'The Watcher' series is actually based on a true story, with a few changes.

The Creepiest Part Of The Watcher Is That A Lot Of It Really Happened

Yep, someone actually got those exact letters.


One of the most disturbing elements of Netflix’s psychological thriller The Watcher comes in the very first shot of the series, as a card reveals the show is based on a true story. Sure enough, the bizarre haunting of 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey wasn’t fabricated for the show — it’s real, and so are the threatening letters that appear throughout the series. Of course, not every aspect of The Watcher is faithfully adapted from reality, but you’d probably be surprised at just how much of The Watcher is real, because fact is always scarier than fiction.

In the show, Dean and Nora Brannock descend into paranoia after receiving multiple anonymous letters about their new home at 657 Boulevard. The letters, from someone who calls themself “The Watcher,” reveal the sender’s obsession with the house, as well as the “young blood” who now reside in it. Creepily enough, pretty much every sentence in The Watcher’s notes on the show are copied verbatim from the real-life Watcher’s letters, sent to actual couple Derek and Maria Broaddus when they moved into 657 Boulevard in 2014. The story of the Broaddus’ anonymous stalking blew up when New York Magazine published their story in 2018, detailing the years of panic they suffered enduring this still-unsolved mystery.

Surprisingly, much of what is shown in the Netflix series comes pretty directly from the Broaddus’ real story. Derek really did become obsessive about security and investigating the letters, like Bobby Cannavale’s character, and many of the real prime suspects show up as unsettling neighbors in the series. In particular, the Broaddus’ noticed an older couple who lived behind their home tended to sit in lawn chairs facing their house, much like Margot Martindale and Richard Kind’s characters in The Watcher.


The family was also convinced for a time that The Watcher must be their neighbor Michael Langford, who was described as a man in his 60s who lived with his 90-year-old mother next door to 657 Boulevard. Langford had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and many people in the neighborhood said he may do bizarre things like peek into windows or bring people their newspapers, but nobody saw him as threatening in any way. The investigators wound up clearing Langford and his family of any involvement in the Watcher case. It’s clear he and his mother are the inspirations for the Pearl and Jasper Winslow characters in The Watcher.


While much of the series is taken from the actual Watcher investigation, the show of course added a bit of its own drama. For one thing, the conspiracy that the residents of Westfield were part of a child-eating cult was invented for the show. Also, the Broaddusses had three children who were never aware of the Watcher letters until they became a national fascination, whereas the Brannocks in the show have two kids who learn of the threat pretty quickly. The Broadusses also never fully moved into 657 Boulevard, renovating it from afar after the initial Watcher letters made them too uneasy to spend the night there.

Perhaps the biggest change from real-life to series is how the Broadusses notoriety affected them. The Netflix show never really delves into how the Watcher letters thrust the family into a tornado of conspiracy theorists and internet commenters, along with turning their Westfield community against them. In reality, Derek and Maria became pariahs as their neighbors clung to a theory that they may have faked the letters, and saddled with debt from the mortgage on their home that they never even lived in, they were finally able to sell 657 Boulevard in 2019 at a loss of nearly $400,000. The new homeowners have not reported receiving any Watcher letters since buying the house.

As of The Watcher’s Oct. 13 premiere, the actual Watcher case remained unsolved, but hopefully the renewed interest in this mystery may finally bring about some real answers.