Fact vs Fiction: How accurate is The Watcher?

Naomi Watts as Nora in The Watcher
How accurate is The Watcher? (Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix’s thrilling limited series The Watcher tells the story of what happened to the Brannock family when they moved to their dream home in Westfield, New Jersey. Shortly after their arrival, they start receiving unsettling letters from someone who calls themself "The Watcher". From then on, the Brannocks try to find out who is threatening them and why.

Based on a true story, the show dives into the toll the letters take on the Brannock family and reviews a list of potential suspects. But how accurate is The Watcher? Here is everything you need to know about what really went down back in 2014 and how the Netflix series adapted the story…

How accurate is The Watcher? What happened at 657 Boulevard?

The Watcher is based on a story reported by The Cut in 2018 about a family being stalked by a mysterious and threatening letter writer. That was the Broaddus family, who bought and started renovating the house in 2014.

During the renovations, the Broadduses started receiving letters signed "The Watcher" which led them to believe their new home was not safe. While the Netflix series changed the names of the protagonists, at the request of the family, the content of the letters seen on the show is mostly accurate and reflects what the Broadduses actually found in their mailbox (mentions of “filling the house with young blood” included). They went to the police with the letters, but The Watcher was never found.

Who are the Broadduses?

If Bobby Canavale and Naomi Watts play Dean and Nora Brannock, parents of two, in The Watcher, Derek and Maria Broaddus had three children aged 5, 8 and 10 years old at the time.

Unlike the Brannocks, the Broadduses did not move from New York to Westfield. They were already Westfield residents and Maria actually grew up in the community. They also did not have financial difficulties like the family depicted in the Netflix series, and their children did not know about The Watcher and their letters until the press got wind of the story.

Just like Bobby Canavale’s character Dean on the show, Derek Broaddus did become obsessed with finding who The Watcher was. He installed webcams throughout the house and had trouble sleeping. His wife Maria also spent hours googling people she deemed suspicious and did not feel safe about the house. 

Once the renovations were complete they never moved into the house, too worried about what might happen. Six months after the letters arrived, they listed 657 Boulevard for sale but could not find a buyer as the story of The Watcher had leaked to the press. It wasn’t until 2017 that they managed to find their first renters, before finally selling it in 2019.

Were the neighbors unwelcoming?

Richard Kind and Margo Martindale as Mo and Mitch

(Image credit: Netflix)

When the Broadduses showed the first letter they got from The Watcher to the local police department, they were advised not to tell their neighbors about it, as they all became prime suspects. However, unlike the various households depicted in the Netflix series, there was nothing particularly unwelcoming about the Broadduses’ neighborhood. They were embraced by the other families and did not experience the same type of rejection as Dean and Nora do on the show. In fact, it was later found out that another family down the block had also received a letter from The Watcher.

The Broadduses did suspect one of the neighboring families. There were also neighbors with their lawn chairs especially close to the Broaddus property line, facing their house, just like in the show. Inevitably, the Broadduses suspected their neighbors who had the best view of their house, but like in the show, they also ended up being suspected themselves. Many people in Westfield became convinced that the whole ‘Watcher thing’ was a hoax.

Did the previous owners receive letters?

In The Watcher, the Brannocks scramble to find out more about the past of 657 Boulevard, and learn of various owners who also received letters while being unable to pin down the people who sold it to them. In reality, the Broadduses contacted the Woodses, the family who owned the house before them, and found out that they had received an odd letter from The Watcher right before moving out. However, it was the first time The Watcher had contacted them in their 23 years living on the property, and they didn’t give the letter much more thought. No other previous owner recalled anything similar ever happening to them.

The Netflix series tells the story of a previous owner of 657 Boulevard who murdered his wife, mother and two children in the house. A similar event did happen in Westfield a few years before Maria Broaddus was born, but not at this address.

What happened to The Watcher?

While the Broaddus family hired a private investigator and even worked with FBI experts on the case, they never found out much more about it than the local police. The investigation regarding the identity of The Watcher has not been solved. There never was much for law enforcement to go on. There were, as depicted on the show, DNA samples collected from the envelopes that determined it belonged to a woman, but that did not help the authorities much. According to The Cut, the new owners of 657 Boulevard have not received any letters from The Watcher.

Where can I watch The Watcher limited series?

All seven episodes of The Watcher are available to stream on Netflix.

Marine Perot

Marine Perot is a freelance entertainment writer living in London. She has been writing about television for 10 years, which led us to work with various publications including Paste Magazine, Radio Times, Konbini, Giddy, and more. Her favorite shows include LostOutlanderGame of Thrones, and The Haunting of Hill House. When not writing, Marine enjoys going on adventures with her corgi and reading a good book.