If you’ve got a Netflix subscription then it’s more likely than not that you’re currently neck deep in The Watcher, the psychological thriller based on the real life haunting of 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey.
The original story was published in New York Magazine by Reeves Wiedeman in 2018 and set off the public obsession with the bizarre stalking.
A series of letters was written to the Broaddus family from an anonymous source claiming to be ‘The Watcher’ asserted to be 'put in charge of watching and waiting' for the house’s 'second coming' and requested 'young blood'.
Ryan Murphy’s creative adaptation, starring Australia’s own Naomi Watts, and Bobby Cannavale, delves into the horror of the Broaddus’ lived drama, told through the eyes of the Brannocks, with more details of the show being true than you might expect.
But what exactly, then, did Murphy make up in fleshing out the story of 657 Boulevard?
Everything that was fake in The Watcher
- The Broadusses never fully moved into 657 Boulevard and instead lived out of the house while they conducted renovations.
- They weren’t former New Yorkers looking for an escape from the city. In fact, they had been living in Westfield for a few years prior at a house nearby, were they were living during the renovations.
- Unlike the Braddocks, with only two children in the series, the Broaddusses had three children who were never aware of the Watcher's letters until they became a national phenomenon.
- There was no conspiracy about the neighbours of Westfield being part of a child-eating cult (thank goodness).
- The notoriety experienced by the Broaddusses was never adequately covered in the show, where the pair were outcast by their neighbours, who believed the family may have faked the letters.
- There was no dumbwaiter nor any secret tunnels leading into the house (at least that anyone is aware of).
- No one was ever found randomly wandering through the house tormenting the family in the middle of the night.
- The only two letters from ‘The Watcher’ beyond the ones the Broaddus family received was a letter that was sent to the prior owners shortly before the sale was complete. It was signed by ‘The Watcher’, but far from the spooky, terrorising tone of the later letters, it was more thankful for the family’s care for 657 Boulevard over the years. (Once the initial article went national, another family a few doors down told the police they had also gotten a letter from ‘The Watcher’)
- In total, the Broaddusses received four letters, three in a six-week period and the fourth three years later.
- Dakota, the 19-year-old security entrepreneur, was a fabricated character and suspect.
- There were no dead animals or threatening phone calls tormenting the family in real life.
- The story of John Graff, paralleling the real life story of John List, actually had nothing to do with 657 Boulevard, as he murdered his family 33 years before the Broadduses even purchased the property.
- The fake-out murder of the couple across the street was a violent, unreal detail.
- The Broadduses did hire a private investigator, but Noma Dumezweni’s portrayal of Theodore Birch, the cancer-stricken jazz-singer-turned-private-investigator, was not who the real investigator was based on.
- Jennifer Coolidge’s portrayal of the pushy, country club real estate agent was also one of an individual who doesn’t exist.
However, while such liberties were taken to tell such a blood-chilling, enthralling story, Murphy remained true to the fact that the investigation was never solved.
Selling the house in 2019, the Broadduses lost $400,000 off their investment.
The series ends with a quote from the fourth letter: "You are despised by the house. And The Watcher won."
That quote left us with an eerie sentiment to match the unsolved nature of the affair.
Featured Image Credit: Netflix
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