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True crime. Casually done.

The Westfield Watcher

Moving into a new home should be a happy occasion (despite all the crushing stress of moving your stuff, decorating, and dropping a huge amount of cash). And then, after all that, it’s the quality of the neighbours that can make or break your new life. Real estate agents will rarely mention if the guy next door is a convicted arsonist who enjoys late-night bagpipe jam sessions, so you’ll only find out after you’ve committed.

But if you’re sick of your crazy neighbours, today’s episode will prove that no matter how bad it is, it can always get worse. This is the story of an American family whose shot at suburban bliss turned into a terrifying ordeal that nearly destroyed their lives.

After moving into their dream home, an anonymous stalker launched a campaign of harassment against the couple and their children. With no idea who was behind it, every single one of their neighbours became a potential suspect. This sent the family down a rabbit hole of fear and paranoia, as they struggled to untangle the mystery of the Westfield Watcher…

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Dream Home 

The setting for this domestic nightmare was the quiet, affluent town of Westfield, New Jersey. Just 19 miles from New York, this safe little town of 30,000 is mostly home to wealthy city workers and their families. The average house price is around $850k, and properties are forever in high demand. 

So when John and Andrea Woods decided to sell their historic mansion house on the Boulevard — one of the town’s most desirable streets — they knew it’d fetch a good price. The six-bedroom house was built by a wealthy local historian in 1905, and boasted one of the biggest plots of land in town.

On the face of things, number 657 was a perfect family home: spacious, attractive, and surrounded by other couples with young kids. That’s how it appeared to Derek and Maria Broaddus when they went to view the property in the spring of 2014. She was born and raised in Westfield, and he was a native of Maine, who moved to New York to pursue a career in insurance. 

When their firstborn came, the couple decided to move back to Maria’s hometown to settle down. They lived in another property across town, and had two more kids (5, 8 , and 10 at the time), but with Derek’s recent promotion, they had decided to set their sights on an even more impressive family home. The bidding war was tough, but the Broadduses eventually won out, paying a cool $1.3 million for 657 Boulevard.

They planned on decorating the house over summer, and moving in later in the year. And despite being almost 110 years old, the place was in fantastic condition; the only problem so far was a bit of a leaky basement. The family brought in a bunch of contractors to renovate the place to their liking, preparing for this big move that would come to define the rest of their lives (although not for the reasons they expected).

That’s because this house came with a bit of baggage that couldn’t be sorted out with a simple bit of elbow grease…

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Welcome to the Neighbourhood 

In June 2014, three days after getting the keys, Derek visited his new home alone in the evening, to do a bit of painting. He decided to check the mailbox, and found a handwritten envelope inside. Westfield was a friendly place, so he assumed it was just a welcome note from one of the neighbours. And he was kind of right.

On the front of the envelope were written the words “The New Owner”, in clumsy handwriting, with a thick black marker. Inside was a typed note, folded neatly. It read:

“Dearest new neighbor at 657 Boulevard,

Allow me to welcome you to the neighborhood. 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. 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.”

That would be the point at which I run out the front door, never to return. If the century-old house has corpses hidden in the walls, I want absolutely nothing to do with it. As if that wasn’t unsettling enough, the writer had clearly been sticking to their duties as observer of the old mansion. 

They made direct reference to the minivan that the Broaddus family pulled up in a few days before. They were watching on while the kids got their first look at the house and started debating which room they’d get: “You have children. I have seen them. So far I think there are three that I have counted.” 

The writer claimed that the house was in dire need of “young blood”, and that they had personally asked the previous owners to sell the house on to someone with children. Perhaps the darkest line in that first letter suggested they had something in store for the little ones: “Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them to me.”

Was it supposed to mean the children were there to bring life back to the house, or to be sacrificed to it? Perhaps the latter, because whoever wrote this twisted little letter seemed to believe the house had a will of its own — a will that drew the family to it, and would resist the renovations, punishing the Broadduses for trying to change its original features. As the writer put it: “Tsk, tsk, tsk … bad move. You don’t want to make 657 Boulevard unhappy.”

This is some A-grade spine-chilling stuff. You’d have to assume that, for someone to be so invested in the house, they must live nearby. Could it have been one of the neighbours that the Broadduses chatted with during that visit? Perhaps a parent of one of the children their own kids played with in the backyard? It was impossible to tell, and the writer clearly took great joy in that fact: 

“There are hundreds and hundreds of cars that drive by 657 Boulevard each day. Maybe I am in one. Look at all the windows you can see from 657 Boulevard. Maybe I am in one. Look out any of the many windows in 657 Boulevard at all the people who stroll by each day. Maybe I am one.”

