Fact or Fiction: Netflix’s “The Watcher”

Photo from forbes.com

Netflix released a 7-episode miniseries “The Watcher” on Oct. 13, 2022, and is based on a true story. Keyword: based.

***WARNING: spoilers ahead.

“The Watcher” actually happened.

In 2014, Derek and Maria Broaddus and their three young children moved into a beautiful home on 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey.

Photo from people.com

Soon after moving in, the family began receiving incredibly cryptic letters from someone calling themselves “The Watcher.” The letters described the family, the house itself and the activity inside the home, like how The Watcher could see the youngest child painting on an easel inside the home. The letters were both threatening and creepy––leading the family to believe they were constantly under the surveillance of a stranger.

The Watcher seemed to have loads of insight into the home and was easily aggravated by the changes the Broaddus family planned to make. After five years after the family spent more than $1.35 million on the home, they placed it for sale for $999,000 in 2015––desperate to get rid of the house the family never ended up living in.

A couple ended up purchasing the home for $959,000 and since then, has not heard a word from “The Watcher.”

The mystery of the true Watcher house has never been solved, but that didn’t stop Netflix from creating a compelling mystery series surrounding the fascinating tale.

While the story is a real one, the show is heavily littered with made-up plot lines, characters and details that never happened.

Is the house in “The Watcher” the same as in the true story? False.

Right off the bat, the house portrayed in the series is not the real home from 657 Boulevard (although it’s far larger and some might say arguably far more beautiful). However, while the house they filmed at for the show isn’t the same, the address 657 Boulevard is.

Photo from dirt.com
Were the Broadduses really from New York City? False.

While in the show, the Broadduses (they changed the family name to “Brannock” in the film) are portrayed by Naomi Watts as the mother, Nora Brannock, and Bobby Cannavale, as Dean Brannock. The real-life Broaddus’ have three children, but in the show, the Brannkocks have two children: Ellie (Isabel Gravitt) and Carter (Luke David Blumm).

In the film, Nora makes pottery and Dean is a lawyer from New York City. There are countless times in the film where neighbors use their city-ness to fuel their hatred for the family. In reality, the family lived in Westfield before purchasing the home on 657 Boulevard. Derek Broaddus is a company executive.

Did the Broadduses get three letters from the Watcher? True.

They got four! The letters in the show are almost identical to the ones the real Broaddus family received. They got three letters while they were in ownership of the home and one a year after they sold it. Since they never actually moved in, they never lived in the house during the duration of the Watcher’s letters.

A dumbwaiter? Tunnels? False.
Photo from thetab.com

As much as it would be super cool if it were true, the real home on 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey, did not have underground tunnels nor a “famous” dumbwaiter.

The show gets spookier as more discoveries about the home come to light, including a series of tunnels the creepy neighbors use to spy and live in. A particular neighbor took interest in the dumbwaiter, going as far as to sneak into the home to play with it. Neither details are true, but both add to the creepiness of the show.

Did John Graff murder his entire family in 657 Boulevard? Half false.

John Graff, aka John List in real life, actually did murder his family, but he didn’t do it in the Watcher house. Rather, List committed these horrendous murders in a neighboring house and was eventually caught for the crime. Unlike “The Watcher’s” John Graff, who was never caught for his crimes and even seems to be involved in the letters…

Photo from allthatsinteresting.com
Did the real estate agent move into the house prior to the Broadduses? False.

Jennifer Coolidge makes a perfect addition to “The Watcher” cast as she plays Brannock’s real estate agent and good friend Karen Calhoun. Although the friendship quickly deteriorates as the Brannocks suspect it’s Calhoun who is writing these letters to push them out of the home so she can purchase it for herself––which ends up happening.

Photo from netflix.com

This, of course, never happened and was another way to fluff up the story. The real estate agent of the Broadduses never moved into the house but rather relayed a message to the new buyers, wishing them peace and quiet.

“The Watcher:” mostly false but entirely spooky.

Netflix’s “The Watcher” is definitely not a spot-on interpretation of the real-life true crime story of the Broaddus family. However, if you’re looking for a binge-able show that will leave you wanting to double-check your locks, this is the show for you. Who knows, maybe you could solve the mystery of the Watcher.

Tweet us @VALLEYmag with your thoughts on the show and any more insight into what really happened to the Broaddus family.

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