Ryan Murphy’s latest Netflix creation involves the unsolved case of a stalker who terrorized a New Jersey family for months using threatening letters. The Watcher is based on an article by Reeves Wiedeman on The Cut that detailed the harassment experienced by the Broaddus family after purchasing a $1.3 million property in Westfield, New Jersey.
The Broaddus family sold their story’s rights on condition that the project did not use the Broaddus name, and the showrunners cast actors that didn’t resemble the victims.
Derek and Maria Broaddus, the parents of three young children, were the victims of harassment by a terrifying stalker.
Derek and Maria Broaddus live in a house in Westfield they purchased via an LLC
The Broadduses received their first letter from the Watcher three days after purchasing the property. It seemed good-natured at first, but the tone quickly turned sinister. The writer claimed it was his turn to watch the house and wait for its ‘second coming.’ The correspondence read:
“My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time. Do you know the history of the house? Do you know what lies within the walls of 657 Boulevard? Why are you here? I will find out.”
In the second letter, the writer mentioned the Broadduses by name, including the children’s identities and birth order, suggesting they’d gathered information about the new owners.
The stalker sent a letter suggesting they wanted to hurt the children, whom they referred to as ‘young blood’. The letter read:
“If you were upstairs you would never hear them [the children] scream. Will they sleep in the attic? Or will you all sleep on the second floor? Who has the bedrooms facing the street? I’ll know as soon as you move in. It will help me to know who is in which bedroom. Then I can plan better.”
The Cut reported that Derek and Maria Broaddus borrowed money from family and bought another home in Westfield in 2016. The couple bought the house using a limited liability company to make it harder for the Watcher to locate the family’s new residence.
Derek is active on Twitter, sharing stories about stalking and child safety. He occasionally uploads posts about his experiences with the Watcher.
The Broadduses never got to live at 657 Boulevard
After purchasing the property at 657 Boulevard, the Broddauses hired renovators to spruce up the house before they moved in, angering the Watcher.
“You don’t want to make 657 Boulevard unhappy,” the stalker wrote. “[You] have flooded 657 Boulevard with contractors so that you can destroy the house as it was supposed to be.”
The Broadduses asked the previous owners, the Woods family, whether they’d received threatening letters from a mysterious stalker. The Woods family said they received one non-threatening letter after they moved out.
Derek and Maria sued the Woods family for fraudulent concealment and negligent infliction of emotional distress. A Pennsylvania court dismissed the case.
The Broadusses never moved into 657 Boulevard. Six months after purchasing the property, they put it up for sale. However, the letters dissuaded potential buyers from buying the home.
Investigations by police about the source of the letters proved fruitless. Neighbors suspected the Broadduses of sending the letters to themselves in an attempt to avoid moving into the abode. Derek and Maria hired a private investigator to look into the threats – the PI found nothing.
In 2016, the planning board rejected a proposal by a developer to destroy the house and build two smaller properties on the lot. Luckily, the family found people willing to rent 657 Boulevard. Before the tenants moved in, Derek found a letter threatening the family’s safety:
“Maybe a car accident. Maybe a fire. Maybe something as simple as a mild illness that never seems to go away but makes you feel sick day after day after day after day after day. Maybe the mysterious death of a pet. Loved ones suddenly die. Planes and cars and bicycles crash. Bones break.”
In July 2019, Derek and Maria sold the property at a loss. They’d bought the home for $1,355,657 and spent $100,000 on renovations; they sold it for $959,000.