Netflix has released a teaser for its upcoming limited series The Watcher, based on the experiences of a New Jersey family who were tormented by an anonymous stalker while trying to move into a new home.
The show chronicles the horrifying ordeal of Derek and Maria Broaddus and their children at 657 Blvd in Westfield, NJ. Ryan Murphy of Glee and American Horror Story is a co-creator on the series.
MORE: Former Eagles player stars in ‘The Good Nurse,’ the Netflix film about serial killer Charles Cullen from Pa., NJ
Those of New York Magazine The cut The history of the Broaddus family was first detailed in an article published in November 2018 (it was last updated on Monday). A month after the article’s original publication, Netflix narrowly won bidding war six studios involved in the story for the film rights.
The streaming service released its first follower for Sunday’s broadcast.
In the unconventional three-minute video, The White Lotus star Jennifer Coolidge plays real estate agent Karen Calhoun and hosts an open house at the 657 Boulevard property. At first glance, it might seem like a standard tour of a beautiful home in an upscale neighborhood — but the vibe is a bit off.
At one point, Coolidge references the fact that an entire body could fit in the house’s dumbwaiter. In the master bedroom, she warns, “But you want to keep the curtains closed. You know, there are a lot of weird neighbors out there and stuff.” The video is full of extra-long pauses and slogans like “This won’t last!”. That probably seems spooky to those who know the story the show is based on.
Alongside Coolidge, the series also stars Bobby Cannavale and Naoimi Watts as Dean and Nora Brannock, who are putting all of their life savings into their dream home. Unfortunately, when they arrive, they find an uninviting neighborhood full of curious and reserved residents, including crazy elderly woman Pearl (Mia Farrow) and her brother Jasper (Terry Kinney). Things take a sinister turn when the family begins receiving terrorizing letters from someone known as “The Watcher.”
The characters’ names may have been changed, but the essence of the story resembles the chilling reality of the original incident.
The actual account of the Broaddus family and The Watcher is stranger than the fiction itself.
Just days after the Broaddus closed a six-bedroom home in June 2014, Derek checked the post. Since renovation work was still pending, the couple and their three children had not yet moved into the house. What Derek found in the mailbox started actions that ensured 657 Boulevard never felt like home.
In a letter addressed to “The New Owner,” the anonymous author introduced himself as someone charged with guarding the house, awaiting his “second coming” as the house neared his 110th birthday:
“My grandfather watched the house in the 1920’s and my father watched in the 1960’s. It’s my time now. Do you know the history of the house? Do you know what lies behind the walls of 657 Boulevard? Why are you here? I will find out.”
As if that wasn’t creepy enough, the author identified the family’s car, angrily noting the construction work they were doing on the house, and noting the “young blood” (children) the Broaddus brought to the address. The letter was signed The Watcher.
Increasingly uncoordinated letters followed, identifying the children’s names and specific details that the Warden could only have known through close exploration. On one occasion, after one of the children they saw using an easel on a closed porch, the stalker asked, “Is she the artist in the family?”
The Broaddus were terrified as she conducted her own investigation, involving the police, private investigators, and the FBI in attempts to discover her stalker’s identity.
They looked at former housekeepers, interested buyers who lost the house, previous owners and their neighbors. At one point, a prime suspect was next-door neighbor Michael Langford, a reclusive man in his 60s who lived with his mother and siblings. Investigators later determined that the DNA on one of the envelopes belonged to a woman. Some neighbors even hypothesized that the Broaddus had sent the letters to themselves as part of an elaborate scam.
EEach lead came to a dead end for lack of evidenceand to this day the identity of “The Watcher” remains unknown.
In 2015, upon learning that the previous owners of 657 Boulevard had received correspondence from The Watcher, the Broadduses filed a legal complaint, saying they should have been warned. The lawsuit was dismissed.
After years of harassment, isolation and media attention, the Broadduses sold the Dutch Colonial Revival in July 2019 for around $400,000 less than they bought it. They had previously been forced to rent it out, having been put off by passing the Warden’s letters on to potential buyers. Plans to demolish the home and redevelop it were quashed by residents of the affluent neighborhood.
Amid the chaos, Derek admitted to The Cut that he once personally delivered anonymous letters to the mailboxes of families who were the most vocal against the Broaddus online. One person who received a letter said it seemed eerily similar to The Guardian’s poetic style. Derek claims these were the only anonymous letters he ever wrote.
According to the teaser, “The Watcher” will be released “soon” on Netflix. A tweet by Murphy puts the fall premiere and speculation through What’s on Netflix the streaming service is eyeing an October 2022 release and adding the show to its Halloween lineup.
This is not the first attempt to fictionalize the Broaddus experience. In 2016, despite a cease and desist letter from the family, Lifetime released a horror film titled “The Observer.”
To prepare for the upcoming release of the series, those interested can read the full story of the Broaddus family’s harrowing experience in The Cut’s article.