Home > Entertainment > Spine-chilling true story that inspired the Netflix show ‘The Watcher’
Spine-chilling true story that inspired the Netflix show ‘The Watcher’

Viewers of true crime series or movies mostly find them more thrilling because they know that the chilling incidents depicted actually happened to real people. The Watcher, the latest in the slew of series based on a true story, on Netflix is the latest obsession for true crime fans, for it is a mystery that remains unsolved to date and might even affect the decisions of those looking to buy their dream home.

Created by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, The Watcher explores the psychological aspect of true crime that leads to mental agony for the victims, besides causing financial losses for them.

It is a seven-episode miniseries starring Naomi Watts as Nora Brannock, Bobby Cannavale as Dean Brannock, Mia Farrow as Pearl Winslow, Terry Kinney as Jasper Winslow and Noma Dumezweni as Theodora Birch. There are others in minor and recurring roles.

Murphy is joined in the directorial credits by Paris Barclay, Max Winkler and Jennifer Lynch.

Here are some details about the strange case of the house in The Watcher

The plot of The Watcher

True story Netflix
Image: Courtesy of Netflix

The story of The Watcher revolves around a house. But before jumping to conclusions, let it be clear that there is nothing supernatural about it. There are no ghosts or apparitions haunting families in beautiful manors or expansive farmhouses such as those in The Amityville Horror (2005), The Conjuring (2013) and The Shining (1980) — the last of which is a legacy sequel.

The Watcher is also not about grisly crimes of serial killers or psychopaths, as depicted in shows such as True Detective (2014– ), Mindhunter (2017-2019), and Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story (2022).

The plot revolves around the Brannock family who buy a house in a posh American suburb in New Jersey only to find themselves receiving sinister threats by an anonymous person sending letters signed as The Watcher. Neighbours are not of much help, and the family suspects that any one of them could be The Watcher.

A real-life couple who could not live in a million-dollar house

The Brannocks in The Watcher true story series are based on the real-life couple Derek and Maria Broaddus. Their harrowing tale was first reported by the New York Magazine in 2018, which also covered an update to it in 2022.

According to the real-life story, the Broadduses bought the house 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey, in June 2014 for USD 1.4 million. They planned to move into the six-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom estate with their children.

But three days after buying the American property, they received a letter that seemingly warned them of being watched.

The writer of the letter hinted that there could be something hidden behind the walls of the house, which was built in 1905. The writer claimed to be the son of someone who “watched” the house in the 1960s and the grandson of another who did the same in the 1920s.

“As it approaches its 110th birthday, I have been put in charge of watching and waiting for its second coming,” the letter read.

Following the letter, police searched the house but found nothing odd in the walls. The Broadduses discovered that a similar letter was sent to the previous owners of the property — John and Andrea Woods, who concealed the fact from the Broadduses. The Woods had been living on the property for 23 years before selling it off.

The Watcher sent three more letters over the next five years. Each was more threatening and more personal than the previous. The Watcher apparently was watching the family and the children closely whenever they arrived at the house.

Is it someone from the neighbourhood?

The police investigated the neighbourhood and collected DNA samples. Based on the DNA collected from the letters, authorities continue to believe that the writer is a female, older, and a resident of the area around 657 Boulevard.

After trying to sell off the property unsuccessfully, the Broadduses finally managed to get it off their backs in 2019 for USD 959,000 — a loss of close to USD 400,000. The loss would be more because the Broadduses also had the property renovated in the hopes of living in it one day, which they never could. Yet, the family informed the new owners of the letters they had received. Interestingly, the new owners have not received any such letter.

It is also interesting to note that when the Broadduses planned on selling the house to a developer, it was met with vehement rejection in a meeting of the Westfield Planning Board. Some locals were concerned over the possibility of the developer demolishing the building and erecting two homes, which would in turn negatively affect the rates of other properties in the neighbourhood.

Anyway, suspicion danced from one to the other in the area over who could be The Watcher. But so far, no one has been arrested. Eerily, this means that The Watcher could still be out there.

Are there any differences between the actual story and the series?

Yes, there are some. For instance, the Broadduses never moved into the house while the series shows Brannocks moving in.

The money spent by the Brannocks to buy the property is almost doubled to USD 3.2 million, which, according to Netflix, is to show something that causes “considerable financial strain” on the protagonists in the series.

Watch The Watcher here.

(Main and Featured images: Netflix)

Spine-chilling true story that inspired the Netflix show ‘The Watcher’

Manas Sen Gupta

Manas Sen Gupta writes at the intersection of tech, entertainment and history. His works have appeared in publications such as The Statesman, Myanmar Matters, Hindustan Times and News18/ETV. In his spare time, Manas loves studying interactive charts and topographic maps. When not doing either, he prefers reading detective fiction. Spring is his favourite season and he can happily eat a bowl of noodles any time of the day.


Never miss an update

Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest updates.

No Thanks
You’re all set

Thank you for your subscription.