Netflix’s The Watcher tells the story of the Brannock family, who move into their new home in a well-to-do neighborhood only to receive ominous letters in the mail. The missives are from someone calling themselves “The Watcher,” who claims to be watching the Brannock’s house specifically.
Created by Ryan Murphy, the creepy thriller follows father Dean Brannock (Bobby Cannavale), his wife Nora (Naomi Watts), and their two children as they’re terrorized by a shadowy figure. As more letters arrive at the house from The Watcher asking about their kids and the “young blood,” the couple tries to sell their home to escape their stalker. But, based on the trailer above, their attempts to escape only seem to upset their neighbors, who are all suspects.
Some of those neighbors are played by Mia Farrow, Richard Kind, and Margo Martindale. Jennifer Coolidge is also in the mix, playing a real estate agent who might be more than she seems. That’s the central mystery of the show: The Watcher really could be anyone.
This is a great premise for a TV series, but a pretty terrifying one in real life, and a real family did experience almost exactly this nightmare. This is the real story about Watcher House.
Who are the Brannocks based on?
The Brannocks are based on Derek and Maria Broaddus, who were the subject of an extensive story by Reeves Wiedeman for New York Magazine in 2018. The Broadduses bought the house in Westfield, New Jersey in 2014 for $1,355,657. It was a colonial mansion that they decided needed a few renovations before officially moving in.
The first letter from The Watcher arrived at their 657 Boulevard address in June 2014 directed to “The New Owner.”
“Dearest new neighbor at 657 Boulevard,” it began. “Allow me to welcome you to the neighborhood.”
The letter claimed that the writer had been tasked with watching 657 specifically and that they were the third generation of their family to do so. The author continued, “Do you know what lies within the walls of 657 Boulevard? Why are you here? I will find out.”
It was signed by “The Watcher.”
This was just the beginning of a horrifying experience for the Broadduses. They eventually found out that the previous owners had received one other similar letter upon the sale of the house, but hadn’t thought anything of it.
As more letters began arriving, police investigations began, and the family eventually hired private detectives. It was difficult to keep the story under wraps, and just like in the show, some neighbors did turn on the Broadduses. Some even theorized that the Broadduses wrote the letters themselves.
Unlike the show’s trailer implies, the family never encountered anyone in their home or found any secret tunnels, but it was definitely a creepy situation. The Watcher, whoever they were, sure knew a lot about the Broadduses and even shared specific details in their letters about the children’s names and where they were in the house.
Where are the Broadduses now?
Naturally, the family tried very hard to sell the house. However, they insisted and prospective buyers read the letters from the Watcher for transparency. They didn’t want to put anyone else in the position they were in. Most were scared away, even the ones excited about getting a deal on a nice house.
The Broadduses then tried to get permission to tear down the house entirely and break the lot in two with new housing. They were unable to get the permits and their relationship with the local council and neighbors soured even further.
They did eventually sell the house and move away, though Wiedeman states in a follow-up report that the Broaddusses still live in Westfield.
What did the letters from The Watcher say?
Only some excerpts have been published, but the writer insisted that there was something literally in the walls of 657 Boulevard and often spoke about the house, like it was sentient. They were especially insistent on the house needing “new blood,” and seemed frustrated that the Broadduses didn’t settle in to be watched. This is how the second letter sounded, as reported by New York Mag:
657 Boulevard is anxious for you to move in. It has been years and years since the young blood ruled the hallways of the house. Have you found all of the secrets it holds yet? Will the young blood play in the basement? Or are they too afraid to go down there alone. I would [be] very afraid if I were them. It is far away from the rest of the house. If you were upstairs you would never hear them scream.
Will they sleep in the attic? Or will you all sleep on the second floor? Who has the bedrooms facing the street? I’ll know as soon as you move in. It will help me to know who is in which bedroom. Then I can plan better.
All of the windows and doors in 657 Boulevard allow me to watch you and track you as you move through the house. Who am I? I am the Watcher and have been in control of 657 Boulevard for the better part of two decades now. The Woods family turned it over to you. It was their time to move on and kindly sold it when I asked them to.I pass by many times a day. 657 Boulevard is my job, my life, my obsession. And now you are too Braddus family. Welcome to the product of your greed! Greed is what brought the past three families to 657 Boulevard and now it has brought you to me.
Have a happy moving in day. You know I will be watching.
This was the first time The Watcher referred to the Broadduses by name—but spelled their name wrong.
Was The Watcher ever caught?
No. Even after an “exhaustive” police investigation, no one knows who The Watcher was (or is).
Did the Broadduses ever sell the Watcher House?
Finally, in 2019, the Watcher House was sold to an anonymous buyer for $959,360. The Broaddus family lost $400,000 on the sale, but they were probably pretty happy to never look at that house again.
Aimée Lutkin is the weekend editor at ELLE.com. Her writing has appeared in Jezebel, Glamour, Marie Claire and more. Her first book, The Lonely Hunter, will be released by Dial Press in February 2022.