4 People Who Experienced Their Own Personal Horror Movie
Tragedies happen every day, and there are between 25 and 50 active serial killers in the U.S. at any given time, so you're never more than a wrong turn away from starring in your own slasher flick. Some horrific events, however, can only be explained by what experts call "some seriously weird crap." Things like...
The Westfield Watcher: The Stalking, Letter Writing Neighbor
As one of the top 100 richest cities in the country, Westfield, New Jersey, is basically the dog's brain the American dream takes place in. Throughout the early part of the century, Derek and Maria Broaddus were living out that dream through a series of increasingly expensive houses, culminating in the purchase of 657 Boulevard, a $1.3 million home on a street so fancy it's just called "The Boulevard." However, they had barely begun renovating the clearly hideous thing when they got a not-so-friendly welcome letter from someone describing themselves as "The Watcher" of the house.
"657 Boulevard has been the subject of my family for decades," the letter explained. "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."
Was it some kind of weird prank? If so, the "Watcher" played the part of creepy stalker/supernatural house medium well enough that it made no difference. The letter went on to note the incoming "young blood" of the couple's three children, which apparently made the house happy, and the renovations they'd done, which did not.
The Broadduses immediately took the letter to the police and asked the former owners if they'd ever received one, which they did, but they only thought it was mildly "odd" and gave it as much thought and care as any other junk mail because they're a couple of hardened badasses. Though if, as they say, the letter only thanked them for taking care of the house, that's considerably less impressive than ignoring the Watcher's claim that they ordered the couple to sell the house and fill it with "young blood." Let's give them the benefit of the doubt that that would raise some alarm. They also had their contractors check the insides of the walls -- because good god, why wouldn't you? -- where they found nothing, which was probably both reassuring and even more concerning. After all, it just meant the danger wasn't physical.
As the police investigation stalled out and more letters came in, revealing more details of the activities the Watcher had seen in and around the house and more explicitly threatening the family, the Broadduses took matters into their own hands. They drew diagrams of the neighboring houses, identifying only a few from which a person could see what the Watcher saw, and hired not one but two former FBI agents, one of whom inspired Jodie Foster's character in The Silence of the Lambs. Again, these people could afford a $1.3 million house.
All signs seemed to point to a family of local misfits two doors down, but the (surprisingly female) DNA on one of the Watcher's envelopes didn't match them, and the police eventually announced without explanation that they had ruled the family out. In the meantime, the Broadduses had a hefty mortgage to pay on a house they couldn't move into without angering several demons and a famous FBI agent on the payroll. They decided to sell the house, but they insisted on showing the letters to prospective buyers, and it's exactly as hard as you'd expect to sell a house that comes with an unseen, threatening caretaker.
Rumors started swirling about why the new owners were selling already and couldn't find a buyer, and after the Broadduses reached their wit's end, decided to sue the former owners for not disclosing the house's weird friend, and the story made national headlines, a growing faction of the neighborhood decided the couple had sent the letters to themselves.
Nevermind that the DNA evidence didn't match Maria Broaddus either; their neighbors decided they'd gotten in over their heads and concocted this bizarre scheme as a Get Out of Mansion Free card. After their lawsuit failed, they hoped tearing down the house and dividing the lot in two would cancel out whatever pact with the devil they'd unknowingly made, but that required permission from the city that had turned on them. Obviously, they said no, but after five long years, the Broadduses finally managed to find a buyer in 2019 -- for $400,000 less than they'd paid. The Watcher was never identified, and the new owners aren't answering questions, possibly due to the terms of some uneasy spiritual truce.
The Haunted Elsa Doll That Wouldn't Leave
In 2013, all parents felt like Idina Menzel's forceful mezzo-soprano was haunting them, but it was a bit too unmetaphorical for Emily Madonia. That was the year, of course, that Disney's Frozen was released, but it was also the year her daughter received a Queen Elsa doll that sang and recited phrases from the movie when you pushed a button. So far, so annoying but normal. One day in 2015, however, the doll started speaking Spanish. There didn't seem to be any reason for it; it switched between languages apparently at random. Then it started speaking when nobody pressed the button and even when it was completely turned off. By 2019, the doll was six years old, and although no one had ever changed the batteries, it was still admonishing its owners to let it go (or libre soy, as the case may be).
