One of the most important criteria for buying a house is the neighborhood. Is it safe? Are the neighbors friendly and helpful? These are the questions you are bound to ask before purchasing a house. Migration from the cities to the suburbs has become a common phenomenon. Everybody wants their family to live comfortably, and when the city is all cramped up, the only option left is the suburbs. The Brannock family thought the same. Dean and Nora’s two children were growing up, and they wanted a spacious house to live in. But the beautiful house at 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey, was nothing short of a nightmare for the family. The Netflix mini-series “The Watcher” is a fictionalized retelling of what has unfolded in reality. A mini-series that will keep you on edge through all seven episodes.
When the Brannock family took a tour around 657 Boulevard, they were spellbound by its magnificent beauty. The house was all that they had dreamt of. Even though it was way above what they could afford, Dean and Nora knew that this was the house they wanted. Dean cashed out all their savings, investments, and even their IRA to secure the loan to purchase the house. Owning the house almost became an obsession for Dean, and he was ultimately successful in buying it. The house was over 100 years old and stood out as one of the most lavish houses in the neighborhood. While life seemed to be perfect for the Brannock family, they found the neighbors peculiar.
Mitch and Mo were an elderly couple who were mostly seen sunbathing and looking closely at the Brannock family. They could not tolerate the fact that a piano was brought into the house and later got offended when Dean requested Mo to get off his property. Since the Brannock family was not accommodating of their neighbors, Mitch and Mo took an instant dislike to the family. Another set of odd neighbors was Pearl and Jasper. Jasper was Pearl’s brother. He was mentally unstable and obsessed with the dumb waiter that existed at 657 Boulevard. Pearl, with her two pigtails and constant mention of the Preservation Society, seemed a little erratic. The neighbors were not happy with the Brannock family moving in. They prided themselves on knowing the house better than its owners.
When the letters started pouring in, one after another, Nora and Dean lost their calm. The letter, sent by an anonymous entity who called themselves “The Watcher,” addressed the Brannock family and stated their love for 657 Boulevard. They mentioned that they were in charge of watching the house and waiting for its second coming. The house has been watched over since the 1920s; someone took up the responsibility of watching it in the 1960s, and now it was the writer’s turn to watch the house. They wondered if the owner of the house knew the history behind the walls of the house and the reason why the basement was left unfinished. Clearly, the letter was sent to threaten the family. The person, in a way, asked the family to dig deep into the history of the house, knowing that the result would shock them enough to leave. But why would the Watcher want them to leave the house? What secrets was the house holding on to?
Even though Dean requested the police to help, they could not do much with just letters. Even after patrolling around their house several times at night, the police were unable to come across any suspects. Detective Chamberland proposed that the couple hire a private investigator. Theodora was a jazz singer turned detective. She was an alcoholic, but later her addiction shifted from alcohol to unsolved mysterious cases. She took it up as a profession and was able to solve 93 cases out of 122. After receiving a mysterious phone call and hearing music play in the middle of the night through an intercom, Nora wanted Dean to simply sell the house. Dean, too, agreed with her, but Theodora believed that they needed to know the truth for their mental peace.
Nora and Dean got security cameras set up all around their house, and they decided to not bow down to the Watcher’s threats. The security service provider, Dakota, was attracted to Dean and Nora’s 16-year-old daughter, Ellie. After moving into 657 Boulevard, Dean’s behavior changed considerably. He was overprotective of his daughter and shamed her for her choice of clothes and makeup. Ellie found lipstick in her bathroom closet and wore it. Even though her father disapproved of it, Ellie could see herself transforming into the woman she wanted to be. During their stay, there was a constant conflict between Ellie and Dean. Therefore, when Dean felt that something was going on between his daughter and Dakota, he lost his cool. Theodora, too, concluded that Dakota had a motive to be The Watcher. He had recently started a security company, and he needed clients. By making the Brannocks feel unsafe, his security service profited from it. Apart from that, when Theodora appointed men to find out about Dakota’s online presence, they realized that he used the name “The Watcher” while playing video games. Dean caught hold of Dakota and accused him of being the stalker. Dakota went to the police station with his mother and a lawyer. His mother explained that she called her son the Watcher because of his night duties and security business. It had nothing to do with the Brannock family. Nonetheless, Dakota agreed to cooperate and provided his DNA sample to compare it with the DNA found in the letter. Later, Dakota exposed a video taken in Dean’s bedroom. He sent it to Dean’s boss and Nora. In the video, Dean was lying on the bed while a young girl went around the room and slept beside him. Dean was shocked to find the video; he had never seen the girl.
