The Watcher is an American crime miniseries created by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan. The series tells the true story of a married couple who, after moving into their dream home in New Jersey, are harassed because of letters signed by a stalker named The Watcher.
The premiere took place on October 13, 2022. The Observer is based on the New York Magazine article “The Cut” by Reeves Wiedemann. In this article you can read the real story.
Where is the Guardian’s House located?
The real Watcher House is located at 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey. While researching the true story of The Watcher, we learned that the Netflix miniseries uses this address but changes the zip code from 07090 (Westfield, NJ) to 11537 (Hampstead, NY). The exterior of the real house is shown below below the exterior image of the house from the Netflix miniseries.
The series fictionally claims that the Watchers’ house was built in 1921 and has four bedrooms, five baths, an unfinished attic, a half-finished basement, and an underground swimming pool. The asking price is $3.2 million. Set on 1.25 acres, the fictional home is significantly larger than the actual home, which was purchased by the Broadduses for $1.36 million. The real house, covering nearly half an acre, is even older than the one in the show, having been built in 1905. It has six bedrooms, four bathrooms and several fireplaces, but no pool.
In fact, the actual home that was used to film the Netflix series is located in Rye, New York. As you can see from the photos above, it’s much larger, at 10,000 square feet, and looks more like a small resort than the Dutch colonial complex in Westfield, New Jersey, where the actual events took place. Unlike what is stated in the series, it was built in 2016 and has six bedrooms and six bathrooms.
When did the Watcher’s letters start coming?
The Watcher fact check reveals that the real events began in June 2014 when Derek Broaddus (played by Bobby Cannavale in the Netflix miniseries) and his wife Maria (played by Naomi Watts) were renovating their newly bought dream home with six bedrooms before you move in. Finished painting by evening, Derek went outside to check the mailbox and found a white card-shaped envelope along with several bills. On the outside of the envelope, he noticed an address for “New Owner,” written in thick, sloppy handwriting. The envelope was sent through the USPS and they later find that it was processed at the US Postal Service distribution center in Kearny, New Jersey, indicating that it was mailed from a nearby location, which is useful information to determine Personality of the Observer.
How much did the Watchman’s House cost?
As stated above, Derek and Maria Broadus, whose names are changed to Dean and Nora Brannock in the miniseries, bought the house for $1.36 million in 2014. To be able to afford such a house, Derek, who had just turned 40, worked. He had plans to become a senior vice president at an insurance company in Manhattan.
How many children did Derek and Maria Broaddus have?
In the mini-series, the couple have two children: a boy of 11 and a teenage girl. In real life, Derek and Maria had three younger children (two girls and a boy) who were 5, 8 and 10 years old when the family was preparing to move into their new home in Westfield in June 2014.
What was in the first letter of the Observer?
The Observer’s letter, addressed to the “New Owner,” began with a kind greeting from the family in the neighborhood. However, as Derek Broaddus continued to read, the author’s warm tone quickly changed to a menacing one.
657 Boulevard has been my family’s subject for decades, and as it nears its 110th birthday, I’ve been assigned to watch and wait for its second coming. My grandfather watched over the house in the 1920s and my father in the 1960s. Now is 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 know.
The author then mentioned the Brodduzov’s Honda minivan and the workers who were in the house making repairs.
I can already see that you’ve flooded 657 Boulevard with contractors so that the house could be demolished as it should have been. Tsk, tsk, tsk… bad move. You don’t want 657 Boulevard to be miserable.
The writer also mentioned that he was watching the couple’s three children and asked if there were “more on the way”, warning that he or she would lure the children to him.
Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I asked for? Better for me. Was your old home too small for a growing family? Or is it greed that brought your children to me? As soon as I know their names, I will call them and draw them [sic] myself too.
The author closed the letter, stating that more messages would follow. “Let the party begin,” he concluded. The letter was signed “Observer” in typewritten cursive.
Is Westfield, New Jersey, the idyllic town that the miniseries portrays?
Yes. As noted in the New York Magazine article that inspired the Netflix miniseries, residents of Westfield, New Jersey compared their city to Mayberry, the family-friendly spot for Andy Griffith’s show. Westfield, located 45 minutes from New York, is populated mostly by wealthy families (loners prefer to live closer to New York), and in 2014 it was ranked the 30th safest city in America according to NeighborhoodScout. This does not mean that society has never been shocked by the crime.
Is it possible that the Watcher was a neighbor?
Yes. The mysterious writer of the Observer letters began the first letter with a greeting:
Dear new neighbor at 657 Boulevard
This greeting seems to indicate that the author is a neighbor, as he or she greets the Broaddus as such and greets them in the neighborhood. Later in the letter, the writer asks, “Who am I?” and states that they could be in a passing car, in a window that looks out onto the house, or in one of the many people who walk down 657 Boulevard every day. In a second letter two weeks later, the author knew their last name, only it said misspelled “Braddus”, which could mean they overheard one of the contractors using it, or heard it from someone else.