So they decided to listen. Having had enough of that creepy crap, they threw the doll in the trash and lived free from the emotional strains of the Lopez spouses ... for a few weeks. The doll then reappeared inside a bench in their living room. "The kids insisted they didn't put it there, and I believed them because they wouldn't have dug through the garbage outside," Madonia said. They also probably couldn't have figured out how to program it to solely speak Spanish, which it had begun doing. (The better to obscure the hexes it was placing on the family, probably.)
This time, the Madonias double-bagged the demon doll, stuffed it way down under the rest of the garbage, and watched the garbage truck take it away before embarking on a family vacation. Care to guess who was waiting for them outside their house upon their return? That's right: the scorned ice queen. It was definitely the same doll because it bore the same marker scrawls its owner had left on it over the years, but this time, it had a grudge.
Finally, after pleading on Facebook to "HELP US GET RID OF THIS HAUNTED DOLL," Emily Madonia sent it to a family friend across the country (with no return address, in case the doll could read), who mounted it to the front of his Jeep and wrote that "If anything weird happens, I'm welding her into a steel pipe and sinking it in Lake of the Woods." It all seems good on his end, but Madonia has reported that in Elsa's absence, the doors of the house keep opening and closing, and the lights turn themselves on and off, which they should have seen coming. It's in the first movie, people: Banishment does nothing to stop Elsa's powers.
The Ghost Mockumentary That Traumatized Viewers
On Halloween 1992, the BBC unleashed the made-for-television movie Ghostwatch, which was presented as a live investigation of Britain's most haunted house, upon an unsuspecting viewership. To modern eyes, it's clearly a bunch of actors reacting to special effects, but this was a more innocent time, before The Office, found-footage horror movies, and various SyFy Channel ghosthunting shows polluted the airwaves. It's got your now-standard spooky apparitions and knocking noises, but it also includes a girl going catatonic before speaking in a demonic voice and what appears to be the entity messing with the broadcast feed. It also featured well-known personalities from the BBC's children's programming for some reason, one of whom is dragged to her implied paranormal end. Meanwhile, a phone number was repeatedly flashed at viewers, who were encouraged to report details of the haunting the investigators might have missed.
The whole thing turned out to be a big mistake, but that last part made it clear just how big. Varying reports estimate that the BBC received anywhere between 20,000 and 1,000,000 phone calls from terrified viewers who thought they really did just witness the ghost murder of the British Shari Lewis. Pregnant women went into labor, people suffered from symptoms of PTSD for months after the broadcast, and one teenage boy, having become obsessed with ghosts, was found five days later hanging from a tree with the note, "If there is ghosts, I will now be one, and I will always be with you as one." His parents were particularly unhappy with the BBC, and their complaints (along with dozens of others) led the BBC to ban the broadcast of the movie ever again.
A Dead Man Kept Ribbing His Friends Via Email
In 2011, a 32-year-old Pennsylvania man named Jack Froese died of a heart arrhythmia. It was totally unexpected, and his friends and family were shocked and devastated. Then, about five months later, they were freaked out -- because Jack had started emailing them.
First, his best friend, Tim Hart, was sitting on the couch doing the big scroll when an email popped up, from Jack's address, with the subject line "I'm watching." Having somehow not perished from his own cardiovascular nope-out, Hart opened the email to find not the wrathful wailings that you'd expect from that kind of subject line by a ghost but a joke about Hart's dirty house. Specifically, it said, "Did you hear me? I'm at your house. Clean your f**king attic!!!" It wasn't a meaningless jibe: Just before Froese died, Hart took him up to his attic to ponder future renovations, as bearded Pennsylvanians are wont to do, and Froese had made fun of the attic's dusty floor. There was no one else with them; it was a joke only Hart and Froese would have understood.
Maybe Froese had meant to send the email earlier, and it accidentally got scheduled instead? It's possible, but there's more: Froese's cousin, Jimmy McGraw, also received an email around the same time. This one said, "Hey Jim, how ya doing? I knew you were gonna break your ankle, tried to warn you, gotta be careful." This one, Froese couldn't have composed in advance because McGraw didn't break his ankle until a week before he received the email, which also relayed a message to another person whose email address apparently "didn't work." Almost as if Froese had no other way of talking to that person.
Okay, so Froese's email was hacked, right? Could be. None of his loved ones admitted to having his password, no one else knew about the conservation between Froese and Hart in the attic, and it would be a really morbid prank to play on people grieving a sudden and heartbreaking loss, but it's possible. It's also possible that the Internet has given us the power to roast our friends from beyond the grave, so get your zingers ready. You never know when you'll be exiled from the group chat of life.
Top image: Emily Madonia/Facebook, KRPC