There is an innate fear within us of having our lives watched or followed by outside forces. We are terrified of losing control over what people see and don’t see, of having our inner sanctum of privacy violated against our will by nefarious outside intruders, of losing control of our own lives. This is especially so when these forces are those who can’t be seen, heard, touched, or identified in any way, silent phantom stalkers from the bleak realm of our worst nightmares. For one family this was to be a very real nightmare, as their lives were relentlessly infringed upon and watched by a mysterious phantom individual known only as The Watcher.
The tale begins, as many scary ones do, in a place of little danger and of peaceful solitude pervaded by a warm sense of safety. The area of Westfield, New Jersey, is an idyllic community of well-to-do, affluent homes, quaint, tree-lined streets, and expansive, well-maintained grassy lawns with white picket fences. It looks like something straight out of the American dream, and for one couple, Derek and Maria Broaddus and their three children, it was. In June of 2014 they purchased the 6-bedroom home of their dreams at 657 Boulevard, a move they had been planning excitedly for years, but little did they know at the time that a mysterious force would soon invade their lives, and that this dream would turn into a nightmare manipulated from beyond sight by a mysterious presence simply known as the Watcher.
In a sense, the dream was sort of shattered before it ever even really began. One day Derek was in the house doing some painting of the walls, and his mind was on the big moving day ahead. At the time he would have been excited about the future and this fancy new home of his, the day of painting going by quickly as a bright horizon loomed large. On his way out he peeked into the mailbox and was surprised to see a plain white envelope addressed to simply “The New Owner.” Curious as to what the envelope was all about, Derek opened it to find a neatly folded handwritten letter that would chill him to the core. It read in part:
Dearest new neighbor at 657 Boulevard. Allow me to welcome you to the neighborhood. 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. 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? How did you end up here? Did 657 Boulevard call to you with its force within? I will find out.
I see already that you have flooded 657 Boulevard with contractors so that you can destroy the house as it was supposed to be. Tsk, tsk, tsk … bad move. You don’t want to make 657 Boulevard unhappy. You have children. I have seen them. So far I think there are three that I have counted, are there more on the way? Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested? Better for me. 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 to me.
Who am I? There are hundreds and hundreds of cars that drive by 657 Boulevard each day. Maybe I am in one. Look at all the windows you can see from 657 Boulevard. Maybe I am in one. Look out any of the many windows in 657 Boulevard at all the people who stroll by each day. Maybe I am one.
The letter ended with the rather bloodcurdling line, “Welcome my friends, welcome. Let the party begin,” and was signed by “The Watcher.” There was no return address and no clue as to who had sent it, but the message was clear. Derek immediately turned off all the lights in the house, scanned the quiet street to find nothing but streetlights, shadows, and darkness, and then ran home to find his wife and kids safe. Authorities were notified, but were of little help as no crime had been committed yet, and contact with the house’s previous owners, a family by the name of Woods, offered up no real clues either, although they did mention getting one similarly odd letter when they had first moved in 23 years before.
In the meantime, police warned the family to be wary of their neighbors, as everyone was a potential suspect. It was a stressful time to say the least, full of paranoia and fear. Derek cancelled an important business trip he had been planning, and every car or person that passed was watched with suspicious eyes. It got to the point where they would barely let their kids out of their sight, and every noise was a potential threat. There were some odd incidents that would occur, such as a sign post found ripped out of the ground, and one neighbor casually mentioned that it was good to have “new blood” coming to the neighborhood, which probably meant nothing but in the context of what had been said in the letter raised eyebrows.
This continued for several weeks, and that was when the Watcher would reach out to them once again, and it was every bit as unsettling as the first time. On this occasion Maria warily made a trip out to the house to check up on things, and her heart dropped in her chest when she noticed a very familiar looking envelope sitting in the mail box. This time it was addressed to them by name, although they were misspelled, and the contents were everything she had feared she would see. It read in part:
Welcome again to your new home at 657 Boulevard. The workers have been busy and I have been watching you unload carfuls of your personal belongings. The dumpster is a nice touch. The house is crying from all of the pain it is going through. You have changed it and made it so fancy. You are stealing its history. It cries for the past and what used to be in the time when I roamed its halls. The 1960s were a good time for 657 Boulevard when I ran from room to room imagining the life with the rich occupants there. The house was full of life and young blood. Then it got old and so did my father. But he kept watching until the day he died. And now I watch and wait for the day when the young blood will be mine again.