That narrowed the suspect pool down to about 1000+ anonymous people — not a great start. For now, Derek would just have to call the writer by their shadowy alias, printed in a cursive font at the bottom of the letter: “The Watcher”…

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It Could Be Anyone…

wesfield watcher Derek And his family.
Derek And his family.

This was just the beginning of the couple’s nightmare. Derek contacted the police, who came round to the house and read the letter, but there wasn’t much they could do at that point. He then went home to consult with Maria. They both agreed not to tell the kids that some deranged creep had their eye on them. At least not until they figured out whether it was a stupid prank or a genuine threat.

If this individual really had been watching the house for some time, then surely the previous owners would have heard from them. Derek and Maria wrote an email to the Woods, who confirmed that they had heard from this person, but only once while moving out, and they never felt threatened by them.

Andrea Woods said the Watcher basically just thanked them for looking after the place, even though this was the very first time they heard from this character in 23 years of living there. It seemed the maniac was far more amicable with the older couple. Still, they went with Maria Broaddus to the police station, where a Detective Lugo advised her not to tell anyone about the letters. The less the neighbours knew, the easier it would be to catch whichever of them was responsible.

The cops confirmed that the Watcher’s first letter was processed at a nearby NJ postal centre on the 4th of June, before the sale was publicly announced. That narrowed down the search radius considerably — they must have found out about the sale through local gossip. That meant every one of their new neighbours was a suspect, which turned the Broadduses’ lives into a paranoid game of whodunit. 

Maria couldn’t feel comfortable anywhere in town, always wondering if one of the smiling locals was actually the sick stalker threatening her kids. At the supermarket, the gym, the park, every little glance from a stranger was cause for panic, because the Watcher might be any one of them. She began obsessively researching anyone who seemed even the slightest bit suspicious, to no avail.

At this point, the Broadduses were still determined to make life in their dream home a reality. They returned to the house several times, often bringing along their kids to show them the progress. Maria was still paranoid that the Watcher might be waiting in the bushes at the end of the yard, prepared to snatch away one of the kids if they got too close. So whenever they played near the edge of the garden, she called them back towards the house.

A couple of days after the incident, Derek invited a local couple in to take a look at the renovations — nothing major, just some fresh decorations. His heart started racing when the wife of the couple casually said “It’ll be nice to have some young blood in the neighbourhood.” Was it a coded threat, accidental slip of the tongue from the Watcher, or just a completely innocent remark? There was no way of knowing, and if he confronted the couple directly, Derek would just look like a madman.

That was the state the Broadduses lived in — going half insane, but still forced to keep up appearances for the neighbours, the kids, and the sake of the investigation. Then, after a few days of living in total fear, they got their first breakthrough…

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The Langfords

The weekend after the first letter arrived, the neighbours decided to throw a BBQ to welcome the Broadduses and another couple to the neighbourhood. Derek and Maria did their best to meet and greet all the neighbours, while secretly working them for clues. 

One resident, John Schmidt, made an offhand comment about the family next door to number 657: the Langfords. Schmidt said the family were a bit strange, and when pushed to explain, he told Derek that the mother, Peggy Langford, lived there with her adult kids. She was in her nineties and the kids were all in their sixties.

The one that interested Derek the most was Michael Langford: a single, unemployed man who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his youth. If someone were to develop a deluded friendship with a century-old mansion, that kind of diagnosis would probably help. Perhaps, having lived on the street for decades, he became obsessed with preserving it as it was in those good ol’ days.

And perhaps his illness made him believe that number 657 was quite literally communicating with him, and he was its guardian. Michael was intelligent enough to have penned the letters too, which were more eloquent than you;d expect from your average deranged stalker. The timeline also added up beautifully — the Langford clan moved into their house in the 1960s, when Michael was a child, and his father passed away about 12 years ago. 

People in the neighbourhood knew Michael as a harmless eccentric. He would often take a peek through windows when renovations were underway, or walk through new residents’ gardens. But long-time Boulevard veterans assured them he meant no harm. Still though… if he were sending these letters then he might think they were harmless enough, or he could’ve written and sent them during a less lucid period. 

The connection was too perfect to be a coincidence. Derek rushed to tell Detective Lugo, who was actually already aware of the potential lead. He assumed the harassment would stop if he interviewed Michael Langford, which he did a few days later. Of course, he denied any involvement.

