Ep. 14 - The Watcher House
Updated: Aug 20, 2019
So we both bought houses within the last year or so. It’s scary, exciting, and stressful, but worth it. At least, it usually is. But what happens when something strange begins happening after the paperwork has all been signed? What do you do when you are tormented in your home?
Well, that’s exactly what happened to Derek and Maria Broaddus in Westfield NJ, when they bought what would come to be known as “The Watcher House”.
Derek and Maria bought 657 Boulevard in June of 2014 for $1.3 million. A beautiful 6 bedroom house in the neighborhood Maria had grown up where they could raise their 3 kids. The neighborhood was known for it’s idyllic nature and was rated the 30th safest town in the country at the time.
Before moving in, they had some renovations planned. One night, just a few days after getting the keys, Derek was at the house finishing up a day of painting, when he went to check the mail.
Mixed in with the ordinary items, was a white, card shaped envelope, simply addressed to “The New Owner”. Which is just so creepy in hindsight, but if it were me my first thought would probably be that it’s a welcome to the neighborhood note. And I guess it was in a manner of speaking…
Here’s what it said:
Dearest new neighbor at 657 Boulevard,
Allow me to welcome you to the neighborhood.
How did you end up here? Did 657 Boulevard call to you with its force within?
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.
It went on to say:
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.
You have children. I have seen them. So far I think there are three that I have counted. Are there 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? Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them to me.
It ends with:
Who am I? 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 the all the people who stroll by each day. Maybe I am one.
Welcome my friends, welcome. Let the party begin.
So Derek is obviously creeped out. He rushes around the house turning all the lights off so no one could see inside and then called the police. An officer got to the house and even he was like “what the fuck is this?”
What the fuck indeed, officer man.
After the police left, Derek went home to their old house where they were still living. He and Maria wrote an email to John and Andrea Woods, the previous owners, to ask if they knew anything about the The Watcher. They suspected that the Woods might because the Watcher wrote “I asked the Woods to bring me young blood and it looks like they listened.”
Andrea Woods replied the next day saying that they too had received a letter from The Watcher a few days before they moved out. She had thought it odd, and the note did make mention of The Watcher’s family observing the house. But Andrea said that they had never received anything similar in the 23 years they had lived in the house. So she thought it was a prank or something and threw it out.
The police told the Broadus’s not to tell anyone about the letters, especially their new neighbors as they were all suspects now. Understandably, the family was shaken but their wasn’t much they could do. So they just lived in fear. Whenever they brought the kids, Maria would yell their names anytime they weren’t in sight, cause she was just so afraid.
Two weeks after the letter arrived, Maria stopped by the house to look at paint samples and check the mail. There was another letter.
Here is what it said:
Welcome again to your new home at 657 Boulevard.
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 letter was slightly different than the first. It was addressed to the Broadus’s, though it was misspelled. Meaning, whoever this person was must have been close enough at some point to hear their names. They also listed the children’s names in birth order and said:
I am pleased to know your names now and the names of the young blood you have brought to me. You certainly say their names often.
In reference to one of the kids who would paint on the enclosed porch it said:
Is she the artist of the family?
It kept going.
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. 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.
After this, Derek and Maria stopped bringing the kids to the house. They stopped planning to move into the house anytime in the near future, not even sure if they were going to move in at all. In the meantime they moved in with Maria’s parents.
At first it was thought that the letters may have been from someone else who had put in an offer on the house and didn’t get it. The housing market in that town and especially on that street could be pretty cutthroat. But that was quickly ruled out, and it became pretty clear that the letters had to be coming from a neighbor.
Derek was alerted to the Langford family that lived two doors down by a different neighbor named John Schmidt. The household included Peggy Langford, an elderly woman, and several of her adult children, all in their 60s. One of which was Michael Langford, who Schmidt described as “kind of a Boo Radley character.” Schmidt said the family was odd but harmless. But to Derek, this was their guy.
The family had been living there since the 60s, which if you remember is when The Watcher said the observation had begun. They were supposedly the only family on the street to have been there that long. Michael’s father had died 12 years ago, and the Watcher had said they’d been on the job for “the better part of two decades.”
So the Broadduses told the police about their suspicions, and turns out the police had thought the same thing and had even questioned Michael a week after the first letter arrived. Michael, of course, said he didn’t know anything, but the police did say that some of what Michael said seemed to match up to the letters.
Michael was also a schizophrenic and was known for doing things that spooked new neighbors like walking through their backyard or looking through windows of houses being renovated. People that knew him though didn’t think he was capable of writing the letters. They said he was an odd guy but generally nice enough. Still seemed a pretty likely suspect though.
However, because there was no evidence and no confession, the police’s hands were tied. So Derek took it into his own hands. He set up cameras, mapped out the neighborhood showing approximate sight lines and even ear shot ranges. He hired a private investigator, and even reached out to FBI acquaintances.
Fun fact: one of the FBI agents was the inspiration for Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs.
One of the FBI agents, Robert Lenehan analyzed the letters and concluded that the writer was likely an older person. The way the letter was addressed, the double spaces between sentences, and other small giveaways. He didn’t think the writer was likely to act on the threats, but the letters typos and errors indicated erratic behavior so he couldn’t rule it out conclusively.
One excerpt made me think that The Watcher had possible lived there or spent much time there at one point.
Here’s what it said:
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.
