The Watcher: The Scary Series That's Making Us Afraid to Be Home Alone

One of the most decisive factors when buying a house is the neighborhood. The harassment that it can subject us to can be truly terrifying. This is what "The Watcher" portrays, a series based on real events.
The Watcher: The Scary Series That's Making Us Afraid to Be Home Alone
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 29 November, 2022

We’d all love to be able to acquire the house of our dreams. Some save for half their lives to do it, many take out mortgages, while the rest of us simply continue to feed our dreams by playing the lottery. But while we may fantasize about owning the best property, we often neglect thinking about the neighborhood it might be in.

As a matter of fact, life can go disastrously wrong with the wrong neighbors. In fact, although houses don’t have eyes, they have windows. Behind them are people who aren’t always friendly. Indeed, houses are often inhabited by individuals capable of embittering our lives.

This is the idea behind one of the latest Netflix series. Not long ago the producer and screenwriter, Ryan Murphy, surprised us with the movie, Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. Now, he’s presented us with The Watcher. The protagonist of this series is a beautiful house located in a high-class neighborhood.

Inside the house, a story unfolds, one that was partly true. It evokes the kinds of palpable and thorny fears that any one of us could fall victim to.

No houses are cursed. They’re haunted by their inhabitants with their unique personalities and experiences. In the case of this series, the cause of the cursed residence is the environment that surrounds it, more specifically, the neighborhood.

Scene from The Watcher
A house should always be our safest space. When this isn’t the case, our lives are altered.

Neighbors, dumbwaiters, and threatening letters

The Watcher series kicks off as most haunted house movies do. The Brannock family purchases a Dutch Colonial-style home at 657 Boulevard in the upscale Westfield neighborhood of New Jersey. Their goal is is to put aside their stressful New York life and invest all their savings in a house in a quiet, idyllic setting where the crime rate is almost zero.

The investment seems worthwhile and the house is in really good condition. It even includes a dumbwaiter and the environment seems, without a doubt, to be extremely peaceful and safe. However, it doesn’t take long for Brannocks to discover a neighborhood that’s both hostile and invasive. In fact, their neighbors see the Brannocks as little more than smug trespassers occupying a property that they don’t deserve. The house is like an old and sacred entity venerated by a whole series of grotesque characters.

The letters

The Brannocks haven’t been there for more than a few days when they receive a rather unpleasant letter. It’s signed by ‘the watcher’, someone who seems to be watching each and every one of their movements. Moreover, they’re not at all happy with the changes the Brannocks are making in the house. This is only the first of many letters that increasingly escalate in their menace and strangeness.

“Dearest new neighbor at 657 Boulevard, allow me to welcome you to the neighborhood. How did you end up here? Did 657 Boulevard call to you with its force within?  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.”

-The Watcher-

The worst of fears: feeling insecure in your own home

There can be nothing more terrifying than seeing one’s own home suddenly become the most threatening environment. Indeed, it’s the preferred theme of many horror novels, such as The Haunting of Hill House, the well-known 1959 novel by Shirley Jackson. But, as we well know, reality can be far worse than fiction.

The moment the Brannock family begins to feel watched, besieged, and threatened in their home, their whole world collapses. The watchman is an invisible figure to whom they can’t put a face. Although, obviously, they feel suspicion toward their strange neighbors. The police are largely uninterested letters, the events intensify and, as if that weren’t enough, the harmony between the couple also starts to disintegrate.

In fact, the father begins a whole journey of self-destruction that’s reminiscent, in a way, of the protagonists of The Shining and The Amityville Horror. The only support the family receives comes from a private investigator who also has her own demons to deal with. That said, it’s thanks to her that they discover the unusual history of the house in which they’re living. They find out that former owners also received letters from the watchman when they lived there.

“Who am I? There are hundreds and hundreds of cars that drive past 657 Boulevard every day. Maybe I’m in one. Look at all the windows you can see from 657 Boulevard. Maybe I’m in one.”

-The Watcher-

The true story that inspired the series

This series was inspired by a real case. However, Ryan Murphy and his writers have used their story-telling license to a considerable extent. Despite this fact, the real ex-owners of 657 Boulevard preferred not to watch the production because they still feel traumatized.

This was the real Brannock family, the Broadusses, a young couple with their three young children, who purchased the property for $1.3 million in 2014. The house was their dream house: 364 square meters, six bedrooms, a fabulous garden, and a swimming pool. However, after two weeks, their nightmare began.

They received letters from an anonymous person called the watchman who thanked them for having brought young blood to the house (referring to the children) and insisting that one day they would see what was hidden behind the walls of the mansion. The father, as in the series itself, became obsessed with the situation, placing webcams everywhere and even calling on a priest to bless the property.

It was all useless. Their fear and feelings of danger were so intense that they left the house. They didn’t manage to sell it until 2019, for $400,000. Their economic loss was notable, but their moral and psychological wounds were greater.

To date, it isn’t known who sent the letters. But, in 2019, the police found DNA in one of the letters and determined that the watcher must be a woman.

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  • Breslau, N., Wilcox, H. C., Storr, C. L., Lucia, V. C., & Anthony, J. C. (2004). Trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder: a study of youths in urban America. Journal of urban health : bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine81(4), 530–544. https://doi.org/10.1093/jurban/jth138

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.