What is Fact and What is Fiction in The Watcher?

Megan Brown

The Watcher is a new Netflix series created by Ryan Murphy (known also for recently producing the Jeffrey Dahmer Netflix series). It follows the true story of the married couple Derek and Maria Broaddus, who decide to move into their dream home: 657 Boulevard, located in Westfield, New Jersey. However, their dream home does not live up to their expectations, as they soon receive threatening letters signed off by their stalker, also known as ‘The Watcher’. Megan Brown breaks down what is fact and what is fiction in the hit TV show.  

This recent mystery thriller mixes the facts of a real cold case with fiction, helping present this horrifying tale in a new light. However, due to this combination of both facts and fiction, it is difficult for us as audiences to decipher which parts of the series we should take more literally than others. For instance the actress Mia Farrow, who plays Pearl in the show, commented “[it was] a very different experience for us because we were only the actors and Ryan had created very different details. I don’t know if my character existed in the lives of those people.”

However, Netflix did take inspiration from the 2018 article for New York Magazine: “The Haunting of a Dream House” written by Reeves Wiedeman – as the magazine was believed to have received contents of the original letters from the Broaddus family themselves, with the first one reading “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.” Therefore, we can assume that any content matching this article, could be taken as legitimate since New York Magazine can be considered a trusted news source.

The other two letters sent to 657 Boulevard (also documented in the 2018 article) included details that the Broaddus family claimed could only be known by someone who had been inside their home, for example, reference to their children by nicknames and birth order.  ‘The Cut’ article discussed that in the letters received, ‘The Watcher’ did in fact refer to the children as “young blood”, before later writing “I am pleased to know your names now and the name of the young blood you have brought to me”, highlighting the immense amount of frustration and fear Derek and Maria must have experienced.

Netflix has made obvious fictional changes to this mystery thriller, one being the incorrect names and surnames used within the series. Whilst the married couple Derek and Maria Broaddus were changed to Dean and Nora Brannock, the children’s names were also changed. Furthermore, in the series Dean and Nora only have two children, whereas Derek and Maria Broaddus actually had three. Similarly, the children depicted in the series were presented as much older (with the eldest being 16), when in fact, the Broaddus children were only 5, 8 and 10. Another key difference would be that during periods of harassment, the Broaddus family moved back into their old home, whereas, in the series, they were shown to be staying in a motel.

Other individuals (including a handful of Westfield residents) argued that the Broaddus family had sent the letters to themselves

Ever since the horrifying events took place, many individuals from across the world became sceptical and began discussing their own conspiracies online. They posted their theories on sites such as Reddit. Whilst many claimed the Watcher must have lived quite literally within the house’s walls (hinted at during the underground tunnel chase scene found in episode 6), many other Reddit users obsessed over Google Map’s ‘Street View’ tool, which supposedly showed a parked car on the drive of 657 Boulevard, with one Reddit user believing they spotted “a man holding a camera in the driver’s seat”.

Other individuals (including a handful of Westfield residents) argued that the Broaddus family had sent the letters to themselves, in hope of recovering their financial losses. This theory, like many others, was highlighted within the Netflix series – for example, in episode 5: titled ‘Occam’s Razor’, Nora Brannock and their hired private detective find themselves consulting over the possibility that Dean Brannock is The Watcher, as they discovered he never made partner, meaning he no longer had an income substantial enough to pay off the loans for 657 Boulevard.

Although several investigations by the police and former FBI agents took place, the individual who spent years harassing the Broaddus family remains unidentified. Therefore, in terms of The Watcher’s identity, Netflix has remained truthful to the story, despite viewers’ complaints surrounding the ‘horrendous ending’ and lack of any definitive answers – for example, one Twitter user wrote:

The true story behind ‘The Watcher’ remains a cold case…

Megan Brown

Featured image courtesy of Rhonda Clements via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

In-article video courtesy of Netflix via YouTube.com. No changes were made to this video. 

In-article tweet courtesy of AllyiahsFace via Twitter. No changes were made to this tweet. 

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