Oct 23, 2022
The spooky history of ‘The Watcher’ town Transcript
The hit Netflix show about an unknown letter-sender known as “The Watcher” is shining the spotlight on Westfield, New Jersey, a town also known for a shocking case in the ‘70s. Read the transcript here.
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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Westfield, New Jersey, a picturesque bedroom community just 23 miles outside New York City.
Speaker 2 (00:07):
The schools are great. The people are very friendly.
Speaker 3 (00:10):
It’s a beautiful town, great architecture, beautiful houses.
Jessica Romero (00:13):
You’ve got a house in Westfield and you’ve pretty much made it.
Speaker 1 (00:17):
But these tree-lined streets are now home to a true crime obsession.
Speaker 4 (00:24):
Welcome. You know I will be watching.
Speaker 5 (00:25):
Who are you?
Speaker 1 (00:27):
Netflix’s smash hit series The Watcher, based on the real life terror that gripped the former owners of this house.
Andy Skibitsky (00:35):
And they start getting these very strange letters from the Watcher. Each letter seemed to get a little bit more and more ominous.
Mark Moran (00:41):
Whoever it was claimed that they were not only watching the house, but there were a lineage in their family.
Speaker 1 (00:48):
Tonight, the stories behind the torment-
Reeves Wiedeman (00:51):
There was really no way that Broadduses were going to move into this house without figuring out what was going on.
Speaker 1 (00:57):
… and the gruesome murders that gripped this small community half a century ago.
Rebecca Everett (01:02):
It’s in Westfield. People were afraid he was hiding in the woods or hiding in their attic. People were really afraid.
John Walsh (01:07):
It’s pretty scary when the banker of your town that is a volunteer at the Lutheran Church, goes to all the soccer matches, when they go off the rails like that, it scares people.
Speaker 1 (01:20):
It was 2014. Derek and Maria Broaddus bought what they thought was their forever home, a nearly $1.4 million house in Westfield.
Reeves Wiedeman (01:28):
The Broadduses is could not be a more sort of normal, suburban American family. They had gotten to this point in their lives where they had some financial security. They could go buy this dream home of theirs with their three kids.
Speaker 1 (01:43):
But the house came with a sinister threat, a Watcher who sent the family several menacing letters alluding to imminent danger.
Reeves Wiedeman (01:51):
The letters themselves are impossibly creepy and spooky and scary.
Speaker 1 (01:56):
Reeves Wiedeman wrote the shocking New York Magazine article detailing the Broaddus’s ordeal. He saw the letters firsthand, those threatening letters recreated in The Watcher starring Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale.
Speaker 4 (02:10):
Mr. and Mrs. Brannock, I am pleased to know your names now and the names of the young blood you have brought me.
Speaker 1 (02:18):
The fictionalized version of the Watcher case also incorporates Westfield’s notorious List family murders and has become a massive hit, 125 million hours streamed and counting, according to Deadline.
Despite a police investigation, private investigators, and forensic analysts all looking into the case, the Watcher was never identified.
Andy Skibitsky (02:40):
I felt very bad for Derek and his wife, Maria. I think they were very troubled, which I would be too if I received those at my new home.
Such efforts have not, however yielded [inaudible 00:02:52] any charges being filed.
Speaker 1 (02:51):
Andy Skibitsky was the Mayor of Westfield at the time.
Andy Skibitsky (02:54):
It’s been reported that they didn’t do enough. But trust me, the Westfield Police Department is very professional and unlike the house depicted in the series.
Mark Moran (03:02):
I think they did all they could with the information they had in that they did do DNA samples on the few letters. There were only four letters total though, so they didn’t have a lot to go on.
Speaker 1 (03:15):
The family of five, so fearful, never moved in. They struggled for years to offload the home, ultimately taking a $400,000 loss when they sold it in 2019. Later, selling their story rights to Netflix.
Speaker 4 (03:32):
I am the Watcher.
Reeves Wiedeman (03:34):
The show has been exaggerated and Hollywoodized in all kinds of ways, but I think it at least captures some of the truth of what the Broadduses went through.
Andy Skibitsky (03:45):
It’s so far from a reality, it’s silly. I was Mayor in Westfield for 12 and a half years, we have our share of characters but none of them are like the ones that are depicted in the show.
Speaker 1 (03:57):
Westfield police and town officials reluctant to talk about the renewed attention to the case, they say out of respect for the home’s current occupants.
