The Haunting of a Dream House
November 13, 2018 10:01 AM   Subscribe

One night in June 2014, Derek Broaddus went outside to check the mail. Derek and his wife had closed on the house at 657 Boulevard three days earlier and were doing some renovations before they moved in, so there wasn’t much in the mail except a few bills and a white, card-shaped envelope. It was addressed in thick, clunky handwriting to “The New Owner,” and the typed note inside began warmly: “How did you end up here? Did 657 Boulevard call to you with its force within?”

The letter went on: “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.” It was signed “The Watcher.”
posted by roger ackroyd (48 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
"What the fuck is this?" is the most appropriate response.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:16 AM on November 13, 2018 [8 favorites]


Previously: https://www.metafilter.com/150706/File-under-creepy

Not to be a buzz kill, because obviously it was memorable enough to remember reading it before...
posted by librarianamy at 10:20 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


[It's double-ish, but the NYMag story is new, and the first post was long enough ago that a lot of people will have missed it or will enjoy revisiting it, so I'll allow it. And please visit the previously for further links!]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 10:29 AM on November 13, 2018 [7 favorites]


librarianamy: "Previously: https://www.metafilter.com/150706/File-under-creepy"

Some interesting new updates in this piece on the last three years, but unfortunately the central crux remains unsolved -- they still have no idea who "The Watcher" is, who has sent them a letter as recently as this February.
posted by crazy with stars at 10:35 AM on November 13, 2018


Oh yeah, I meant no harm in the link - this kind of thing is my jam, and I loved the update. I knew I read it here in the past though... great minds thinking alike about at Mefi...
posted by librarianamy at 10:43 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


in a 1991 case involving an allegedly ghost-filled house, a New York court ruled that “as a matter of law, the house is haunted”

“Justice? -- You get justice in the next world. In this one you have the law.”
posted by chavenet at 10:46 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Around 11 p.m., a car stopped in front of the house long enough for Chambliss to grow suspicious. He says he traced the car to a young woman in a nearby town whose boyfriend lived on the same block as 657. The woman told Chambliss her boyfriend was into “some really dark video games,” including, in Chambliss’s memory, one in which he was playing as a specific character: “The Watcher.” As for the female DNA, Chambliss figured the girlfriend, or someone else, could have helped. The boyfriend was living elsewhere at the time
I have so many questions about this part!!! If he wasn't living there at the time what was she doing idling on his street? Why wasn't she a suspect herself? Did they fact check that there's such a character in a video game?
posted by acidic at 10:57 AM on November 13, 2018 [6 favorites]


If there's DNA on the letters, shouldn't there be fingerprints too?
posted by dnash at 11:03 AM on November 13, 2018


Love all the tangential musical references in this story, the repeated term Young Blood - Coasters song; the forensic scientist who was in Sha Na Na; the family's name Broaddus, as in Calvin Broadus, aka Snoop Dogg.
posted by e1c at 11:03 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


Sublet to Hell's Angels/Nation of Islam and ask them to barbecue a lot. Watch the WASPs go wild.

Also it took them 2.5 years to install cameras and only after the tenant requested?

Also this sounds like a task for some machine learning magic to track everyone walking past, driving past and run correlations against events. A couple of high quality cams in the house. Get a piano delivered one day. Get a red bath tub delivered the next. Correlate. You could even illegally hide pseudo base station in there to for another data point.

But yeah, its obviously the weird neighbors.
posted by Damienmce at 11:05 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Love all the tangential musical references in this story

Don't forget Sir Mix-A-Lot in The Watcher.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 11:07 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


The ending is bananas.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:19 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


just let me know when they have an answer
posted by Theta States at 11:28 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Derek thought the case was solved. The Langford house was right next to the easel on the porch. The family had lived there since the 1960s, when The Watcher’s father, the letters said, had begun observing 657 Boulevard. Richard Langford, the family patriarch, had died 12 years earlier, and the current Watcher claimed to have been on the job for “the better part of two decades.”
...
Not long after, the prosecutor’s office gave Derek and Maria some unexpected news: They wouldn’t say why or how, but they had ruled out the Langfords as suspects.
Hmm.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:32 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


The smoking gun has to be the typewriter with the cursive script, right? I mean, it's definitely someone's grandmother. Possibly mine.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:46 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Normally I'm on the side of explaining things to kids, or at least not hiding things from kids. So when I got to the part where the kids hadn't yet been aware of the letters, I was like wtf?! But then this:

“Can you imagine having that conversation with a 5-year-old?” Derek told me. “Your town isn’t as safe as you think it is, and there’s a boogeyman obsessed with you.”

