and the suspect still out there, the question remains: Will The Watcher return?
About the Author/s
Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for writing midway through school and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. In addition to food, Peter enjoys politics, music, sports and anything New Jersey.