Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Watcher

Above is a real estate video of a nice old Dutch colonial house in a nice old New Jersey suburb.

The house was sold last spring to a couple with three children for $1.3 million.  They would probably sell it to you for a much lower price today. 

There's just one problem:  The house comes with a "watcher" who has sent the family three creepy letters suggesting that he or she is following the house and is eager to see the "young blood" who will be occupying it soon.

Three days after the family closed on the house purchase in 2014, a letter arrived saying this:  "My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s.  It is now my time . . . . I have be (sic) put in charge of watching and waiting for the second coming."

The letter writer apparently knew the buyers had three children and said, "Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested?  I asked the (previous owners) to bring me young blood."  

Two more letters followed.  

One asked which family members would be in the bedrooms facing the street.  "I'll know as soon as you move. It will help me to know who is in which bedroom then I can plan better."

Another quote about the children:  "Once I know their names I will call them and draw them to me."

Not surprisingly, the new owners decided not to move into the house.  The story broke last month after they filed a lawsuit against the title company and the last owner who, it is claimed, also received at least one menacing letter and did not disclose this fact to potential buyers.

A Great Story

This is the kind of news story that everyone loves and that news organizations love to chase.  

Criminal experts have been consulted. Some of their comments:

      "This very well could be someone who's enjoying the impact they're
      having by terrifying strangers.  It makes them feel powerful.   They
      get a thrill from it."

      "If you're just looking to terrorize people, why stick with one house?
      It makes you worry this person is mentally unstable and truly believes
      there's something about the house and in the walls and so forth.  
      That sounds delusional."

      "At this point it's all talk.  It might be scary talk, but that's all it is.  If he
      does more than send letters, I would start to worry a lot more."

All I can say about these experts' comments is, well, duh.

The experts seem to assume that the "watcher" is a man, but the local paper reported last week that female DNA was found on the letters.

Another paper found a former resident who grew up in the house, which her parents sold in 1988.  "It sounds so bizarre," she told a reporter.  "We never had anything like this happen when we were there.  We had a great time there."  (Again, duh.)

At least four movie studios have expressed interest in the house and its story.  If one of them works fast, a "Watcher" film could be in theaters in time for Halloween.

What to Do

I presume that police are on the case, talking to neighbors and former residents, and talking also to the new buyers' business associates and acquaintances.  Over time, the police may identify the letters' author.  

My question is, what happens then?

Even insane people are allowed to send correspondence through the mail -- free speech and all that.  There are laws regarding terroristic threats, but the language of the letters does not seem specific enough to rise to that standard.

Can a crazy person be persuaded by a restraining order not to contact or stalk the members of this family ever again?  Can he or she be jailed or locked up in a mental hospital for such behavior?  (On a side note, do we even have long-term-stay mental hospitals these days?)

The letter writer is named -- well, not named but identified -- as a target in the family's lawsuit, but this too looks like an unavailing effort.  People as addled as the watcher generally are not high-functioning or able to earn or manage large amounts of money.

My bet is the new family now sees their house in a different light and will never take occupancy.  If they try to sell, potential buyers will be creeped out and move on.  Even if the family tears the house down and builds a new one, will they be able to guarantee that the watcher's fixation does not travel with the lot?  Will people not worry that copycat watchers will be attracted to the address?

Effectively, a very strange person has taken control of a house and destroyed as much as $1.3 million in real estate value just by writing three anonymous letters.

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