How Historically Accurate is Netflix's The Watcher?

Image credit: Netflix

Netflix is dominating the realm of true crime with titles like The Jeffrey Dahmer Story and American Crime Story. They've yet to slow down, having just added The Watcher to their catalogue. Though not as dark as the above programs, it does produce an eerie feel that leaves shivers down your spine.

With every new true crime shows we have to ask the age-old question: how accurate is it and does it alter the real story in any way? The Watcher is no exception to the rule, so let's find out!

The Fundamentals

In the opening sequence of the show, the Brannock family is attending an open house at 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey. This did actually occur as the owners, the Woodses, received multiple offers above the asking price. The threatening letters the new family began to receive from "the watcher" were real as well. Shortly after the home was sold, letters such as "You need to fill the house with young blood" were really sent to the new family. Unfortunately, from this point on, the infamous Netflix dramatization begins to take form.

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What was Changed

The Brannock family is a family of five, not four, and began receiving the watcher's letters before they moved into their new home. Additionally, their names were changed at the request of the real-life family (and we can't take them to task for that). When the eldest daughter received the first note, that was completely false; the family did not tell their children anything about the notes until having to explain why they weren't moving into their new home. Also, the family never moved into the home at all, according to an article on The Cult.

Within this fabrication, a few authentic details were incorporated. A neighbor of the family taught piano lessons, so Brannock's daughter plays piano in The Watcher. Also, the story about Jasper Winslow applies some real-life details. One of the neighbors did spook newcomers from time to time by peeking through windows and walking through their backyards.

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Why the Changes Took Place

A lot of shows tend to fabricate real-life events for viewability. They also tend to do so for legalities involving the real people being portrayed. That is the largest reason behind any of the show's inaccuracies. Upon selling the rights of their experience to Netflix, the family had two requests – to not use their names and to make the characters have no resemblance to them in real life.

The family even went as far as telling The Cult that they will not watch the series whatsoever. They had seen the trailer, and that was enough. The release of The Watcher poses a moral question long debated by true crime fans: regardless of how the producers rework the show, is drawing entertainment from somebody's real suffering all that good?

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