In the Watcher’s second letter, Brodd’s children were also referred to by their nicknames and in order of birth. This almost certainly meant that the person either lived nearby or was hiding near the house as Maria called out the children’s names as they played in the backyard. The writer also indicated that they saw the Broadduze’s daughter on the closed back porch with an easel. “Is she an artist in the family?” the author asked. As the New York Magazine article notes, the porch was hidden from the street by “vegetation” and was difficult to see unless someone was in the backyard or right next door.
Did the Broaddus become suspicious of some of the neighbors?
Yes. In exploring how accurate The Watcher is, we learned that Derek was initially suspicious of a couple on the block he brought inside for a renovation tour. The wife commented, “It would be nice to have some young blood in the neighborhood.” Derek froze as he remembered that the writer of the letter had referred to the Broaddus children as “youngblood.”
At a barbecue across the street for newcomers to the area, including the Broadduses and another family, John Schmidt, who lived two houses from the Broadduses, told Derek about the family that lived between them, the Langfords. Several adult children lived there with the matriarch of the family, Peggy Langford, who was in her 90s.
Derek became especially suspicious of Michael Langford, the adult son, described by John Schmidt as “sort of a Boo Radley character”. He learned that the Langfords were one of the few families in the area who had lived in their home since the 1960s, when the Watcher said that his (or her) father started watching the Broadduze home. Patriarch Richard Langford died 12 years ago, which is in line with the monitor’s statement when he (or she) assumed the role of 657 Boulevard lookout. The easel on the Broaddose’s enclosed back porch was also clearly visible from the Langford home, which the monitor commented on in the letter. However, Michael Langford’s brother, Sandy, said that Michael was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a young age. Others who knew him said they did not.
Bill Woodward, the man hired to paint the Broaddus house, noticed some strange behavior from the neighbors right behind the house. He saw that they were keeping two sun loungers in close proximity to the Broadduze property. Even stranger was that one day Woodward noticed an older guy sitting in one of the chairs. “He wasn’t looking at his house – he was looking at the Broaddus,” Woodward told New York Magazine. Unlike the show, we found no evidence that the man ever held binoculars. The Broadduses later learned that they were an elderly couple who had lived there for 47 years.
Did the Watcher desecrate the Broaddus home?
The general contractor arrived one morning to find that the heavy sign he had hammered into the yard had been torn down during the night. The family suspected that the Watcher was responsible, as he or she had indicated in letters that they were upset that the house was being renovated. In real life, this is the only recorded case of vandalism.
Derek and Maria Broaddus went to the police?
Yes. The real history of the Watchers confirms that they contacted the police after receiving the first letter. The previous owners, John and Andrea Woods, went with them to tell the police about a letter they received from the Watcher while still living in the house at 657 Boulevard. Detective Leonard Lugo conducted an investigation, focusing on neighbor Michael Langford. Lugo interrogated Langford twice, but got nowhere. At a local city council meeting a year after receiving the last letter, Mayor Andy Skibitsky assured the public that the police had conducted a “comprehensive” investigation. However, they did not come close to identifying the Observer, and most of the neighbors in the immediate vicinity of the house stated that the police did not contact them.
The Broadduses also hired a private investigator who looked into the Langfords but found nothing troubling. The investigator examined the surroundings, but did not notice anything suspicious. The family also contacted two FBI agents, one of whom was the inspiration for Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. Derek was on the high school board of trustees with her. They hired another FBI agent, Robert Lenehan, to assess the threat. Due to several old-fashioned nuances of the letter, he concluded that the letters were written by someone older. Although he did not think the Watcher would respond to his or her threats, Lenehan believed that the typos and errors in the letters indicated that the person might be unstable. He also noted the Observer’s “seething anger” towards the rich, given that he accused the Broaddus of being lured to 657 Boulevard by greed.
How many letters did the Broaddus family receive?
After the Watcher’s first letter, a second letter arrived two weeks later, and a third a few weeks later. Then there was nothing for more than two years. When they decided to sell and couldn’t find a buyer, they rented out the house. The fourth letter arrived in February 2017 after a tenant (family with adult children) moved in. It has been two and a half years since the Broadduses received their first letter. In the letter, the Watcher threatened to retaliate against the Broadduzes’ plan to demolish the house and sell the land to the developer in two lots (the plan was not approved by the city).
Maybe a car accident. Maybe a fire. Maybe something as simple as a mild illness that never seems to go away but keeps you sick day after day, day after day, day after day. Maybe the mysterious death of a pet. Friends suddenly die. Planes, cars and bicycles crash. Bones break.
When did Derek and Maria tell their three children about the letters?
