A family dream home turns into a total nightmare in Netflix’s The Watcher. The mini series, from creator Ryan Murphy, is based on a true story that is almost too horrifying to believe.
A married couple moving into their dream home are threatened by terrifying letters from a stalker, signed – “The Watcher.”
In the series, streaming now, Dean and Nora Brannock (played by Bobby Cannavale and Naomi Watts) move to an idyllic New Jersey neighborhood where they assume their kids will be cocooned from the evils of the world. But these affluent suburbs hide something sinister. Shortly after settling into their new home, the couple starts receiving threatening letters from someone calling themselves “The Watcher.” This unwelcome penpal begins to terrorize the family.
The Watcher True Story
The Brannocks seen in The Watcher are based on the real life couple Derek and Maria Broaddus. Three days after the couple closed on their Westfield, New Jersey home in June 2014, they received their first letter from a person known as “The Watcher.” The white envelope with big block letters was addressed to “the new owner” of the six bedroom, three and a half bathroom estate that was built in 1905. Inside was a typed note that started cordially enough, according to the 2018 New York Magazine story that inspired the Netflix series: “Dearest new neighbor at 657 Boulevard, allow me to welcome you to the neighborhood.”
The tone of the message quickly became far less friendly. The anonymous writer claimed that the home located 45 minutes outside of New York City had “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.” The letter questioned whether the Broadduses knew about the history of the 3869 square foot single family home. “Do you know what lies within the walls of 657 Boulevard? Why are you here?” the writer asked. “I will find out.” (The police reportedly searched the home and found nothing in the walls.)
The letter-writer seemed to have done their due diligence on the Broaddus family, scolding the couple for making renovations to the home and threatening to kidnap their three children. “Was your old house too small for the growing family? Or was it greed to bring me your children?” the mysterious stalker wrote. “Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them too [sic] me.” The letter had no return address, but closed with an ominous line: “Welcome my friends, welcome. Let the party begin.” It was signed “The Watcher” in a typed cursive font.
The following day, Derek and Maria discovered that the previous owners of their new home, John and Andrea Woods, had also received a strange letter from someone calling themselves The Watcher. In the days before they moved out, the Woodses got a letter in which the writer claimed they had been keeping a close eye on the house. The couple, who had lived there for 23 years and had never heard from The Watcher before, assumed it was a prank and promptly threw the letter out without giving it much thought. The police, however, took the letter seriously, and advised the Broadduses not to tell anyone else about the note, especially their new neighbors who were now suspects.
After the second letter, Derek and Maria stopped bringing their kids to what was supposed to be their new home. Weeks later, they received another letter. “Where have you gone to?” The Watcher wrote. “657 Boulevard is missing you.”
No. In fact, six months after closing on the property, purchasing the house for $1.4 million, they put it back on the market. They were unable to find a buyer due to the creepy letters, which the Broadduses chose to disclose to anyone who came and looked at the property. “I don’t know how you live through what we did and think you could do it to somebody else,” Derek told New York Magazine.
The Broadduses attempted to sell the house again in 2016 for $1.25 million, but the letters were a no-go for potential buyers. The family’s real estate lawyer suggested they sell the home to a developer who would tear down the place, a move that would have required the Westfield Planning Board’s blessing, since dividing the lot into two homes would go against local code. The Broaddus’ request was unanimously rejected after a heated four-hour board meeting in which many locals aired their worries that tearing down 657 Boulevard would lower the cost of their homes and ruin the aesthetic of the neighborhood.
The Watcher Trailer
The Watcher Cast
Naomi Watts as Nora Brannock
Bobby Cannavale as Dean Brannock
Isabel Gravitt as Ellie Brannock
Luke David Blumm as Carter Brannock
Jennifer Coolidge as Karen Calhoun
Margo Martindale as Maureen / Mo
Richard Kind as Mitch
Mia Farrow as Pearl Winslow
Terry Kinney as Jasper Winslow
Christopher McDonald as Det. Rourke Chamberland
Noma Dumezweni as Theodora Birch
Joe Mantello as William “Bill” Webster / John Graff