But when the Watcher made their next move, it only seemed to reinforce the suspicion against him…

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Letters #2 and #3

Two weeks after the first letter was sent, Maria went to the house to check up on the renovations. There hadn’t been any major incidents in the interim — a sign which a contractor placed out front had been ripped up, but that was about it. 

Her blood must have run cold as she opened the mailbox, and saw that familiar handwriting on the front of an envelope. The message inside was even more personal than before, confirming the Watcher had kept to their word those past weeks:

“Welcome again to your new home at 657 Boulevard. The workers have been busy and I have been watching you unload carfuls of your personal belongings. The dumpster is a nice touch. Have they found what is in the walls yet? In time they will.”

The writer also now knew their names. He misspelled their surname as Braddus, rather than Broaddus, which implied he was within earshot of a conversation they had with the contractors or other neighbors. More worryingly, the Watcher had also been gathering information on the children, just as they promised. 

They mentioned each of them by the nicknames Maria had been calling them by in the garden: “I am pleased to know your names now and the name of the young blood you have brought to me. You certainly say their names often.” The creep had even been watching as one of their daughters practiced painting at an easel on a covered porch: “Is she the artist of the family?” they asked. 

If that doesn’t give you the chills, then how about this one: “Will the young blood play in the basement? Or 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.”

Absolutely terrifying stuff for any parent to hear. Especially since they were fairly certain who was to blame, but could do nothing about it! Although perhaps this new letter would be the proof they required. After all, the easel on the porch was only visible from a very specific angle, either the backyard, or from the Langford house side.

It would take a bit more than that to land an arrest warrant, so Derek decided to plough a load of money into his own private investigation, going deeper down the rabbit hole. He set up webcams around their unoccupied new home, hoping to catch Langford in the act on some sleepless night, hunched over his computer monitor.

The couple also invested in private investigators, ex-FBI agents, and security firms to gather information on Langford and any other potential suspects. Sounds like they had a bigger budget than most actual police forces.

With the help of these experts, they compiled a map of the surrounding area, showing how long each occupant had been living at their homes. The Watcher made repeated references to observing and visiting the house in the sixties, and guess who was the only family to have stayed there that long…

Ex-FBI agent Robert Lenehan analysed the letters, asserting that the writer probably wasn’t a direct threat, but could certainly act unpredictably. The style of writing also suggested an older person, with literary interests. And they were quite clearly obsessed with preserving the state of the house, and potentially the town itself. Like a psychotic homeowners association president.

As they dug deeper into the  case, a third letter arrived, which read: “The house is crying from all of the pain it is going through. You have changed it and made it so fancy. You are stealing its history. It cries for the past and what used to be in the time when I roamed its halls.”

With a lot of circumstantial clues pointing to the house next door, Derek and Maria managed to convince the police to take further steps against Langford. With Detective Lugo, they hatched a plan to trip the Watcher up. 

They sent an announcement to the Langford home, claiming they were preparing to rip down the house and build it anew. Surely that threat would’ve driven the Watcher into a rage. If they could just coerce him into incriminating himself, then the nightmare would be over.

But perhaps the trap was too obvious, as it never provoked a response. That or Langford genuinely wasn’t the right guy…

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For Sale (Somewhat Haunted)

Derek and Maria were at a loss. 2014 was at an end, and they were still no closer to a satisfying conclusion. They now had to decide whether they would move into number 657, potentially risking their children’s lives, or cut their losses and move on. That third letter actually made the decision pretty easy, as the Watcher seemed to be growing more and more volatile:

“657 Boulevard is turning on me. It is coming after me. I don’t understand why. What spell did you cast on it? It used to be my friend and now it is my enemy. I am in charge of 657 Boulevard. It is not in charge of me. I will fend off its bad things and wait for it to become good again. It will not punish me. I will rise again.”

Must have been some truly awful interior design to piss the house off so badly. Naturally, they decided that living under the shadow of this unstable stalker wasn;t worth the risk. But by this point their old home was already sold, so the family moved in with Maria’s parents for the time being. Derek continued to go back to 657 Boulevard to shovel the driveway over winter (lest the neighbours file a complaint with the homeowner’s association). 

The place remained a constant drain on their finances and mental health, resulting in Maria being diagnosed with PTSD. On the advice of her therapist, they decided they’d be far better off without the house in their lives, so put it up for sale, just six months after buying it. 

At first they tried asking enough to cover the renovation costs, but by now rumours of the Westfield Watcher had begun to spread. Real estate agents heard whispers of a sexual predator harassing the occupants, or even past murders and ghostly happenings. 