See More: What Is The True Story Behind The Netflix Mini-Series ‘The Watcher’?
Dean met Andrew Pierce, a talent agent and one of the previous owners of 657 Boulevard. Andrew shifted to the suburbs to provide a better life for his family. His wife was suffering from postpartum depression, and he had a newborn to look after. The change in environment helped his wife recover, and she started playing the cello again. Life was finally taking good shape for Andrew, but not for too long. He started receiving letters from “The Watcher” and noticing strangers in his house. Andrew left his toddler with Mitch and Mo, who were happy to help the couple. His wife became unstable again. He would return home to fight most nights. One day, his son said to him that he had witnessed Mitch, Mo, and their friends in red robes. At the center of the gathering was an altar where a newborn baby was kept, and the baby’s throat was slit. Dean found it difficult to trust the account of a three-year-old, but Andrew believed every word his son had said. Later one day, his wife found Mo sucking on his son’s finger wound in the basement. Mo had apparently entered the basement from a secret tunnel. That was the night that Andrew decided to leave with his family. Later, his wife committed suicide because she never stopped seeing the strange figures, she had seen on 657 Boulevard. Therefore, according to Andrew, a cult was behind the letters. They wanted the blood of children to feed on. It was a way to remain young. Andrew’s claim could not be completely dismissed because there were some missing person reports in Whitefield that Detective Chamberland had once mentioned. Later, Dean and Nora found the secret tunnel in the basement, further confirming that what Andrew had said was not something he and his family had imagined.
The obsession with blood sacrifice is also common in the John Graff story. John Graff was another owner of 657 Boulevard. He was a devoted Christian who lived with his mother, wife, son, and daughter. His wife was an alcoholic. Their marriage was on the rocks. His son was a talented basketball player and an academic genius. While John Graff was proud of his son, he did not feel the same about his daughter. She was a teenager expressing her sexuality, and that was not something her father approved of. He shamed his daughter, much like Dean, for not being the perfect Christian woman he wanted her to be. When he started receiving letters from the Watcher, he chose to not share them with his family. The Watcher knew the secrets of the Graff family: how John had lost his job and that his daughter would sneak out at night. The Watcher wanted John to sacrifice young blood to the house because that is what the house wanted; that is what it needed. When he saw his daughter dance with her schoolteacher at a Halloween party, he had had enough.
The Watcher kept on instigating John to sacrifice his children. Only by doing so would he find the peace he had lost. The Watcher promised to look after the children once they were sacrificed. John decided to do what the Watcher was asking of him. He shot his wife, mother, and daughter. He then made himself a sandwich and went to his son’s match. He drove his son back home and shot him as well. Before leaving the house, he cut himself off from every picture so that the police would be unable to identify him. He played a piece of music on the intercom, Wagner’s Gotterdammerung, and turned on all the lights. The bodies were found two weeks later by Jasper. This was what left Jasper scarred for life. The bodies were found together. They seemed desiccated. Blood was found leading to the basement, and there were empty milk jars that had been filled with blood. John Graff was not found, but the teacher his daughter was seen with was shot dead three days after he murdered his family. While John Graff seemed to be the one who had been murdered, why did he use a different gun? If not John, then who murdered the teacher? Nonetheless, what can be deduced is that the house might have had some relation with blood sacrifice. Both of the accounts of the past owners had blood sacrifice involved in some way or another. Also, the Watcher mentioned how it was good that young blood had entered the house when the Brannock family started living at 657 Boulevards. The Watcher had also mentioned the basement and how he wondered if the children would ever go down there after knowing the history of the house. The basement was left unfinished, but what was the reason behind it? Who was drinking the blood? Was it the neighbors who were involved in a cult, just like Andrew had explained? Or, was this something that the neighbors wanted the owners to believe, and they were hiding the actual truth? Clearly, the basement was a crucial part of the house’s dark past.
