By Brenda Flanagan
“Why are you here? I will find out.” “Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested?”
Those chilling questions allegedly arrived at a Westfield home in three letters from someone calling himself “The Watcher” — according to Derek and Maria Broaddus. The family with three young kids bought the beautiful house on historic Boulevard for more than a million bucks last June, but never moved in saying they’re too terrified of the ominous Watcher. In a recent legal complaint, the family claims they can’t sell it either because potential buyers “…once notified of the letters, no longer view the property as a safe home.”
Locals can see why.
“Obviously if you tell them, they’re not going to buy it. So if you’re a realtor and you’re trying to sell a house, it’s not going to work. Obviously it’s disclosing information that’s kind of useful to the buyer, but I don’t know, it’s tricky,” said Julie Wasilewski of Westfield.
The real estate website Zillow estimates the house has dropped thousands in value over the past year, even though Westfield’s mayor says they looked into the Broaddus’ claims with no result.
“Our police department conducted an exhaustive investigation based on the factual circumstances and evidence available,” said Mayor Andrew Skibitsky.
Besides the obvious — like lead paint and radon gas — what should sellers tell you about a house? For example, were notorious murders committed there? Was it haunted by poltergeists?
“You’ve heard about the List house, right? I mean, this town does have a history of that,” said Wasilewski.
John List murdered his entire family in his Westfield home, which realtors couldn’t sell. The house was eventually torn down. In the so-called “Ghostbusters” ruling, a New York court ruled that, once a seller publicly announced her house was haunted, she was obliged to inform buyers about resident ghosts.
But in New Jersey, “There’s very rarely a duty to disclose. It has to do of course with things — termites, physical conditions, water damage maybe that can’t be seen,” said Seton Hall Law School Professor Charles Sullivan.
We asked Sullivan about the Broaddus family’s legal complaint, which demands the sale contract be reversed because the home’s previous owners allegedly failed to warn them about The Watcher.
“Assuming the facts are what’s alleged, there’s no way the buyers could’ve known,” he said.
But there’s no real proof the sellers ever got a letter from The Watcher.
“It might even depend on how common these letters were. I mean, one letter — maybe that wouldn’t give someone reason to believe it was anything other than a kook making one act,” Sullivan said.
Phone calls to the family and their lawyer went unanswered. The home is off the market.