"Have they found what is in the walls yet?" The true story behind Netflix's The Watcher.

Listen to this story being read by Keryn Donnelly, here.

In June 2014, Derek and Maria Broaddus bought their dream home at 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey.

Three days later, after spending the day working on the house, Derek (played by Bobby Cannavale in the Netflix series, The Watcher) checked the mailbox. It was 10pm and he was alone in the sprawling, six bedroom home.

Inside the mailbox he found a white, card-shaped envelope. The letter was addressed to “The New Owner”.

“Dearest new neighbour at 657 Boulevard, allow me to welcome you to the neighbourhood,” the letter innocently began.

It then took an unusual turn.

“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 letter writer continued. “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.”

Watch the trailer for Netflix's The Watcher. Post continues below.


According to The Cut, the letter writer went on to describe what they had witnessed at the house over the previous three days.


“I see already that you have flooded 657 Boulevard with contractors so that you can destroy the house as it was supposed to be,” the person wrote. “Tsk, tsk, tsk… bad move. You don’t want to make 657 Boulevard unhappy.”

The letter writer had also been watching the Broadduses’ three small children, writing, “Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them too [sic] me”.

The envelope had no return address and the mysterious writer hinted this was only just the beginning of their eerie game.

“Who am I?” they wrote. “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.

“Welcome my friends, welcome. Let the party begin… The Watcher.”

After reading the letter, Derek ran around the house shutting off the lights. He then called the Westfield Police Department, but the responding officer said they couldn’t do much to help him.

When Derek returned home to Maria (Naomi Watts), they wrote an email to John and Andrea Woods, the couple who had sold them the property.

Andrea said they had received one letter from The Watcher, just days before they moved out. They had never experienced anything unusual in the 23 years they lived at 657 Boulevard.


Two weeks later, Maria discovered a second letter in the mailbox. This time the letter was addressed to “Mr. and Mrs Broaddus”.

Image: Netflix.  

“The workers have been busy and I have been watching you unload carfuls of your personal belongings,” it read. “The dumpster is a nice touch. Have they found what is in the walls yet? In time they will.”


The Watcher then identified Derek and Maria’s children by their birth order – and their nicknames.

“I am pleased to know your names now and the name of the young blood you have brought to me,” the letter read. “You certainly say their names often.”

The Watcher asked whether the children were too afraid to go into the basement and if they would be sleeping in the attic.

“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.”

After receiving the second letter, the Broadduses stopped bringing their children to the house. They later decided they wouldn’t be moving into their dream home.

They had no idea who was responsible for the letters, and everyone in the small town quickly became a suspect. While police investigated several leads, they never had a solid suspect.

Image: Netflix.  


Despite the Broadduses staying away from the house, a third letter arrived.

Derek and Maria became increasingly suspicious of their neighbours, and the local community largely turned their back on the family they believed were going to be responsible for driving down local property prices. Some even went as far as to accuse the couple of creating a hoax in order to sue the former owners of the house.

As Bustle reports the couple then unsuccessfully tried to sell the house. When that didn’t work, they put in a proposal to the local council to get approval to sell the property to a developer who would demolish the house and build two smaller houses in its place. The local community came out in droves to oppose the move and the council denied their application.

The Broadduses were forced to find tenants for the house, but the rent they received didn’t even cover their mortgage.


Two and a half years after the Broadduses received that first letter, just when they thought The Watcher had finally given up, they received one more letter.

“657 Boulevard survived your attempted assault and stood strong with its army of supporters barricading its gates,” the letter read. “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!!!”

In 2019, the Broadduses sold the house to a couple for $959,000. According to The Cut, the new owners haven't heard anything from The Watcher. 

Eight years on, the community of Westfield, New Jersey, have largely forgotten about 657 Boulevard and The Watcher… except for Derek and Mary.

The family continue to be haunted by the very thought of a mysterious stalker, hiding in the shadows, watching their every move.

The Watcher premieres on Netflix on Thursday, October 13. 

Keryn Donnelly is Mamamia's Pop Culture Editor. For her weekly TV, film and book recommendations and to see photos of her dog, follow her on Instagram and TikTok. 

This article was originally published in 2018 and was updated in October, 2022. 

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