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Let’s catch up on The Watcher, the scariest true-life story of the internet age

Artist’s rendering of “The Watcher” (a.k.a. Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window)
Photo: ullstein bild (Getty Images)

Real scary stories are hard to come by these days. In the internet age everything is either quickly debunked or distilled into easily shareable, cliché-filled “creepypasta.” But there is at least one modern scary story that still holds up, mostly because, by all accounts, it’s true. This is the story of The Watcher.

It’s made the rounds occasionally over the years, but a new article on The Cut may be the definitive telling. It all started in 2014, soon after Derek Broaddus and his family purchased their new home at 657 Boulevard in the sleepy town of Westfield, New Jersey. One day, Derek arrived at the house to find a letter in their mailbox written by someone who claimed to be watching the house. “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 letter read. This would be a sufficiently creepy note on its own, but the letter-writer went on to describe Broaddus’ family in great detail, asking if he had brought his children there to “fill the house with young blood.” The letter was simply signed by “The Watcher.”


Naturally, the Broadduses went to the police and then asked the previous tenants if they new anything about creepy letters. Neither were very helpful, and, over the next few weeks, they received more letters, each containing more and more intimate detail about their family. “I pass by many times a day. 657 Boulevard is my job, my life, my obsession. And now you are too Braddus [sic] family,” one such letter read. “Welcome to the product of your greed!”

The uncomfortable closeness of this letter-writing intruder is what makes the story of The Watcher so terrifying. As the months progressed and the letters continued, the Broadduses became increasingly suspicious of their neighbors, particularly the Langfords, who are described as “Boo Radley” types. But ultimately, the identity of The Watcher was never discovered. Derek and Maria Broaddus were nervous wrecks, unable to sleep in their own home or comfortably walk down their own street. To make matters worse, when the story became public, the Broadduses became laughing stocks.

Rumors began to spread that the family had written the letters themselves after having a case of buyer’s remorse with the lavish house. But, if that’s the case, the ruse didn’t turn out well for the Broadduses. They live elsewhere now, but were unable to sell 657 Boulevard. They rent it out for a price that doesn’t cover the mortgage. “We think about it everyday,” Derek Broaddus tells The Cut. Now, reader, maybe you will too.

You can read the full story here.

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About the author

Dan Neilan

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Have Fun — Will Travel.