Buying a new home is always an exciting event filled with a healthy sense of wonder. The mystery can quickly turn into surprise or even shock, depending on what one discovers with the new purchase. For one couple in Westfield, New Jersey, Derek and Maria Broaddus, their dream home at 657 Boulevard quickly turned into a nightmare. However, it was not the house itself that was problematic but the frightening correspondence that came to it. Between June 2014 and February 2017, the Broadduses received four threatening letters that made their lives a living hell. The mysterious sender calls himself The Watcher.
657 Boulevard is a beautiful six bedroom home that cost a cool $1.3 million to buy in 2014. The neighborhood was quite well-to-do. It hardly seems an appropriate setting for a mysterious letter-writing campaign. Maria Broaddus had been a resident of Westfield and grew up not far from her new home. Derek recently celebrated his 40th birthday and had worked hard to achieve promotion to Senior Vice President at an insurance company based in Manhattan.
The First Letter from the Watcher
Before the couple and their children had officially moved in at 657 Boulevard, the first of the startling letters arrived. It was June 2014, and Derek had spent the day repainting various rooms inside the house. When he had finished, he decided to check the mailbox outside. Aside from the normal bills, there was a plain white envelope addressed to the New Owner. The note inside seemed welcoming enough before it developed into something else entirely. Questions were put to the new owner — questions such as, ‘How did you end up here?’ and ‘Did 657 Boulevard call to you with its force within?’
If that was not eye-catching enough, what followed was a chilling and radical shift in tone.
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? I will find out.
Who is The Watcher of Westfield?
Whoever wrote the note had apparently been honest with Derek. Evidently, someone was indeed watching the house. The mysterious writer mentioned the Honda minivan parked in front of the house and the many contractors working on the property. Unimpressed by the ongoing renovations, The Watcher remarked, ‘Tsk, tsk, tsk … bad move. You don’t want to make 657 Boulevard unhappy.”
The letter also mentioned their three children and wished to know if there was a fourth on the way. According to the author, this would be cause for optimism. “Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested? Better for me.” The author boasted that before too long, he would know all the children’s names and use them to lure the children away. That was sufficient to get the father to react, but by no means was this the end of the horrors.
The author taunted the new homeowner even more. Anyone that would be unlucky enough to receive such a twisted communication such as this would have one question above all others. Who wrote it? Whoever did send the note anticipated this as well.
Who am I? Hundreds of cars pass by the house every single day. Maybe I am in one. Check all of the windows that can be seen from 657 Boulevard. Perhaps I am in one.
This letter ended with “Welcome my friends, welcome. Let the party begin” and a curious signature in a cursive font style that read, The Watcher.
Paranoia Sets In
It was now past 10 pm. Derek hurried throughout the house and switched off any lights that were on. Once he knew that no one could see him from outside, he immediately called the local police department. When an officer came to the house and read the letter, he was dumbstruck. After a few routine questions, the officer suggested that certain steps be taken to reduce any possible threat. Derek removed a piece of construction equipment from the back porch so that no one could use it to potentially smash a window.
After meeting with the police officer, he headed back to his family at their old home. Once he arrived there, he sent an email to John and Andrea Woods, who owned 657 before him, to ask them why the letter said, “I asked the Woods to bring me young blood and it looks like they listened.” Derek asked them for a possible identity to the so-called Watcher.
A Letter to the Woods
Andrea replied the following morning. She said that in the entire 23 years that they had lived in the house, they had never received any letters until a few days before the transference of ownership to the Broadduses. Their letter followed a similar vein to the note Derek received. When it was delivered, the Woods simply considered it a prank and threw it away.
Arrangements were quickly made for both current and previous owners of the house to head to the local police department in person. Maria represented the Broaddus’ interests. They met with Detective Leonard Lugo who advised them to keep the letters a closely guarded secret. Maria, in particular, needed to avoid mentioning anything to her new neighbors. In light of the new investigation, they were all suspects.
Trying to Blend In
For the next week or two, the Broaddus family maintained a status of high alert. Strict vigilance was kept at all times. Derek had a work-related trip that had to be canceled, and Maria kept a tight rein on all her children. Whenever they ventured into a far corner of the garden or came close to disappearing from her view, she would call out their names in a scolding manner. All of these precautions were necessary, but the new owners did not want to appear unsociable to their new neighbors.