The video that Dakota had circulated featured Dean and a strange girl in his room at night. The girl looked like John Graff’s daughter, Patricia Graff. She was wearing the same cherry-printed dress that Patricia Graff had died wearing. When Dean denied knowing the girl, Dakota decided to check all the CCTV footage to find out the identity of the woman and question her. But as it turned out, he did not find a single video that could prove that the girl had entered the house. If the girl did not enter the house, was it Patricia Graff’s ghost walking into Dean’s bedroom? Or was it an artist pretending to be Patricia Graff, knowing that there was a video camera recording her movement to scare the family out of the house? It did seem that Nora’s real estate friend, Karen, had a motive. She loved the house and wanted the Brannock family to sell it at a lower price so that her agency could profit from it. Was it a game she was playing to scare the family? To make them sell their house at a low price.
Dean believed that he had met John Graff. The man introduced himself as the building inspector. He mentioned the nearby church that the family should visit. He discussed the fourth turning and how, after every 80 years, there was some crisis, and he was certain that a crisis would hit very soon. The stranger named John mentioned how his daughter used to be just like Ellie, but he managed to correct her, though it was traumatic for the entire family. Was the man truly John Graff? Or was it someone pretending to be John Graff, knowing that Dean would eventually find out about the man after going through the history of the house? The man was talking about the catastrophic global phenomenon that would occur. He was unhappy with how people were making changes in their houses and turning the world into a concrete jungle. Was it something that the cult believed in? If we consider this stranger to be John Graff, then the question that arises is: why did he return? The place that once haunted him, the place where he murdered his entire family, why would he return to the house? By sacrificing his family, did he grow more attached to the house, considering how he had truly given his blood and sweat to the house to satisfy its demand? The fact that a city couple was living in it and making enormous changes to it might have offended him.
Roger Kaplan was the English teacher at Whitefield High. He was obsessed with building architecture. From childhood, he used to adore houses in which many of his friends lived. He came from poverty, and watching the exquisite houses gave him pleasure. When he became a teacher, he introduced a lesson called “Ode to a House” to his students. He asked his students to write a letter to the house owners of the houses they admired. His students loved his lesson, and there was an entire Facebook community dedicated to Kaplan’s “Ode to a House” practice. Kaplan was obsessed with 657 Boulevard and 55 Oak Terrace. Even after becoming a teacher, he wrote letters to 55 Oak Terrace, where his friend’s sister, Carol Flanagan, used to live. Initially, his letters expressed his admiration for the house, but gradually the letters turned violent. He started questioning any changes that were made to the house. Mrs. Flanagan then received a letter from the Watcher expressing how her house had turned against her because of the changes she made to it. The Watcher questioned her greed and blamed her for her divorce. One night, when she was going to bed, she saw someone watching her. She went out and threatened to destroy Roger Kaplan if he did not stop sending her letters. From that day onwards, she never received another letter. She believed that Kaplan was threatened. When Mrs. Flanagan read the letters that the Watcher had sent to the Brannock family, she confirmed that it was Roger Kaplan. Dean and Nora got hold of Kaplan in a supermarket and confronted him. Dean believed it was Kaplan, whom he had seen in the tunnel that he found in the basement. The tunnel was a long one, and there was a bed in it. Dean saw a man running through the tunnel, but they were unable to catch him. Even though Dean and Nora believed it was Kaplan who was sending them the letters, Kaplan denied knowing them.
As the audience, we knew that the man Dean and Nora had seen in the tunnel was not Roger Kaplan. It was the same man who introduced himself as John Graff. If we assume that the man was John Graff himself, then maybe John Graff never left the house after committing the murders. Maybe he lived in the tunnel and looked after the house. He knew Pearl, and she sheltered him when Dean and Nora followed him in the tunnel. Therefore, Pearl must also be involved in the larger scheme of things. Was the preservation society responsible for sending the letters? Did the members take it upon themselves to make sure that the house remained happy by not making any changes to it? And if anyone did, then they would be terrorized. Was John Graff considered a member after he committed the murders because he prioritized the happiness of the house over his own sanity? But what remains confusing is the obsession with young blood. The man who introduced himself as John Graff was later introduced at the Preservation Society meeting. He introduced himself as William/Bill. He mentioned that he had lived in Whitefield since 1995. Roger Kaplan doubted the man. He believed that he had known him from somewhere else. He was quick to ask how Bill’s family was doing, and that startled the man. This conversation further strengthens the fact that the man could be John Graff. John Graff had murdered his family in 1995, and in the meeting, the man mentioned that he had started living in Whitefield in 1995. Was it just a strange coincidence? Or was he trying really hard so that no one would recognize him?
