‘The Watcher’ has dominated Netflix’s top ten since the series was releasedjust over a week ago. But what not all viewers know is that the thriller,starring Naomi Watts (54) and Jennifer Coolidge (61) in the lead roles, isinspired by a true story.
Note: This article contains spoilers about The Watcher.
the watcher, Created by noted director Ryan Murphy, it centers on theBrannock family and their newly acquired dream home in a New Jersey suburbcalled Westfield. Dean and Nora put all their savings into the house only tofind out shortly afterwards that the neighborhoods are anything buthospitable. For example, the eccentric Pearl and her brother Jasper, who sneakinto the Brannocks’ house shortly after the move to hide in the food elevator.
Then there’s Karen, the real estate agent and an old acquaintance of Nora’s,who makes them feel like they don’t really belong. Finally, we have thecurious neighbors Mitch and Mo. The icy welcome that Dean and Nora receivequickly turns into a veritable hell when ominous letters arrive from someonecalling themselves The Watcher. It terrorizes the Brannocks to their breakingpoint, as the neighborhood’s sinister secrets come out step by step.
But how does the story from the series match the real Watcher house in NewJersey? Because yes, that exists.
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What’s really on The Watcher?
The story is based on Derek and Maria Broaddus. Three days after buying theirhome in Westfield in June 2014, they receive the first letter from someoneidentifying themselves as The Watcher. The letter reads, “Dearest new neighborat 657 Boulevard, allow me to welcome you to the neighborhood.”
But that friendly tone soon changed. The anonymous writer says the house “hasbeen the subject of the family for decades and as it approaches its 110thbirthday, he or she has been put in charge to look.” So similar to the storyin the series.
The Watcher also asks in the letter whether the new family is aware of thehistory of the house. “Do you know what lies within the walls of 657Boulevard? Why are you here? I’ll find out.’
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The Broaddus family is scolded in the letters for renovating the house and theanonymous writer threatens to kidnap the three children. Shortly afterwards,they learn that the selling party, John and Andrea Woods, also received astrange letter from someone who calls himself The Watcher. The couple thinksit’s a joke: in the 23 years they’ve lived in the house in Westfield, they’venever experienced anything like it.
Contrary to the storyline in the series, the police do take the Broaddusfamily seriously. According to Time Magazine searched the house and foundnothing in the walls – the writer suggests in the second letter that there issomething in the walls. The police also advise the family not to say anythingto their new neighbors about the letter, because they are suspects.
During the renovation work, the family does not yet live in the house. Withthe arrival of the second letter, they become increasingly concerned: howcould this anonymous person know so much information about their family? Theanonymous author even knows in which order the children were born. At thatmoment, The Watcher wants nothing more than to see the family move and wondersif the kids are going to play in the basement.
‘Or are they too scared to go down alone? I would be very scared if I werethem. It is far away from the rest of the house. If you were upstairs you’dnever hear them screaming.’ The Watcher also writes to visit several times aday, because 657 Boulevard is an ‘obsession’. The couple then decides not totake their children to the house anymore.
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Are they moving to their home?
The family decides not to move into the new house. Six months after purchasingthe $1.4 million home, they’re putting it back on the market, but finding abuyer is hard: Derek tells every potential buyer about the scary letters theyreceive. He does that because he can’t live with the thought of not telling.Derek says he doesn’t want to do the same to others, he tells New YorkMagazine.
In 2016 they make another attempt to sell the house, but it fails. Buyers findthe letters a no go. The family’s real estate agent’s proposal to tear downand rebuild the house is rejected. The neighborhood fears that their homeswill lose value as a result and that the aesthetics will ruin theneighborhood.
Months later, the family rents out their home, and it isn’t long before TheWatcher sends another letter. ‘You wonder who The Watcher is? Turn around,idiots. You may have even spoken to me, one of the so-called neighbors who hasno idea who The Watcher could be. Or maybe you do know and are too scared totell anyone. Good move.’
The tone of the letter is more aggressive than before. The writer is not happywith the media attention for the neighborhood and threatens Derek and Maria.“Maybe a car accident. Maybe a fire. Maybe something as simple as a mildillness that never seems to go away, but makes you sick day after day afterday after day after day.”
Surprisingly, the tenant decides not to leave the house. Instead, the Broaddusfamily has additional security cameras installed. In 2019, they sell the housethey never lived in for $959,000, making a $400,000 loss. The new owner hasnot yet received a letter from The Watcher.
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Derek also sends letters himself
As in the series, Derek sends ‘Dean’ in the watcher, even anonymous letterswith ‘Friends of the Broaddus Family’ as the sender. However, he sends it toneighbors who make fun of him on Facebook, another difference with the series.Moreover, that is almost three years after the writer contacted the family. Hehopes the letters will help clear his family’s name, but Derek ends up feelingworse.
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Who is The Watcher?
To this day it is still not clear who is behind the rest of the terrifyingletters. The police have suspected from the start that it is someone from thearea. At first they think of neighbor Michael Langford, but there is noevidence and he is never arrested.
When DNA tests later reveal that it is a woman, the police suspect his sisterAbby Langford, a real estate agent, and the previous owner Andrea Woods. Thereappears to be no match. They even take a closer look at Maria’s DNA, but shetoo is acquitted. A gamer who likes and plays dark games under the name TheWatcher – in the Netflix series that is 19-year-old Dakota – is also a suspectfor a while.
The neighborhood thinks that the Broaddus family is behind the lettersthemselves, because they can’t actually afford the house and are trying to getout of the sale, according to the neighborhoods. There are even rumors thatthe family hopes to land a movie deal this way – something that doesn’t seemright at first, as the family turns down several deals. But years later, theystill sell the rights to their story. So to Netflix.
In addition, they have specific requirements to guarantee their safety: theprotagonists may not resemble them and their real names may not be used. Inreality, the Broaddusjes also have three children, who are also younger thanthe two Brannock kids in the series.
The couple has announced that they will not watch the series and they say theywill not get rich either. They wouldn’t even be able to compensate for theloss of their home.