The Watcher

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Family spooked by letters at New Jersey's 'Watcher' house says neighbors made nightmare worse

Drama Mystery Thriller. A murder witness fakes her own death and changes her identity. Water's Edge Drama Thriller. Stealing Chanel Comedy Romance. Edit Cast Cast overview: Erin Cahill Emma Edi Gathegi Noah Denise Crosby Jeanne Riley Baron Mikey Kevin Daniels Reggie Tracie Thoms Stark Sab Shimono Wendell Ruth Williamson Francine Takayo Fischer Gladys John Billingsley Klein Caroline Kinsolving Grossman Elle Young Lacey Dave Mitchell Edit Storyline Unaware of its terrible history, a young couple purchases their dream home.

Chambliss knew his colleagues had looked closely at Michael Langford. According to his brother Sandy Langford, Michael had been diagnosed with schizophrenia as a young man. He sometimes spooked newcomers to the neighborhood when he did strange things, like walk through their backyard or peek into the windows of homes that were being renovated.

The Haunting of Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey

But those who knew him told me that the odd things he did were mostly just unusual neighborly kindnesses. As Chambliss looked into the case, he discovered something surprising: Investigators had eventually conducted a DNA analysis on one of the envelopes and determined that the DNA belonged to a woman.

Was she upset about missing a commission right next door? But Chambliss says the DNA sample was not a match. The Broadduses were stunned.

The Watcher

They had recently told the prosecutors that they planned to file civil charges against the Langfords and wondered if the prosecutors were lying to prevent the story from blowing up again. Left without a suspect, the Broadduses reopened their personal investigation. They hoped someone might recognize the writing from a Christmas card, but the only notable encounter came when an older man who lived behind said his son joked that The Watcher sounded a little bit like him.

A neighbor across the street was the CEO of Kroll, the security firm, and the Broadduses hired the company to look for handwriting matches, but they found nothing. Chambliss and the Westfield police were also back at square one. The cops asked Andrea Woods for a DNA sample and interviewed her year-old son, who was surprised to find that he suddenly seemed to be a suspect. A year after the fact, it was hard to find fresh leads, and the initial police canvas had been so porous that it had missed a significant clue: Around the same time that the Broadduses had received their first letter, another family on the Boulevard got a similar note from The Watcher.

The parents of that family had lived in their house for years and their kids were grown, so they threw the letter away just as the Woodses had. But after the news broke, one of their children posted about it on Facebook, then deleted the post. But its existence only made the case more confusing. One night, Chambliss and a partner were sitting in the back of a van parked on Boulevard, watching the house through a pair of binoculars. Around 11 p. He says he traced the car to a young woman in a nearby town whose boyfriend lived on the same block as The boyfriend was living elsewhere at the time, but Chambliss says he agreed to come in for an interview on two separate occasions.

While the Broadduses continued to be consumed by stress and fear, for the rest of Westfield, the story became little more than a creepy urban legend — a house to walk by on Halloween if you were brave enough. No one who had lived in the house before the Woodses could recall anything unusual, and it was hard for people to imagine that their idyllic neighborhood could be host to something so sinister. A woman who lives nearby told me that, after the news broke, she and ten or so of her neighbors had gathered in the street to puzzle out who might have sent the letters. Eventually, she said, they came to a consensus: Maybe the Broadduses had sent the letters to themselves?

Or Derek was cooking up some kind of insurance fraud. Or they were angling for a movie deal. None of the theories made much logical sense. The Broadduses had answers to every question. There were even more skeptics online. To Derek, it seemed that some in Westfield preferred the conspiracy theory to considering whether their town might be home to a menace. While Maria looks back fondly on her childhood, she was born a few years after Westfield resident John List infamously murdered his wife, mother, and three children in their home, and remembers a period when she and other kids were warned to look out for a strange van driving around town.

Some were primarily worried about arson, or vandalism, or whether the Broadduses would maintain the lawn. They did. The Broadduses were suddenly outcasts not only from their home but also their town. Derek wanted to leave Westfield, but Maria insisted on not uprooting her kids. But staying in town was stressful. One of their kids was in language-arts class when the teacher led a debate about whether the family in a book they were reading should move to Westfield.

The Eerie Case Of The Watcher

The class thought they should, in part because of how safe it was. Meanwhile, the Broadduses still had to figure out what to do with Boulevard.


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Their lawsuit was pending but seemed unlikely to succeed. A judge later dismissed the lawsuit; the Woodses, through their attorney, declined to comment for this story. Derek looked into renting the house to the Department of Veterans Affairs and a company that runs halfway homes. In the spring of , they put back on the market, hoping it might garner more interest given how many people had reacted to the letters by saying they would have ignored them and just moved in. Even so, dividing it would require the Westfield Planning Board to grant an exception: The two smaller lots would be Some expressed sympathy for the Broadduses, while others pointed out real estate is always a gamble.

Another faction was convinced this was the culmination of a long con. A typical Facebook conversation went like this one:. Kristin Kemp, a friend of the Broadduses, had tried to defend them on one Facebook forum, but people started attacking her. When the planning board met to decide the application in January , it had already devoted a three-hour hearing to the issue. More than residents showed up. Here was a new suspect: Who but The Watcher would go so far as to hire an attorney to preserve the house? After a quick discussion about a Wells Fargo branch that wanted to use brighter lightbulbs than the town allowed, the room grew as tense as suburban-planning-board meetings get.

The neighbors expressed concern that the plan might require knocking down trees and that the new homes would have aesthetically unpleasing front-facing garages. Foerst repeatedly threatened the halfway house as a possible alternative.

After the lawyers, a parade of neighbors stood to speak. The hearing lasted four hours, during which there was little discussion of the reason the Broadduses had been driven to tear down their dream home in the first place. At p. Derek and Maria were distraught. Even if the plan had gone through, it would have only stanched their financial bleeding. I came back, I chose to raise my kids here. You had the ability, two and a half years into a nightmare, to make it a little better.

And you have decided that this house is more important than we are. Father Michael Saporito, the priest who blessed the house, went to one of the planning-board meetings and told me he was taken aback by how many people had come up to him and said they thought the whole thing was a hoax. The Watcher had expressed a desire to protect the Boulevard from change, but instead it had been torn apart.

Breaking News Emails

A family with grown children and two big dogs had agreed to rent Boulevard. Two weeks later, Derek went to to deal with squirrels that had taken up residence in the roof.

The Broaddus family sues

The renter handed him an envelope that had just arrived:. This letter, two and a half years after The Watcher appeared, came out of nowhere. It was dated February 13, the day the Broadduses gave depositions in their lawsuit against the Woodses. Or maybe you do know and are too scared to tell anyone. Good move. They carried out their mission and saved the soul of 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 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. But it also meant fresh evidence that might help invigorate the investigation. Derek took the letter to police headquarters, where a detective looked at a neighborhood map and traced a circle around the house yards in diameter, suggesting The Watcher must be somewhere in there. Derek drew one much closer. Residents mentioned to me a teenager whose father had grown up around the corner, and a man who sometimes walked around the neighborhood playing a flute.

An elderly couple behind the house had been there 47 years. One of their kids had married a man who grew up in, of all places, Boulevard. Will the young blood play in the basement? It is far away from the rest of the house. If you were upstairs you would never hear them scream. The letters were delivered to the Broaddus' home through the mail. The letters had been processed at a U. Postal Service distribution center in Kearny, located about 20 miles northeast of Westfield.