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Silent Green

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Rare picture of Hinrich “Uncle” Zann, Erich and the Zanns's largely unmentioned drummer.
 

TristramEvans

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The Cave of Crystals is a chamber connected to the Niaca Limestone mines in Chihuahua, Mexico, only discovered when the caves were drained for mining operations in April 2000.

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The chamber contains giant selenite crystals, the largest natural crystals ever discovered. The conditions in the chamber that caused the formations are air temperatures reaching up to 58 °C (136 °F) with 90 to 99 percent humidity - people can only endure approximately ten minutes of exposure at a time. During the brief period that the mines were operating a team of scientists studied the crystals, and 2 workers died in the process, one pinned in the cave when a crystal structure fell on him and essentially cooked alive while immobilized.

The crystals themselves were determined to have formed over 500,000 years ago. At the 2017 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, researchers announced the discovery of bacteria found in inclusions embedded in some of the crystals. Using sterile methods, the researchers were able to extract and reanimate these organisms, which are not closely related to anything in the known genetic databases.
 

TristramEvans

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AsenRG

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"And now, kids, let me tell you why they call it Dead Sea...:devil:"
 

TristramEvans

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657 Boulevard

A True Story


One night in June 2014, Derek Broaddus had just finished an evening of painting at his new home in Westfield, New Jersey, when he went outside to check the mail. Derek and his wife, Maria, had closed on the six-bedroom house at 657 Boulevard three days earlier and were doing some renovations before they moved in, so there wasn’t much in the mail except a few bills and a white, card-shaped envelope. It was addressed in thick, clunky handwriting to “The New Owner,” and the typed note inside began warmly:

Dearest new neighbor at 657 Boulevard,
Allow me to welcome you to the neighborhood.
For the Broadduses, buying 657 Boulevard had fulfilled a dream. Maria was raised in Westfield, and the house was a few blocks from her childhood home. Derek grew up working class in Maine, then moved his way up the ladder at an insurance company in Manhattan to become a senior vice-president with a salary large enough to afford the $1.3 million house. The Broadduses had bought 657 Boulevard just after Derek celebrated his 40th birthday, and their three kids were already debating which of the house’s fireplaces Santa Claus would use.

But as Derek kept reading the letter from his new neighbor, it took a turn. “How did you end up here?” the writer asked. “Did 657 Boulevard call to you with its force within?” The letter went on:

657 Boulevard has been the subject of my family for decades now and as it approaches its 110th birthday, I have been put in charge of watching and waiting for its second coming. My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time. Do you know the history of the house? Do you know what lies within the walls of 657 Boulevard? Why are you here? I will find out.
The author’s reconnaissance had apparently already begun. The letter identified the Broadduses’ Honda minivan, as well as the workers renovating the home. “I see already that you have flooded 657 Boulevard with contractors so that you can destroy the house as it was supposed to be,” the person wrote. “Tsk, tsk, tsk … bad move. You don’t want to make 657 Boulevard unhappy.” Earlier in the week, Derek and Maria had gone to the house and chatted with their new neighbors while their children, who were 5, 8, and 10 years old, ran around the backyard with several kids from the neighborhood. The letter writer seemed to have noticed. “You have children. I have seen them. So far I think there are three that I have counted,” the anonymous correspondent wrote, before asking if there were “more on the way”:

Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested? Better for me. Was your old house too small for the growing family? Or was it greed to bring me your children? Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them too [sic] me.
The envelope had no return address. “Who am I?” the person wrote. “There are hundreds and hundreds of cars that drive by 657 Boulevard each day. Maybe I am in one. Look at all the windows you can see from 657 Boulevard. Maybe I am in one. Look out any of the many windows in 657 Boulevard at all the people who stroll by each day. Maybe I am one.” The letter concluded with a suggestion that this message would not be the last — “Welcome my friends, welcome. Let the party begin” — followed by a signature typed in a cursive font: “The Watcher.”

It was after 10 p.m., and Derek Broaddus was alone. He raced around the house, turning off lights so no one could see inside, then called the Westfield Police Department. An officer came to the house, read the letter, and said, “What the fuck is this?” He asked Derek if he had enemies and recommended moving a piece of construction equipment from the back porch in case The Watcher tried to toss it through a window.

