50 Crazy Facts About Netflix's The Watcher
The Watcher is a new miniseries on Netflix, and it is based on a real story from Westfield, New Jersey. The show has captivated the world and is a mix of fiction and non-fiction. In 2014, the Broaddus family purchased the home on 657 Boulevard for $1.3 million. The show and real-life story revolve around trying to figure out who 'The Watcher' is and why they are sending letters to the home. Ryan Murphy is the creator of the miniseries, and he took inspiration from the article by Reeves Weideman, which chronicles the haunting of a suburban family.
There Really Was A Father In Westfield Who Murdered His Whole Family
The character of John Graff in Netflix's The Watcher is based on a real-life mass murderer who lived in Westfield many years before 'The Watcher' even started sending letters. John List was an accountant and Sunday school teacher who moved his family to a mansion that they couldn't really afford.
The family went broke and was on the verge of losing the house. As a result, John convinced himself that it would be better to kill his entire family while they were still good Christians and would go to heaven. He saw living in poverty as a sin. He murdered his mother, wife, and three children in 1971.
The Letters Did Call The Kids "Young Blood"
On the show, the writer often referred to the family's children as "young blood" and was excited that the family was "bringing" the children to 657 Boulevard. The letters also said other creepy things, like asking if the children would play in the basement.
The letter says, "Once I know their names, I will call to them and draw them to me" and "Will they sleep in the attic? Or will you all sleep on the second floor?"
The Family Did End Up Selling The House At A Loss
In the Netflix series, the Brannocks family abandons their lakefront mansion and moves back to their apartment in the city. They eventually sell the house at a loss because of the creepy history of the house.
In reality, the Broaddus family bought a different home in Westfield and struggled to sell the home on 657 Boulevard. They were finally able to sell the house but sold it at a loss.
They Rented Out The House
The Broaddus family owned the house for five years before they were able to sell it. In those five years, the house was rented out. The renters agreed to stay as long as no more letters showed up. However, another letter was received, and it mentioned the renters.
Thankfully, the renters agreed to stay as long as the owners installed cameras and a security system. While trying to sell the house, the owners were never required to disclose the letters to potential buyers, but they felt that they needed to.
DNA Evidence Revealed It Was Probably A Woman Who Licked The Envelopes
The twist in the show regarding DNA was a big moment in real life as well. Most people thought it was a male, but the DNA came back showing that the envelope lacked a Y chromosome, meaning it was licked by a woman.
Some neighbors offered a DNA sample and were ruled out as possible suspects. Of all the samples that were given to the police, none came back a match.
Pearl And Jasper Are Loosely Based On Real People
Pearl and Jasper from the Netflix series were loosely based on the real-life Langford family, who lived near the house at 657 Boulevard. The matriarch, Peggy, was in her nineties and lived with several of her adult children, who were in their sixties.
They were an odd family, with one being known for walking around neighbors' yards and peeking in their windows. Most knew he was harmless. The characters in the series were much more intrusive and suspicious than the real-life Langfords.
The Baby-Eating Blood Cult Isn't Real
The theory in the series that a baby-eating blood cult was responsible for 'The Watcher' is not based on any real person, cult, or event. The introduction of such a cult to the show's story was not based on real facts.
In reality, there is no Satanic cult in Westfield suspected of writing 'The Watcher's' threatening letters. In the series, the theory was also ruled out.
The Watcher Was Never Caught, Nor Heard From Again
In the series, 'The Watcher' is never caught, which is the truth in real life as well. The Union County Prosecutor's Office in New Jersey stated that the case is not active, but it isn't closed either.
They also have said that they believe the suspect is an older woman who lives near the home based on the evidence. There have been many suspects, with some being ruled out, but 'The Watcher's' identity remains unknown.
The Letters Were Real
The Broaddus family really did receive creepy and threatening letters from an unknown person called 'The Watcher.' Some of the real letters' content was used in the Netflix series.
The first letter set off a chain of events that led the increasingly paranoid Broaddus family to become overly obsessed with uncovering 'The Watcher's' identity. They purchased the home on 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey, and almost immediately began receiving those letters.
