Netflix is bringing to life another terrifying true crime story with its latest series The Watcher.
Starring Bobby Cannavale and Naomi Watts, the Ryan Murphy series follows a married couple who moves into their dream home in New Jersey and gets harassed by a stalker.
Through a series of letters, the real-life Broaddus family was tormented by letters from a mysterious writer who called themselves The Watcher in 2014.
As shown in the creepy trailer, the ominous letters ranged from eerily specific details about their home to threats against their children.
"Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested? Better for me," one letter read, according to The Cut. "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 too [sic] me."
The most chilling part of the story? The stalker was never identified.
Ahead of the release date of the new Netflix series on Oct. 13, read ahead for more details about the true story it's based on.
Who are Derek and Maria Broaddus?
The real-life story revolves around a married couple named Derek and Maria Broaddus who purchased a home in Westfield, New Jersey in 2014. While Maria was raised in Westfield, Derek grew up middle class in Maine, before getting a job at an insurance company in Manhattan, where he became a senior vice president "with a salary large enough to afford the $1.3 million house," per The Cut.
The couple bought the home at 657 Boulevard just after Derek celebrated his 40th birthday and quickly began renovations on the home just three days after closing.
While the six-bedroom house felt like a dream home for them and their three kids, they quickly realized it wasn't as picture-perfect as it seemed as they began to receive letters from an anonymous stalker called The Watcher.
What did the letters to Derek and Maria Broaddus say?
The first letter came in June 2014 as the couple began renovations on the home and was simply addressed to "The New Owner."
"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," the first letter began, per The Cut. "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."
After receiving the first letter, the couple reached out to the previous homeowners, John and Andrea Woods, who revealed that they also received a note from The Watcher a few days before moving out of the home. But Andrea said they'd never received any similar letters in the 23 years they lived at the house, so they didn't think much of it.
Two weeks later, another letter arrived, this time addressing the new owners by their names and noting specific details about their children, including their birth order and nicknames. The couple ended up receiving four letters in total.
Who was the stalker?
The Broaddus family tried to follow several leads but ultimately came up short each time. At one point, they thought the stalker could be their neighbor Michael Langford, whose family had lived in the neighborhood since the 1960s when The Watcher said their father began observing 657 Boulevard. Langford was eventually brought into police headquarters for an interview but denied knowing anything about the letters, The Cut reports.
Unhappy with how the police were handling the situation, the Broaddus family began their own investigation, including setting up multiple webcams around the house. They also sought out several experts, including a private investigator and a former FBI agent.
It was also theorized that the stalker could be someone who was outbid on the house or a former housekeeper who was jealous that they couldn't afford to purchase the home themselves. At one point, people theorized that the Broaddus family was sending the letters to themselves after having buyer's remorse.
At the end of 2014, the investigation had stalled, and in December, the Westfield police told the Broaddus family they had run out of options. (To this day, the stalker has still never been identified.)
What happened to the Broaddus family?
By the time renovations on the home were completed, the family felt uneasy about moving into the home with their children. Having already sold their previous home, they moved in with Maria's parents as they continued to pay the mortgage and property taxes on 657 Boulevard.
Six months after receiving the letters, they decided to sell 657 Boulevard, though most of the preliminary bids came in well below the asking price amid the swirling rumors about the house and its stalker.
In June 2015, the couple eventually filed a legal complaint against the previous homeowners, the Woodses, arguing that the family should have disclosed the Watcher letter they received. They hoped to reach a quiet settlement, however, the story of the home went viral. A judge later dismissed the lawsuit.
After failing to sell the home, Derek and Maria set out to sell the home to a developer, who planned to build two new properties on the lot. However, the arrangement caused backlash in the community and was shut down by the Westfield Planning Board.
Shortly after the planning board's decision, the Broadduses found a family to rent the home to. However, two weeks later when Derek went to the home to check on a squirrel issue, the renter handed him another letter from The Watcher.
Dated February 13, the day the Broadduses gave depositions in their lawsuit against the Woodses, the letter was addressed: "To the vile and spiteful Derek and his wench of a wife Maria."
The letter also addressed the renter, threatening revenge in various forms. "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," the letter read, per The Cut. "Maybe the mysterious death of a pet. Loved ones suddenly die. Planes and cars and bicycles crash. Bones break."
Where is the Broaddus family now?
According to The Cut, the Broaddus family later bought a second home in Westfield, using an LLC to keep the location private.
In 2019, the Broaddus family was finally able to rid themselves of 657 Boulevard when they sold the home for approximately $959,000, according to Zillow.
The couple has since kept a low profile, though Derek is active on Twitter, reposting updates on the 657 Boulevard case.