Is The Watcher teacher Roger Kaplan based on a real person? Here’s what we know about him

His students have claimed he sent more than 50 letters to one house

The Watcher on Netflix is based on the creepy true story of a family who moved into what they thought would be their dream home, but began getting intimidating and scary letters from someone calling themselves “The Watcher”. The show raises lots of theories of what might have happened in the real life The Watcher case, one revolving around a local teacher called Roger Kaplan.

In the series we see Roger Kaplan as an English teacher at the local school. He grew up poor and loved to visit the big houses near where he grew up, including going inside a number of the big houses his friends lived in – including 657 Boulevard in Westfield. Roger had wanted to grow up and work in architecture, but couldn’t afford architecture school.

As a teacher, he set his students an assignment called “An Ode To A House” where he had them write a love letter to a house in the area they like. One letter went to him to mark, and they sent another copy to the homeowners. Roger had written admiring letters to 657 Boulevard in the lead up to The Watcher’s letters, so it was for a while believed he could have been the person behind it all.

So, was Roger Kaplan in The Watcher based on a real person?

English teacher Roger Kaplan in The Watcher on Netflix

via Netflix

Roger Kaplan, who is the teacher in The Watcher, is based on a real person

So, it looks as though Roger Kaplan is based on a real person. The Netflix show is based on an article published in New York Magazine, and an update from the original writer has been posted on The Cut. In this, they share the real life theory The Watcher may have been a local teacher. “The most intriguing new theory I heard involved a local teacher,” the article reads.

The real life teacher is called Robert Kaplow, and he taught English at Summit High School, a school near the Westfield area, for 33 years. Kaplow is also a writer, and one of the pieces he is known for is Me and Orson Welles, which is filled with references to the Westfield area – where The Watcher case happened.

The Cut article adds: “Over the years, Kaplow had told a story to his students that now struck many of them as curious. The story was about a particular house in Westfield and Kaplow’s obsession with it.” A former student told The Cut “he had this idea to start writing letters to the house — not the occupants, but to the house.” Another student said Kaplow once told them he had sent more than 50 letters to the house in question.

Robert Kaplow, The real person Roger Kaplan in The Watcher is based on

The real Robert Kaplow, via YouTube

As well as this, Robert Kaplow retired in 2014 and finished teaching in June of that year, which is the same month The Watcher started sending letters to the Broadduses – the real life family the Netflix show is based on. Plus, Kaplow’s brother lived half a block from 657 Boulevard and he was an attorney who represented a family who used to live in the house and were sued by the Broadduses, for not disclosing the letters they received. There really are so many tangled up parts to this web.

Robert Kaplow has always denied the claims he has anything to do with The Watcher case, and told The Cut “there’s nothing there” in reference to all the rumours. He has also had his Wikipedia page altered in the past to include a paragraph about the case, which Kaplow had removed on the basis it was defamatory. It has been back and forth with this paragraph being re-added and taken out.

Kaplow says he did speak to his students about writing letters to a house, but it wasn’t 657 Boulevard. He has said his letters were admiring, not threatening.

The Watcher is available on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news, drops, quizzes and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook. 

Related stories recommended by this writer:

The Watcher’s John Graff is based on a true story of a family murder, here’s what happened

• Who lives at 657 Boulevard now? What happened to real house from The Watcher on Netflix

• The creepy letters in The Watcher are real – here’s what they each said in real life