The Neighbors Actually Watch The Family From Lawn Chairs
Mitch and Mo from the Netflix series make the series more interesting and bring some comedy, and their actions are actually based on real people. The Broaddus family had an older couple as neighbors, and their housepainter, Bill Woodward, stated that he saw the couple sitting in lawn chairs facing the family's home.
"One day, I was looking out the window, and I saw this older guy sitting in one of the chairs. He wasn't facing his house; he was facing the Broadduses." ----- Bill Woodward.
Westfield Planning Board
In the series, there was a neighborhood board that would meet, and in real life, there was a Westfield Planning Board. The board facilitated complications for the Broadduses after the family announced a proposal.
They wanted to separate the property into two lots. In January 2017, one hundred locals showed up to a board meeting to discuss the family's proposal.
The House Sold Again To A Young Couple In 2019 For $959,000
Six months after the couple purchased the house, they put it back on the market. They were unable to find a buyer for five years because of the letters. They chose to disclose the information because they didn't want another family to have to go through what they did.
They sold the house in 2019 for four hundred thousand dollars less than they purchased it for. When the new couple moved, the Broaddus family gave them a note: "We wish you nothing but peace and quiet that we once dreamed of in this house." They also gave them a photo of 'The Watcher's' handwriting just in case any new letters came.
In Real Life, There Is No Tunnel Underneath The Property
Also, in Netflix's The Watcher, there are tunnels underneath the home, where the neighbors are able to sneak into the house. However, in the real house, there were no tunnels, and there also wasn't a creepy room down there with neighbors hiding.
There are some homes in New Jersey that do have secret compartments. They were built for rum runners during the Prohibition Era, but the home at 657 Boulevard was built before that time.
The Real-Life Owners Never Lived In The Home At 657 Boulevard
In the Netflix series, the couple Nora Brannock and Dean Brannock, move into the home right away. They moved in before doing the renovations with their two teenage children, Ellie and Carter.
However, in real life, Maria and Derek Broaddus owned the house for five years and never actually lived in the house. They had planned on moving in once the renovations were complete, but then the letters started to arrive.
Names Were Changed Throughout The Series
The whole ordeal turned into a years-long saga and involved many people throughout the neighborhood as well. The names were all changed for the Netflix series.
Also, the real details of the family's lives and horror stories were embellished. There were also some details and people in the series that were made up and not from the real-life 'Watcher' case.
The Home In The Series Is In Rye, New York
The address used in the series, 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey, is the actual address of the real house. However, it was actually filmed in a much larger and more expensive home in Rye, New York. The scenes filmed outside of the home were filmed in New York and Connecticut.
In addition, they filmed at the Coveleigh Club, which was for the country club where Nora and the realtor meet for lunch. Other filming locations were the DeCicco & Sons grocery store in Larchmont, the Tuckahoe Police Station, and a bridal shop in Yonkers.
The Broaddus Family
The real family that was stalked by 'The Watcher' were Derek and Maria Broaddus and their three young children. They thought that they had bought their dream home in Westfield.
Instead, they were stalked and threatened by an unknown person. Derek is active on Twitter and often posts updates on the case. The family also still lives in Westfield but in a different home.
In Real Life, The Broaddus Family Have Three Kids Who Knew Nothing About The Watcher
In the Netflix series, the Brannock family only has two children, and they are both teenagers. However, in real life, the Broaddus family has three children, and they were all under the age of ten at the time.
The young children had no idea about the letters or 'The Watcher' until it became national news. The family on the show is different than the Broaddus family, and that was what the Broaddus family requested.
The Reaction To The Broadduses In The Neighborhood Was Much Worse Than In The Show
The reaction to the Broaddus family in the neighborhood was actually much worse than it was in the Netflix series. The series doesn't dive into the wild conspiracy theories and internet comments from people around the world that plagued the Broaddus family.
They were criticized in their own neighborhood, and their neighbors thought they had something to do with it. It was a horrible time for the Broaddus family.
The Netflix Show Is Much More Violent Than The Real Story
The Netflix series is a lot more violent than the real story. In real life, the Broaddus family never even lived at the house, meaning all of the horrifying things that happened to the Brannock family didn't actually happen.
The son's ferret was murdered in the series, but the real family never even had a ferret. The two murders across the street that were committed by Mitch and Mo's son also never happened.
