Estimated reading time — 9 minutes
In the winter of 1998, there was an undocumented wave of brutal murders that nearly wiped out the entire population of a small fishing village in Argentina.
All evidence of the incident was swiftly swept under the rug by the local authorities, which then proceeded to set up massive roadblocks around Tamacun, preventing anyone from getting near the site of the murders. Media coverage of the police’s suspicious actions was minimal, with most newspapers and local news channels labeling it as a large-scale evacuation on account of a fictitious fire hazard.
The most bizarre part of the whole affair however, was that after gathering the village’s handful of survivors, government officials decided to unceremoniously institutionalize them in different high-security psychiatric wards scattered throughout the country. The reasoning behind these seemingly unwarranted institutionalizations was never made public knowledge, but despite the Argentinian government’s best efforts, rumors of the murders spread like wildfire across all of South America.
Two years later, an amateur film crew from Buenos Aires travelled to Tamacun. Their objective? To shoot a found footage documentary regarding the incident.
“We wanted to film it like the Blair Witch Project” disclosed Gabriella del Carmo, the project’s director of photography “[Blair Witch] had come out the year before and everyone was still raving about it. We wanted to do something similar, but scarier. Creepier. With more blood and sinister interviews. Obviously, we had no idea what we were about to get ourselves into.”
Upon arriving at the remote fishing village, the crew wasn’t surprised to find it completely abandoned. What they weren’t expecting however was to discover that most of the buildings had been deliberately burned down.
“You could tell that it hadn’t been an accident,” said the project’s 1st assistant director Rodrigo Elias “and that really shocked us. Finding out that the cops had deliberately torched the place. Of course, once we started piecing together what really went down there, it made sense. Hell, I’m surprised it took them that long to do it.”
With most of the survivors locked away, the crew was forced to travel to the neighboring towns and hamlets in search for more information. These weren’t very successful trips.
“No one wanted to talk about it,” said Angelico de Sousa, one of the project’s executive producers “everyone was too scared to do it. The second we mentioned [Tamacun], they would shut their doors in our faces. Literally. It was as if it was illegal to talk about what happened. As if they knew someone else was listening. We never spent more than a night in those strange little towns; the townsfolk would always throw us out in the next morning. And every time they did it, it felt like they were doing us a favor. As if it was for our own good.”
After briefly returning to the ruins of Tamacun to shoot the final landscape shots for the doc, the crew spent the next few months pinpointing the psychiatric wards where the village’s survivors had been unwillingly admitted. Even though they knew these were strict institutions that wouldn’t let a camera near any of its patients, they had hoped to track down former staff members that could shed some light on the events that had transpired during the winter of 98.
Much like their previous experience, the crew had a hard time finding someone willing to talk about the murders.
“We knew it was a long shot the moment Diego suggested it,” recalled screenwriter Salvador Moreno “but we were short of any other alternatives. We had no way of reaching out to the survivors and the cops sure as hell wouldn’t talk to us. Unless we wanted to go full fiction on this film, we needed to interview someone who was either related to the murders or who had had contact with someone who was. To be honest, we actually came very close to go in a completely different direction with the entire project.”
Yet, before they had a chance to consider a different approach, the film’s unit production manager Lucas Pascal was contacted by a peculiar man with a strange accent.
“He told me that he had worked as a security guard at Santa Lucía during 98” explained Pascal “Santa Lucía was one of the nine hospitals that had come up during our investigation. Naturally we were pretty excited about interviewing this guy. At the same time, we were also prepared to be completely disappointed. We weren’t exactly sure what kind of information we’d get from him. Some suspected he was only trying to scam us. We only found out that he was for real when he demanded that his name remained anonymous and that his face be blurred out in the final cut.”
A small excerpt from the interview’s transcript reads as follows:
INTERVIEWER: How long were you a security guard at the hospital?
ANONYMOUS: I worked in Santa Lucía for nine years.
INTERVIEWER: And when did you quit?
ANONYMOUS: I didn’t. I was fired.
