A FAMILY'S dream home turned into a house of horrors after they were bombarded with terrifying letters by a mystery figure calling themselves "The Watcher".
Derek and Maria Broaddus purchased the gorgeous six-bedroom house in leafy Westfield, New Jersey for $1.3m in June 2014, but just days later, they received their first anonymous note.
The chilling letters sent to the address revealed that the author knew many intimate details of their lives and the layout of the house while warning that if children went down to the basement their parents "would never hear them scream".
Each of the letters was signed only by "The Watcher" – the title of a new Netflix series starring Naomi Watts which dramatises the chilling tale.
Contacted by The Sun Online, Derek Broaddus described the events at 657 Boulevard as "a traumatic experience" and said his family was "trying to move on".
However, he warned that he believes the author of the letters hasn't gone away.
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"There is a mentally unhinged lunatic in that neighborhood," he told The Sun Online.
Westfield, just 28 miles from Manhattan, is one of the safest places to live in America.
For the Broadduses, buying the Dutch colonial home at 657 Boulevard was fulfilling a lifelong dream.
Maria was born in Westfield, and the expansive new house with four bathrooms and more than 3,800 square feet was just blocks away from her childhood home.
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Derek, who had a working-class upbringing in Maine, had worked his way up to become senior vice-president at a New York insurance company before his 40th birthday.
They had fallen in love with the home, and the couple's three children had already begun debating which fireplace Santa Claus would use at Christmas.
Just three days after the Broadduses had closed on the house, Derek was painting his new home when he went outside to check the mail.
Inside was a letter, addressed in thick, clunky handwriting to "The New Owner", and a typed note.
Starting off warmly, the note began: "Dearest new neighbor at 657 Boulevard, allow me to welcome you to the neighborhood."
But quickly, the letter took a sinister turn, as the writer went on: "How did you end up here? Did 657 Boulevard call to you with its force within?"
The author continued by saying that the house had "been the subject of my family for decades," and said that he had "been put in charge of watching and waiting for its second coming".
If you were upstairs you would never hear them scream
They then asked if the owners knew "what lies within the walls" of the home, and said they would "find out" why they were there.
Most hauntingly of all, the note's author revealed that they had already begun watching the family, identifying various personal details such as their Honda minivan as well as the fact they had hired builders to renovate the home.
It warned that the couple would make the house "unhappy" if they changed it, and made chilling reference to their children.
"The Watcher" even knew how many children the couple had, and said they wanted the house filled with "young blood".
There was no return address on the envelope, and the author teased the homeowners that they could be a neighbour or just a passer-by.
The letter concluded by warning that it would not be the last, saying: "Welcome my friends, welcome. Let the party begin," following by a typed signature: "The Watcher".
Alone in the house after 10pm, Derek was terrified. After running around the house to turn off all the lights, he called Westfield Police Department.
An officer who came to the house read the letter and said: "What the f*** is this?"
He asked if Derek had any enemies and recommended moving a piece of equipment the builders had left outside away from the back porch in case the mystery stalker tried to hurl it through a window.
After contacting the previous owners, Derek discovered this wasn't the first such note.
A few days before moving out, the elderly couple had received a similar strange note, also signed by "The Watcher", but said it was the first such occurrence in 23 years living at the house.
Police told them not to tell anyone about the letters, and said all the neighbours were suspects.
Two weeks after the first note, Maria stopped by the house and discovered a second letter that, horrifyingly, addressed the couple by name.
Misspelling the couple as "Mr and Mrs Braddus," it seemed "The Watcher" was close enough to overhear their conversations, New York Magazine's The Cut reported.
It also identified their three children by birth order and their nicknames, and said: "I am pleased to know your names now and the name of the young blood you have brought to me."
The letter asked if the couple's hired contractors had "found what is in the walls yet".
It went on: "It has been years and years since the young blood ruled the hallways of the house. Have you found all of the secrets it holds yet? Will the young blood play in the basement? Or are they too afraid to go down there alone?"
The author added: "It is far away from the rest of the house. If you were upstairs you would never hear them scream."
Terrified, Derek and Maria stopped bringing their kids to the house and already began to consider selling off their dream home.
Several weeks later, a third letter arrived, reading: "Where have you gone to? 657 Boulevard is missing you."
HUNTING 'THE WATCHER'
Westfield is one of the most desirable neighbourhoods in the US, and competition for houses is fierce.
This led the Broadduses to initially suspect "The Watcher" was a disgruntled prospective buyer who had lost out on 657 Boulevard.
Another more obvious theory was that it was a neighbour.
The letters had been processed at a nearby distribution centre, meaning they had been sent locally, and the first was postmarked June 4, before the sale was made public.
One suspect was their neighbour, Michael Langford. He was in his 60s but still lived with his elderly mother and several of his siblings in their house.
Another neighbour described the family as odd and compared him to the reclusive figure of Boo Radley from Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird.
His brother said Michael had been diagnosed with schizophrenia as a young man, and had been known to do strange things such as walk through neighbours' back gardens or peek through the windows of homes being rennovated.
The family also had a unique vantage point with which to view the house.
Derek and Maria employed a private investigator and two former FBI agents all of whom staked out the house and performed background checks on the Langfords.
However, the family always denied involvement, and no direct evidence could be found, so Michael was ultimately cleared.
He died in 2020, and his family remain livid to this day.
"It f*****g never ends," a furious sibling told The Independent. "I'm his brother; I own the g*****n house.
"We got accused of doing something that we didn't do. Did we ever get a f*****g apology from the police?"
The Broadusses, too scared to move into their new home, rented it out, and say another letter arrived in 2017, warning of various tragedies which could take place, such as car accidents, fires, or the sudden death of a loved one.
As news of the creepy happenings spread across New Jersey, a number of theories sprang up.
These included a prankster or estate agent, or even someone who had been living behind the walls or in a space in the home for years.
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Some even suspected the Broadduses of sending the letters themselves, after suffering buyer's remorse over the purchase and trying to recoup their losses.
The family eventually sold the house in 2019 for a $400,000 loss.
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