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The Watcher House

I grew up in a quaint, suburban neighborhood in New Jersey, exit 135 for those familiar with the Garden State Parkway. Picture newly built homes with attached garages, families with big dogs, soccer games on Sundays and a picturesque downtown with all the essentials — the bagel shop, the local diner and the penny candy drugstore.  

My family has lived in the same house for my entire life. I grew up spending the summers barefoot in the park with the neighborhood kids and I went to high school with my classmates from kindergarten. All of the neighbors knew each other.

When I was younger, I would complain to my mom that our town was boring and that I wished something exciting would happen. Other than that Charles Addams used to live in my town and his house inspired the Addams Family House, there wasn’t anything noteworthy or exciting about Westfield, New Jersey. 

I think some of this desire for excitement probably came from watching too many episodes of “20–20” and true crime shows. It was crazy to think these mysteries happened in real life, in comparison to my town where the biggest scandal was a series of car robberies (because people left their car keys inside their cars).

So in 2014 when one of our neighbors bought a house and began to receive threatening letters from an unknown stalker, it was the biggest story in Westfield’s history. The incident began with murmurs within the neighborhood, then it hit the local news, then the national news and now it is being made into a Netflix series, “The Watcher,” that is scheduled for release this October.

“The Watcher” is about 657 Boulevard. Boulevard is this beautiful, historic street on the south side of town. It is a picture-perfect neighborhood and 657 was the quintessential “dream home”— six bedrooms, four bathrooms and a large backyard. 

Soon after the family bought the house, they began to receive threatening letters from a stranger who said they were watching the family and their children. The messages became increasingly troublesome and the stalker who called themself the Watcher threatened to harm the children if the family stayed in the house. 

The family moved out of the house on Boulevard, and everyone knew the situation because they were our classmates, our friends and our neighbors. The town was abuzz with questions about who the Watcher was. Was it a jealous buyer that didn’t get the house? Was it one of the neighbors from down the street? Could it be the family sending the letters to themselves? There were even rumors that the letters had been tested and a woman’s DNA was found on the envelope. 

Years passed but no one ever discovered the identity of the Watcher. The house sat unoccupied for many years before it was sold again. I used to go for walks around the block and when I passed the Watcher House I would hurry by with my head down. From the outside, the house looked like any other house, but if I looked at the windows with the white frilly curtains for too long I almost felt like the Watcher was watching me too. The nightmare that was the Watcher House became a local legend whispered in the dark by trick-or-treating children. 

Since the Watcher is the most exciting thing that’s happened in Westfield, I will now be referring to my hometown as the spooky Halloween fright that is the Watcher House instead of suburban New Jersey.

You can contact Caroline Collins at ccolli23@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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Spooky Season for Cinephiles

Today is the first day of fall and spooky season is upon us! What better way to get into the mood than to put on a good halloween movie. From Hocus Pocus to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, halloween classics range a variety of genres. And while these classics are mentioned on every list, I thought I would create my own. This time, of the more forgotten Spooky Season films. 

Practical Magic 

This movie is the most slept on Halloween movie out there. Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as witch sisters? What could get better than that? Don’t be turned off from the 23% on rotten tomatoes, critics don’t know anything; the audience score for this movie is 73%! I watched this movie for the first time years ago, and I can not listen to crickets the same way again. The movie follows two estranged sisters as they navigate the world of romance with magical powers. 

While there are definitely some dark themes (i.e. abusive boyfriends and necromancy), the overall movie is not scary, although I would not recommend it for a super young audience. 

Spookiness Scale 6/10

Fall Vibes 9/10

Over the Garden Wall 

I know, this is not technically a movie. But, this limited series is the perfect thing to watch to get into the Halloween spirit. This animated show follows two brothers as they go on a journey through a mysterious forest. The brothers (voiced by Elijah Wood and Collin Dean) find a plethora of funky creatures along the way. While it is not as spooky as some of the other films on this list, this series is the definition of Autumn Vibes. If you are the type of person who likes more lighthearted films, but still want a hint of spookiness, I would most definitely recommend this. 

Spookiness Scale 2/10 

Fall Vibes 10/10 

The Invisible Man (2020) 

If I’m being honest, I am not the biggest fan of Elisabeth Moss. However, she killed it in this role. The Invisible Man is based off of the H.G. Wells novel of the same name, however, there is a more modern twist to it. If you enjoy thrillers, this would be my top pick for you. I was on the edge of my seat for the entirety of this movie. While The Invisible Man does not have as many fall vibes as the other ones on this list, the spookiness scale definitely is highly. This movie is not for the faint of heart, there is domestic abuse and violence sprinkled throughout, but overall this movie is definitely worth the watch. 

Spookiness Scale 8/10 

Fall Vibes 1/10

Murder Party 

I have never heard anyone else talk about this film. Originally, I put it on as a background to doing work, but quickly I could not stop watching. The premise is just genius. A man with no friends picks up an invitation to a “murder party” on the side of the road. Believing it to just be a quirky halloween invite, the man attends, only to find out that the party is in fact to murder their guest list. I know, it sounds grim. However, Jeremy Saulnier somehow finds the perfect combination of seriousness and comedy to make this film work. 

Spookiness Scale 11/10 

Fall Vibes 8/10 

Spirited Away 


The entire Studio Ghibli collection deserves a spot on this list. Spirited Away was my favorite film growing up. It follows a young girl, Chihiro Ogino, as she travels through the spirit world to save her parents. For a grown adult, this movie is not scary. But, as a young girl I had to cover my eyes for a good portion of this film. With ghosts, witches and dragons, this movie is two hours of fantasticism.

It is animated, but don’t let that turn you away! Studio Ghibli puts out some of the best movies of all time, and Spirited Away deserves a spot on that list. 

Spookiness Scale 8/10 

Fall Vibes 7/10

Hereditary 

There are hundreds of true horror movies I could have included on my list. The Conjuring and Insidious are go-tos, The Shining is just a classic or maybe I should have chosen the Cabin in The Woods, which I think has one of the best premises of all horror movies. But no, I decided on Hereditary. Yes, Hereditary is a well known horror movie, but I love this film so much that I can’t help but hype it up even more. While in the theaters, I saw this movie 6 times. Since then, I have watched it ten more times. And each time, I notice a new detail Ari Aster included. 

There are so many iconic scenes in this film, and the last 15 minutes will have you screaming the entire time. I don’t even think I can tell you too much about the premise without spoiling the mastery of this movie, but it follows a family after the death of their grandmother. There are classic jump scares, a ton of gore and ghosts and witches to top it off.  

Spookiness scale 9/10

Fall Vibes 2/10

So, as the season begins to shift, bundle up with a pumpkin spice candle and a bag of popcorn and turn on whatever flick best fits your vibe!