Are y’all familiar with the saga surrounding “The Watcher,” the mysterious stalker who terrorized a family with eerily specific letters after they purchased a million-dollar home in a fancy New Jersey suburb? If you haven’t read The Cut’s new feature about the yearslong ordeal, I cannot recommend it enough. Come for the creepy thrills, stay for the petty suburban politics. Someone absolutely must option this story for a motion picture — and no, I’m not counting the Lifetime movie they already made. Don’t fail me, Hollywood.
Anyway, one of the many bizarre tidbits in this tale intersects with the music world — and not because of the Dr. Dre song “The Watcher,” which was my first assumption. See, the Broaddus family hired the renowned forensic linguist Robert A. Leonard — who testified in the JonBenét Ramsey trial among other credentials — to help them identify the Watcher. And Leonard, it turns out, is the same Robert Leonard who sang in the ’50s revivalist rock band Sha Na Na. Yeah, the group that brought Happy Days nostalgia to Woodstock, the one that got name-checked in Adam Sandler’s “The Hannukah Song.” That Sha Na Na.
Here’s the relevant excerpt — I am leaving in the surrounding context to help you get a sense of how intriguing this story gets:
Left without a suspect, the Broadduses reopened their personal investigation. They were still coy about sharing too much with their neighbors, who remained in the pool of suspects, but spent an afternoon walking the block with a picture of The Watcher’s handwritten envelope. They hoped someone might recognize the writing from a Christmas card, but the only notable encounter came when an older man who lived behind 657 said his son joked that The Watcher sounded a little bit like him. A neighbor across the street was the CEO of Kroll, the security firm, and the Broadduses hired the company to look for handwriting matches, but they found nothing. They also hired Robert Leonard, a renowned forensic linguist — and former member of the band Sha Na Na — who didn’t find any noteworthy overlap when he scoured local online forums for similarities to The Watcher’s writing, although he did think the author might watch Game of Thrones. (Jon Snow is one of the “Watchers on the Wall.”) At one point, Derek persuaded a friend in tech to connect him to a hacker willing to try breaking into Wi-Fi networks in the neighborhood to look for incriminating documents, but doing so turned out to be both illegal and more difficult than the movies made it seem, so they didn’t go through with it.
Weird, right? Below, enjoy some footage of Sha Na Na at Woodstock. And please read the Watcher story so we can discuss in the comments. Thanks.