Now Streaming:”American Murder: The Family Next Door” is subject of Internet rumor


Just in time for Halloween: the Internet has come up with a theory about who, or what, appears in the early scenes of the family tragedy documentary, “American Murder: The Family Next Door.” According to numerous websites, there appears to be the ghost of one of the murdered girls in the documentary’s opening scene. Watching the videos provided via YouTube and elsewhere certainly does allow viewers to see someone, a small child, walking back and forth in a playroom. The figure is visible multiple times. This might prompt viewers to go back to Netflix to see if they can find the figure on their own. Sure enough, the small figure is present there, too.

“American Murder: The Family Next Door” tragic enough without paranormal speculation

The online rumors feel like an added layer of tragedy to a story that viewers are certain could not get any more sad. For some, the contention that there is a “ghost” in the video is too much. The documentary details the once picture-perfect relationship between Chris Watts and Shan’ann Watts. The decline of the marriage is shown in texts, letters, and voicemails.

Perfect moments, usually captured on social media, show the couple with their children, and later, mostly Shanann, with their two daughters, Bella and Celeste, the latter often referred to as “CeCe.” The children’s perfect cuteness coupled with what they endured at the end of their lives makes for one of the film’s most palpable tragedies.

Spoiler alert: husband and father, Chris Watts, loses weight. Then, he becomes obsessed with his appearance. He soon desires a younger woman and lies to his wife about his fidelity. To make it easier to start a new life with his girlfriend, Watts murders Shanann and his daughters. He confesses. This makes his efforts to look for her, to leave voicemails for her, after he has killed her, look especially sick.

The Watts’ house was for sale until June 2018, when the attorney who was in charge of its sale took it off the market. According to, and other sites, the home is the target of vandalism as people take out their outrage on it for what Chris did. Teddy bears and balloons are left as memorials for the children. More than one site has claimed that the ghosts of Shanann, Bella and Celeste haunt the house. The Colorado house might simply have too much history.

In addition to the deaths of Shanann, Bella, and Celeste, and elsewhere report that Chris has also been charged with unlawful termination of a pregnancy, as Shanann was pregnant with the baby who would have been the couple’s first son, Nico Lee. The tragedy caused by Chris’ actions has layers. The viral claims about ghosts is just the latest.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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