Have they found what is in the walls yet? In time they will. I am pleased to know your names now and the name of the young blood you have brought to me. You certainly say their names often. 657 Boulevard is anxious for you to move in. It has been years and years since the young blood ruled the hallways of the house. Have you found all of the secrets it holds yet? Will the young blood play in the basement? Or are they too afraid to go down there alone. I would [be] very afraid if I were them. It is far away from the rest of the house. If you were upstairs you would never hear them scream. Will they sleep in the attic? Or will you all sleep on the second floor? Who has the bedrooms facing the street? I’ll know as soon as you move in. It will help me to know who is in which bedroom. Then I can plan better.
All of the windows and doors in 657 Boulevard allow me to watch you and track you as you move through the house. Who am I? I am the Watcher and have been in control of 657 Boulevard for the better part of two decades now. The Woods family turned it over to you. It was their time to move on and kindly sold it when I asked them to. I pass by many times a day. 657 Boulevard is my job, my life, my obsession. And now you are too Braddus family. Welcome to the product of your greed! Greed is what brought the past three families to 657 Boulevard and now it has brought you to me.
Have a happy moving in day. You know I will be watching.
Again it was signed “The Watcher.” The creepy letter mentioned other things as well, such as each child by name and birth order, as well as even their nicknames, and The Watcher even asked about whether one of the children was the artist in the family. How did this mysterious person know all of this? What did they want? What was the secret in the walls they spoke of or the secrets of the house they were meant to soon find or the significance of new blood? Why was this person so obsessed with the family and especially their children? Was this someone just playing a sick joke or was there more to it? No one had a clue. The Woodses themselves denied having any knowledge of who it could be, and denied having been told to sell the house by anyone, as claimed in the letter. It was all so bizarre, and no one knew quite what to make of it.
This second mysterious letter brought on a new wave of terror and paranoia, and police got to work trying to find persons of interest and any clues at all. Pretty much all they could ascertain at this point was that the letters had gone through the U.S. Postal Service’s distribution center in Kearny, northern New Jersey, but that didn’t help much, and the letters and envelopes had no fingerprints on them. The sender remained a specter. Derek Broaddus began to get very suspicious of one neighbor in particular, a family who had lived there since the 1960s called the Langfords, well-known in the neighborhood for being rather eccentric and reclusive. Authorities also had a bad hunch about the family, and even brought Michael Langford, known for creepily lurking about, in for questioning, but there was no evidence found that they had had anything to do with the letters.
The Broadduses were becoming frustrated at this point with the lack of results and the pervasive feeling that the police weren’t really taking any of it particularly seriously. It was seen mostly as someone playing a twisted prank or trying to frighten them off, and there was not much they could do. The family stopped bringing the kids to the house and their moving in date was postponed as they tried to figure out what to do next and began looking into an investigation on their own. They hired private investigators to stake out the house and even the FBI was approached to make a possible profile of the sender. Derek took to sleeping in the living room, ever vigilant of the sinister Watcher.
He also made meticulous records of who lived where in the neighborhood and for how long, and he still focused intently on the Langfords, who he was becoming more and more convinced were behind it despite having not turned up any evidence to that effect at all. Derek even tried to lure a response from them by sending them a letter mentioning that he was thinking about tearing the house down, but the Langfords didn’t bite and there was no response. He even covertly had DNA tests done on a discarded water bottle used by the Langford’s, but it did not match DNA found on the envelopes of the letters.
Derek nevertheless remained stubbornly convinced that it was the doing of the Langfords, and hired a lawyer by the name of Lee Levitt to help him confront them directly, but once again there was nothing to tie them to anything and they denied any involvement at all, and after a second police interrogation of Michael Langford the family accused authorities of harassment. In the meantime another mysterious letter came in, which started off wondering where they had gone and saying that the house “missed them,” before derailing off the deep end to rant:
657 Boulevard is turning on me. It is coming after me. I don’t understand why. What spell did you cast on it? It used to be my friend and now it is my enemy. I am in charge of 657 Boulevard. It is not in charge of me. I will fend off its bad things and wait for it to become good again. It will not punish me. I will rise again. I will be patient and wait for this to pass and for you to bring the young blood back to me. 657 Boulevard needs young blood. It needs you. Come back. Let the young blood play again like I once did. Let the young blood sleep in 657 Boulevard. Stop changing it and let it alone.
