The hit Netflix documentary, American Murder: The Family Next Door, tells the horrifying true story of the 2018 Watts family murders when seemingly devoted suburban father Chris Watts murdered his wife, Shannan, as well as their two daughters and unborn son. Using social media videos filmed by Shannan Watts herself, along with footage taken from other publicly available sources, director Jenny Popplewell created a harrowing account of the family’s last weeks that’s consistently ranked among the streaming service’s Top 10 most-watched programs since its September 30 premiere.
“I went straight to Shanann’s Facebook page, and she’s still alive on there and feels like everybody else, you know?” Popplewell told Yahoo Entertainment in a recent interview. “I decided that rather than our film telling people what to think, we could just show them.”
Now, some eagle-eyed viewers are claiming to have discovered a ghost story hiding inside Popplewell’s true-crime tale. The U.K. tabloid the Daily Mail discovered a YouTube video posted by a man named Arthur Cant that calls attention to this supposed phantom, who appears on police body-cam footage filmed after Shannan’s initial disappearance. As the investigating officers look around the house — and ask questions of a visibly nervous Chris — the figure of a small girl can be glimpsed moving around in a back room.
“You can clearly see a little girl,” Cant writes below the video, implying that it’s the ghost of one of Chris’s daughters who he would later confess to killing. In the comments, others noted that the light in the room directly across from Chris Watts seemingly turns off by itself at the half-minute mark, right before the young girl is first glimpsed in the background. “That was wild,” one freaked-out commentator said about this apparent double dose of paranormal activity.
But plenty of folks ain’t afraid of no ghosts. Cant’s frame-by-frame analysis was contradicted by multiple people who noted that the ghost girl was most likely the young — and very much alive — daughter of Watts family friend, Nickole Atkinson, who first alerted the Frederick, Colorado police to Shannan’s disappearance. “The child is definitely Nickole’s daughter,” wrote one commentator. “There’s police video of her daughter with [Nickole] outside of the house when [Chris Watts] pulls up to the house with his truck. You can see [her] daughter and her clothes and hair match perfectly with the little girl upstairs.” Adds another: “[Nickole’s daughter] is seen in several [places] (outside and in the other guy's arms heading downstairs) in the body cam footage. He even says ‘She's just playing’ and gestures to the back room where the daughter is seen.”
As for the light switch trick, keep your eye on Nickole’s older son in the red shirt. “[He] walks over to the wall and turns it off with the hand you can’t see because his arms are crossed,” writes one helpful skeptic. It’s probably safe to consider this case closed. On the other hand, in the spirit of the spooky season, it’s nice to think that the famous Ghost Boy from Three Men and a Baby may have a playmate.
American Murder: The Family Next Door is currently streaming on Netflix
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