Ryan Murphy’s newest true crime drama for Netflix, The Watcher, is open about the fact that it is based on a real event. It is well-known history that “The Watcher” tormented the residents of the house at 657 Boulevard Avenue in Westfield, New Jersey. Numerous features have been written about the eerie story, including The Cut’s ultimate interpretation.
The Watcher is really based on two true stories that were combined into one TV drama, which viewers might not be aware of. The Watcher introduces John Graff, a genial accountant who formerly resided at 657 Boulevard Ave., in episode 3. The rest of John Graff’s family would be murdered (we didn’t mention it was a joyful real story), um, later. The original Watcher story about the Broaddus family being stalked does not involve a real-life John Graff or anyone who resembles him. However, Graff is clearly based on John List, a killer from history.
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One of the most notorious family annihilators in American history is John List. Additionally, he just so happened to kill his family in Westfield, New Jersey, which serves as the setting for The Watcher. Even though List had nothing to do with the Watcher case, the show pulls the details of his murderous rampage from 1971 closer to the present in order to tie it into the narrative of 657 Boulevard.
Here is all the information you need to know about John List and how John Graff was created in The Watcher based on his murders. Let’s start with the plain facts of the John List case before we discuss the alterations that The Watcher applies to the John List story for its John Graff character.
A veteran of the Korean War John List worked as an accountant both during and after the conflict. List married his wife Helen in 1951 and was an exceedingly serious man with an intensely serious haircut and glasses to match. John’s religiosity and Helen’s drunkenness did not make for a pleasant marriage, but they finally had three children: Patricia, John Frederick, and Frederick.
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Before settling in Westfield, New Jersey in 1965 when John got a position as Vice President of a bank in Jersey City, New Jersey, the Lists traveled the country following John’s accounting career. The Lists relocated to a magnificent 19-room Victorian mansion located at 431 Hillside Avenue. The only reason John was able to pay the down payment was because of Alma, John’s mother. She would relocate to John and the family’s home.
John was a good accountant, but his dry, uncomfortable manner prevented him from being a particularly great CEO or leader. The list finally lost his position at the bank, which left him jobless and responsible for a sizable mortgage. He would pretend to depart for work every day and go to a nearby train station to read instead of notifying his family about his employment position. To pay the debts, he progressively withdrew more than $200,000 from his mother’s funds.
John eventually came to the conclusion that the only way out of this situation was to murder his entire family, leave Westfield, and begin again. His strong religious convictions influenced his choices as well. He believed that his daughter’s typical interests in guys and parties were a symptom of his family’s moral decay and that ending their lives now was the only way to ensure that they would all get to heaven.
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John used two firearms to kill every member of his family on November 9, 1971. Before shooting his mother above the left eye, he first shot his wife in the back of the head. List shot both Patricia and John Frederick in the back of the head when they got home from school. He drove to Westfield High School after lunch to see John Frederick play soccer before driving him home and shooting him as well.
In the home’s ballroom, List laid the bodies of his wife and kids on sleeping bags while leaving his mother’s body upstairs. He left a five-page note explaining what he had done and why on his desk addressed to his pastor. He also removed himself from family photos in the home, which would seriously hamper the inquiry because there weren’t many pictures of List that might be used as a source of information. To better preserve his family’s corpses, he switched on the lights, tuned the radio to a religious station, and turned up the air conditioning.
The list put a lot of effort into getting ready for the murder. He informed his kids’ school over the phone that they would be out of the classroom for a while. He would periodically go back after leaving the house permanently to pick up milk and mail deliveries so that they wouldn’t accumulate on the front porch. As a result, the murders weren’t found until almost a month later, on December 7, when neighbors eventually became suspicious.
Until he was finally apprehended in 1989, John List had already fled to Denver where he worked as an accountant while using the alias Bob Clark.
You could have noticed that John Graff and John List are remarkably similar if you watched The Watcherepisode 3 “G tterd mmerung.” Both men, who had been in terrible marriages, moved into lavish mansions in Westfield, New Jersey. They were both accountants. Both of them were devout Christians who worried about the moral future of their families. Both experienced job loss and considered measures to conceal it. And maybe most significantly, both guys murdered their whole families (though List generated one more body than Graff).