Derek invited some of them to inspect the work he had been doing on the house. During one visit by a neighbor, the wife commented that having new “young blood” in the neighborhood would be welcome. Her choice of words surprised Derek. While that may very well be a coincidence, it did little to ease his nerves.
Meanwhile, construction on the house was still ongoing. When a contractor arrived one morning, he discovered that someone had ripped out a sign he erected the night before.
Getting to Know the Family
Perhaps because of their extra precautions, nothing happened over the next two weeks. That all changed when Maria dropped into the house in order to check on paint samples. She also checked the mail and noticed a familiar envelope. The Watcher had kept his or her word and wrote once more. This time, he or she addressed the couple by name. However, the spelling of the name was incorrect. Perhaps it was an honest mistake by someone that could have been close enough to eavesdrop on their identity but far enough to mishear.
Maybe the mysterious writer had even infiltrated the grounds while posing as a contract worker. The note mentioned the workers, personal belongings, and even complimented them on the dumpster. The author knew the ages and nicknames of all three children. The letter posed a strange and disturbing question: whether the child who had the easel inside the porch was the artist of the family. Once more, the writer inquired whether or not they had found what was inside the walls. It also confirmed that, if not, they soon would. But The Watcher had a lot more to say.
Second Letter from the Watcher
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 Broaddus 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.
Suspicion at the BBQ
The new homeowners were invited to a barbeque at a house across the street from their property. By this time, another house on the block had been sold and those new owners also made an appearance. The Broaddus family could only focus on their problems. Both Derek and Maria were conscious that they were actually scanning the attendees, likely to the point of staring. Derek started chatting with John Schmidt, a neighbor two doors down from 657. One house between them was owned by another family.
The Watcher Next Door?
Peggy Langford owned the house next to 657. She was over 90 years old but shared the home with several of her children. Each was at least 60 years of age. Schmidt revealed that the family was eccentric, but he didn’t think they posed a threat. One of the youngest of the children, Michael, was unemployed and wore a thick beard. The Langfords had occupied their home since the mid-60s.
This new information about the Langfords made Derek highly suspicious of them. Thus, he decided to tell Detective Lugo about this latest development. Lugo was well aware of the Langford’s reputation and had already brought Michael in for questioning about a week after the first of the letters had arrived. While Michael denied all knowledge of the letters, something about his diction didn’t entirely convince Lugo. Unfortunately, not much else could be done with little more than one detective’s hunch. They needed a confession if they were going to pursue the investigation.
Andrea suggested another theory. Since the letters often mentioned the contractors and the names of the children, then The Watcher might indeed be an immediate neighbor. The very nature of the prose did suggest that the writer had knowledge of the local area. Each letter was delivered via the U.S. Postal Service distribution center in Kearny.
The first letter was postmarked June 4, which was actually before the house publically went on the market. At no time did the Woods use a standard ‘For Sale’ sign. The first contractors arrived on the property a day before the first of the letters was sent, but no-one close to the house had any idea work had begun. Even the jackhammer used in the basement went unnoticed.
Detective Lugo was also shown the house as part of the investigation into the matter. He found the easel that the letter mentioned, however, it wasn’t easy to see from the street. The back or side of the house had the best view of it. Therefore, it appeared The Watcher had that vantage point.
Move-in Date Postponed – Third Letter
In response to this latest communication, the parents both decided to stop bringing their children to the house. It also made them have second thoughts about the house as an investment. If this was an attempt to frighten them off, then the chances of success were increasing. Several weeks after the second letter was despatched, a third one arrived. This one wanted to know what had happened and indicated that the house was missing them.
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.
The house was built back in 1905 and many folks considered it the grandest home on the whole block. The Woods bought it in 1990, and when they placed it on the market in 2014, they received multiple competing offers that exceeded their asking price. The Broaddus family considered that one of the losing house hunters might have held a grudge against them for winning the bidding war. Andrea Woods revealed in another email that one possible buyer had a medical condition that prevented the purchase. Another had found a home elsewhere.
A Profile of The Watcher
Derek and Maria began their own investigation. They set up webcams all around the house and Derek even staked out his own property looking for prowlers. They also hired experts. Private investigators performed background checks on the Langford’s, but they found nothing substantial. Derek even got in touch with a former FBI Agent, Robert Lenehan. Lenehan gave him his analysis of the threat level, and he proposed a possible profile of the sender.