Even despite this rather ominous new letter there were precious few tips or leads, and every one that did exist was followed to a dead end. The Langford investigation had turned up nothing. Several registered sex offenders were pursued and found to have no discernable connection. People who had lost out on bidding for the property, who were thought to be trying to chase the family off, were investigated and this turned up nothing. In light of this, the police more or less washed their hands of it, ending their involvement in the investigation and basically leaving the Broaduses on their own to an uncertain future as they kept the house under constant watch, even going so far as to rent out guard dogs and hire a full-time security guard.
Fearful of who The Watcher was and what they intended to do, left without any clues or new evidence, their old home already sold and their will to live in their new home understandably dissipated, the Broadus family lived with relatives and decided to put the new house on the market without ever having actually moved in. By this time the whole case had become splashed all over the media, and rumors were flying, and this put a damper on potential buyers, even at a severely reduced price, leaving the family in quite a financial predicament and prompting them to threaten legal action against the Woodses for not initially telling them about the letter that they had received.
As all of this was going on, the media attention and constant rumors, some even accusing them of orchestrating the whole thing themselves as part of a real estate stunt, the Broadduses felt compelled to move away from Westfield all together. In the face of increasing panic among locals that they could be targeted next, as well as public pressure to find out who the maniac writing the letters was, the authorities reopened the investigation, this time focusing on the previous owners of the house, the Woods’. Police took DNA samples of the mother and questioned the 21-year-old son, but this too was a dead end. During this new investigation they did manage to find something promising, though, in the fact that it turned out that another family not far away had also received a mysterious letter, a detail that had somehow gone unnoticed before.
On a hunch, police performed a stake out on the street and were able to follow a suspicious vehicle to a home in a nearby town. Here they would find that the young woman who lived there had a boyfriend who had used to live on the same block as the Broadduses, and not only that, but he had been deeply into violent video games, including one that featured a character called The Watcher. Coincidence or not? Regardless of all of this, the police had nothing on him really, and could not force him in for questioning when he refused. It will probably never be known if this man was The Watcher, because he was never seriously pursued as a suspect and would become just another of the many mysteries orbiting the whole bizarre case. The police would eventually close the case once and for all, and it has remained unsolved ever since, but not over.
In 2017, the enigmatic Watcher would strike one last time. At the time a renter had been found for the now infamous house, after the family had been unable to sell it and unsuccessful in their appeals to officials to allow them to tear it down and allow two houses to be built in its place. At first nothing strange had happened for the tenants, but two weeks after moving in, they too received a mystery letter in the mail, which they then turned over to Derek as it was addressed to him in rather venomous wording, saying, “To the vile and spiteful Derek and his wench of a wife Maria.” Indeed, the whole letter was dripping with vengeful hate, and it stated in no uncertain terms intent to do harm. The letter read:
You wonder who The Watcher is? Turn around idiots. Maybe you even spoke to me, one of the so called neighbors who has no idea who The Watcher could be. Or maybe you do know and are too scared to tell anyone. Good move. I walked by the news trucks when they took over my neighborhood and mocked me.
I watched as you watched from the dark house in an attempt to find me … Telescopes and binoculars are wonderful inventions. 657 Boulevard survived your attempted assault and stood strong with its army of supporters barricading its gates. My soldiers of the Boulevard followed my orders to a T. They carried out their mission and saved the soul of 657 Boulevard with my orders. All hail The Watcher!!!
Maybe a car accident. Maybe a fire. Maybe something as simple as a mild illness that never seems to go away but makes you feel sick day after day after day after day after day. Maybe the mysterious death of a pet. Loved ones suddenly die. Planes and cars and bicycles crash. Bones break.
This would be the last sinister correspondence from The Watcher, and neither the family nor subsequent tenants has received any more such threatening letters since they left, leaving the baffling, mysterious case in darkness. It is really hard to know what to make of any of this. Who was The Watcher, what was their connection to this house, and why did he stalk and harass this family in this quiet, scenic neighborhood? What was the meaning behind those cryptic letters? What secrets lie within its walls? There have been theories ranging from that this was just a practical joke, to a person with a vendetta against the family, to that it was done out of spite to chase the family off of the property. Other more paranormal explanations say that it was not a person at all, but rather some demonic entity, or that the house is cursed. In the end the harrowing case has gone cold, the house sits unsold, and the Watcher perhaps still watches from the shadows, waiting.