What is the true story behind The Watcher on Netflix?
Ryan Murphy blends fact and fiction.
Netflix's The Watcher has gripped viewers with its chilling suburban tale.
The series stars Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale as a couple terrorised by a creepy stalker called The Watcher.
The true story behind Netflix thriller The Watcher dates back to 2014 when Derek and Maria Broaddus, who had three young children, purchased their dream home at 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey.
However, things quickly devolved when the family were targeted by The Watcher, who terrorised them with a series of ominous letters.
While The Watcher is certainly inspired by the true story, which was first depicted in a 2018 New York Magazine article, Ryan Murphy has exercised his creative licence with numerous details and attempted to protect the real-life family from any unwanted attention by altering certain facts - such as their names.
Ahead of season 2's release date, read on to find out which parts of The Watcher are based on the true story.
The Watcher true story
The Watcher is inspired by the events detailed in a New York Magazine/The Cut article by Reeves Wiedeman, first published in 2018. It tells the true story of Derek and Maria Broaddus, a couple who in 2014 bought 657 Boulevard, a sprawling house in the idyllic New Jersey suburb of Westfield. They'd hoped it would become their dream home, but as renovation work on the $1.3 million property began ahead of them moving in, they received a disturbing letter addressed to 'The New Owner'.
The letter's sender identified themselves as the Watcher, and claimed to be the house's watcher ahead of its "second coming". The Broadduses shared the content of the letters with The Cut, with the first one reading: "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."
The Watcher also made references to the couple's children and asked them to fill the house with "young blood".
"You have children. I have seen them. So far I think there are three that I have counted," they wrote.
The Broadduses went to the police and were advised not to share the letters' contents with their neighbours, as police believed the most likely scenario was that one of them had sent it.
The Watcher star Mia Farrow, who plays an eccentric neighbour in the show, recently told RadioTimes.com that the real-life story was really only a starting point for the new series from Murphy – and that she hopes the real-life family steer well clear of the programme.
"[It was] a very different experience for us because we were only the actors and Ryan had created very different details," she explained. "I don't know if my character existed in the lives of those people.
"That storyline covered the basic outline… but the details are Ryan Murphy. So, I don't know who the family was. I don't know if I ever knew. But I’m sorry for them and everything. Hopefully they don't see the series."
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Who is the Watcher in the Netflix series?
An investigation led the Broadduses to suspect that one neighbour in particular, Michael Langford, was the Watcher due to the vantage point of his family's home, and that his family was thought to be eccentric.
However, he was eventually cleared as a suspect, and the Broadduses hired their own private detective to investigate the neighbourhood. They received a total of three letters, with the second one identifying their children by name and nickname, and containing details they claim could have only been noted by someone who had been inside the home or extremely close to it.
As they continued their search for the Watcher, the Broadduses found out the previous owners, the Woods, had also received a letter just before they moved out, but had no trouble in the 23 years they had lived in the house before then.
The Broadduses, who didn't actually move into the home but decided to rent it out instead, went on to attempt to sue the Wood family for not disclosing that they had received a letter, but the case was later dismissed. By then, however, news of the Watcher had spread across the neighbourhood and beyond.
Many theories emerged, with sites such as Reddit claiming the Watcher must live within the house's walls, and others, including some Westfield residents, suggesting the Broadduses had sent the letters to themselves in an attempt to recoup financial losses after experiencing buyer's remorse.
However, the identity of The Watcher was never uncovered, and the Broadduses eventually sold the house in 2019, when it was bought for $400,000 less than the Broadduses paid for it.
Was the true story behind The Watcher ever solved?
Several investigations took place, both by police and former FBI agents hired by the Broadduses, over the years.
However, as detailed above, the Watcher was never found and continues to be unidentified to this date.
How much of The Watcher is true?
Netflix has made some changes to the creepy story, including changing the Broadduses' names and surnames.
In the series, they also only have two children who are older than the Broadduses' own children were when they first bought the house.
As for the Watcher's identity, the Netflix series remains truthful to the true story, in that it doesn't offer any definitive answers.
The Watcher landed on Netflix on 13th October 2022 at 8am BST. Sign up for Netflix from £6.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.
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