Lenehan suggested looking into past housekeepers and other people that may have worked at the house. Perhaps the Watcher was someone who was jealous that they couldn’t afford the house.
But the focus of the investigation stayed on Michael Langford. At one point Derek tried to trick him by sending a letter to just the Langford family saying that the house was going to be torn down in hopes of getting a response. But nothing happened. So the Langfords were still high on the list, but the Broadduses had other suspects in mind too.
For one thing, the private investigator had discovered two child sex offenders living within a few blocks of the house. With all the mentions of the children this seemed like a reasonable lead. But from what I’ve found it doesn’t look like anything came of it.
Another odd thing was noted by the housepainter, who noticed that the couple who lived behind the Broadduses kept a pair of lawn chairs oddly close to the Broadduses property. One day he even said he saw an older guy sitting in one of the chairs. And oddest of all, the chairs didn’t face their own house, it faced the Broadduses. Even if he’s not the Watcher, that’s fucking weird and he needs to stop it.
But unfortunately, that’s all we really have for suspects. By the end of 2014 the investigation had kind of run its course. There was no evidence, no fingerprints, no witnesses to anyone leaving anything in the mailbox.
With the Watcher still out there, they decided to sell the house. At first they listed it for more than they paid because of the renovations they had done, but rumors got the best of them and they had to lower the price. Ultimately, the house didn’t sell because the Broadduses were adamant about showing the letters to anyone whose offer was accepted. If I saw those letters, I would nope on out of there so quickly there would be a trail of dust like the road runner.
Trying to sell the house made them think about when they were the buyers and what they would have done if they had known about the letters. The Woods’ said that the letter they received was more so strange than creepy, thanking them for taking care of the house and such, so they wrote it off seeing as they had lived there for so long and never had any issues. But Derek and Maria felt that the name, The Watcher, was creepy enough that is should have been mentioned so they filed a legal complaint.
This is when the story blew up. Armchair detectives, like you and me, took to reddit with theories and “evidence”. It was suggested that ground penetrating radar be used to see what was in the walls, but I guess the home inspector had actually looked in the walls and not found anything. People looking at google maps noticed a car parked outside of the house and convinced themselves there was a man holding a camera inside.
Theories included a jilted mistress, a pissed off realtor, a students creative writing project, a new marketing technique for a horror movie, and “mall goths having fun” whatever that means.
After it went viral, new investigators were brought onto the case. It had been a year since a letter had arrived but the public was afraid now so it got renewed attention, especially after it was discovered that many of the neighbors hadn’t been talked to by the police at all. Including another new family who moved in at the same time as the Broadduses, and had ALSO received a letter from the Watcher. This family didn’t have young children so it didn’t scare them as much and they threw the letter away. But if the police had talked to them, who knows?
When the case was re-investigated it was discovered that there had actually been a DNA analysis done on one of the envelopes. Wanna guess what the DNA showed?
It belonged to a WOMAN.
Abby Langford, Michaels sister was tested but it wasn’t a match. In fact, none of the Langfords were. The Woods’ were also tested, but no match.
So Derek and Maria started their own investigation again. They went door to door with one of the envelopes hoping someone would recognize the handwriting, they hired a forensic linguist to search for similar writing on web forums, and Derek even tried having a hacker friend hack into the neighbors wifi’s in hopes of finding incriminating evidence. This is of course illegal, and also much harder than movies make it seem so that didn’t happen.
Eventually a new suspect showed up. Police were scouting the house when they saw a car pull up and stop in front of the house long enough for them to grow suspicious. The car ended up belonging to a young woman whose boyfriend lived on the same block. She said he was into “some really dark video games” and actually played as a character called The Watcher. The female DNA could have belonged to her, but I didn’t find anything that said whether she was tested or not. The boyfriend was living somewhere else at the time but said he would come in for a police interview. However he didn’t show up. Twice. But I guess failure to show up to a voluntary interview isn’t enough to force him to come in so they couldn’t do anything.
The case lost steam again, but now people, mainly neighbors were coming up with a new theory. Maybe the Broadduses sent the letters themselves.
Maybe they had buyers remorse or realized they couldn’t afford the house or maybe it was just one big scam or insurance fraud. Some even thought they were trying to get a movie deal. Which it should be noted that they were approached by Lifetime and turned them down. Though I guess Netflix recently acquired the rights and will be releasing a movie.
Maria’s DNA was tested but was not a match to the envelope. But a lot of people seem to believe this theory.
They tried to sell the house again but that didn’t work. So they wanted to tear it down and sell it to a developer but they had to get permission from the town board and they were denied. Eventually, they were able to rent the house out. And that’s when, 2 and a half years later, another letter arrived.
Violent winds and bitter cold
To the vile and spiteful Derek and his wench of a wife Maria,
You wonder who The Watcher is? Turn around idiots. 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 walked by the news trucks when they took over my neighborhood and mocked me. I watched as you watched from the dark house in an attempt to find me...Telescopes and binoculars are wonderful inventions.
657 Boulevard survived your attempted assualt and stood strong with its army of supporters barricading its gates. 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 letter then mentioned the Renter, and even creepier began to describe revenge.
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. Maybe the mysterious death of a pet. Loved ones suddenly die. Planes and cars and bicycles crash. Bones break.
This new letter didn’t do much to provide more evidence. And we still don’t know who the Watcher is to this day.
End note: an article was released the day after we recorded saying that the house had recently been sold.