The Watcher: True story behind Netflix’s chilling new series

Netflix just dropped The Watcher, a new Ryan Murphy series about a couple whose dream move soon turns into a waking nightmare.

Set in Westfield, New Jersey, the series features Naomi Watts and Bobby Canavalle as Nora and Dean Brannock, who after moving into a new home begin to be harassed by a mysterious figure.

They start receiving letters signed by The Watcher, and the invasion of privacy ramps up from there.

The series is based on a 2019 article in New York Magazine. But in true Ryan Murphy fashion, it takes a few departures from reality – so here’s what really happened.

The house that The Watcher is based on (Google Maps)

The couple whose story The Watcher is based on is Derek and Maria Broaddus. They bought their dream home, 657 Boulevard, in June 2014 for nearly $1.4 million.

A few days after the sale completed – and before the Broadduses had even moved in – they received an anonymous letter.

The writer claimed the home had been “the subject of [his] family for years” and that he had been put in charge of watching over it “and waiting for its second coming”, as reported by New York Magazine.

When the Broadduses approached the previous owners, they found that they had also received a letter signed by The Watcher recently, but remembered it being more strange than threatening.

As they set about renovating the house, more letters followed. They suggested somebody was observing the family, with one saying: “You have children. I have seen them. …

“Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them too [sic] me.”

The letters continued, including ones addressing the couple by name, identifying their three young children, and suggesting the previous owners, the Woodses, had sold 657 Boulevard when The Watcher requested it.

Police were unable to help the couple, and less than a year after they bought the house, they put it back on the market.

However, having shared some of their story with potential buyers, bids were low.

In June 2015, the Broaddusses filed a civil lawsuit against the Woodses for a full refund of the $1.3 million they paid for the home, along with the title to the house, renovation expense reimbursement of “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” attorney fees and triple damages.

Two weeks later, they took the house off the market and the lawsuit reached national attention, with talk show host Tamron Hall discussing the matter on her programme.


In January of 2016, the Woodses file a countersuit against the Broadduses for defamation. The Woodses attorney, Richard Kaplow, says his clients were not legally required to disclose the note they received prior to closing the sale of 657 Boulevard.

The house was put back on the market for $1.25 million in March.

In September, the family filed an application to tear down 657 Boulevard, hoping to sell the lot to a developer who could divide the property and build two new homes in its place. The proposition to the Westfield Planning Board was unanimously rejected.

After this, the Broadduses found a family willing to rent the house. Soon after, a new letter from The Watcher arrived at 657 Boulevard.

It was dated 13 February, 2017, the day the Broadduses gave depositions in their lawsuit against the Woodses. The author taunted Derek and Maria about their rejected proposal, suggested they or loved ones might soon meet their deaths.

In October 2017, the lawsuit against the Woodses was thrown out and counter claims dismissed.

In December, 2018, the case into The Watcher was turned over to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and a new investigation started from scratch.

The prosecutor’s office decided to follow up on a lead from the previous investigation — female DNA had been found on one of the envelopes — asking neighbours to voluntarily submit DNA samples for comparison. According to an follow-up by New York Magazine, several neighbours weren’t home when contacted and two people refused to submit samples.


In January, 2019, the Broadusses were notified that none of the DNA samples they’d collected matched that of the DNA found on the envelope. Just before this, in December, Netflix won the rights to produce a movie based on the tale.

No more letters were received from The Watcher, and Derek and Maria Broaddus sold 657 Boulevard to Andrew and Allison Carr for $959,000, in July of 2019.