Lenehan felt that whoever wrote the letters was well-read. The absence of vulgar or crass language was surprising. The author was someone that was less-macho than what most people might suspect. Lenehan also wondered if the author had seen or been inspired by a Keanu Reeves film of the same title. He considered the author to be erratic but unlikely to follow through on any threats. It was the opinion of Lenehan that former housekeepers or their offspring were persons of interest.
The main suspects remained the Langford’s. For a second time, investigators brought Michael in for questioning. Once again, he denied any involvement. Abby Langford, Michael’s sister, spoke out against the ongoing investigation, and she stated that the police were harassing her family. The whole series of events was becoming something of a saga that started to go beyond mere local news.
Eventually, Derek Broaddus hired a lawyer, Lee Levitt. Levitt met with several members of the Langford family along with their own lawyer. At this meeting, he showed them the contents of the letters. Levitt also explained why the Langford’s were considered prime suspects in the case. Nonetheless, they maintained their innocence.
The background checks police performed on the entire neighborhood did turn up an interesting fact or two. Two of the local residents were registered sex offenders. Another household close to 657 had a peculiar habit. They kept a pair of lawn chairs very close to the Broaddus’ garden and faced it directly. As 2014 closed, though, none of this speculation led anywhere close to solving the mystery. There was barely any trail for investigators to follow.
Only Dead Ends
Police found no fingerprints on the letters themselves or the envelopes containing them. Countless people use public mailboxes every day, and while one of them is the box in question, there would be very little chance that authorities could find The Watcher in the act of posting a letter. The letters the Broadduses already received could contain possible clues. But could they simply be meaningless delusions from a sociopathic mind? When Derek consulted with the Westfield Police Department in December, they basically advised him that the case was akin to a needle in a haystack. They had reached the end of their active investigation.
Seeking Security Guard
By this time, all of the renovations to the house were complete. This included a new alarm system. In the wake of the letters, though, this was not sufficient. Derek posted an advert on a website looking for a house-guard with military experience. The only requirement was to provide an active and visible presence on the property. Trained German Shepherds were another option that Derek took a look at. All of these steps just added to the illusion that 657 Boulevard was no longer their home, but more like a prison. This was not why the couple bought the house.
Personal Problems for the Family
The Broadduses sold their former house and moved in with Maria’s parents. Money was tight, as they still had to pay the new mortgage and all the expenditures associated with it. The family heeded the original advice and told hardly anyone about the letters. Even their close friends were in the dark. People began to question why the family had not moved into their new home when the opportunity arose. The Broadduses told them that legal issues prevented them from moving in just yet. However, their friends wondered about serious marital problems and a possible divorce.
On a personal note, the situation was taking its toll on Derek. He openly admitted that he couldn’t sleep at night and that his doctor prescribed medication for him. Maria began seeing a therapist who diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder. The best cure for this was to sell the house.
Back on the Market
Six months after receiving the very first letter, the Broadduses decided that they had enough. When they first put the house back on the market, they set a higher price than they paid owing to the additions they had made. However, all of the media coverage and local gossip made the house undesirable. Rumors that had been running rampant dissuaded at least one prospective buyer who admitted that he/she loved the house. Meanwhile, countless theories emerged regarding the possible identity of the perpetrator.
The Watcher could have been a sexual predator, stalker, and probably everything in between. To help expedite matters, the sellers drafted a letter of partial disclosure to their realtor pertaining to the letters that had been received up until that point. Others within the industry believed that the owners had become too forthcoming. This tactic did not work though. Interested parties made several bids, but all of them fell below the Broaddus’ valuation or even the market price. Even when they lowered the price, nothing came of it. It seemed as though The Watcher had some effect after all: perhaps more than anyone anticipated.
The Non-Disclosure Lawsuit
This got Derek and Maria thinking about what they would have done if they knew then what they had learned afterward. Disclosure law does state that serious offenses committed within any home, such as murder, must be mentioned during any potential sale. Perhaps, they thought, that this situation could also qualify. Neither of the Woods ever felt as though they were under any scrutiny and often left doors unlocked at 657 Boulevard. One year after originally buying the house, Derek and Maria filed a legal suit against the previous owners. They insisted that the law required full disclosure of the letter the Woods received just prior to closing.
