I recently watched a video on Nexpo’s channel that was profiling Security1275, a TikTok and YouTube user who is apparently posting regular dispatches from a haunted cemetery in Savannah, Georgia. Security1275 is on guard duty in this cemetery, deep in the well of the night, while you’re no doubt safely asleep in your bed. The cemetery basically becomes a thick swirling broth of apparitions and eerily calling voices. Josh, the patrolman, spends most of his time running away.
The thing to value about Security1275 is the format. Josh seems to be a real security guard, with the car and the gun and so on. But all that a budding horror filmmaker needs to do these days is to grab a flashlight, rock up at some suitably desolate location, and then maintain that they are simply carrying out their routine work as a watchperson. The security guard with a smartphone is now probably the fastest and easiest passage straight out of everyday suburbia and into “found footage” horror.
As I was watching Nexpo’s video, I started to recall an earlier example of security-guard hi-jinks. It was set, as I remember, in the locker room of a football stadium. Once I was done with Nexpo I went off in search of it and soon I had found it again, courtesy of the Daily Mail’s YouTube account. The stadium is the Tomás Adolfo Ducó Stadium, the home ground of Club Atlético Huracán, in Buenos Aires. The video is called “Terrifying moment night security guard films ghostly shadow” and there is a minute and fifty-five seconds of it.
It is very good. It begins with the security guard, one Raúl Argüello, gibbering terrified at the top of a flight of stairs. We can hear a distant banging or slamming. Raúl explains that he is filming “what’s going on” as evidence “to show people so they believe me.” With this, he commences his descent, onto a floor that is below ground level. The Mail suspends its English subtitles to primly summarise, with its best mother’s diction, that, “He curses his bad luck at having to deal with the frightening ordeal.” He also grabs a big stick to thwack the ghost with.
We witness a door that is slamming poltergeististically. Raúl, simultaneously panicked and undeterred, shouts something along the lines of “Geronimo!” and he then plunges straight through this door and on into the ghostly interior. It is, of course, empty. Whilst he is staggering around with his camera, he manages to capture, though not himself see, a shadowy figure that is scurrying somewhat mischievously out of the shot. If the ghost is in abeyance, Raúl is also getting the hell out of here. “I’m going to leave, I want to go!” he announces, seemingly resigning his position, ending his story, and tying it up in a bow for us with no loose strands.
The first time that you see this clip it is strikingly nightmarish and frightening. Once you have viewed it several times, however, then you begin to note elements that can appear a little theatrical. From what we briefly glimpse of him, Raúl is wearing the grey shirt, with black shoulder tops, of a private security guard, but the fact is that care is being taken to show us this. Likewise, it is made clear to us that he is carrying a security guard’s flashlight, simply as an illustrative prop given that all of the lights are already on. Downstairs, the stick has been left waiting for him, leaning helpfully against the wall in an otherwise totally cleared space. As with the flashlight, he brandishes the stick pictorially in front of the camera, and it has replaced the pointless flashlight as his free hand’s chief visual storytelling device.
All the excitement of bursting into the ghostly room cannot quite mask the crudity of the amateur magic. Raúl’s desperate shout before coming through the door can be flatly construed as a signal to his assistant inside to get ready. Were we in Raúl’s place we would instinctively pan the camera down to the floor for a second, just to check that nobody was ducking out of sight. That Raúl keeps his camera pointing levelly ahead of him points to a conscious concealment of the “ghost” that is currently between his legs or escaping around his ankles.
The shadow person could have been injected into the scene during postproduction or, alternatively, we could have accidentally sighted the assistant as they try to keep out of the shot. This darting apparition becomes problematically aligned with a suspicion that we are surely harbouring that there is a person present in this room who is trying to hide from the camera.
It sounds like I am criticising this video but I actually admire it enormously. The thing to be said for it is that it gets a long way with what it is doing. We will become caught on Raúl’s vivid shock and his heavy-breathing panic, even as the horror always holds these materials in a sensitive equilibrium. Raúl does everything that we would not do in his circumstances and, since he is the one with the camera, we are frozen helplessly, and very suspensefully, within a nightmare of his own illogical making.
