In the Ryan Murphy series, which stars Bobby Cannavale and Naomi Watts, a married couple moves into their ideal house in New Jersey and begins to experience stalker harassment. In 2014, an unknown author using the pen name The Watcher harassed the actual Broaddus family with a series of letters. The eerie preview revealed that the threatening letters included threats against their children as well as strangely exact information about their property.
The real-life tale centres on Derek and Maria Broaddus, a married couple who bought a house in Westfield, New Jersey, in 2014. Maria was reared in Westfield, while Derek was nurtured in affluent Maine before moving to Manhattan to work for an insurance business where, according to The Cut, he rose to the position of senior vice president and earned a salary that allowed him to purchase the $1.3 million home.
After Derek’s 40th birthday, the pair purchased the house at 657 Boulevard, and three days later they jumped right into renovations. They and their three children first thought the six-bedroom house was the perfect place for them, but when they started getting letters from an unidentified stalker known as The Watcher, they soon learned it wasn’t as perfect as it appeared.
The first letter, which was simply addressed to “The New Owner,” arrived in June 2014 as the couple started working on the house.
When John and Andrea Woods, the previous owners, were contacted after receiving the first letter, they disclosed that they had also received a letter from The Watcher a few days before leaving the house. Although Andrea claimed they had never received any correspondence of this nature throughout their 23 years at the residence, they didn’t give it any thought. A second letter, this time addressed to the new owners by their names and including precise information on their children, such as their names and birth dates, showed up two weeks later. The total number of letters the couple received was four.
The Broaddus family tried to pursue a number of leads, but they eventually failed on each occasion. At one time, they speculated that the stalker may be Michael Langford, a neighbour whose family had resided in the area since the 1960s when The Watcher said their father started keeping an eye on 657 Boulevard. After being ultimately hauled into police headquarters for an interview, Langford claimed not to have any knowledge of the letters, according to The Cut. The Broaddus family started their own investigation after becoming dissatisfied with the way the authorities were treating the case. This included installing many cameras throughout the property. They also sought the advice of a number of specialists, including a private eye and a former FBI agent.
The stalker may be someone who lost out on the house or a former cleaner who was resentful that they couldn’t afford to buy the house themselves, according to another theory. The idea that the Broaddus family was mailing the letters to themselves after experiencing buyer’s remorse was floated at one time. The inquiry had come to a standstill by the end of 2014, and the Westfield police informed the Broaddus family in December that they had run out of alternatives.
By the time the home’s improvements were finished, the family was hesitant to bring their kids inside. They moved in with Maria’s parents after selling their prior house and continued to make their mortgage and property tax payments on 657 Boulevard.
The pair ultimately brought legal action against the previous homeowners, the Woodses, in June 2015. They claimed that the family was at fault for failing to disclose the Watcher letter they had received. They had wanted to settle in peace, but the news of the house spread quickly. Later, the lawsuit was dismissed by a court.
When they were unable to sell the house, Derek and Maria decided to sell it to a developer who intended to use the land for the construction of two new homes. However, the plan sparked opposition in the neighbourhood and was rejected by the Westfield Planning Board. The Broaddus quickly found a family to rent the house to follow the planning board’s judgement. However, when Derek visited the house two weeks later to look into a squirrel problem, the tenant sent him another letter from The Watcher.