The idea of The Watcher, Netflix’s newest real crime thriller, is something out of every housewife’s worst fears. A family who have just moved into their suburban dream house began receiving anonymous letters from a malevolent snooper known only as “The Watcher.” The fictitious Nora and Dean Brannock (Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale) gradually slide into paranoia and doubt everyone around them, making for a stressful yet compelling miniseries (opens in new tab). The fact that The Watcher was a real person further amplifies the unsettling atmosphere.
Based on the 2018 New York Magazine article The Haunting of a Dream House, which details the narrative of Maria and Derek Broaddus (the real-life Brannocks) and 657 Boulevard, the programme is about to air. The names of the residents of the home and the city of Westfield, New Jersey, are both taken directly from the actual occurrences. The programme did a good job of fictionalising the real murder, although it did modify a lot of the details. What follows is a dissection of the truth from the lies (including who bought the house after the Broadduses).
What’s the true story behind ‘The Watcher’?
Derek and Maria Broaddus (the real-life basis for the Brannocks) started receiving anonymous letters from “The Watcher” in June 2014, before they had even moved into their new home in Westfield, New Jersey. Written to the new owners of 657 Boulevard, it explains how the author’s family has “waited for its second arrival” since the 1920s and how they have been entrusted with the responsibility of keeping watch over the house. The Watcher was angry that the couple had begun renovations (the reason they hadn’t moved in yet) and threatened to abduct their three kids unless they stopped.
After reporting the letter to the police, the Broadduses discovered that the previous homeowners had also received a similar note just before they had to vacate the premises. Someone said they had been keeping a careful check on 657 Boulevard in a letter, but the couple, who had lived there for 23 years and never received a letter before, thought it was a joke and tossed it away.
The creepiness of the letters the Broadduses received increased as time went on; the letters began to be addressed to the family by name (albeit The Watcher misspelt their surname) and frequently referred to “what is in the walls” of the house. The Watcher was concerned that they still hadn’t moved in and wondered what was holding them up.
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