On what began to a normal day on August 20th, 1966 in Rio de Janeiro ended as anything but that. An 18-year-old, Jorge da Costa Alves was enjoying a beautiful afternoon flying a kite. As he walked back and forth on Vintem Hill, he came upon something undeniably grisly.
What he saw would forever change his life. After walking through some tall weeds he saw two bodies lying side-by-side on the ground in front of him. Both of the men were dressed in attractive suits with rain jackets. Oh, and both men had lead masks over their eyes. In addition to what Jorge initially saw, both men also had two towels, an empty water bottle, and a note.
Jorge alerted authorities as soon as he was able to. Surprisingly, despite Jorge being able to get up there the police force could not reach the spot until the next day due to the rough terrain. Perhaps this was because they had more to carry or simply weren’t as in good of shape as the 18-year-old Jorge...or maybe it was a way to put off the inevitable.
When the police officers and investigators finally reached the bodies and examine the scene, they found a note in the pocket of one of the men. It read, quite simply, “16:30 be at the specified location. 18:30 ingest capsules after the effect protect metals await signal mask.”
It appears, according to the scene, the note’s instructions were carried out to a T.
Further investigation revealed the identities of the two men were electronic technicians from a nearby town called Campos dos Goytacazes. The men were named Manoel Pereira da Cruz and Miguel Jose Viana. Witnesses noted they left their town on August 17th and told friends and family they were going to purchase work materials in Niteroi, where their bodies would later be found. According to the Vintage News, “A local waitress remembered them entering the bar where she worked and buying a bottle of water. She stated that one of the men looked extremely anxious and kept checking his watch all the time.”
There seemed to be no physical altercation or struggle on the part of the men before their death. No trauma was left on their bodies. Frustratingly, no toxicology tests were performed on the bodies. Even worse, the bodies were not put into cold storage. The two men’s bodies had already been out in the elements for three days, and because there was no room in cold storage for the two men they eventually declared too decomposed for reliable testing. The cause of death for both men was cited as heart attacks.
The deaths of these men are surprisingly for more reasons than just their cause of death. They were both married with young families, had many close friends, and enjoyed their jobs. In fact, anyone who knew them said they dreamed of starting a business together. So, why the strange and unexplained deaths of two men who seemed to be passionate and happy in life?
According to True Noir Stories when Miguel and Manoel saw Miguel’s uncle and told them they were heading to Niteroi to buy equipment and even a car, “Miguel also mentioned during this encounter, that upon their return, the men were expecting to have had some kind of definitive spiritual revelation. Religiously, both Manoel and Miguel were avowed spiritualists, and according to one friend, they were interested in attempting to “contact extraterrestrials or spirits.”
As you can imagine, dozens of theories have cropped up among those who have heard the strange stories of the Lead Mask Case. One of the most plausible theories is that the two men may have been a part of a religious cult of technological spiritualists in which psychedelic drugs played a big part. In fact, there is some resemblance to the Heaven’s Gates suicides (another religious doomsday cult). This is supported by the direction to ‘take one capsule.’
In a similar theory, others believed that they desired a connection to extraterrestrials and were told taking a certain drug at a certain time in a certain place (the hill they went was a rumored UFO hotspot) would allow them to make contact. Perhaps it also caused their death. Again, this theory is supported in the note which orders them to ‘take one capsule.’
However, the above two theories don’t really take into account the need for lead masks as a major component of the strange way the bodies were found.
A bit of a woo-woo theory that places the lead mask theory front-and-center is that the men believed they had found a wormhole on this strange hill. The lead masks were supposed to be eye protection so the could safely travel through the wormhole. But what about the capsules?
Overall, we don’t quite know what happened and it seems that every theory, from the skeptic to the woo-woo, presents holes and questions that cannot be answered or filled.
So, what do you think happened?
Thanks to Jeffrey S. for the suggestion!
The above image is of Niteroi, but not the specific hill. It was taken by Flickr User Gus Valentim and is licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).