Speaker 3 (04:06):
I am watching the show, so I have to admit I’m probably guilty of giving into that hype a little bit.
Speaker 2 (04:15):
People do talk about it. A lot of my coworkers are like, “Oh my God, where’s the house and in comparison to where you live?”
Speaker 4 (04:21):
Greed is your sin, John.
Speaker 1 (04:23):
The Watcher uses another piece of Westfield’s spooky history.
Speaker 5 (04:28):
We should all be prepared for that day when it comes. I want to see you all again in heaven.
Speaker 1 (04:34):
In the series, the character John Graff used to live in The Watcher house and murdered his family there.
John Graff is based on a real Westfield resident, John List, who shot and killed his mother, wife, and three children in a different Westfield home in 1971.
Jessica Romero (04:54):
It was a real life horror story in Westfield. There’s an entire generation of people that were afraid John List was coming for them. He was on the run for 18 years. He became known as the Boogeyman of Westfield.
Speaker 1 (05:06):
Father Wants Us Dead is a podcast about the list murders.
Speaker 6 (05:11):
The mass murder of an innocent family 50 years ago forever shook this quiet town.
Speaker 1 (05:18):
At the time of the killings, List, a devout Christian had lost a series of jobs.
Rebecca Everett (05:24):
He was too proud to file for unemployment or even admit to his wife that he had lost these jobs. In his mind, living in poverty was a sin and so he decided that the thing to do would be to kill his family.
Speaker 1 (05:37):
List shot his wife and mother first and later his three children after school. In between killings, going about his day. That scene portrayed in The Watcher.
Rebecca Everett (05:52):
He said he made a sandwich and ate lunch that day, just as though his wife and mother weren’t lying dead in the house.
John List had carefully planned how he was going to kill his family. He had already started to spread the cover story, which was that they were going to go visit a relative in North Carolina.
Speaker 1 (06:09):
It took a month for the murders to be discovered. By then, List was long gone.
John Walsh (06:14):
A true sociopathic narcissist. He went on the run, he met a woman, he got married. He thought he would be safe. He was out in Colorado, I think, when he met his second wife. And he moved to Richmond and he was hiding in plain sight.
Speaker 1 (06:30):
List was finally caught in 1989, thanks to an episode of America’s Most Wanted.
John Walsh (06:36):
The suspect, John List, is accused of murdering his family 17 years ago.
Speaker 1 (06:41):
The show hired a forensic sculptor to create a bust showing how John List would’ve aged.
How uncanny was the likeness between the bust and John List?
John Walsh (06:52):
It looked like the same guy with the same hairline, with the same glasses, with the same weight. It was beyond uncanny and it made the front page of the New York Times
Speaker 1 (07:03):
In 1990, List was convicted of five counts of murder and sentenced to five life terms in prison.
Connie Chung (07:09):
Were you determined to kill them?
John List (07:11):
Once I made the plan, yeah. Then, it’s just like D Day, you go in and there’s no stopping after you start.
Speaker 1 (07:21):
In 2002, ABC’s Connie Chung spoke with John List in his first on camera interview about the murders.
Connie Chung (07:28):
You ate lunch in the kitchen where you had shot your wife in cold blood?
John List (07:32):
Connie Chung (07:33):
How could you?
John List (07:37):
I was hungry. It was just the way it was.
Speaker 1 (07:42):
List died in prison in 2008. He was 82 years old.
You helped solve the John List case. What do you think it’ll take to solve the Watcher case?
John Walsh (07:53):
You know what? It’s a combination of serendipitous luck and it’s also of hard work, hard, hard work on the side of investigators and law enforcement.
Speaker 1 (08:04):
The Watcher case remains unsolved. With millions of households tuning into The Watcher series, clues starting to pour in once again.
Reeves Wiedeman (08:13):
I’ve continued to get tips. One of the reasons people have been obsessed with this story is it’s a mystery to solve.
Mark Moran (08:20):
Everybody has a theory about who the Watcher might be and what their motivation is.
Speaker 1 (08:27):
The house at the center of it all, today barricaded from curious onlookers with yellow tapes surrounding the front yard.
Jessica Romero (08:34):
It’s a great house to own if you’re not spooked by this.
Rebecca Everett (08:38):
And as far as we’ve heard, they have not gotten any letters.