INTERVIEWER: May I ask why were you let go?
ANONYMOUS: They told me that I talk too much.
INTERVIEWER: About what?
ANONYMOUS: Oh, all sorts of things. Being a security guard gets pretty boring at times. Even in a loony bin. When something interesting happens, you talk about it. But if I had to guess, what really pissed them off was when I told a couple of friends about the shady stuff that happened during the winter of 98.
INTERVIEWER: Care to elaborate?
ANONYMOUS: Sure. It’s the whole point of this interview, right? I guess it all started when the police brought in this crazy old drunk from down South. The guy looked like your run of the mill nut right off the bat. Two cops had to literally drag him, kicking and screaming,
inside the hospital. I didn’t think much of it. I’d seen it a thousand times. But then, something weird happened.
INTERVIEWER: Go on.
ANONYMOUS: This detective showed up the following day. Not just any detective, mind you. No, this one was a yankee. I’d never seen his kind before, except maybe in the movies. Looked like a real hard-ass too, all dressed up and looking sharp. He even wore a hat. But there was something strange about his eyes, you know? Blue and hollow. I don’t think I had ever seen eyes like that before.
INTERVIEWER: What was he doing there?
ANONYMOUS: He wanted to ask the old drunk a few questions. In private. They even got a room just for them. After five minutes though, the crazy old bastard started screaming like I had never heard a grown man scream before. The doctors and the nurses rushed in and the yankee disappeared in the middle of the commotion. I never saw him again. But the drunk didn’t stop screaming until the nurses put him to sleep. Made my blood curdle. All that screaming.
INTERVIEWER: And then?
ANONYMOUS: Things quieted down for a while. Obviously, there was a lot of gossip going around. Everyone had their own story about how the yankee managed to frighten the old drunk so much. Some said that he showed him a picture. Others said that he just whispered something in his ear. No one knew for sure. Not even the doctors. And a week later, no one seemed to care. That is of course, until they found the old drunk’s body lying in the garden.
ANONYMOUS: Looked like it. Officially, they labeled it as a suicide, on account that he had overdosed on antidepressants and all, but that story didn’t stick.
INTERVIEWER: Why not?
ANONYMOUS: Because the guy wasn’t allowed to leave his room! They kept him locked away tight. Restrained too. He couldn’t have escaped without help, let alone get his hands on prescription meds. It was all very suspicious.
INTERVIEWER: So, you’re saying that someone must have set the whole thing up?
ANONYMOUS: Exactly. At the same time, you got to ask yourself, who would do such a thing? Why go through the trouble of killing an old, defenseless drunk? What did he do to deserve it?
INTERVIEWER: Maybe he saw something he shouldn’t have.
ANONYMOUS: Maybe he didn’t have a choice.
Supplied with more questions than answers, the crew’s ever growing curiosity fueled them to attempt to track down the enigmatic American detective.
“This is the part where things started getting really weird” said del Carmo “We found out that Santa Lucía wasn’t the only place where people had seen Detective Blue Eyes. That’s what we called him. Anyway, our sources confirmed that this guy had been seen all over the country. And he wasn’t alone. It turned out that a whole army of yankees in black suits had come over from the States. We knew we were definitely on to something. That’s around the time Paz Vega escaped from Coronel Martin.”
The Psychiatric Hospital of Coronel Martin was one of the most infamous military hospitals in South America. Every time a patient managed to successfully escape, the story made national headlines. Paz Vega’s flight was no different. Being the only teenager who survived the murders in Tamacun, Vega’s escape became one of the most talked about subjects in Argentina.
“The media made her look like some kind of dangerous madwoman” recalled Moreno “Like she was out for blood or something. It was all very hard to swallow. But the police sure was desperate to find her. I had never seen so many cops out on the street. We tried to track her down too, but it was useless. We didn’t have enough resources, or the manpower. After a few weeks though, the whole thing died down. The cops never found her.”
Without any more leads or cooperative interviewees, the crew decided to shift their focus towards the past history of Tamacun. What they uncovered was nothing short of disturbing.
