The Broaddus family were living the American dream.
Derek, 40, and his wife Maria had worked hard all their lives to buy their dream home, a $1.3 million six-bedroom house in Westfield, a town in upstate New York.
They couldn't wait to move into 657 Boulevard. Their three young children were already debating which of the house's fireplaces Santa Claus would use.
But little did they know, the nightmare was about to start.
As they did began doing work on the house before moving in, a letter arrived.
Its alarming content included: "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 its walls? You have children. Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested?
"Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them to me. Who am I? Welcome my friends. Let the party begin. The Watcher."
Unsurprisingly, Derek called the police. Then a second arrived.
It said: “The workers have been busy and I have been watching. Have they found what is in the walls yet? In time they will. Have you found all of the secrets the house holds yet?
"Will the young blood play in the basement? Or are they too afraid to go down there alone.
"I would be very afraid if I were them. It is far away from the rest of the house. If you were upstairs you would never hear them scream.
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"Will they sleep in the attic? Or will you all sleep on the second floor? I’ll know as soon as you move in. It will help me to know who is in which bedroom. Then I can plan better. Have a happy moving in day. You know I will be watching."
The police investigation got nowhere, and the letters kept on coming.
Fearful for their children's safety, the couple dared not move in. They even had a priest bless the property, considered getting guard dogs, and even placed an advert for a military veteran to guard the property.
Derek began his own investigation, setting up webcams and spending nights hidden at the home, looking for The Watcher.
They hired a private investigator and Derek even knew a former FBI agent who had been the inspiration for Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs.
She looked into the case. They asked neighbours if they recognised the handwriting and a female DNA sample was taken from the letters. The PI managed to get a used water bottle from one suspect to compare the DNA but it wasn't her.
Fearful, stressed and scared, with the episode beginning to affect their marriage, they decided to sell.
As Maria said: “At the end of the day, it came down to, ‘What are you willing to risk? We weren’t going to put our kids in harm’s way.”
In the interests of fairness they told potential buyers about the problems they had endured. Even after they lowered the price, no one would buy it.
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Then a newspaper picked up on the story and it went viral. Amateur sleuths bombarded message boards and Facebook with theories, and some people even accused the couple of writing the letters themselves.
Eventually they managed to rent out the house, on the condition if there were more issues the occupants could leave.
Two weeks later, a letter arrived.
It said: "To the vile and spiteful Derek and his wench of a wife Maria…I walked by the news trucks when they took over my neighborhood and mocked me.. I watched as you watched from the dark house in an attempt to find me … Telescopes and binoculars are wonderful inventions."
The Watcher said he would have his revenge: "Maybe a car accident. Maybe a fire. Maybe something as simple as a mild illness that never seems to go away but makes you feel sick day after day after day. Maybe the mysterious death of a pet. Loved ones suddenly die. Planes and cars and bicycles crash. Bones break.
"You are despised by the house… And The Watcher won.”
In 2019 the house was eventually sold for $959,000.
The case is to be the subject of a new Netflix film starring Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale.
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