Derek rushed back to his wife and kids, who were living at their old home elsewhere in Westfield. That night, Derek and Maria wrote an email to John and Andrea Woods, the couple who sold them 657 Boulevard, to ask if they had any idea who The Watcher might be or why he or she had written, “I asked the Woods to bring me young blood and it looks like they listened.”

Was your old house too small for the growing family? Or was it greed to bring me your children? Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them too [sic] me.
Andrea Woods replied the next morning: A few days before moving out, the Woodses had also received a letter from “The Watcher.” The note had been “odd,” she said, and made similar mention of The Watcher’s family observing the house over time, but Andrea said she and her husband had never received anything like it in their 23 years in the house and had thrown the letter away without much thought. That day, the Woodses went with Maria to the police station, where Detective Leonard Lugo told her not to tell anyone about the letters, including her new neighbors, most of whom she had never met — and all of whom were now suspects.

The Broadduses spent the coming weeks on high alert. Derek canceled a work trip, and whenever Maria took the kids to their new house, she would yell their names if they wandered into a corner of the yard. When Derek gave a tour of the renovation to a couple on the block, he froze when the wife said, “It’ll be nice to have some young blood in the neighborhood.” The Broadduses’ general contractor arrived one morning to find that a heavy sign he’d hammered into the front yard had been ripped out overnight.

Two weeks after the letter arrived, Maria stopped by the house to look at some paint samples and check the mail. She recognized the thick black lettering on a card-shaped envelope and called the police. “Welcome again to your new home at 657 Boulevard,” The Watcher wrote. “The workers have been busy and I have been watching you unload carfuls of your personal belongings. The dumpster is a nice touch. Have they found what is in the walls yet? In time they will.”

This time, The Watcher had addressed Derek and Maria directly, misspelling their names as “Mr. and Mrs. Braddus.” Had The Watcher been close enough to hear one of the Broadduses’ contractors addressing them? The Watcher boasted of having learned a lot about the family in the preceding weeks, especially about their children. The letter identified the Broadduses’ three kids by birth order and by their nicknames — the ones Maria had been yelling. “I am pleased to know your names now and the name of the young blood you have brought to me,” it said. “You certainly say their names often.” The letter asked about one child in particular, whom the writer had seen using an easel inside an enclosed porch: “Is she the artist in the family?”

The letter continued:

657 Boulevard is anxious for you to move in. It has been years and years since the young blood ruled the hallways of the house. Have you found all of the secrets it holds yet? Will the young blood play in the basement? Or are they too afraid to go down there alone. I would [be] very afraid if I were them. It is far away from the rest of the house. If you were upstairs you would never hear them scream.

Will they sleep in the attic? Or will you all sleep on the second floor? Who has the bedrooms facing the street? I’ll know as soon as you move in. It will help me to know who is in which bedroom. Then I can plan better.

All of the windows and doors in 657 Boulevard allow me to watch you and track you as you move through the house. Who am I? I am the Watcher and have been in control of 657 Boulevard for the better part of two decades now. The Woods family turned it over to you. It was their time to move on and kindly sold it when I asked them to.

I pass by many times a day. 657 Boulevard is my job, my life, my obsession. And now you are too Braddus family. Welcome to the product of your greed! Greed is what brought the past three families to 657 Boulevard and now it has brought you to me.

Have a happy moving in day. You know I will be watching.
Derek and Maria stopped bringing their kids to the house. They were no longer sure when, or if, they would move in. Several weeks later, a third letter arrived. “Where have you gone to?” The Watcher wrote. “657 Boulevard is missing you.”


Many Westfield residents compare their town to Mayberry, the idyllic setting for The Andy Griffith Show — the kind of place where a new neighbor might greet you with a welcoming note. Westfield is 45 minutes from New York and a bit too slow for singles, meaning the town’s 30,000 residents are largely well-to-do families. This year, Bloomberg ranked Westfield the 99th-richest city in America — but only the 18th wealthiest in New Jersey — and in 2014, when The Watcher struck, the website NeighborhoodScout named it the country’s 30th-safest town. The most pressing local issues of late, according to residents, have been the temporary closure of Trader Joe’s after a roof collapse and the rampant scourge of “unconstitutional policing,” by which they mean aggressive parking enforcement. (Westfield is 86 percent white.)