The Previous Owners Of The House Were Also Never Harassed By The Watcher
In the series, Dean Brannock is seen talking to a former owner of the house who talks about several horrifying events that happened to him and his family while living in the house. He also said that many letters were sent to his family while living at 657 Boulevard.
However, the people that occupied the house for twenty-three years before the Broaddus family bought it never had any trouble. They did receive one letter from 'The Watcher' before they moved out but didn't think much of it.
After The Second Letter, Derek And Maria Stopped Bringing Their Kids To What Was Supposed To Be Their New Home
The Broaddus family received their first letter shortly after purchasing the house and two weeks later, they got another one. The second letter read, "The workers have been busy, and I have been watching you unload carfuls of your personal belongings. The dumpster is a nice touch. Have they found what is in the walls yet? In time they will."
In the second letter, 'The Watcher' refers to the family by their names but misspells them. Derek and Mary were very concerned that this person knew about them and their children, so they stopped bringing the children there.
657 Boulevard Is The Real Address
The address 657 Boulevard is a real address in Westfield, New Jersey. However, many details were changed for the show. The series was not actually filmed at the address of the real house.
Instead, it was filmed at a Cape Cod-style home in Rye, New York. However, the show is still set in Westfield and uses the real address. Boulevard is an affluent suburb known for its especially beautiful houses.
There Wasn't A Dumbwaiter In The Actual Home
In the series, the dumbwaiter is a big part of the show because that is where the man from across the street likes to hide. However, in the real home, there wasn't a dumbwaiter.
Kristi Zea, the production designer, said, "Our alterations were script-driven. For example, the dumbwaiter didn't exist in the real house. All the furnishings were curated from the current trends in interior design magazines. Ryan was very involved in the selection process. We wanted the house and its contents to be aspirational. Hopefully, we succeeded!"
The Broaddus Family Had Their Priest Bless The Home
The Broaddus family tried to put a stop to the creepy letters by going to the police station and investigating it on their own. However, they weren't getting anywhere, so Derek Broaddus went for a last resort. He had their priest bless the house.
Father Michael Saporito states, "I think the human element of the story was kind of lost on the neighbors." There was definitely a lack of empathy in the town for the family.
Another Boulevard Home Received A Letter
Reeves Wiederman is the original story's reporter, and the Netflix series was inspired by his article. After the first story went viral, homeowners on a nearby block told the police that they had also received a letter.
No one really knows what their letter said; other than that it was signed by 'The Watcher.' The identity of the other homeowners is also unknown.
The Real Couple Even Filed A Lawsuit Against The Woods Couple
The Broaddus family found out, after buying the house, that the previous owners had received one letter from "The Watcher' and never disclosed that information.
The Broaddus family filed a legal complaint in 2015 against the previous owners, the Woods. The Broaddus family claimed that the previous owners should have warned them about 'The Watcher.' However, the complaint was later dismissed by a judge.
People Started Flocking To See The Real Home And Some Residents Are Not Happy About It
Ever since the Netflix series The Watcher was released, people have been flocking to the neighborhood to see the real home. They have come from all over to see the house that inspired the popular series. However, the residents of Westfield, New Jersey, are not happy about all of the publicity.
"We are all concerned for the family living there now and their neighbors. I cannot imagine how long it will be before people lose interest so the neighborhood can go back to normal, nor can I imagine how much mail the poor current owners will receive from crackpots all over the world." ----- Resident Trish Dulinkski.
Their Two Requests To The Production Were Granted
Netflix's The Watcher is based on a true story, but the real-life family had two requests when the series was made. The family did not want to be involved with the series production even though they sold Netflix the rights to their story.
They didn't want the series to use their real names, and they didn't want the fictional family to look anything like them. As a result, the series gave the family different names and changed the family dynamics to the couple having just two older children.
The Letter Went On To Ask If The Children Were Too Scared To Play In The Basement
The letters that were sent to the fictional family and the real family were creepy. One of them asked if the children were too scared to play in the basement. It read, "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."
'The Watcher' also let the family know they "pass by many times a day. 657 Boulevard is my job, my life, my obsession. And now you are too, Broaddus family."
Derek Was Frustrated That The Police Weren't Progressing With The Case And Decided To Start His Own Investigation
The couple went to the police several times with the letters and with their concerns about the stalker. However, they didn't appear to be doing much about it. Derek Broaddus got frustrated and decided to start his own investigation.
He set up cameras and hired investigators to watch the house and analyze the letters. The investigators recognized some old-fashioned tics that made them think it was an older person.
Private Investigators Found Several Other Leads
The private investigators that the family hired found many leads. They found out that there were two child sex offenders living near the home. They were also suspicious of the older couple who would sit in their chairs facing the home.
The investigators also checked into other neighbors and analyzed the letters that the family had received. However, they were not able to find out the identity of the suspect.
Some People In Westfield Began Spreading Theories That The Broaddus Couple Were Behind The Letters Themselves
Many neighbors and residents of Westfield thought it was possible the Broaddus family was behind the letters. They spread rumors that the couple realized they couldn't afford the home and wrote the notes in order to get out of the sale.
Some even thought that the couple were scammers looking for a movie or book deal. However, the couple actually turned down many offers and even sent a cease and desist letter to Lifetime after it released a movie based on their story.
On Christmas Eve In 2017, Several Families Who Had Been Vocally Speaking Out Against The Broadduses Received Anonymous Letters In Their Mailboxes
On Christmas Eve in 2017, many of the families that had been spreading rumors about the family received anonymous letters in their mailboxes. The letters were signed "Friends of the Broaddus Family" instead of "The Watcher."
Derek later admitted that he actually wrote those letters. He said that he "had felt driven to his wit's end, fed up with watching silently as people threw accusations at his family based on practically nothing."
Theodora And Karen Were Both Made Up For The Watcher
The Netflix series has the characters, Theodora and Karen. Theodora is the private investigator that the family hired, and Karen is the real estate woman that sold them their house.
The Broaddus family did hire a private investigator, but there wasn't a person named Theodora. In addition, Karen was not based on a real person involved with the case either. They made the series more entertaining.
The Couple Actually Received Four Letters While They Owned The Property
The Broaddus family actually received four letters from 'The Watcher.' The first three letters were sent within a span of about a month and a half. The fourth and final letter came a few years later after they had already put the house up for sale.
The letter writer said that their old "home had been a fixture of fascination for their family for decades and that they were put in charge of watching and waiting for its second coming."
The Watcher Never Entered The House To Warn Off The Broaddus Family
One of the things that were made up for the Netflix series was that the family moved from New York City to the home in Westfield. In reality, Maria was born and raised in Westfield, and Derek grew up in Maine. Another thing that didn't really happen was that 'The Watcher' went into their home.
'The Watcher' never entered the house to warn the family. "Alarms did go off inside the house a few times, but no, there were no people randomly showing up inside the house. There were no phone calls or no serious phone calls. It was restricted to really creepy and threatening letters." ----- Wiedman.
The Broaddus Family Doesn't Care About Knowing Who The Real Watcher Is
In the end, the Broaddus family doesn't really care about finding out who 'The Watcher' is. They just want to remove themselves from the whole situation and move on.
They want to live normal lives with their children. They have been approached many times to sell their story, and they always said no until Netflix because they want to move on and be happy.
The Most Suspicious Of All The Suspects Was A Woman In A Car That Stopped In Front Of 657 Boulevard For An Extended Period Of Time
One of the most suspicious persons of all the suspects was a woman in a car that stopped in front of the house on 657 Boulevard for an extended period of time.
The police did see her and traced her car, only to find out that she was in a relationship with a man who lived on that block. The boyfriend actually played video games as a character called 'The Watcher.'
The Broaddus Family Filed An Application To Divide The Property Into Two Lots
In 2016, the Broaddus family tried to sell their house for $1.25 million, but the letters kept people away. The family's real estate lawyer told them they should sell the home to a developer who would tear the house down. The move would require the Westfield Planning Board's blessing because they would be dividing the lot into two homes, and that was against local code.
The request was unanimously rejected after a heated four-hour meeting. Many locals attended the meeting and expressed concern that tearing down the home would lower the cost of their homes and ruin the esthetic of the neighborhood.
The Watcher Also Condemned The Homeowners For Making Changes Or Upgrades To The Century-Old House
'The Watcher' also condemned the homeowners in one of the letters for making changes or upgrades to the century-old house.
