Who was the Watcher in real life? The true story behind the Netflix show is terrifying

14 October 2022, 12:03

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By Sam Prance

Dean and Nora Brannock are based on a real-life couple named Derek and Maria Broaddus. Who was the Watcher though?

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The Watcher on Netflix is terrifying viewers and the true story behind the Netflix true-crime drama is the stuff of nightmares.

Yesterday (Oct 13), The Watcher debuted on Netflix and viewers were immediately obsessed. The true-crime drama tells the story of a family who move into their dream home only to find out that they're being stalked by a mysterious person named the Watcher. The show then follows the family as the Watcher terrorises them all and they struggle to work out who it is.

The Watcher isn't fiction though. It was inspired by real-life events. How accurate it is it though and who is the watcher?

How accurate is The Watcher?

The Watcher true story: Who was it? Here's what happened in real life
The Watcher true story: Who was it? Here's what happened in real life. Picture: Netflix

The Watcher is based on a The Cut article from 2018 titled: "The Watcher: A family bought their dream house. But according to the creepy letters they started to get, they weren’t the only ones interested in it." In the piece, Derek and Maria Broaddus explain that, three days after buying a home in New Jersey, they were sent a letter from a person named The Watcher.

Just like the series, the letter was creepy. The Watcher reportedly wrote: "657 Boulevard has been the subject of my family for decades now and as it approaches its 110th birthday, I have been put in charge of watching and waiting for its second coming. My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time."

The Watcher continued: "Do you know what lies within the walls of 657 Boulevard? Why are you here I will find out." They said: "Was your old house too small for the growing family? Or was it greed to bring me your children? Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them to me. Welcome my friends, welcome. Let the party begin."

Police investigated the house afterwards but they found nothing out of the ordinary. Soon afterwards, Derek and Maria learned that the couple who owned the house before them, John and Andrea Woods, had also received a letter from someone called The Watcher but they ignored it and lived in the house for 23 years.

In other words, the majority of the stories in The Watcher about previous owners of the house are made up.

How long did Derek and Marie live in 657 Boulevard?

How accurate is The Watcher?
How accurate is The Watcher? Picture: Netflix

Just like in the series, Derek and Maria were sent even more threatening letters. The Watcher discouraged their children from playing in the basement by writing: "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."

Due to the letters and the ongoing renovations at their home, Derek, Maria and their children never actually moved into 657 Boulevard and they put it up for sale six months after they bought it. However, no one would buy the house due to Derek and Maria being open about the letters and why they were selling it.

The family then wanted to sell their home to a developer who would tear it down. However, the request was denied by the Westfield Planning Board. Like the show, many neighbours didn't take kindly to Derek and Marie and they even accused them of being behind the letters.

Derek and Marie did eventually let the house out to a new family and received even more letters. This time, The Watcher threatened to kill them: "Maybe a car accident. Maybe a fire. Maybe something as simple as a mild illness".

The new family kept renting the house stayed and The Watcher sent Derek and Maria one final letter writing: "You are despised by the house. And The Watcher won."

Who was the Watcher in real life?

Who was the Watcher in real life? The true story behind the Netflix show is terrifying
Who was the Watcher in real life? The true story behind the Netflix show is terrifying. Picture: Netflix

Despite ongoing investigations, the Watcher was never caught. Police originally suspected that Derek and Maria's neighbour Michael Langford was guilty. However, there was never enough evidence to arrest him.

A DNA test later revealed that the writer of the letters was female. As a result, authorities investigated Michael's sister, Abby Langford, Andrea Woods, who owned the home before Derek and Maria, and Maria herself. None of them were a match though.

The Watcher is still yet to be caught. Some people in the neighbourhood still believe that Derek and Maria wrote the letters themselves in a bid to sell the property or get a movie deal but there is no evidence to suggest that they did.

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