7 Facts About the Story That Inspired Netflix’s “The Watcher”
If you haven’t taken time to watch Netflix’s The Watcher yet, do yourself a favor and check it out.
It’s weird, creepy, and, perhaps most disturbing of all, it’s actually inspired by a true story.
Check out these 7 facts about the real story behind the eerie TV series.
1. The beginning.
Derek and Maria Broaddus bought a home in Westfield, New Jersey, in 2014. The couple planned on doing some renovations to the house before they moved in with their three children.
Maria Broaddus grew up in Westfield and the new house the family purchased was only a few blocks from her childhood home.
2. The letters start.
Shortly after purchasing the house, Derek checked the mail and received a letter addressed to “The New Owner.”
The letter said, “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.”
The person who wrote the letter also said he was watching the family’s three children. The letter read, “Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested? Better for me. Was your old house too small for the growing family? Or was it greed to bring me your children? Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them too [sic] me.”
The letter was signed by “The Watcher.”
Derek contacted the police. He also contacted the Woods family who they bought the house from and Andrea Woods admitted that they received a similar letter before they moved out of the home.
Maria Broaddus received a second letter a few days later that mentioned the Broaddus children’s names and ages. Derek and Maria decided to stop bringing their children to the house after receiving the second letter.
3. The Langford family.
Derek and Maria learned about a family named the Langfords who lived nearby. Michael Langford lived with his elderly mother and was described as a “Boo Radley character” in the neighborhood, referring to the creepy and reclusive character in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Derek believed Michael Langford was responsible for sending the letters because his house was close to a porch on the Broaddus home that had been mentioned in one of the letters and the porch was difficult to see from any other area.
Derek told the police about his theory but was told that they couldn’t do anything about it without hard evidence.
4. Derek investigates.
Frustrated with the lack of police action, Derek started his own investigation into the letters. He set up cameras, hired investigators, and a former FBI agent named Robert Lenehan even got involved.
Lenehan believed that The Watcher was an older person because of the writing style displayed in the letters.
Derek Broaddus believed that the Langfords were behind the letters, but other leads developed. Investigators discovered that there were two s** offenders living near the home. And a painter who worked on the house noticed that neighbors of the Broaddus family had two chairs in their yard that were positioned near the Broaddus home and actually facing the house.
Some people in Westfield began to believe that the Broaddus family themselves were behind the letters and that they realized they couldn’t afford the home and were trying to get out of owning it.
Some believed they were attempting insurance fraud, and other people in town posited that they were trying to drum up enough controversy to get a movie deal based on the story.
Derek Broaddus said he thought that the people in Westfield didn’t want to have the town’s safe reputation ruined. He said, “People don’t want to believe this could happen in Westfield.”
6. We’re outta here.
Derek and Maria decided the house was not a safe place to bring their children and they moved in with Maria’s parents. The couple tried to sell the house six months after the letters started but couldn’t find a buyer because of the controversy.
In 2015, the couple filed a legal complaint against the family they bought the house from for not telling them that they had received a letter before they moved out.
7. Further developments.
The Broaddus family eventually found people willing to rent the house from them but part of the deal was that the new occupants would be able to break the lease if another letter from “The Watcher” showed up.
Two weeks after the new renters moved in, another letter was delivered that read “V**lent winds and bitter cold/To the vile and spiteful Derek and his wench of a wife Maria.” The new renter was also mentioned in the letter but agreed to stay after Derek installed security cameras.
In late 2017, several families who spoke out against the Broaddus’ received anonymous letters that were signed by “Friends of the Broaddus Family.” Derek Broaddus later admitted he sent these letters but insisted they were the only ones he had ever written because he was fed up with the treatment of his family.
Today, authorities believe that the person who wrote the letters is an older woman who lives near the Broaddus home. Derek and Maria sold the house in 2019 and the new occupants have never received any letters from “The Watcher.”