“We found out that the place was some kind of haven for pagan rituals and devil worship” revealed de Sousa “freaks from all over the world would go there to offer sacrifices to their weird gods. There were also strange reports of a secret society of cannibals. All sorts of creepy stuff. After we found that out, a lot of the guys decided it was time to jump ship. Myself included. Money was starting to get tight too, so it seemed like the logical thing to do. But Diego wouldn’t let go. He wanted to see the whole thing through.”
Diego Silva, the project’s director, had become completely obsessed with the murders of Tamacun. So much so in fact, that not even when all of his crewmates had gone their separate ways did he put a stop to his manic research, which eventually led him to leave the country.
“The last time I heard from him, he was headed to Italy” said Pascal “something about tracking down Paz Vega’s last known relatives. I remember thinking it was a waste of time. Even if he did manage to find out where they lived, the yankees had probably been there already. But Diego didn’t care. He couldn’t be reasoned with. He was past salvation.”
After boarding a cheap flight to Naples, Diego Silva wasn’t seen again for over twelve years. His sudden disappearance did not go unnoticed: both family members and close friends alike flew to the filmmaker’s last known whereabouts in a desperate attempt to find him. Unfortunately, the twenty-six year old Argentinian from Buenos Aires left no trace.
It was only on the morning of the 22nd of March in 2015 that he would be heard from again, when Gabriella del Carmo received a strange letter in her mail. Inside it were three sheets of toilet paper covered in faded writing.
Due to the poor quality of the ink and rushed nature of the handwriting, a large portion of what was written remains undecipherable. A rough transcript of the message, with some parts added in based on logic and conjecture, reads as follows:
My Dearest Gabriella,
Men in white coats are about to do something to my brain. They say it will make me forget what I know. It’s all for the best. Leaving Argentina was a mistake.
The doctors tell me that I probably won’t be the same after the operation. They say that I’ll probably forget all about my friends and family. As much as that saddens me, I’m still glad they’re doing it. I know it sounds cliché, but I can no longer live with what I know.
I never did find the girl. But I did find out what happened at Tamacun. Not all of it, but some parts. I wish that I hadn’t. It’s so much worse than what we thought. For once they were right to hide something from us.
Please, take care of yourself and tell the others that I’m OK. Don’t try to find me.
Don’t go back to Tamacun.
They didn’t kill them all.
With no mention of a place or any other means of discerning his exact location, all that del Carmo could do was to share the contents of the message with Silva’s family and former crewmates, nimbly neglecting to mention its last sentence.
Yet, as distressing as it was to read Silva’s cryptic message, del Carmo couldn’t help but to feel a strong urge to revisit the footage they shot during their trip to the fishing village.
“After reading his letter, it felt like we missed something while we were there,” she explained “ and there was something about that last sentence that really made my skin crawl.”
Del Carmo went on to rewatch the footage several times, but it was only after she digitally enhanced some of the wide shots of the village’s waterfront that she noticed something odd.
“Back then, we were so focused on examining the burned houses for clues that we didn’t pay attention to anything else,” she confessed “especially not the seagulls.”
Upon carefully analyzing one of the shots, del Carmo noticed a large group of seagulls fighting over what appeared to be a human foot.
“Unlike digital video, which has a set number of pixels,” she explains “when you digitally enhance film, you can actually zoom in on certain areas without it affecting the level of detail. Kind of like what they do on CSI and other cop shows. When I zoomed in on the foot, I noticed that it had human bite marks all over it.”
A discovery that brought her to an unsettling conclusion.
“Whatever happened to those villagers back in 98, I think it’s safe to assume that they weren’t just murdered. They were eaten too.”
After her interview, del Carmo agreed to provide a copy of the digitally enhanced shot, so that it could be further examined by experts. Before she had a chance to do so however, our sources report that she went missing after receiving a visit from a well-dressed man with pale blue eyes and a North American accent.
Credit: Tiago Lopes