When Harry Potter received anonymous letters, it turned his miserable life into a magical adventure. However, in Netflix’s new series, letters sent to a newly moved couple in the neighborhood turned their dream life into a waking nightmare as the letters they received were written this way; '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 Watcher.
On October 13, 2022, Netflix released yet another mini-series inspired by real-life cases, which got the world hyped again. The Watcher is a series starring Ryan Murphy that is based on the 2019 'hot case' of Derek and Maria Broaddus and the person who sent them letters that weren't very loving.
It was in 2014 when the Broaddus couple, Derek and Maria, bought a 1.4 million dream house at 657 Boulevard, Westfield, New Jersey. However, instead of receiving a warm welcome, unnerving anonymous letters started appearing in their mailbox. The first letter is more likely to be a welcome address to a newly moved family. However, it turned creepy as it started mentioning the sender's being the watcher of the house. 'My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time,' the letter read.
The Hollow Case
Terrified and confused, the couple decided to contact the police the next morning. However, after a couple of hollow investigations, the cops unfortunately dismissed the case. An article published by New York Magazine during that time period also stated that the police tried to search the wall of the house, as written in the letter, but found no trace of the suspect. The couple also contacted the previous owners, John and Andrea Woods, who happened to confirm receiving a letter only the day before they moved out. Assuming that it was a prank, they threw the letter away. Further, the Woods highlighted that in their 23 years of living on 657 Boulevard, they had never encountered or even heard from the so-called watcher. More letters followed as they planned to renovate the house. The letter's content also became more explicit, involving the contract workers that had moved onto the property.
The letters became more haunting as The Watcher began calling them by name and mentioning the couple’s young children, addressing them as young bloods. 'Once I know their names, I will call them and draw them to me,' the letter reads. The letters continued, suggesting that the previous owners of the house, The Woods, had sold it as per The Watcher’s request. The Watcher, in his sinister letters, also wrote, '657 Boulevard is my job, my life, my obsession. And now you are too, Broaddus family.'
The Watcher | Official Trailer | Netflix
The couple decided not to bring their kids into the house anymore, which The Watcher pointed out in the next letter: 'Where have you gone to? 657 are you missing you?'
According to the investigators, the letter's content suggests the letter writer’s familiarity with the family and their clear sightlines into the house, which drives the police interest in the nearby residents. Nevertheless, the investigation bore no fruit at all. Frustrated by the case with no leads and clear suspects, the Broaddus decided to take the mystery head on. They hired private detectives to do the deep digging into their neighbors’ backgrounds. Theories from different perspectives emerged as several other suspects, such as a local teacher, were ruled out. Through and through, the case came up emptier as it took longer. As part of the investigation, cameras were set up in the library and post office of Westfield, but they didn't catch anything, not even a shadow of The Watcher.
Truly spooked by the strange letter sender, the Broaddus decided to put the house back on the market for $400,000 and decided to disclose the real reason for selling to their prospective buyers. They moved out into a rental, but the letters followed them everywhere.
The Legal Claims
In June 2015, they filed a civil lawsuit against the previous owners, suggesting a $1.3 million refund along with the house title and renovations. The house was then pulled off of the market and the issue became the talk of the country.
The next year, the Woods countersuited against the Broaddus, claiming that they were not legally required to disclose the received letter before they sold the 657 Boulevard. And so, in March 2016, the house was again put back on the market for $1.25 million. However, with all the attention gathered by the issue, few people were keen to move into the house, which was particularly labeled as a cursed home.
In September, the Broaddus couple came up with the idea of tearing down the house and putting up brand new homes in its place. However, this idea was marked by the neighborhood as the Broaddus couple’s way of bringing fear and drama to the area, so their plan was unanimously rejected.
The case was then turned over to the Union County Prosecutor's Office in December, 2018 and investigations arose from scratch. The follow up lean from the previous investigation found a female's DNA on the envelopes.The investigation went nowhere in January 2019 when the Broaddus' were told that none of the DNA samples they had found matched the DNA of the suspects.
One article published that anonymous neighbors questioned the motives of the Broaddus couple, asking; 'Why does the couple keep on renovating a home they weren’t moving into? Why does Maria keep a Facebook page with pictures of her children public?' At this point, the victims became the suspects of the town as neighbors were speculating that it was perhaps Derek and Maria who were sending letters to themselves. In spite of the accusations, the result of DNA tests did not match Maria’s DNA, which made the claims a false verdict. In fact, it does not match any of the people in the neighborhood.
Years and years have passed, and the Watcher’s identity has remained unmasked. However, the fear that he has sown in every corner of 657 Boulevard will forever be detested by the Broaddus family. The police and private investigation reached nowhere and were forcibly stopped. The last piece of information we retrieved is that the Broaddus decided to live in Westfield, bearing the judgment of the town and the nightmares presented by The Watchers' love letters.