The Strange Case of the Westfield Watcher

(Repost from June 2015).

A lawsuit in New Jersey has apparently revealed a gem in the rough of Americana— a haunted but not so haunted house. Most people would giggle off claims of ghosts. When Phyllis Diller bought a house that she had been told was haunted, she took measures into her own hands. She remarked that the first night she ran around inside in the nude and never had trouble after that. But there’s something different when a living person claims he haunts your house and that it is his right to do so. Ghosts don’t write letters and use local postmarks. This places a real threat behind the “haunting.” There is nothing subjective here.

The Dutch Colonial in Westfield, New Jersey, has all the appearance of what we’ve come to expect from a haunted house. Porch, pediment, old, and a bit of an odd past. It was a house that was, quite strangely, dutifully passed on by everybody whose owned it to the next family for only 1$. The new owners, however, weren’t accorded the tradition. They paid 1.3 Million. It was at last their “dream house.” A house for Derek and Maria Broaddus and their 3 kids. They were going to do a lot of renovation to the 1905 house. But only 3 days after they bought it, they started receiving bizarre and creepy letters from someone who claims he’s the third generation who “watches” the house. He is to protect it and await its “second coming,” as if it is a portal to be used for a significant event yet again in the future. He doesn’t want renovations done, and he’s targeted their children, referring to them as “young blood.”

The case of the Westfield Watcher is now only gaining international news after the new owners sued the previous owners of 657 Boulevard, Westfield, New Jersey, citing that they, that is John and Andrea Wood, did not reveal to them that the house came with a stalker.

In early June 2014 the Broadduses received the first letter. The writer of the letter claimed he was one in a line of family members who “watched” the house. A significant event is coming, as though the house has a life of its own. It “has been in my family for decades. 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 in the 1960s. It is now my turn. Why are you here? I will find out.”

The Watcher, as he calls himself, has a practical purpose. He wants the renovations to stop and the family to get out. “Now that they have it to flaunt it, they pay the price. Tsk, tsk, tsk. . .bad move. You don’t want to make 657 Boulevard unhappy.” He doesn’t say outright that he wants them out, but he next threatens the kids. “Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested?” Sacrifice, murder? It’s enough to open a parent’s eyes. He goes on: “Once I know their names I will call them and draw them to me.”  “I asked the Woods to bring me young blood,” he admits.

On June 18 and July 18, 2014, two more letters arrived, each growing more macabre. One implied he would visit the house and even seek the lives of their children in the basement. He now knows their names. He also knows they haven’t moved in yet because of the renovations, but when they do he’ll learn who has the front bedrooms. He can see everybody then.

There is ghostly, haunting overtones to the letters. The house is alive. The house waits to come alive again in some ritual, I suppose. In one instance “The Watcher” even asks “Have they found what is inside the walls?” implying therewith some hidden knowledge of long passed and dark deeds. Bodies? Ritual clues? A portal to hell?

Most likely just a sick mind . . .but it seems an informed sick mind.

The house at 657 Boulevard has an odd past, and The Watcher’s letters seem to dovetail on it. The house has apparently changed hands through several families that, though not overtly connected by heritage, always seem to pass it on for 1 dollar. That’s right. One sawbuck. This seems to indicate a certain custodial care taken for the house. And none of the families it seems could ever do much to renovate the house.

The Woods finally sold on June 2, 2014, to the Broadduses, and according to the Broadduses the Woods supposedly had received at least one letter from the “Watcher” in May just before they sold. Thus, the Broadduses are suing for the price of the house— a whopping 1.3 million, alleging apparently that the Woods knew a stalker came with it and didn’t disclose it.

Naturally, the townspeople are suspicious and so are others. All of it sounds a bit odd. Could it be real estate fraud? Why? The Broadduses shelled out 1.3 Million. Lawsuit is not a quick way to get it back. Also, if the Broadduses are writing bogus letters and inventing The Watcher why would they have sent a letter to the Woods before they even bought the house? There is nothing to be gained. How would the Broadduses even known the strange history of the house?

The police have confirmed the letters are real. Thus we have a real letter writer. He seems to know something of the house’s history. “He” also may be a woman. Female DNA has supposedly been found on one letter and it didn’t match Mrs. Broaddus. It doesn’t seem like fraud. It seems like someone wanted them to stop and wanted them, the Broadduses alone, to be gone.

As someone who grew up in such an old home in a California town— an old English Tudor with a deep basement and a couple of legends about it— I have never lost my love of an old home with lots of personality. But I also know that many in the town were in-the-know about our home’s past. We were the first outside of the original family that had built it. Those who had owned it before were all kin somehow. The legends were passed on to us. We searched for a hidden Samurai Sword, but couldn’t find it. We told people of the legends. Mom and Dad heavily updated the house, and no “Watcher” warned us not to, nor implied we might find something diabolical in the house, though the house had a spooky side to it. The previous owners like what we did. They were beautiful old couple, the Heckendorns. But there were no “nuts” in the other families.

How about in New Jersey? Is there someone who doesn’t want that lovely old and obsolete house changed from the time capsule that it is? He has taken on the form of a ghost on paper and a potential killer in ink.

He has also been careful. The Watcher cannot be uncovered, despite the mayor of Westfield saying the investigation has been intense. The Watcher also knew the names of the previous owners, the Woods, mentioning them by name in the first letter but indicating he did not know the Broadduses’ names. The letters have not been released yet so we do not know how the Watcher addressed the letter, but he doesn’t live too far from Westfield. He also knew the family had not yet moved in.
But he also stopped rather quickly. After his July 18, 2014, letter— over a year ago—  he has been silent. The Broadduses stopped what they were doing, tried to sell, but realized when they disclosed the “Watcher” no one would bite. They truly seem to believe he is some unstable nut who might go through with his threats if they move in.

Apparently someone is involved in a sick joke in Westfield. But what is most curious is that the joke is dependent on knowledge of the house’s history. It’s largely unscathed since the 1920s. It’s been passed on within a tight clique of relatives or friends. If Derek Broaddus has an enemy who is trying to spite him, he knows a lot about that house, the basement, its past, and chose the most “haunting” way to proceed to drive a family out. But only this family. Only the Broadduses.

mailboxThe Watcher also knew renovations were coming. He was awfully quick off his mark, so to speak, to send the first letter, postmarked only 2 days after the sale finalized.

Running away isn’t the answer here. If and when the Broadduses get out of their deal, if the next occupants receive no threatening letters then we know the Broadduses were the objects all along and not someone with a fetish for that house.
One must also ask, why did the letters stop so quickly?

Maybe there is something more here. Maybe someone didn’t want that house altered. Perhaps there is even more to this. This is certainly a case in the raw and deserves being followed here.

Personally, my advice is get a PI and keep the old house. . . but don’t destroy its unique old personality.

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