But really this was no Amityville Horror — it was just the twisted hobby of someone mean spirited or deluded enough to want to toy with the family’s sanity. It’s worth noting that absolutely nothing was found in the walls (sorry to destroy your hopes for that shocking twist).

To try to front-run the gossip, the Broadduses decided to partially disclose the existence of the letters, and offered to show the creepy correspondence to any buyer before they pulled the trigger. Of course, this meant dropping the asking price by about $100k — a hefty financial gut-punch, but not that big a discount when a potential murder-stalker is included in the package.

That was actually a pretty kind move, because in New Jersey there’s no legal obligation to disclose such a thing. Derek and Maria wondered to themselves if they would have gone ahead with the purchase, if the previous owners had told them about that letter they received from the Watcher in their final days there. 

They decided to launch a lawsuit against the Woods, saying they withheld information that put their children’s lives at risk. Their lawyer aimed to keep things quiet, but this turned out to be the spark that blew the story onto the headlines of prime time TV news…

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The Alternative Theories

As if they weren’t under enough stress already, the Broadduses now had to deal with reporters harassing them, news vans parked up and down Boulevard, and every detail of their lives being pored over by online sleuths. They could no longer hide the story from the kids, forced to explain to them that mummy and daddy had been locked in a battle of wits with a diabolical stranger that wanted to hurt them. 

Once the news was loose, the wild speculation began. Every single person in Westfield now knew about the strange story that had been unfolding right under their noses, and everyone had their theories about who the mysterious menace in their midst might be. The frenzy around the case became a catalyst for the emergence of all that repressed, antisocial angst bubbling under the veneer of that well-to-do town.

But there was a positive side to the increased attention — a lot of new information started to come to light. Add to that a torrent of online sleuthing, and we actually have quite a few more credible theories than it first seemed…

Abby Langford

For one, DNA testing on one of the envelopes revealed a surprising twist: a sample found on it belonged to a female. This led detectives to consider Michael Langford’s brother Abby as a suspect — she was a real-estate agent, after all, and might have been frustrated at missing out on the hefty commission for 657.

Her side job was at a department store in the town, and with the help of a colleague, a detective was able to snatch her water bottle to run a test. Unfortunately, she wasn’t a match, so there was still no physical evidence linking the Langfords to the letter. Without a match for the DNA, the police went out on a limb and tested Andrea Woods, the previous owner. She also came up negative. They even tested Maria Broaddus (also negative).

Shortly after this, the state prosecutors officially removed the Langfords from the list of suspects. There was no official reason given, just that they were now eliminated from suspicion, even though Detective Lang noticed plenty of similarities between Michael Langford’s interview answers and the Watcher’s narrative in those early interviews. 

Derek and Maria couldn’t quite believe it — now they were well and truly back to square one.

Another Neighbour

So the couple got back to work. They started canvassing the neighbourhood, hoping someone would recognise the handwriting from the envelope. They even hired a private security firm to help check for matches, and a forensic linguist to scour the internet, but it was all in vain.

They eventually became so desperate, Derek tried hiring a hacker to break into local people’s computers via their WiFi routers. Before you start sweating, no, it’s not as simple as that. The process is pretty difficult (provided your security settings are tight) and it’s also very highly illegal. Derek decided to abandon that approach, rather than trade his haunted mansion for a prison cell.

Now we’re over a year and a half after the first letter from the Watcher was sent. Derek and Maria have had to drop their asking price miserably low to attract any interest at all (which according to one theory, might have been the point all along — perhaps one of their unsuccessful competitors was ruining their property value out of jealousy).

On top of that, they were constantly tormented with the media hype, which placed their family at the centre of constant attention and malicious rumours. But it wasn’t all in vain. During the course of their side investigation, one of the Broadduses’ PIs discovered that there were two registered sex offenders living in the area, who weren’t accounted for in the original investigation. That doesn’t instantly mean they were guilty, but it does make you wonder who else they might have missed.

For example, after the Langfords were let off the hook, a pair of detectives were staking out 657 Boulevard at night. They spotted a car slow down suspiciously in front of the house, and took down the registration. It belonged to a woman in the next town over, whose boyfriend lived on Boulevard.

She told the detectives he was into “some really dark video games”, one of which featured a character called… the Watcher. That could either be a crucial connection, or a result of generic story writing, but it was certainly worth checking out.