(emphasis mine) GOOD GOD. That would have straight-up ruined my childhood. I really hope these kids are okay and not permanently anxious and fearful. And I hope their parents get some relief. The whole situation sounds miserable.
posted by witchen at 12:04 PM on November 13, 2018 [6 favorites]


What awful neighbors.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 12:06 PM on November 13, 2018 [9 favorites]


Yeah, the Watcher may not have ruined property values but this article's damning depiction of the neighbors and the planning board would make me think twice about moving to that town.
posted by mstokes650 at 12:09 PM on November 13, 2018 [6 favorites]


The whole second half was infuriating.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:11 PM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


Did they fact check that there's such a character in a video game?

I suspect that she mentioned The Witcher (which is a quite popular game, and pretty "dark" as described) and Chambliss misheard.
posted by neckro23 at 12:11 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


If there's DNA on the letters, shouldn't there be fingerprints too?

Ask the police to submit the DNA to 23andme and lets see who in town comes back as a match. After all, it sounds like literally millions of dollars have been spent on this foolishness already--whats another 100 bucks?
posted by Chrischris at 12:12 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Those poor people.
posted by honey badger at 12:36 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think the part that's most horrifying isn't the Watcher, but the neighbors and planning board.

It was a near Platonic example of why I hate small towns. Totally selfish, NIMBY, and spiteful to outsiders (loosely defined as "anyone who hasn't had family living there for the past 200 years"). Basically they sided with a terrorist because they were assholes who hated change.

It also tells me that my Millennial inability to buy a house may not be such a bad thing. With hell like this as the reward for homeownership why should I ever bother trying? And it definitely reassures me that my utter loathing of living any place with a population under a million is 100% correct.

Small town America is the worst of America.
posted by sotonohito at 12:43 PM on November 13, 2018 [19 favorites]


Boy was I entere engrossed reading the whole story. I thought there would be a satisfying resolution.
posted by honey badger at 12:45 PM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


The Broadduses had sold their old home, so they moved in with Maria’s parents while continuing to pay the mortgage and property taxes on 657 Boulevard. “I had to do things like shovel the driveway,” Derek said. “Just picture that little indignity: I’d go at five in the morning, then come back and do it again at my in-laws.”

It's a testament to how creepy this story is that I am sympathetic to the Broadduses even after a comment like that.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 12:45 PM on November 13, 2018 [15 favorites]


The original was better than this modern remake.
posted by basalganglia at 12:46 PM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


When I was in High School I worked for my local cable access station, and part of my job was filming planning board meetings in my suburban town. I can confirm that they are an absolute nest of vipers.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:52 PM on November 13, 2018 [11 favorites]


Did some digging online about this, and apparently the prevailing theory is that the Broadduses had buyers' remorse from buying more house than they could afford and sent the letters to themselves to.... I guess... make that sweet cash from the tinhattery that ensued.

Not sure whether I buy that, since they seem to have lost rather than gained a lot of money since buying the house, but it is interesting to consider.
posted by coffeeand at 1:16 PM on November 13, 2018


Clearly the Watcher is the ghost of Shirley Jackson because geezy creezy, who else could have conjured a whole town of these insular, spiteful suburbanites hiding just under a thin veneer of respectability and tradition?
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:18 PM on November 13, 2018 [18 favorites]


I mean, WHAT with that ending where Derek Broaddus admits to sending other unhinged anonymous letters? Uhhh....
posted by something something at 1:22 PM on November 13, 2018 [11 favorites]


But didn't the previous owners get a letter, too? So how could it be the current owners?
posted by Ruki at 1:47 PM on November 13, 2018


The previous owner got a letter "a few days before moving out." So, presumably after the house had been sold to the Broadduses.
posted by something something at 1:51 PM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


I mean, WHAT with that ending where Derek Broaddus admits to sending other unhinged anonymous letters? Uhhh....

YES THAT GOT SURPRISINGLY LITTLE AIR-TIME. Dude, you can't do that, unless you want us to suspect you of sending the original letters!!!! I don't suspect him, necessarily, but it's not a Good Look.
posted by kate blank at 2:29 PM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


Reminds me of this (solved) AskMe.
posted by Kiwi at 2:29 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I mean, WHAT with that ending where Derek Broaddus admits to sending other unhinged anonymous letters? Uhhh....

Yeah, I guess Derek apparently wasn't all-in on buying this "dream house" after all?!

Interesting that it's Maria's hometown rather than his, too.

I think it could be some creep-o in the town but the thing about the reporter recognizing the newest anonymous letters' style as similar to the Watcher's, and then Derek admitting to having sent those, makes me think that he was behind the whole thing. Dunno why he would have done it, but him being behind the whole thing is not really LESS nuts than some neighbor being obsessed with the Broaddus family, I guess?
posted by rue72 at 2:31 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I used to live in Westfield and now I live one town over and the people on their FB page have been divided for years between feeling sorry for the family and believing it was a scam to get out of the contract and/or subdivide the property. The big shocker for most people is that the town council didn't let them knock the house down and divide the property in two because they've been allowing that all over town.

I have no real opinion except that the fact that the husband sent anonymous letters to his neighbors is really suspicious. Also, the fact that they sued the former homeowners for not disclosing the letter they received even though there was nothing threatening about it bothers me.

It's a really weird situation. And I'm not all that convinced that the neighbors should be vilified by how they reacted. This couple made everyone around then seem suspicious, like they could all be guilty, and hired private detectives to investigate them to the point of surreptitiously collecting a woman's DNA. That would certainly make me feel unneighborly.
posted by ceejaytee at 2:53 PM on November 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


I guess Derek apparently wasn't all-in on buying this "dream house" after all?!

Given that the letters he wrote were in defense of his family, and written to people who said they'd like to see him and his wife tarred and feathered, I'm not quite sure how you get to that conclusion.
posted by palomar at 3:29 PM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


The letters were coming from inside the house
posted by bigbigdog at 4:13 PM on November 13, 2018 [11 favorites]


That Derek sent the letters was telegraphed way in the beginning when the police detective goes "When the wife dies, you know it's the husband." What a weird thing to say.
posted by basalganglia at 6:17 PM on November 13, 2018


At first I thought Michael Langford looked good as a suspect, but then I realized that I was accepting the stigma of his diagnosis. I don't know what I think, although that dude who slipped away from watching the house has something to explain.

Mostly, I'm just disappointed in the Watcher's schtick. It's such creepypasta. If it weren't for the danger, it would be laughable.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:25 PM on November 13, 2018


The real treasure was the creepy threatening letters we received along the way. Also the gold. Scooby Doo has taught me that if someone is trying to scare you away from real estate that’s because there is treasure there!! And hijinks
posted by bigbigdog at 8:00 PM on November 13, 2018 [8 favorites]


They could be Immortals under the watch of The Watchers like Highlander.
posted by dr_dank at 4:25 AM on November 14, 2018


It’s so, so much worse if it’s Derek. Because then he would be watching his wife be terrorized by it to the point of developing PTSD and getting off on it the whole time. That is some seriously fucked up form of abuse, and motherfucker will be escalating.

That said. It sort of sounded to me like Derek was doing a poor imitation of The Watcher because he wanted to lash out at the worst assholes in his town and, specifically, wanted them to know what it felt like to be stalked by The Watcher. Derek was immediately caught, and the imitation wasn’t very good.

The whole thing does sound like a more creative version of SWATing. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it’s the edgelord who lives nearby, nor if there’s a Discord somewhere with a bunch of these assholes laughing all about it.
posted by schadenfrau at 5:16 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


On the one hand, it doesn't seem impossible for a Broaddus to be the letter writer -- could it be some kind of serious mental illness (dissociative identity disorder aka "split personality")? Some of the details are so personal that it almost strikes me as weird that the Watcher would know (like the bit about him watching the Watcher with telescopes and binoculars). And it's suspicious that the letters only started after the purchase. On the other hand, I view the fact that Derek admitted sending the other letters as making him less suspicious. Seems like that's how he behaves under stress (doing something petty then admitting to it) rather than e.g., new truly-sinister letters popping up.

I'm not convinced it's them, though. Certainly not for any financial motive like making money. Maybe I've read too many mystery books, but this seems like a solvable puzzle. You've got a circle of ten houses, a DNA sample, a special typewriter, quirky and specific phrases, letters that started only after the sale but before the sale was public (were everyone on the Woods' side looked into? what neighbors did they tell about the sale?), specific hours when the house was being watched, and possible biographical details and moral obsessions (i.e., greed) of the writer. Seems like the DNA sample alone would go a long way. The article probably just did a bad job explaining the investigation, but for instance, why did they continue focusing on a male neighbor after they found the saliva was from a female?
posted by salvia at 5:57 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


There's a long history of people pranking the rich.
posted by doctornemo at 7:31 AM on November 14, 2018


There's a long history of people pranking the rich.

Stalking is not a “prank.” It’s a crime.
posted by schadenfrau at 8:02 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


Maybe I've read too many mystery books

impossible.
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:26 AM on November 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


One of the things that makes no sense to me in terms of either the Broaddusses or (one of) the Langleys (in the context of having a singular obsession with the house next door) authoring the letters is this:
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.
This tends to make me think it was a plot / performance / acting-out in search of a victim, or with a wider pool of initial possible victims rather than an actual obsession with that one house (see also the former residents living there for 23 years with no threatening or weird "watcher" letters until just before they moved out). The other letter-receiving family in the neighborhood not reacting at all to the letter was surely less satisfying than the Broaddus family being more clearly spooked. Maybe there were even other letters around the same time to neighbors who didn't want to get involved with the whole thing by coming forward.
posted by taz at 9:45 AM on November 14, 2018 [8 favorites]


« Older There should be no more poaching of private...   |   Take another puzzle piece of my art Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments