Dearest new neighbor at 657 Boulevard, allow me to welcome you to the neighborhood.
Buying 657 Boulevard had fulfilled a dream for Derek and his wife, Maria Broaddus. The house was a few blocks from Maria’s childhood home. Their three kids, who were five, eight, and ten years old, were already debating which of the house’s fireplaces Santa Claus would use.
The typed note went on:
My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time. Do you know the history of the house?
Do you know what lies within the walls of 657 Boulevard? Why are you here? I will find out.
The letter identified the Broadduses’ Honda minivan, as well as the workers renovating the home.
I see already that you have flooded 657 Boulevard with contractors so that you can destroy the house as it was supposed to be. Tsk, tsk, tsk ... bad move. You don’t want to make 657 Boulevard unhappy.
Earlier in the week, the family had gone to the house and chatted with their new neighbors. The letter writer seemed to have noticed.
You have children. I have seen them. So far I think there are three that I have counted ... Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them too [sic] me.
The envelope had no return address.
Who am I? There are hundreds and hundreds of cars that drive by 657 Boulevard each day. Maybe I am in one. Look at all the windows you can see from 657 Boulevard. Maybe I am in one.
Welcome my friends, welcome. Let the party begin.
A signature was typed in a cursive font: —The Watcher
It was after 10 p.m., and Derek was alone. He raced around the house turning off lights so no one could see inside, then called the police. An officer came to the house and read the letter. He asked Derek whether he had enemies and recommended moving a piece of construction equipment from the back porch in case the Watcher tried to toss it through a window.
Derek and Maria e-mailed John and Andrea Woods, the couple who’d sold them 657 Boulevard, to ask whether they had any idea who the Watcher might be. Andrea replied that a few days before moving out, they’d received an odd note signed “The Watcher.” She said that she and her husband had never received anything like it in their 23 years in the house and had thrown the letter away without much thought.
The Broadduses spent the next weeks on high alert. Derek canceled a work trip, and whenever Maria took the kids to the house, she would yell their names if they wandered into a far corner of the yard. The contractor arrived one morning to find that a heavy sign he’d hammered into the front yard had been ripped out overnight.
Two weeks later, another letter arrived. Maria recognized the thick black lettering and called the police. This time, the Watcher used their names, misspelling them as “Mr. and Mrs. Braddus” and identifying their three kids by their nicknames—the ones Maria had been yelling.
657 Boulevard is anxious for you to move in. It has been years and years since the young blood ruled the hallways of the house. Have you found all of the secrets it holds yet? Will the young blood play in the basement?
Or are they too afraid to go down there alone. I would [be] very afraid if I were them. It is far away from the rest of the house. If you were upstairs you would never hear them scream.
Will they sleep in the attic? Or will you all sleep on the second floor? Who has the bedrooms facing the street? I’ll know as soon as you move in. It will help me to know who is in which bedroom. Then I can plan better.
Have a happy moving in day. You know I will be watching.
Derek and Maria stopped bringing their kids to the house. They were no longer sure when, or if, they would move in. Several weeks later, a third letter arrived.
Where have you gone to? 657 Boulevard is missing you.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
The Power of Family
This year, we asked readers a question: "When you think of 'family', what's the image you see?" The winning submissions, and the stories behind them, were all universal and remarkably moving.
The Shirts Off Their Backs
Michael Todd wore the same clothes every day for the first three weeks of school.
We Found a Fix
9 Tricks to Improve Your Life*
Heroes of the Virus
As America continues to recover from the worst medical catastrophe of the past 100 years, one remarkable legacy will be the stories of the ordinary individuals who held us together
Do We Really Need Sun Protection?
For years, we’ve been told to stay out of the sun and use sunscreen. Those guidelines may not only be unnecessary—they also could be harming our overall health.
The Arrow That Saved My Life—Twice
After a freak backyard accident almost kills her, a Texas woman is taken on a miraculous medical journey
A Life in Buttons
Bought at auction, a vintage cookie tin opens a window into a neighbor’s secreted heart
13 Things: Get a Healthy Home
Most of us have spent more time at home recently than we ever imagined possible.
When Mom Broke Her Leg
To her great surprise, everyone else stepped up
“Don't Give Up”
Her heartbroken hometown needed a sign, so she gave them one