In “The WatcherNora (Naomi Watts) and Dean Brannock (Bobby Cannavale) and their children fulfill their dream of owning their own home. They have put all their savings into a stately home in idyllic Westfield, a suburb of New Jersey. But the joy quickly turns to pure horror. Not only do they keep clashing with their strange neighbors, they soon receive eerie threatening letters from a stranger who only calls himself The Watcher called and added to the family more and more.
What sounds like pure Hollywood horror stuff actually has its roots in an all-too-real case that happened in 2014 and in which Filmfabrik did indeed show great interest early on. After a 2018 detailed background article on the incidents on the New York Magazine-owned website The Cut was released, Netflix ultimately won the rights to the incredible story in a studio bidding war for what is believed to be a seven-figure sum.
Initially it was supposed to be a film, but in the end the decision was made for a series and a real expert for true crime cases was entrusted with it. After all, “American Horror Story” creator Ryan Murphy has already impressively proven with “American Crime Story” and most recently with “Dahmer” that he can process shocking true crimes in a particularly gripping way. How he does it in this case can now be seen in seven episodes on Netflix. But what exactly happened back then and what is the status today?
Of course, “The Watcher’ some liberties in the preparation of the story. Especially the strange or even openly hostile behavior of the neighbors is mostly made up for it. In the case of the Watcher’s messages themselves, however, the facts were adhered to in many respects. The Brannock couple’s real-life counterparts (who went by the names Derek and Maria Broaddus) couldn’t believe their eyes when they found a mysterious letter at their new address for which they’d just shelled out a whopping $1.35 million and with you they hadn’t even really moved in at that point.
“Why are you here?” he began Watcher his first writing and then claimed that his family had been watching over the house for generations. “Do you know the history of the house? Do you know what’s in the walls?” the letter’s author continued ominously, only to then make it clear that he was already watching the Broaddus and their children closely: “You have children. I saw her. So far I counted three. Are there more on the way? Must you fill the house with the young blood I’ve longed for? […] As soon as I know their names, I will call for them and lead them to me.”
A second letter followed ten days later, in which the Watcher revealed more precise knowledge of the Broaddus house and its rooms, even described it several times as if it had a life of its own. He also spoke about the previous owner family, whom he had already terrorized and successfully put to flight, but who had not said a word to Derek and Maria Broaddus when the house was sold.
After these two creepy letters, the threatened couple decided to keep their children away from the house and finally called the police. In the end, they stayed away from the property themselveswhat the Watcher to a third and final letter in which he wrote: “Where have you gone? 657 Blvd [so die Adresse des Hauses] miss you.”
Over the following months and years, the police tried feverishly to find out the identity of the watcher, but without success – and that to this day. It was assumed that the author of the threatening letters was an elderly person from the immediate vicinity and (due to a corresponding DNA trace on one of the envelopes) possibly even a woman, but it didn’t get any more tangible than that. In the meantime, the investigations have largely fallen asleep. A solution is now only promised by a confession from the watcher himself or a late DNA match – which is likely to be quite unlikely, since such samples have already been taken from a large part of the neighborhood.
The Broaddus family was actually able to sell their supposed dream house, which they had never really moved into, to another family in 2019 – but made a loss of around 400,000 dollars in terms of the purchase price. And that didn’t even include brokerage costs, taxes, legal and investigator fees, and the investments already made in renovation work. After all, the new owners have been spared further letters from the watcher – at least until now.