The suspect agreed to come in for an interview, but failed to show on two occasions. All the cops had on him were that he liked to play video games and once stopped to look at a house (a house which was currently on the front page of all the papers, after all), so they couldn’t do any more to force him. Probably not a major loss, as it was a pretty weak lead from the outset. At least though, it makes you wonder whether we should expand the Watcher’s psych profile from “obsessed stalker” to “trolling teenager”.

One key piece of overlooked evidence might support the latter theory. Amazingly, it eventually transpired that number 657 wasn’t even the only house to receive a letter from the Watcher. After the story broke, it transpired that another couple on the street received a letter from the Watcher, but since their kids were grown they never took it seriously. Ignoring the letter seemed to work, and they never received another. If the individual was truly deranged, not just bored, then I imagine they might have persisted regardless. As the golden rule of internet forums goes, don’t feed the troll.

With this new DNA evidence, the discovery of other letters, and suddenly the story has stopped making sense. Just when we thought we had it all tied up, all of these complications come tumbling down on us. As in the early days, the Watcher could now be anyone. Suspicion was pointed towards an elderly man that lived behind 657 with his wife, and was spotted by a contractor, sitting in his garden and looking towards the house. One of his son-in-laws had actually grown up in the house. 

But this was just the problem — it was a small town, so plenty of people had connections to the house in one way or another. When everyone is a suspect, it’s impossible to make any meaaningful progress…

The Owners

With no clear conclusion in sight, the internet justice mob turned its eyes against one of the less likely suspects: the Broadduses themselves. This commonly-repeated theory goes that Derek and Maria were suffering from a case of buyer’s remorse, and thought they could wangle out of the purchase. Their histories were turned inside out, and every detail examined — everything from their work histories to their social media profiles. This didn’t exactly work wonders  for their mental health.

And how exactly could this ridiculously convoluted hoax actually benefit the couple anyway? If anything, we should probably be looking at the people who competed against them in the bidding war. Perhaps, after seeing the house snatched away by a wealthier couple, some angry bidder decided to force the house back onto the market (at a sweet discount, no less)

Those determined to blame the couple think they might have done it to try to sue the Woods (even though their legal case was extremely weak, since as I mentioned, New Jersey law has no obligation to disclose the history of a house). Others say the plan was insurance fraud. But to that I saw: the guy was an actual insurance executive. Surely he would have a better plan to game the system than inventing a crazy story that could spiral right into the national spotlight!

If not that, then perhaps a movie deal. The Broadduses turned down several offers from production companies after their story broke, but in 2018 they finally caved in to Netflix, for a reported six-figure sum, who are producing an upcoming series about the ordeal. 

Now that seems a little more compelling, seeing as they did actually materially benefit from it. But at the end of the day, it would be a bit of a long shot from the outset. Why gamble hundreds of thousands of dollars on the off chance Netflix might come save you?

Once all the costs were counted, the whole thing was actually pretty financially ruinous for the family, especially when you factor in all the private investigation work. I’m not certain that the Netflix deal could completely cover those losses.

For that reason alone, I find it a pretty tough sell.

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For Rent (Somewhat Haunted)

Before Netflix came to save the day with a fat paycheque though, the family had to find another way to fend off the debt collectors. They managed to borrow money to buy a different house in town, but still couldn’t get a buyer for 657 Boulevard (since, by this time, basically everyone knew the story).

The family felt ostracised by the community for bringing all that negative press to town, with a lot of people more concerned about the reputation of their well-to-do town than the fate of the Broadduses. Everyone from their son’s football coach to their daughters’ classmates had an opinion on the family and their problems.

They came up against the community at large when they submitted an application to destroy the home, and build two more in its place. The family’s lawyer threatened they might turn the property into a half-way house if the plan was denied, trying to twist their arm by threatening that (gasp) poor people might be living on Boulevard. 

But the busybodies of the street rallied to shoot the idea down regardless. Their across-the-street neighbour Glen Dumont even called the idea “the end of the 600 block of Boulevard as we know it!” (Which sounds a lot like something the Watcher might say).

Thankfully, the Broadduses were able to find another solution when the plan was rejected. Plenty of keyboard warriors had claimed they would’ve ignored the letters and moved in anyway, and now the family invited them to put their money where their mouths were. The home was up for rent.

After a few weeks, they found a family brave enough to rent the home from them, with a clause in their tenant agreement saying they were free to leave without penalty if the Watcher kept up their games. It only took two weeks for the next letter to come in. Apparently the Watcher had gone a bit power mad after their little victory:

“657 Boulevard survived your attempted assault and stood strong with its army of supporters barricading its gates. My soldiers of the Boulevard followed my orders to a T. They carried out their mission and saved the soul of 657 Boulevard with my orders. All hail The Watcher!!!” 

