#0553

The Watcher

The New Jersey Stalking Case

The Watcher

"Do you know the history of the house?"

When the Broaddus family bought a new house in an affluent New Jersey suburb, they believed they had finally achieved their lifelong goal of settling into their dream home. But it wasn’t long before the family was contacted by the Watcher, and realized they had actually walked into a nightmare.

This bizarre story began when a letter arrived addressed to the family. Within was a threatening message from a mysterious and frightening individual who claimed to be keeping a watch on the house. This overseer referred to themselves as “The Watcher”.

The Letter

When Derek and Maria Broaddus finally bought their new home in Westfield, New Jersey, it had fulfilled an enduring aspiration. Upon closing the deal on the six-bedroom house at 657 Boulevard, they eagerly started renovations before moving in.

On evening in June 2014, just three days after signing for the house, the couple were finishing an evening of painting, when Derek went outside to check for mail. There was little there except some bills, and a curious white, card-shaped envelope.

In thick handwriting it was addressed to “The New Owner,” and inside was a typed note. It began innocuously enough with the words, “Dearest new neighbor at 657 Boulevard, Allow me to welcome you to the neighborhood.”

This warm welcome and acceptance into the community meant everything to the Broaddus’ family. Maria had grown up in Westfield, and Derek had worked hard to raise the $1.3 million asking price. But as he read on, the letter was not what it seemed.

The letter soon started posing ominous questions. “How did you end up here?,” the writer asked. “Did 657 Boulevard call to you with its force within?”. The writer then went on to detail a history of association with their new home.

“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 author of this bizarre letter had apparently been keeping a close eye on the house, and mentioned the family car, as well as the fact that workers had been in to renovate. “I see already that you have flooded 657 Boulevard with contractors so that you can destroy the house as it was supposed to be…”

“…Tsk, tsk, tsk … bad move” the letter stated. “You don’t want to make 657 Boulevard unhappy.” The letter writer also seemed to know the couple were not alone. “You have children. I have seen them. So far I think there are three that I have counted…”

The anonymous author then asked if there were “more on the way”. “Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested? Better for me. Was your old house too small for the growing family? Or was it greed to bring me your children?”

The home of Derek and Maria Broaddus at 657 Boulevard, Westfield, N.J.

They then added ominously, “Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them too [sic] me.” The letter even made reference to fact that the author could be anyone in the neighborhood. “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.”

The letter concluded with a threat that this would not be the last message the family would receive. “Welcome my friends, welcome. Let the party begin”. It was then followed by a signature typed in a cursive font… “The Watcher.”

Police Investigation

Derek Broaddus immediately called the Westfield Police Department. When the officer was shown the letter, he said “What the fuck is this?”. But there was little that could be done, and the officer advised the worried Derek about the safety of his new home.

He then went to see Maria, who was living at their old home, and showed her the letter. The letter made reference to the previous owners of 657 Boulevard, “I asked the Woods to bring me young blood and it looks like they listened.”

They decided to contact John and Andrea Woods, to ask if they had any idea who the Watcher might be. The next morning they got a reply. Andrea Woods told them that a few days prior to moving out, they had received a similar letter.

They considered the note odd, as it made mention of the Watcher’s family observing the house over a period of time. However, the Woods claimed that in the previous twenty-three years living at the house, they never received anything before.

Detective Leonard Lugo met with the Broaddus’ family, and advised them not to tell anyone about the letters, not even her new neighbors, as potentially, anyone of them could be a possible suspect. Derek and Maria Broaddus were now on suspicious of everyone.

They saw the Watcher everywhere and in everyone. When Derek was giving a tour of the renovation to a couple from the neighborhood, the wife said, “It’ll be nice to have some young blood in the neighborhood.”

Two weeks after the first letter arrived, Maria stopped by the house to pick up some mail. She soon recognized the thick black lettering on a card-shaped envelope and immediately called the police.

“Welcome again to your new home at 657 Boulevard,” The Watcher wrote. “The workers have been busy and I have been watching you unload carfuls of your personal belongings. The dumpster is a nice touch. Have they found what is in the walls yet? In time they will.”

This time the Watcher addressed the couple by name, misspelling their names as “Mr. and Mrs. Braddus.”. The author also knew plenty about the Broaddus children, identifying them by order of birth and by their nicknames.

“I am pleased to know your names now and the name of the young blood you have brought to me,” it said. “You certainly say their names often.” The letter singled out one child in particular, whom the writer claims to have seen using an easel inside an enclosed porch: “Is she the artist in the family?”

But the Watcher wrote mostly about 657 Boulevard, their obsession. “657 Boulevard is anxious for you to move in. It has been years and years since the young blood ruled the hallways of the house. Have you found all of the secrets it holds yet?”

“Will the young blood play in the basement? 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.”