Paradoxically, despite his terror, he descends the staircase, sinking like a sick heart, and he follows the layout that is wending inexorably towards the ghostly room. We can only travel with him. Paradoxically, he goes through the slamming door, whereas we would like to quietly conclude his investigation outside out it. Inside the room, he lingers madly and chases the air around in circles, rather than recognising a good opportunity to depart.
Most of the comments under the videos rejoice in the security guard’s dutiful behaviour. In Spanish, they pay tribute to his “eggs” (a strangely alien metaphor for cojones that never fails to repulse me). In English, a comment will typically go, “how can he manage to his drag his testicles down those stairs?” We will decide that we like this security guard immensely. In his shoes, we would surely radio for backup or act in some meaner or inferior way to him. It is ultimately comforting that he shares our own fright at the ghost but that he can channel it into his mild local heroism.
The Mail had first run with the stadium ghost story as “news” on 16 May 2018. This news had been clearly floated to the UK on a slow boat, since it had originally appeared, here and there in the Argentinian online media, on 3 April. Although we are getting perilously close to April Fools’ Day, the customary date for hoaxes in Argentina is, from what I can gather, Childermass, or the Day of the Holy Innocents, on 28 December. I cannot locate the YouTube account where this video had first appeared. I have found one early link to a deleted account, but the trail never really gets going.
Significantly, there is no Raúl Argüello presence and persona on YouTube to corroborate the video and lay out any natural home for it. So too does the gallery of Raúl Argüellos on Facebook lack a Raúl Argüello of the same age (32) and appearance as the one in the video. It is still unclear to me where all of the available information about him (i.e. his name and that he works at the Huracán stadium) comes from, since no media platform appears to have bagged an interview with him. Just as pets eventually resemble their owners, or vice versa, Raúl is beginning to look as spectral and evasive as his own tiptoeing ghost.
Raúl has resigned his job and lost the income that is needed to support his two children. At the same time, he has just filmed a video that is suddenly appearing lucratively everywhere on international social media. Given that (or so he claims) he was brave enough to visit the ghostly room on three separate occasions, why not pay a fourth visit and procure some more money-making footage? Or why doesn’t one of his security-guard co-workers pop in to milk the same cow? Under the weight of these logical questions, Raúl’s personal story becomes ever more senseless. In the real world, his video could never hope to be the perfectly self-contained artefact that it poses as.
Over a month before the Mail was busy telling its readers that the ghost was haunting the Tomás Adolfo Ducó Stadium, the Argentinian tabloid Clarín had ascertained that the footage was not in fact shot there. Clarín had alighted upon a nearby PRO.CRE.AR building site as the correct location. When you learn this, it will immediately hit you that Raúl’s video could have been never filmed in the locker room of a football stadium. Sure, the staircase leads downstairs, conforming to our idea of how footballers disappear after a match, but they plainly lead downstairs onto a construction site. The “locker room” is actually full of overalls and hard helmets. There is dust everywhere. There are no lockers.
It enhances the ghost’s spookiness to imagine it haunting a football stadium. By day, these venues are full of people and thousands of different social interactions; at night, they are, by comparison, especially still and lonely. If you have ever worked in a public place and locked up after everybody has gone home, you will be familiar with the dread of hearing far-off footsteps upstairs or of a voice talking just out of earshot or of encountering whatever it is that has been left behind after all the humans are away.
A ghost in homes that are being built – and that are indeed yet to be inhabited – is greatly less thrilling. Such an entity is presumably surplus to requirement, hanging around following some previous usage of the land, and it is only slamming doors to protest against its modern-day irrelevance.
When ghosts are afoot, our imaginations will transport each of us to radically different places. For my part, when I look at that blank room in the basement, I can begin to picture the context that might have given rise to the ghost. An out-of-the-way corner on a building site, where lots of bored men are all hemmed in together. A male lair, where men sit amongst their hard hats drinking instant coffee and flicking through newspapers. A place for idle conversations and banter and maybe even plotting and practical jokes. But this is nothing but my own flight of fancy – a spectre, as it were.