Unlike what is shown in the Netflix miniseries, it took some time in real life before Derek and Maria told their kids the truth about why they didn’t move into a new house. After temporarily staying at Maria’s parents’ home in Westfield, they settled into a friend’s beach house when the media hit the town and wouldn’t leave them alone. Oddly enough, the friend they were staying at had a severe seizure while they were there. Maria’s grandfather also had a heart attack. They decided it was time to tell their children the truth, wanting it to come from themselves and not from the media, who had started calling their home “The Watcher’s House”.
DNA analysis showed that the Observer was a woman?
Yes. Answering the question: “Is the Observer accurate?” we learned that the investigators analyzed the DNA on one of the envelopes and found that it belonged to a woman. First they looked at Abby Langford, the sister of Michael Langford’s next door neighbor. Abby worked as a real estate agent and they thought she might have been upset that she couldn’t sell the apartment. However, when they tested her DNA from a water bottle she used at Lord & Taylor, her second job, there was no match. Despite this, the identity of the Observer remained unknown.
Was there an underground tunnel at the site?
No. The underground passage in the miniseries is fictional. There was no secret tunnel where they saw the Watcher. Also, although the letter writer claims that he or she was in the house when they were younger, there is no evidence that the Watcher was ever in the house as an adult. This is pure dramatic license to add to the threat the family faces in the miniseries.
Did the real Broddus family ever move into the house at 657 Boulevard?
No. This is one of the main differences from the Netflix miniseries. Instead of moving into their new home, the real family decided to move in with Maria Broaddus’s parents. “We didn’t mean to put our kids in danger,” Maria told New York Magazine. Their new home sat empty while they paid their mortgage and property taxes. They only told the truth to a limited number of friends. When others asked why they weren’t moving, they replied that there were legal issues, which led people to assume they were getting a divorce. Just six months after receiving the first letter, the Broadduses decided to sell the house. They listed it in February 2015 for $1.5 million (they paid $1.36 million). They were trying to sell it for more than they paid, given the refurbishment potential buyers shied away from it because of the rumors.
For the next three months, they reduced the price every month, and the final listing was released on May 14 at $1.25 million. On June 18, they removed the listing and put the house up for rent. They found a tenant, a family, but that didn’t cover their mortgage. In October 2017, they put it up for sale again, this time lowering the price to $1.13 million. The listing was removed the following year, in April 2018. It was listed for sale again in March 2019 for $999,000. After negotiations in July 2019, the house was sold for $959,000, a major loss for the Broadduses considering the purchase price and renovations.
With money borrowed from the family, in 2016 the Broadus purchased another Westfield home at an undisclosed location, using an LLC to keep it a secret. Maria Broaddus wanted to stay in Westfield, the city where she grew up, even though her husband Derek wanted to leave.
Did other families in the neighborhood receive the Watcher’s letters?
Yes. The Watcher’s true story reveals that a year after receiving the first batch of letters, the Broadduses learned that another family on the street had received a letter from the Watcher. The family has lived in their home for years, and one of their adult children posted about the letter on Facebook after news broke of the Broadduze letters. The post was removed, but not before investigators found out about it. The family said that the context of the letter was similar to that of the Broadduzes.
Did the Broaduses sue the former owners for not reporting they received a letter from the Watcher?
Yes. The former owners, John and Andrea Woods, retired scientists, received a letter from the Observer. They described the letter as “strange”, stating that the author’s family had been watching the house for years. Before closing the deal to sell their home, the Woodses did not inform Broadus that they, too, had received the letter. They only revealed this fact after Derek and Maria Broaddus emailed them and asked if they knew about the Watcher. The Woods accompanied Maria to the police station, where they met with Detective Leonard Lugo, who began to study the letters.
A year after buying the house, but never moving in, the Broaduses filed a lawsuit against John and Andrea Woods for not disclosing their letter. The Broadus argued that if the former owners of the house were candid enough to report that water sometimes gets into the basement, then it makes little sense for them not to mention the letter. The Broadduses claim they did not want to draw attention to their history and hoped for a peaceful settlement. However, a local reporter uncovered a complaint that included quotations from the observer’s letters, and the story exploded into high-profile rumours. They received over 300 inquiries from the media, and a local reporter even sat on a sun lounger to try and watch the Spectator in action.
Could the Broadduses have sent the letters themselves?
It is possible, and some of the neighbors came to that conclusion when the police were unable to locate any likely suspects. However, The Observer’s fact check confirms that the police checked Maria Broaddus’ DNA and it did not match the DNA from the checked envelope. Those who suspected the family may have been trying to run a scam pointed out that none of the letters appeared until after the Broadduses were planning to move into the house.
Did the Broadduses make money by selling the film rights to their story?
Yes, and according to Deadline, in late 2018, six studios entered a war over the rights to the story, including the rights to Reeves Wiedemann’s New York Magazine article and homeowner rights. The seven-figure deal was one of the biggest material deals of the year.