“Will they sleep in the attic? Or will you all sleep on the second floor? Who has the bedrooms facing the street? I’ll know as soon as you move in. It will help me to know who is in which bedroom. Then I can plan better.”

“All of the windows and doors in 657 Boulevard allow me to watch you and track you as you move through the house. Who am I? I am the Watcher and have been in control of 657 Boulevard for the better part of two decades now.”

“The Woods family turned it over to you. It was their time to move on and kindly sold it when I asked them to. I pass by many times a day. 657 Boulevard is my job, my life, my obsession. And now you are too Braddus family.”

The writer ended the letter with, “Welcome to the product of your greed! Greed is what brought the past three families to 657 Boulevard and now it has brought you to me. Have a happy moving in day. You know I will be watching.”

The couple stopped taking their kids to the new house, and were conflicted about whether they should even move into their dream home. Three weeks later, a third letter arrived. “Where have you gone to?” The Watcher wrote. “657 Boulevard is missing you.”

The Suspects

When the Broaddus family bought 657 Boulevard, it was perhaps the grandest home on the block, nestled amongst a wide, tree-lined street with some of the more desirable homes in town. Naturally, many of Westfield’s residents are largely well-to-do families.

After placing the house on the market, the Woodses said they had received multiple offers above their asking price. This initially led the Broadduses to suspect that The Watcher might be someone upset over missing out on buying the house.

But the Woodses did not encounter any buyer competition. Andrea Woods shared her suspicion that the Watcher might be someone in the neighborhood. This theory seemed plausible as most of the renovations were internal.

On a tour of the house, Detective Lugo was shown the easel on the porch, which was mentioned by the Watcher. However, this was hidden from the street by vegetation, making it difficult to see unless someone was right next door or behind the house.

Derek Broaddus was eventually told by another neighbor about the Lanfords. The matriarch of the family, Peggy Langford was in her 90s, and several of her adult children, all of them in their 60’s, lived in the same house.

They were described as “odd, but harmless,” by one neighbor, John Schmidt, who described one of the younger Langfords, Michael, who was out of work and had a beard like Ernest Hemingway, as “kind of a Boo Radley character.”

For the Broadduses, the Langford’s seemed like obvious suspects. The Langford house was right to the easel on the porch, and the family had lived there since the 1960’s, around the same time as the letter mentioned the Watcher’s father as having begun observing 657 Boulevard.

The police were already considering the Langford’s as suspects. One week after the the first letter, Michael Langford was brought in for questioning. He denied knowing anything about the letters. Detective Lugo was unconvinced.

However, without evidence there was little police could do. Frustrated at this, the Broadduses started their own investigation. They employed a private investigator, who run background check’s on the Langford’s, but little of anything noteworthy.

They also turned to several former FBI agents who offered their own insights, with one stating that he believed the letters contained several old-fashioned tics that pointed to an older writer, as well as a surprising lack of profanity.

It was the opinion of one former FBI agent that the Watcher was upset by the prospect of new people moving into the neighborhood, asking; “Are you one of those Hoboken transplants who are ruining Westfield?”.

The mysterious letter writer was also upset by the renovations taking place within 657 Boulevard. “The house is crying from all of the pain it is going through. You have changed it and made it so fancy. You are stealing it’s [sic] history.”

“It cries for the past and what used to be in the time when I roamed it’s [sic] halls. The 1960s were a good time for 657 Boulevard when I ran from room to room imagining the life with the rich occupants there.”

“The house was full of life and young blood. Then it got old and so did my father. But he kept watching until the day he died. And now I watch and wait for the day when the young blood will be mine again.”

Derek compiled a map of each of 657 Boulevard’s neighbors, and when they had moved to the neighborhood. Of everyone, the Langdford’s were the only ones who had been there since the 1960’s. Additionally, only their home was close enough to obverse as intently as the Watcher had described.

Disregarding any other potential suspects, the focus remained on the Langford’s. The Broadduses sent them a letter announcing plans to tear down the house, hoping to prompt a response. There was no response.

Michael Langford was taken in for questioning a second time by Detective Lugo, but this went nowhere. His sister Abby accused the Westfield Police of harassing her family. At a meeting between the Broadduses and Langford’s, the atmosphere grew tense. Confronted with evidence, the Langford’s insisted Michael was innocent.

By the end of 2014, the police investigation had stalled. There was little evidence, with the Watcher leaving no fingerprints, no digital trail and no clues as to their identity. Still other suspects emerged, and it seemed the Watcher could be anyone.

The couple who lived behind 657 Boulevard kept a pair of lawn chairs close to the Broadduses’ property. “One day, I was looking out the window and I saw this older guy sitting in one of the chairs,” said Bill Woodward, the Broadduses’ housepainter. “He wasn’t facing his house — he was facing the Broadduses.’”

Despite fitting the house with a new alarm system, the couple felt they could never really let their guard down, or even allow their children to safely play outside. “We weren’t going to put our kids in harm’s way,” said Maria.