So now the Watcher is the leader of an army of bureaucratic assholes? This more violent, more unhinged letter was a bit of a break from character, which makes me wonder if it was even sent by the same person at all. It finished up with threats made against the Broadduses and their tenant:

“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.”

Honestly, that all sounds like a load of empty threats — just slightly more eloquent versions of what edgy teens post on 4chan. I’m surprised they didn’t claim to have shagged someone mum. It makes me wonder if this definitely was the original Watcher. 

Even if it really was the omniscient menace that terrorised the owners of 657 Boulevard for so long, they never followed through on their threats, which makes me wonder if it wasn’t all the work of some pathetic fantasist all along…

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A Second Watcher

The tenant agreed to stay in the house, if the Broadduses could install security cameras around the perimeter. They continued to stay there for a while, before leaving for other reasons, and being replaced. The house stayed on the market, failing to attract buyers year after year.

And despite the stigma, the family continued staying in Westfield. Even though it meant living among people who publicly denounced them as frauds, and blamed them for damaging the reputation of the town. They almost seemed to be more on the side of the Watcher than the family.

However, another mysterious figure emerged in December 2017, to put them in their place. On Christmas Eve, card-sized envelopes, just like the ones sent by the Watcher, appeared in the mailboxes of several Westfield residents. The cryptic letters inside chastised them for attacking the Broadduses on the internet. Apparently this new Watcher spent most of their time watching a computer screen, trawling through Facebook groups to find the most vocal, most venomous enemies of the family.

They wrote in a style not unlike the original Watcher, and signed off as “Friends of the Broaddus Family”. Any ideas who might have sent them? In 2018, Derek Broaddus admitted to journalist Reeves Wiedeman that it was him. He did it out of frustration, trying to defend his family’s integrity, and potentially force their critics to understand just a fraction of the turmoil they endured.

Does this support the idea that he wrote the original letters? Well, not really. He didn’t exactly hold back this information, even when he knew it would be published in New York Magazine. All it proves is how far from himself the whole ordeal sent Derek — years of feeling the gaze of a malicious stranger hovering over his family drove him near breaking point.

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Wrap-up

That about wraps up the story of the Westfield Watcher — a tale of domestic bliss turning to paranoid terror. Derek and Maria were able to rent the house out for several more years, before finally, the Watcher stayed quiet long enough that a prospective buyer went through with the purchase on July 1st 2019. 

The Broadduses racked up a $400k loss on the property, not to mention all the financial, emotional, and psychological damage over the years. Even if you would’ve done things differently, you still have to sympathise with them for enduring that fear and anxiety for so long. As the Watcher said in their fourth and final letter: “You are despised by the house, and The Watcher won.”

Well, actually, that’s up for debate mate. Whoever you are, you’ll remain a pathetic, impotent loser, while the Broadduses will probably be able to get their lives generally back on track with that sweet, sweet Netflix money. I can only hope that some big real-estate developer one day gets a hold of 657 Boulevard, tears it down, and puts a bowling alley or Pizza Hut in its place. 

Have fun watching that. 

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Dismembered Appendices

1. The journalist who Derek confessed his letter writing campaign to back in 2018, Reeves Weideman, published the most in-depth, exhaustive account of the story, with exclusive access to the letters themselves. It’s where much of today’s info came from. If you enjoyed this somewhat condensed version, I’d encourage you to take a look at his excellent long-form piece on The Cut, for more insights.

2. The Watcher was recently ranked as the top urban legend in New Jersey in a local newspaper poll, but it’s perhaps not even the most chilling story from Westfield. In 1971, accountant John List shot his entire family dead in their 19-bedroom mansion. His motive was to preserve their place in heaven, as he believed they were turning away from the church (best just to get them up to the Pearly Gates before their souls were damned, eh).

3. My favourite tidbit from today’s research was discovering that ghosts are real, as far as New York real estate law is concerned. A woman named Helen Ackley submitted reports of hauntings at her home to magazines throughout the 80s. When Jeffrey Stambovsky bought it in 1990, he wasn’t informed, and tried to retroactively cancel the contract (which our friends the Broadduses failed to accomplish, by the way). 

In 1991, the court ruled that: “having reported [the ghost’s] presence in both a national publication […] and the local press, the defendant is estopped to deny their existence and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted.” 

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