One activity all locals recognized as treacherous is trying to buy a house. “There’s a lot of money and a lot of ego,” one resident, who requested anonymity before discussing Westfield real estate, told me. “I’ve seen bidding wars where friends lost by $300,000.” The Broadduses’ house was on the Boulevard, a wide, tree-lined street with some of the more desirable homes in town, as The Watcher had noted: “The Boulevard used to be THE street to live on … You made it if you lived on the Boulevard.”

Built in 1905, 657 Boulevard was perhaps the grandest home on the block, and when the Woodses put it on the market, they had received multiple offers above their asking price. That led the Broadduses to initially suspect that The Watcher might be someone upset over losing out on the house. But the Woodses said one interested buyer had backed out after a bad medical diagnosis, while another had already found a different home. In an email to the Broadduses, Andrea Woods proposed another theory: “Would the mention of the contractor trucks [and] your children suggest that it was someone in the neighborhood?”

The letters did indicate proximity. They had been processed in Kearny, the U.S. Postal Service’s distribution center in northern New Jersey. The first was postmarked June 4, before the sale was public — the Woodses had never put up a for sale sign — and only a day after the contractors arrived. The renovations were mostly interior, and people who lived nearby say they didn’t notice an unusual commotion, even from the jackhammering in the basement. When Derek and Maria walked Detective Lugo around the house, they showed him that the easel on the porch was hidden from the street by vegetation, making it difficult to see unless someone was behind the house or right next door.

A few days after the first letter, Maria and Derek went to a barbecue across the street welcoming them and another new homeowner to the block. The Broadduses hadn’t told anyone about The Watcher, as the police had instructed, and found themselves scanning the party for clues while keeping tabs on their kids, who ran guilelessly through a crowd that made up much of the suspect pool. “We kept screaming at them to stay close,” Maria said. “People must have thought we were crazy.”

At one point, Derek was chatting with John Schmidt, who lived two doors down, when Schmidt told him about the Langfords, who lived between them. Peggy Langford was in her 90s, and several of her adult children, all in their 60s, lived with her. The family was a bit odd, Schmidt said, but harmless. He described one of the younger Langfords, Michael, who didn’t work and had a beard like Ernest Hemingway, as “kind of a Boo Radley character.”

Derek thought the case was solved. The Langford house was right next to the easel on the porch. The family had lived there since the 1960s, when The Watcher’s father, the letters said, had begun observing 657 Boulevard. Richard Langford, the family patriarch, had died 12 years earlier, and the current Watcher claimed to have been on the job for “the better part of two decades.”

When the Broadduses told Lugo about the family, he said he already knew, and a week after the first letter arrived, he brought Michael Langford to police headquarters for an interview. Michael denied knowing anything about the letters, but the Broadduses say that Lugo told them that “the narrative” of what he said matched things mentioned in the letters. “This isn’t CSI: Westfield,” Lugo later told the Broadduses. “When the wife is dead, it’s the husband.”

But there wasn’t much hard evidence, and after a few weeks, the police chief told the Broadduses that, short of an admission, there wasn’t much the department could do. “This is someone who threatened my kids, and the police are saying, ‘Probably nothing’s gonna happen,’ ” Derek said. “Probably isn’t good enough for me.” After the second letter, Derek told the cops that if they didn’t take care of the situation, they would have a different kind of case on their hands. “This person attacked my family, and where I’m from, if you do that, you get your ass beat,” Derek told me.

Frustrated, the Broadduses began their own investigation. Derek became especially obsessed. He set up webcams in 657 Boulevard and spent nights crouched in the dark, watching to see if anyone was watching the house at close range. “Maria thought I was crazy,” he told me recently at a coffee shop in Manhattan, where he covered a table with documents relating to the case, including copies of the letters, which he and his wife had shared with only a few friends and family members. He showed me a map displaying when each of 657’s neighbors had moved in — the Langfords were the only ones there since the ’60s — with overlays marking possible sight lines for the easel and a circle for “Approximate Range of ‘Ear Shot’ ” to estimate who might have heard Maria yelling their kids’ names. Only a few homes fit both criteria.