Another letter arrived, and it seemed the Watcher was growing more and more unhinged with their obsession with the Broadduses home. “657 Boulevard is turning on me. It is coming after me. I don’t understand why. What spell did you cast on it?”

“It used to be my friend and now it is my enemy. I am in charge of 657 Boulevard. It is not in charge of me. I will fend off its bad things and wait for it to become good again. It will not punish me. I will rise again.”

“I will be patient and wait for this to pass and for you to bring the young blood back to me. 657 Boulevard needs young blood. It needs you. Come back. Let the young blood play again like I once did. Let the young blood sleep in 657 Boulevard. Stop changing it and let it alone.”

“You are despised by the house,” it read. “And The Watcher won.” It appeared the Watcher had won. The Broadduses had sold their previous home, but were unwilling to move into 657 Boulevard. The moved in with Maria’s parents instead.

Within six months of the letters arriving, they decided to sell the house. Owing to the rumours as to why 657 Boulevard sat empty, they had little interested buyers, and anyone who did view the property and make an offer, were soon scared away by the letters.

The Watcher also had an effect on other residents in Westfield. Many people were scared by the idea of a bogyman stalking the neighborhood. Mayor Andy Skibitksy assured the public that the Watcher had not been heard from in a year, and the police investigation was still ongoing.

The Langford’s were still persons of interest. It was learned that Michael Langford had been diagnosed with schizophrenia as a young man, which accounted for his often strange behavior. Others didn’t believe he was capable of writing the letters.

What the Broadduses did not know, was that investigators had conducted a DNA analysis on the one of the envelopes, and it was determined the DNA belonged to a woman. This meant police began looking more closely at Abby Langford, Michael’s sister.

Investigators obtained Abby’s DNA from a discarded bottle, however the sample was not a match. Not long after, the prosecutor’s office gave the Broadduses some unexpected news. They refused to say why or how, but they had ruled out the Langfords as suspects.

Aftermath

The Broadduses were by now locked in a legal fight against 657 Boulevard’s former owners. On June 2, 2015, a year after buying 657 Boulevard, they filed a legal complaint against the Woodses, arguing that the couple should have disclosed the letter.

Many different theories began to circulate about the whole affair. Some people thought the Watcher had been created by the Broadduses as part of some kind of insurance fraud, or perhaps they were angling for a movie deal to emerge from the whole sordid story.

The Broadduses did receive some offers, but turned them down. Lifetime did eventually release a movie called The Watcher, however, the couple attempted to shut it down with a cease-and-desist letter, arguing that the couple in its movie was biracial and the letters were signed “the Raven.”

The family soon became outcasts within the community, with many Westfield residents worrying about the impact the case might have on the value of their own properties, not to mention the negative press the whole affair was bringing to their neighborhood.

In the Spring of 2016, they put the house back on the market. But soon realized that every time a potential buyer showed interest, they always backed out upon reading the letters. Derek recalled “Some cocky guy from Staten Island said, ‘Fuck it, I’m gonna get a house at a discount. He reads the letters and we never hear from him again.”

They decided to sell the house to a developer, hoping to get $1 million for the sale of the lot. But these plans were stopped when other residents objected to the idea, and eventually the planning board unanimously rejected the proposal.

Eventually the Broadduses were able to rent the property to another family. One day, when Derek went to 657 Boulevard he was handed an envelope by the renter. It began, “Violent winds and bitter cold… To the vile and spiteful Derek and his wench of a wife Maria”

It had been almost two and half years since the Watcher first appeared, and had now once again emerged from nowhere. “You wonder who The Watcher is? Turn around idiots,” the letter read. “Maybe you even spoke to me, one of the so called neighbors who has no idea who The Watcher could be. Or maybe you do know and are too scared to tell anyone. Good move.”

“I watched as you watched from the dark house in an attempt to find me … Telescopes and binoculars are wonderful inventions,” the letter read, in reference to Derek’s attempts to locate the Watcher.

“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!!!”

The police investigation has all but stalled, and although the Broadduses continue to press the case, there is little the Westfield Police Department can do. The couple often send new information to detectives whenever they come across a new suspect.

The old man who had been seen sitting in a lawn chair looking at the Broadduses’ house had lived there with his elderly wife for the past 47 years. The Broadduses learned one of their kids had married a man who grew up in 657 Boulevard.

The story of the Watcher was first brought to the attention of the public through Reeves Wiedeman’s 2018 article for the New York’s “The Cut”. It was from this reporting that all subsequent adaptations have been loosely based upon, and is similar in nature to the cases of the Circleville Writer and the Poet.

The case has been made into a series, shown by Netflix in October 2022. This highly sensationalized account is likely to offer little to the conclusion of the story, except to introduce a new audience to the plight of the owners of 657 Boulevard.

Written by Nucleus

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