Here's the eerie true story behind 'The Watcher' on Netflix

The unsettling events have received the Netflix treatment just in time for Halloween—plus, there's a Jennifer Coolidge cameo

The Watcher. (L to R) Luke David Blumm as Carter Brannock, Isabel Marie Gravitt as Ellie Brannock, Bobby Cannavale as Dean Brannock, Naomi Watts as Nora Brannock in episode 101 of The Watcher.
(Image credit: Eric Liebowitz/Netflix © 2022)

The true story behind The Watcher might cause you to lose faith in the postal system. 

In this new fictionalized true crime from Ryan Murphy, we meet a family who found its dream home at 657 Boulevard...until ominous, threatening letters began appearing in the mailbox. No, these notes weren't random—they targeted the Broaddus brood and set out to make everyone's lives miserable. 

"Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested? Better for me," one letter read, according to The Cut (opens in new tab). "Was your old house too small for the growing family? Or was it greed to bring me your children? Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them too [sic] me."

Just in time for spooky season, Netflix has decided to revisit one of New Jersey's eeriest tales, and to our delight, gift us with a much-needed Jennifer Coolidge cameo. But what exactly happened in this Westfield home? We'll give you the details before your next movie marathon. 

(No it's not your imagination, your October screen time is extra creepy this year.) 

The cast includes Naomi Watts, Bobby Cannavale, Mia Farrow, Noma Dumezweni, Joe Mantello, Richard Kind, Terry Kinney, Margo Martindale and Jennifer Coolidge.

The true story behind 'The Watcher'

In 2014, Derek and Maria Broaddus set their sights on a six-bedroom $1.3 million home in suburban New Jersey, the land of Bruce and Bon Jovi. Everything seemed picture-perfect for the young family...until a stalker that called himself (or herself) The Watcher started sending the new residents frightening letters.

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Upon their move-in, the Broaddus family received a particularly odd welcome from this anonymous source. 

"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," the initial letter read, per The Cut. "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 family received four letters in total from The Watcher, and each one grew more specific, eventually addressing Derek and Maria's children by name. When the family tried to uproot its life, The Watcher still threatened the Broaddus clan. 

"Maybe a car accident. Maybe a fire. Maybe something as simple as a mild illness that never seems to go away but makes you fell sick day after day after day after day after day," another letter read. "Maybe the mysterious death of a pet. Loved ones suddenly die. Planes and cars and bicycles crash. Bones break."

The Watcher. Bobby Cannavale as Dean Brannock in episode 101 of The Watcher.

(Image credit: Eric Liebowitz/Netflix © 2022)

The previous owners, John and Andrea Woods, also received a threatening note before they moved out of the house, but hadn't received one in the 23 years they had called 657 Boulevard home. Ultimately, the Broaddus family filed a legal complaint against the Woodses for not disclosing the information about the letter.

Who is The Watcher?

Ah, the million-dollar question. Despite hiring private investigators, FBI agents and relocating to an undisclosed location, the Broaddus family never found out who was behind the menacing letters, however, DNA results suspect that The Watcher had been an elderly woman, according to People (opens in new tab). Anyone else going to sort through their mail extra closely after this?

The Watcher hits Netflix on October 13. Ryan Murphy's other new series, Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, is currently streaming on Netflix. For more scares, check out where your favorite Halloween movies are streaming this year. 

Danielle Valente

Danielle is a writer for woman&home and My Imperfect Life, covering all-things news, lifestyle and entertainment. 

The heart of her time at Future has been devoted to My Imperfect Life, where she's been attuned to the cosmos, new TV shows and relationship trends.  

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids and a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, amNewYork and Newsday, among other outlets. 

When Danielle is not working, you can usually find her reading a book, coffee at hand, or attempting a new recipe. (Recommendations always welcome!)