The Broadduses also turned to several experts. They employed a private investigator, who staked out the neighborhood and ran background checks on the Langfords but didn’t find anything noteworthy. Derek reached out to a former FBI agent who served as the inspiration for Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs — they were on a high-school board of trustees together — and they also hired Robert Lenehan, another former FBI agent, to conduct a threat assessment. Lenehan recognized several old-fashioned tics in the letters that pointed to an older writer. The envelope was addressed to “M/M Braddus,” the salutations included the day’s weather — “Warm and humid,” “Sunny and cool for a summer day” — and the sentences had double spaces between them. The letters had a certain literary panache, which suggested a “voracious reader,” and a surprising lack of profanity given the level of anger, which Lenehan thought meant a “less macho” writer. Maybe, he wondered, The Watcher had seen The Watcher, starring Keanu Reeves as a serial killer who stalks the detective trying to catch him?

Lenehan didn’t think The Watcher was likely to act on the threats, but the letters had enough typos and errors to imply a certain erraticism. (The first letter was dated “Tuesday, June 4th,” but that day was a Wednesday.) There was also a “seething anger” directed at the wealthy in particular. The Watcher was upset by new money moving into town — “Are you one of those Hoboken transplants who are ruining Westfield?” — and by the Broadduses’ relatively modest renovations:

The house is crying from all of the pain it is going through. You have changed it and made it so fancy. You are stealing it’s [sic] history. It cries for the past and what used to be in the time when I roamed it’s [sic] halls. The 1960s were a good time for 657 Boulevard when I ran from room to room imagining the life with the rich occupants there. The house was full of life and young blood. Then it got old and so did my father. But he kept watching until the day he died. And now I watch and wait for the day when the young blood will be mine again.
Lenehan recommended looking into former housekeepers or their descendants. Perhaps The Watcher was jealous that the Broadduses had bought a home that the writer couldn’t afford.

But the focus remained on the Langfords. In cooperation with Westfield police, the Broadduses sent a letter to the Langfords announcing plans to tear down the house, hoping to prompt a response. (Nothing happened.) Detective Lugo brought Michael Langford in for a second interview but got nowhere, and his sister, Abby, accused the police of harassing their family. Eventually, the Broadduses hired Lee Levitt, a lawyer, who met with several members of the Langford family, as well as their attorney, to show them the letters, along with photos explaining how their home was one of the few vantage points from which the easel could be seen. The meeting grew tense, Levitt told me, and the Langfords insisted Michael was innocent. One night, Derek had a dream in which he confronted Peggy, the eldest Langford, and demanded she build an eight-foot fence between the properties.

Maria was having other kinds of dreams. One night, she woke up to an especially vivid one about a man who lived nearby. “He was wearing these boots and carrying a pitchfork and calling to the kids and I couldn’t get to them in time,” Maria said. She thought almost anyone could be The Watcher, which made daily life feel like navigating a labyrinth of threats. She probed the faces of shoppers at Trader Joe’s to see if they looked strangely at her kids and spent hours Googling anyone who seemed suspicious.

There were reasons to consider other suspects. For one thing, the police spoke to Michael before the second letter was sent, which would make sending two more especially reckless. (The Broadduses say that Lugo told them they wouldn’t receive any more letters after he spoke to Michael.) Then there was the rest of the neighborhood to consider. The private investigator found two child sex offenders within a few blocks. Bill Woodward, the Broadduses’ housepainter, had also noticed something strange. The couple behind 657 Boulevard kept a pair of lawn chairs strangely close to the Broadduses’ property. “One day, I was looking out the window and I saw this older guy sitting in one of the chairs,” Woodward told me. “He wasn’t facing his house — he was facing the Broadduses.’ ”

But by the end of 2014, the investigation had stalled. The Watcher had left no digital trail, no fingerprints, and no way to place someone at the scene of a crime that could have been hatched from pretty much any mailbox in northern New Jersey. The letters could be read closely for possible clues, or dismissed as the nonsensical ramblings of a sociopath. “It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” said Scott Kraus, who helped investigate the case for the Union County Prosecutor’s Office. In December, the Westfield police told the Broadduses they had run out of options. Derek showed
the letters to his priest, who agreed to bless the house.

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