The Brannock family gave up on the investigation when they realized that they could not come up with an answer and had no evidence to back their claim. They doubted Karen and Detective Cumberland. Karen had always wanted Nora to sell the house. She planted a seed of doubt about Dean’s loyalty. She had also discussed how he might be having an affair with a minor, and that was why he could not accept his daughter’s sexual journey. The video of Dean and the strange woman circulated after Karen had made her assumptions, making Nora doubt Karen’s involvement all the more. Detective Cumberland had an affair with Karen, and he, too, was not interested in helping the Brannock family when they were struggling. Nora and Dean strongly believed that it might be the two who planned it all out so that the family would sell the house at a low price, and Karen could buy it at a low cost and again sell it at a higher price. The family did not have any evidence to accuse Karen and Detective Cumberland, so they decided to list their house and start living in the city like they used to.
Karen eventually bought the house, but she did not believe any of the rumors spread by the Brannock family. But after staying in the house for 48 hours, she had to run for her life. Mo and Pearl had greeted Karen after she started living in the house, but she did not reciprocate their friendly gesture. That night, Karen received a blank call and noticed water dripping from the first floor. She found out that the water in the bath was left running. She called Detective Chamberland for help, but he refused to do so since they had an ugly breakup. Karen’s dog continuously barked in the basement at the concealed tunnel. Karen got hold of her dog and cleaned the apartment. As she went to sleep, she heard the dumb waiter ring. She went to check and found a letter from “The Watcher.” He informed her that it was her greed that brought her to 657 Boulevard, and she would be living her worst nightmare. She went downstairs and found her dog lying on the floor, dead. As she looked behind, a man emerged from the convertible staircase wearing black hooded clothes. Karen left the house, running as fast as she could to save her life. She later sold the house at a loss.
Dean Bannock never got over the house and the secrets it held. Even though he consulted a therapist to get a grip on himself, he continued to think about the house. Dean drove to 657 Boulevard and watched the new family living there. When the man living in the house asked him who he was, he introduced himself as John and stated that he lived in the neighborhood. He lied to his wife, Nora, about his whereabouts. While he was supposed to attend an interview, he decided to give in to his obsession with 657 Boulevard instead. Nora followed her husband in the car, and she knew that he was lying to her. The new family received a similar letter, but the question remains: who was “the watcher”?
At the end of the series, “The Watcher” seems to be a collection of individuals rather than just one person. According to the DNA test conducted by the police, the DNA found on the letter was that of a woman. Was it Pearl and her Preservation Society? Considering how she was obsessed with how 657 Boulevard was maintained; it did seem that she could have had the motive to support such a cause. Each member of the Preservation Society believed they understood 657 Boulevard better than its owners. Pearl knew the history behind every element present in the property, Jasper loved the dumb waiter, Roger Kaplan had been studying the architecture of the house from childhood, Mo lived right next to the house and had entered the property as she pleased, and Bill/John Graff was obsessed with keeping the house just the way it used to be when it was built. The fact that the people from the cities, who had no idea about the history of the house or the value of the architecture, bought the house enraged the group. They were, in a way, protecting the neighborhood by driving away people who never belonged to the suburbs. But the blood sacrifice cannot be made sense of if we consider it as the truth. The only probable reason seems to be a cult ritual, though we do not know that for sure. The Watcher also seems to be punishing the owners for their greed. They believed that it was greed that made them buy the house because that was the kind of people that the house attracted. At the very beginning of the series, Roger asks Karen during the open house whether the house was built by indentured servants. Could then we conclude that one of the families of the workers watched over the house out of love for the house and hatred for those who bought it out of greed? Was the man Bill or John in any way related? There can never really be an end to this discussion!
657 Boulevard turns into an obsession for those living in or around it. It was not just the mystery that was making it difficult for Dean to get over the house, but the house itself. In a way, he, too, decided to be a part of the mystery by introducing himself as John. He could not own the house, but he could not allow someone else to live in peace as well. Does that mean that the old owners looked at the new ones with envy, and that drove them to become “the Watcher”? Since the case remains unsolved, we will never know for sure. “The Watcher” fictionalized the story to a great extent. It hints at envy, presence of the supernatural, and cult theory.
“The Watcher” is a 2022 Drama Thriller series created by Ian Brennan and Ryan Murphy.
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