When a local reporter got wind of the events, the entire sequence of events went viral. News vans became a regular feature of the street and one lone reporter went as far as bringing a personal lawn chair to monitor things. Hundreds of requests flooded in from the media, but a consultant advice Derek not to speak about their experience publicly. The explosion of limelight made the family uneasy, and they departed Westfield altogether. It was then that they decided they would tell their kids everything that happened. Naturally, the children had many questions that neither parent could answer.
In his first public forum after the letters had become public knowledge, Mayor Andy Skibitsky had to field some of the backlashes from concerned citizens. He stressed that even though the case was unsolved, nobody had heard from The Watcher in about a year. Skibitsky claimed that police conducted a thorough investigation, however, they never contacted most of the neighbors living in the neighborhood.
DNA Test of the Envelope
One of the glaring discoveries that he came across was a DNA test of one of the envelopes The Watcher used. Results indicated that the DNA presence was feminine. This drew his attention to Abby Langford. As a Real Estate agent, perhaps she felt some jealousy about the hefty commission from the sale of the house next door.
Chambliss managed to persuade a security guard to retrieve a water bottle that she discarded in order to obtain some of her DNA. However, the tests proved that the DNA on the envelope did not belong to Abby Langford. Shortly after this, the prosecutor’s office updated Derek and Maria Broaddus and confirmed to them that they had removed the Langfords as suspects.
New Investigation, New Leads
Westfield Police opted to restart the investigation from scratch. They asked Andrea Woods if she would provide a DNA sample, and they questioned her 21-year-old son. There was a breakthrough that either everyone had missed or simply overlooked. The Watcher had targeted another house. A family living on the Boulevard for quite some time had also received a mysterious letter at about the time the Broadduses got their first contact. Like the Woods, they threw the letter away thinking it was just a prank, but one of the grown children of the household mentioned it in a post on Facebook. This family confirmed to police officers that the letter they got was very similar to the one Derek Broaddus received.
Buoyed by this revelation, Chambliss and a partner decided to stake out the street one evening. At about 11 pm, a car parked close to their van and remained there long enough to arouse both officers’ suspicions. The police traced the vehicle to a young woman that lived in a nearby town. Her boyfriend, who had a keen interest in dark video games, lived on the same block as 657.
Chambliss recalled that one of the games involved a character named The Watcher. Twice he invited the boyfriend to the station for an interview and both times he didn’t show up. As all Chambliss had in the way of evidence was hearsay and intuition, Chambliss could not force the man to show up. The media frenzy that once became the very talk of the town had long since peaked. With no new leads, the police decided to close the investigation once and for all. Chambliss has since retired from the force.
2017 – Renters Move In
The Broadduses attempted to sell 657 Boulevard starting in February 2015. To their chagrin, they were unsuccessful. They made a proposal to the planning board to grant them rights to subdivide the property. The Broadduses thought that if they couldn’t sell it to a single-family buyer, perhaps a developer could tear down the house and build two houses and sell those on two separate lots instead.
In early 2017, the board denied their request. As a result, the Broadduses found renters willing to live in the house despite the letters. This only offset the mortgage but did not cover it wholly. Two weeks after the renters moved in, they received another letter. This one was even more threatening than the others. However, the correspondence specifically addressed Derek and Maria, although it mentioned the renters.
The Fourth Letter from The Watcher
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!!!
The Watcher also alluded to revenge in some form.
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. Maybe the mysterious death of a pet. Loved ones suddenly die. Planes and cars and bicycles crash. Bones break.
Is This the End of The Watcher?
The Broaddus family hasn’t received a letter from The Watcher since 2017. Residents of Westfield have been torn between those that believe the Broadduses and those who think the couple drummed up the whole thing as a scam. Some folks wonder, why would they bring such hell upon themselves? In addition to their inability to sell the house, they have been harassed on social media and also by the mainstream media.
For the time being, the house is off the market. Derek and Maria hope that renting it out for a while will attract buyers in the future. Perhaps The Watcher will let sleeping dogs lie. As of now, all we have is an ongoing mystery and a bizarre story that awaits a conclusion.