Five things about Netflix’s The Watcher that are totally made up

Five things about Netflix’s The Watcher that are totally made up

The story of a New Jersey family terrorised by a creepy letter-writer named The Watcher has fascinated conspiracy theorists and amateur sleuths since it became public four years ago.

Now Netflix has tackled the unsolved case with the new star-studded series The Watcher, which held the top spot on the streaming platform on Friday, the day after it debuted.

It is based on the experience of Derek and Maria Broaddus, who in 2014 purchased the then-$1.35m property at 657 Boulevard in Westfield, which they intended to move into with their three young children.

The letters deterred them and, after unsuccessful investigations by police and a private detective the family hired, the Broadduses eventually sold the house at a loss in 2019.

There were multiple suspects in the real case, and the new series takes details from some of them as it creates a huge array of eccentric possible letter-writers.

Bobby Cannavale plays Dean Brannock, based on Mr Broaddus, and Naomi Watts plays Dean’s wife, Nora, based on Mrs Broaddus.

But almost everything, aside from the premise and the content of the letters themselves, is manufactured in the new Netflix show.

Here are five things that have absolutely no basis in fact, lest viewers be confused.

Warning: spoilers for The Watcher ahead.

The tunnel

In Netfflix’s The Watcher, a construction crew working on the basement of 657 Boulevard finds a tunnel leading away from the house, mentioning such tunnels would not be uncommon in houses of a similar age in the area because they were utilised during Prohibition.

The characters played by Cannavale and Watts enter the tunnel with a flashlight, discovering a room with a bed that appears to be a space where someone had been living – and coming across a figure in the tunnel, presumably The Watcher, who then flees. They also theorise that a strange neighbour, Jasper – who they’d been horrified to discover hiding in their house – could have been using the tunnel to enter the home. In real life, there is no tunnel underneath the property, and the Broaddus family never discovered a neighbour who had secretly entered their home.

Bobby Cannavale in The Watcher (ERIC LIEBOWITZ/NETFLIX)
Bobby Cannavale in The Watcher (ERIC LIEBOWITZ/NETFLIX)

The murders across the street

In the second episode of the Netflix series, two bodies covered in bloody sheets are seen being taken from the home of the Brannocks’ bothersome neighbours, Mitch and Mo, played by Richard Kind and Margo Martindale, respectively.

They assume the victims are the older couple, but Mitch and Mo later show up again; it’s revealed that their son murdered two people with similar body types while his parents were on vacation to fraudulently claim the insurance money. None of this ever happened. The Broadduses did have neighbours who sometimes sat in lawn chairs facing their property – as do Mitch and Mo – but that’s the only detail taken from real life.

The teenage romance

In The Watcher, the Brannocks’ 16-year-old daughter, Ellie, strikes up a romance with Dakota, 19, who was hired by her father to install security cameras at the house. This plot line is completely invented. In real life, Derek and Maria Broaddus had three children, not two like the Brannocks – and they were all age 10 or younger when the family purchased the house.

Everything that happens while the Brannocks live in the house

The first letter from The Watcher arrives after the family has moved into 657 Boulevard in the show. And then the threatening behaviour escalates; the first episode shows a figure in gloves in the house when the family is asleep, and they awake to find the skull crushed of their son’s pet ferret, Sprinkles. In reality, the Broaddus family received the first letter days after the closing – and, while they moved in their furniture, they themselves never took up residence in the house. So essentially everything that happens inside the house is made up.

Isabel Gravitt in The Watcher (ERIC LIEBOWITZ/NETFLIX)
Isabel Gravitt in The Watcher (ERIC LIEBOWITZ/NETFLIX)

The identity and terrorisation of a new realtor owner

The Netflix series gives a huge amount of screentime to Jennifer Coolidge, who plays Karen, the real estate agent who sells the Brannocks the home – and who, it turns out, went to college with Nora Brannock. Karen is a Coolidge character to a tee; the divorcee is voluptuous, greedy, selfish and vindictive.

She has a fling with the police chief, calls a tabloid to tank the resale price when her relationship with the family sours, and ultimately snaps up the home for a song in The Watcher. The Brannocks suspect her of being the letter-writer, but instead she herself is driven from the home within 48 hours of moving in.

She finds a letter from The Watcher within the home, then discovers her dog murdered and turns around to see a hooded figure on the stairs – before she runs from the home, screaming, and quickly resells the property.

In real life, The house was sold in 2019 for less than $1m – nearly a $400,000 loss for the Broadduses – to a couple named Andrew and Allison Carr.

Published by anthonyhayble

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