Westfield residents may be tired of talking about the so-called Watcher House. But with a Netflix series on the way, the mystery behind the spooky letters doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
For those who have heard the story about the Watchers’ house and read the true ghost story in New York magazine about the Broaddus family and their pen-stalker, here is a little story about the house at 657 Boulevard. For this I turned to the city historian Carol Tener, who by a happy coincidence researched a story for the Westfield Guide across the now infamous street where the house is located.
Westfield – named for the farm fields west of Elizabeth – began to urbanize with the arrival of the train in the 1850s. The boulevard was one of the first major thoroughfares and became the address for Westfield’s “Makers and Shakers,” Tener said. It was originally called Boulevard Ripley after Chauncey Ripley, but the name was shortened to “Boulevard” around the turn of the century.
Ripley inherited an estate from one of Westfield’s founding fathers, Gideon Ross, and became a lead developer, transforming the two-mile street into a pageant of affluent homes. The 500 block is notable for its Queen Annes – and very little has changed on this stretch. The 600 block, which houses the Watcher House, was developed about a decade later between 1900 and 1915 and is more architecturally diverse.
“The boulevard is an architectural review of Westfield’s development,” Tener told Jersey Digs.
The six-bedroom Dutch Colonial that the Broadduses bought from the Woods family was built in 1905. Only a handful of residents have called the address home, including the former mayor of Westfield, the Woods, the Broadduses and the family who bought the home in 2019.
Westfield feels like asking about the keeper’s house is already rude. After sending dozens of emails to shop owners, tour guides and a few community officials, The only person who would satisfy my curiosity about the Watcher story was a friendly conspiracy theorist from Cranford.
His theory is that Derek Broaddus, an insurance salesman from Portland, Maine, was behind the letters all along. His spin is that Broaddus, who incidentally hails from the same hometown as Stephen King, took inspiration from the famous author.
“One of the most famous horror writers from the same hometown who was publishing his best stories while Derek was growing up,” he said. “It’s not proof, but you could see how Broaddus could be affected.”
Not only have the letters stopped, but the couple who bought the home from the Broadduses were from Westfield, suggesting the big stories never held much water for locals.
The only thing that doesn’t make sense is if Broaddus really made this all up, why did the previous owners, the Woods family, get creepy letters too?
“If the Woods have received letters since they moved in in 1990, I totally agree, my theory has no merit,” the conspiracy theorist said. “However, the story didn’t say when they got the letters. So if they started getting them when they put the house on the market, that would fit my conspiracy theory.”