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'The Watcher' John Graff is based on a true story of family extermination.

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A common metaphor in horror movies: A family escapes the hustle and bustle of the big city to the cozy suburbs. But their new dream home turns into a nightmare – in this case, spooky typewritten letters from someone calling themselves “The Watcher.” The Brannacks’ lives unravel as this sinister pursuit of trackers threatens their jobs, families, marriages, and position in their new community.

in the tradition american horror story Season 1Audience The latest Ryan Murphy production to intertwine horror movie spooky with true crime roots. Duration DAHMER – The Beast: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story He was criticized for how close and emotionless the documentary-drama adaptation was to the real-life case without the consent of those involved, Lookout The producers took permission from the real-life family who received sad letters at their home.

Beyond that, Murphy and co-creator Ian Brennan made major departures from the true story of the mysterious “observer.” They also drew dark inspiration from other true crime stories, including the 1971 family massacre perpetrated by patriarch John List. And here, the translation from fact to fiction gets chilling.

What AudienceWhat John Graff and John List have in common

In episode 3, “Götterdämmerung”, Dean Brannock (Bobby Cannavale) learns about another dark chapter in the history of his new home. Private detective Theodora Birch (Noma Dumezweni) unfolds the tragedy of the Graff family, who were murdered by their father John. While he claims this story is “not found in any newspaper article or on any website,” the actual case is well known to true crime fans and has been featured in episodes of television. Forensic Files, American Justiceand Your Worst Nightmare.

Like John List, John Graff (played by Joe Mantello) looked like an ordinary man who loved his family and the Lutheran church. An army veteran, he became an accountant and moved his wife, children, and elderly mother to a large house in Westfield, New Jersey. In List’s case, it was a place described by it. New York Times aspect “Ruined Victorian with 19 rooms” Tiffany with skylight.

The motive for the murder – as with many family destroyers – it was the shame of not being able to provide for his family. List struggled to keep a job. To maintain the appearance, it emptied his mother’s bank accounts $200,000 but was drowning in debt, including two mortgages on the house.


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Both List and the fictional Graff had an unhappy marriage with a wife named Helen, an athletic teenage son, and a teenage daughter named Patricia. (Audience changes his teenage son’s name and completely excludes List’s other teenage son.) Either way, this family man kills every relative living under that roof.

Audience It exposes Graff’s crime very closely to the true story. List fatally shot his wife and mother, then waited for them to return from school before also killing 16-year-old Patricia and 13-year-old Frederick. Graff makes time to eat a sandwich at the murder scene at home, while List takes a break between murders to eat lunch. Then, he attended 15-year-old John’s football game (instead of the basketball game pictured). Audience), drove his eldest son home and killed him.

To keep nosy neighbors away, List told people the family was on vacation. He disappeared, leaving the bodies of his murdered family in their home. as you can see Audience, the killer turned on all the lights in the house and began playing organ music. Before leaving, she cut herself out of family photos. It took weeks for the crime to come to light and much longer for the perpetrator to be caught.

What Audience Changed in the true story of John List

Credits: Netflix

In real life, the List case is not at all related to the strange case. audience. But the other details that Murphy and Brennan change here are insignificant.

Before the New Jersey home, List lived in Detroit, not Manhattan like Graff. Inside Audience, A random act of violence on the nasty streets of New York City that forces Graff’s wealthy mother to relocate them to a big house in the suburbs of New Jersey. In real life, List bought the house after he bought it. a promotion at the bank. it was not his address 657 Boulevard as are Audience but 431 Hillside Boulevard.

List killed his family in 1971, while Graff committed their murder in 1995. Instead of the mysterious circle of corpses presented in Murphy’s version, List put his family’s remains in sleeping bags. Then List confessed everything in a five-page letter to his pastor and insisted that he was sending his family to heaven.

some fictional details added for Audience includes bloody bottles in the basement and the “creepy teacher” seemingly killing his revenge. Most importantly, however, is how the Watcher’s presence is woven into the List murder carnage. John List had canceled deliveries of milk, mail, and newspapers as part of an effort to keep neighbors informed of what was happening in the house for as long as possible. Inside AudienceTheodora claims that it was the unknown observer who collected the mails and newspapers, suggesting that the stalker knew what was happening before anyone else in the neighborhood.

What happened to John List?

Under the pseudonym “Robert Clark”, List started a new life in Virginia, much like the previous one. He remarried, became active in the local Lutheran church, and found work as an accountant again. He fled the authorities for nearly two decades.

List in 1989 finally caught, through the TV show America’s most wanted. The hit show, hosted by John Walsh, aimed to give its viewers an idea of ​​what List might look like after all these years. With many of the family’s photographs destroyed, the producers urged forensic sculptor Frank Bender to create a bust that could capture the presumed age progression of the fugitive prime suspect.

The episode aired on May 21, 1989 and caught the attention of a neighbor who called the police and alerted Clark’s second wife. “confused.” List was arrested at work on June 1. He tried to deny his true identity, but fingerprints, military records and other evidence forced him to confess in 1990.

On April 12, 1990, List was found guilty of first-degree murder on five counts and received life sentences for each. Despite his appeal, the notorious killer spent the rest of his days in prison. before death From complications of pneumonia on March 21, 2008. He was 82 years old.

What happened to John Graff?

A dark figure lurks around a Victorian house.

Credits: Netflix

Moving the timeline of this family massacre from 1971 to 1995, Audience -Like List- he plays with the probability that Graff has successfully escaped death and the police for decades. So, could it be John Graff who ate a sandwich while giving Dean unsolicited father advice?

For a moment in the final episode of “Haunting,” Graff looked like a bogeyman imagined by Theodora herself to scare the Brannocks away from that big beautiful house. However, her daughter has revealed that the late detective is trying to bring peace to the family by solving the riddle, even if that means inadvertently implying himself as the Watcher.

The finale also features John Graff, who sided with William “Bill” Webster as he joins the Westfield Preservation Society alongside Brannock-hating neighbors Big Mo (Margot Martindale), Pearl (Mia Farrow), Roger Kaplan (Michael Nouri). also seen the return. ) and Jasper (Terry Kinney). But like Dean before them, some in this group are suspicious of the bespectacled local. He begins by mentioning that he has lived in Westfield since 1995. It’s been a long time for him to be new to this nosy team, but it’s also 1995, the year the Graff family was murdered.

With a sharp look, Kaplan suggests that he recognizes “Bill.” Webster/Graff denies this, arguing that Kaplan must have seen him working at the library.

Earlier, Pearl had explained that there were typewriters in the library, where she assumed her brother Jasper had written the Watcher letters. But could it be Graff, following in List’s real-life footsteps by creating a new life after killing his parents?

If so, wouldn’t Jasper, who found the Graff family bodies, recognize him? Maybe it does. Kaplan, “How’s your family, Bill?” Jasper jumps in with his mallet and changes the subject to the sticky pink marble brought home. With a new target for their judgmental density, the community is shifting from Bill to “proper bench material” for 657 Avenue.

Even after Brannocks is gone, the Watchman letters continue, scaring new owner/property shark Karen Calhoun (Jennifer Coolidge) from her new home. Maybe Graff wasn’t the original Watcher. But the wildly ambiguous ending of this miniseries suggests that there is at least one of the monsters living in Westfield, New Jersey.

Audience is now streaming on Netflix.