The letter read, "The house is crying from all of the pain it is going through. You have changed it and made it so fancy. You are stealing its history. It cries for the past and what used to be in the time when I roamed its halls. The 1960s were a good time for 657 Boulevard when I ran from room to room imagining life with the rich occupants there. The house was full of life and young blood. Then it got old, and so did my father. But he kept watching until the day he died. And now I watch and wait for the day when the young blood will be mine again."
There Was A Suspect Who Played Video Games Under The Name "The Watcher"
As mentioned before, there was a suspect who played video games under the username of 'The Watcher.' His girlfriend told the police that he played dark and edgy video games.
The police tried to interview the video game player several times, but he canceled two interviews and then moved out of state. The video game player was also in the series, but his mother later says she gave him the nickname innocently because he worked doing security.
After Committing This Brutal Crime, List Vanished Without A Trace For Nearly 18 Years
After John List murdered his entire family, he disappeared. In 1989, America's Most Wanted actually ran a segment about List, which resulted in his capture. He had moved to Colorado, changed his name to Robert Clark, and married an unsuspecting woman.
He was arrested eighteen years later, convicted of murder, and spent the rest of his life in prison. His story really had nothing to do with the letters, but it was woven into the plot of the show.
Why Netflix's The Watcher Ended Without A Resolution
The Watcher is a terrifying true story, but Ryan Murphy left us with an unsatisfying conclusion. He made the series too realistic to deliver the closure crime TV viewers were expecting. The series implies that a neighbor, John Graff, is the letter writer but stops short of saying so.
However, he couldn't have been the writer because the real John List died six years before the letters were sent. The series left viewers with so many questions and no true conclusion.
There Are Too Many Subplots
Netflix's The Watcher has way too many subplots, with so many possible answers for what's happening at the Brannocks' home. However, it skips from one storyline to another without presenting a coherent narrative. One of the subplots is Dean's 16-year-old Ellie dating the 19-year-old Dakota.
She gets mad after her father tells her she can't date Dakota, so she goes online and falsely states that her father is a racist. The viewers are led to believe that this will destroy the family. However, they all forgive and move on rather quickly. Many of the twists are swept under the rug as quickly as they appear, which makes them seem like they were only meant for pure shock value.
Actress Naomi Watts
Actress Naomi Watts portrays Nora Brannock in The Watcher, which is loosely based on Maria Broaddus. Naomi has starred in several suspense and horror films and said that is her comfort zone.
She told Murphy, "And of course, then I read the article, it was an instant yes. Without reading the story or the scripts. It felt like, yes, I'm going to be returning to my comfort zone. Because I've felt good in that place before. I think fear is a fabulous emotion to work with. It's all-encompassing, and maybe I'm ruled by certain fears. So, I feel like it's always worth examining. And through my work, I get to do that."
Actress Jennifer Coolidge
Actress Jennifer Coolidge plays the fictional character Karen in The Watcher. She is a real estate agent in the series, and she has some ulterior motives. Coolidge built a career in comedy dramas, so working on this series was a new experience for her.
"I'm fascinated by people doing bad things. And it was so much fun to play. But like I said, no one was banging down my door to play someone in horror. Look at my resume. No one wanted to do this. So, Ryan, thank you. Thank you!"
Actor Bobby Cannavale
Actor Bobby Cannavale portrays Dean Brannock in The Watcher. He is the husband and father in the show who is just trying to protect his family.
When asked about his character, he said, "I worked very closely with Ryan in coming up with this guy. It's a portrait of the American dream, so you talk about it and decide on what version of that you're trying to tell. The kind of themes Ryan is trying to explore, go beyond the actual story of what happened at that house."
The Real Home Vs. The Netflix Home
The real house is actually very different from the house you see in the series The Watcher. The house used for filming is more than three times the size of the original Westfield home. It has more than ten thousand square feet, with six bedrooms and seven bathrooms.
Netflix only used the exterior of the Rye location for certain shots and created their own interior sets. The actual house sits on 1.25 acres and has a library, game room with a full bar, indoor basketball court, swimming pool, chef's kitchen, movie room, and so much more. The photo above is from the real home.