As did many others on the internet, I spent the better part of my weekend bingeing the new Netflix show "The Watcher."

The story is loosely based on the story of Derek and Maria Broaddus, a married couple who upon moving to Westfield, NJ, started receiving harassing letters from someone who called themselves “The Watcher.”

Creepy Letters Family Sues

In the show, the characters' names are changed to Dean and Nora Brannock, played by Bobby Cannavale and Naomi Watts, respectively.

But the story of the Broaddus family isn’t the only haunting Westfield tale to make it into the show.

Youtube screengrab
Youtube screengrab

WARNING: Slight spoilers for Episode 3 of The Watcher

In episode three, “Götterdämmerung,” the private investigator hired by the Brannocks tells the story of a previous owner who murdered his family.

The man, John Graff, murdered his wife, mother, daughter, and son and then treated himself to a sandwich (I know, this is a weird detail to include but there's a reason). He then left the bodies in the house with music playing before fleeing.

Sound familiar?

For those unfamiliar, the Graff murders are based on John List, who lived in Westfield half a decade before the events of "The Watcher" took place. List murdered his mother, wife, and three children in the family’s home using a semi-automatic handgun in November 1971.


Before List murdered his final victim, his son, he made himself lunch, as the show portrayed.

List left the corpses of his wife and children in the ballroom of their home, while his mother’s body was left upstairs in her apartment. He then turned on the radio to a religious station, left the bodies in the mansion, and disappeared.

It was almost a full month before the bodies were discovered.

Since the family wasn’t very social, the only reason neighbors noticed something was suspicious was that at first the lights were on through the night, and then slowly the lightbulbs died.

Who knows how much longer the bodies would have been undiscovered had they not noticed this?

It wasn’t until 1989 that List was found in Virginia where he had been living under a fake name.

So while it may seem to the casual viewer that this subplot was the making of the show creator, Ryan Murphy, we in the Garden State know that it’s based in truth… and that it’s not a great claim to fame.

Though for clarification: List didn't really have anything to do with the Watcher house, this was artistic liberty on the show's part, but they did both really live in Westfield, NJ.

Youtube screengrab
Youtube screengrab

Maybe one day we’ll get a TV show that doesn’t highlight the worst of New Jersey, but for now we’ll have to stick with this, "The Sopranos" and "Jersey Shore."


Interested in checking out "The Watcher"? Here’s the trailer to give you a taste of the show.

More creepy content to help you honor Spooky Season:

New Jersey's Most Terrifying Serial Killers

New Jersey Nightmares - Notorious Serial Killers

The Best Horror Movie From Every Year

Counting down a century's worth of monsters, demons and things that go bump in the night.

Celebs Share Their Personal Paranormal Stories

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5's Kylie Moore. Any opinions expressed are Kylie's own. You can follow Kylie on Instagram.

Click here to contact an editor about feedback or a correction for this story.

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM