In June 2014, the Broadduses thought that they were moving into their dream home, but when they started receiving creepy and terrifying letters, they suddenly realized they were wrong.
At the time, 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey, was a beautiful 6-bedroom house, built in 1905, that sits on an expansive, nearly 20,000 square foot lot. The neighborhood prides itself on being an idyllic setting: just 45 minutes away from New York, its residents are mostly families who would typically be considered, by many accounts, to be wealthy. Westfield is, in fact, the 99th-richest city in America, the 18th-richest in New Jersey, and was recently named the country’s 30th-safest town. Amongst the locals, the chief complaint in recent history was the temporary shutdown of the Trader Joe’s, due to a roof collapse. Boulevard is largely considered to be one of the most desirable streets in town: wide, tree-lined, and with some of the more expensive homes in the area.
Derek and Maria Broaddus were in the process of making some renovations when they received the first anonymous letter. They had closed on the home for about $1.3 million. The letter, a card-shaped note in a white envelope, had been postmarked on June 4th – before the sale of the home had been made public. There was no return address.
Little did the couple know that this would be the first in a string of increasingly threatening letters they would receive at 657 Boulevard – angry messages that not just targeted them, but also their three young children.
At first, the first letter seemed innocuous, even welcoming.
Dearest new neighbor at 657 Boulevard, Allow me to welcome you to the neighborhood.
But as Derek read on, the writer’s tone shifted, suggesting a more hostile intent. The writer spoke of bringing “young blood” into the house and questioned why the Broadduses had moved in. He promised to watch the house, the children inside, and to “lure” them to him. Whether the letter was a nasty prank, the delusions of an angry neighbor, or the empty threats of a bitter rival buyer, it was a scary start to a new life: the writer, who called himself “The Watcher” had already done his research. He seemed to know a lot about the family despite them having not yet moved in: he had taken note of what their car looked like and the kinds of renovations being made on the house – which he had made clear in the letter that he was deeply unhappy with.
Derek, who was alone in 657 Boulevard at the time, went straight to the police. Authorities said that there was not much to be done with just a letter and no other lead.
The Broadduses were on high alert every time they visited their new house. Derek and Maria kept their children close at all times, fearing that The Watcher would make good on his promise to “lure them” and even hurt them.
Two weeks later, the second letter came in the mail. This time, The Watcher knew the children’s names and stated them in the letter, referring to them as “young blood.” He assured the couple that he had been, and would continue to watch the family very closely.
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.
At this point, Derek and Maria stopped bringing their kids to the new house. Several weeks later, a third letter came, demanding to know where they had gone.
Not only did the couple not want their children in the home and neighborhood, they were giving up on their dream home. While 657 Boulevard was everything they wanted in a house (they had poured money into its renovations, turning it into a house now valued at over $1 million), they felt unsafe and worried about the future. The idea of living there and at the mercy of The Watcher, an anonymous stalker tormenting them and following their every move, filled them with anxiety. By the time the third letter had arrived at the home, the couple decided to launch an official investigation into the identity of The Watcher, sell the home, and sue the couple who lived there before them. The sellers had apparently failed to disclose they they received a letter from the stalker too, just a few days before moving out. While this isn’t illegal in New Jersey, the Broadduses felt that they should have been told if the new residents would be threatened this way.
The investigation did not yield much. There were some suspects, neighbors who fit the profile of the suspected stalker. The Watcher had left no digital footprint, but most people, including the authorities, agreed that he must live in close proximity to the house. Derek started sleeping with a knife nearby and Maria suffered from nightmares, and when the Westfield authorities were left with no leads on the culprit, the couple launched a private investigation that was just as inconclusive.
In the four years that have passed since Derek and Maria received The Watcher’s first letter, they’ve made many attempts to get rid of the house. With no one wanting to buy it, they tried petitioning to destroy 657 Boulevard, split the lot into two, and to rebuild. The neighbors were infuriated, and the town denied the request. Luckily, a man only identified as “Chris” decided to rent the home for some time, but it wasn’t enough income to help the Broadduses pay down their mortgage. While the renter occupied the home, a fourth letter arrived: it was the most ominous of all the notes, threatening violence against the family and vowing to get revenge for trying to tear down the house. More scared than ever, they wanted the case to be pursued, but there was little for investigators to go on, much like in the beginning, when the whole ordeal started.
Derek and Maria have finally opened up about the “haunting” of their home to New York Magazine, and have made details about The Watcher’s letters public. Derek himself has revealed to the publication that last Christmas, he delivered anonymous, copycat letters to former neighbors – especially those who were the most critical and unsympathetic to the family’s plight, and those who did not believe in plausible threat The Watcher posed.
Westfield Police have yet to identify a suspect, and The Watcher has not been heard from since February 2017, when the fourth letter was sent.
The house, 657 Boulevard, is also back on the market for about $1.1 million.
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