It’s 1966, Jorge da Costa Alves finds himself flying a kite one afternoon in the nearby Vintém Hill, in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As the eighteen year old Jorge walks around Vintém Hill, he makes the macabre discovery of two bodies laying side by side in the tall weeds. The bodies were of two men, who appeared to be dressed identically. Both men were dressed in matching suits and wore impermeable coats which wasn’t out of the ordinary since the area had been drenched by recent showers. What was out of the ordinary were the protective lead masks over their faces; the type of masks used to protect against radiation poisoning. Here, laying dead in the rain-soaked vegetation of Vintém Hill are two men in suits, a rain coat and lead masks over their faces.
As young Jorge realizes that he just stumbled onto two dead bodies, he makes his way to the nearest phone to call in the find. The local police and journalists tried to put the puzzle pieces together from what little evidence they had, only to come out scratching their heads. Forty-five years later the mystery known as the “lead masks case” is still riddled with theories such as suicide, murder and alien abduction.
Manoel Pereira da Cruz and Miguel José Viana were electrical engineers who made a living repairing televisions. As the story goes, the men lived in Campos dos Goytacazes, an area north of Rio de Janeiro. The two were good friends and were often seen working together. On August 17th, 1966, the men had mentioned to their relatives that they needed to buy some supplies for work and would be gone for the afternoon.
The men then hopped on a bus heading to Niterói, three hours and one hundred and sixty miles away. Three days later, on August 20th, Jorge stumbles onto the bodies of the two television repairmen.
Police and journalists make their way to the bodies only to find them in a severe state of decomposition. Immediately the investigators make note of what was found near the bodies: an empty bottle of water, a package containing two towels and a notebook with what is described as a cryptic note:
“16:30Hs be at the determined place. 18:30 swallow capsule after effect protect metals wait for mask signal.”
I wonder what the detectives thought of when they read the cryptic note. Suicide? Maybe. But what about the lead masks? Murder then?
If Manoel Pereira and Miguel José were murdered, what was the purpose? Obviously money would be an objective, but I doubt both men had a lot of it. Could it be some form of cult-like suicide? No mention of any cult or religious activity has been pinned to the dead men by friends and relatives.
Who were they meeting at the arranged place? Were they meeting a person or hoping for an event? Was Vintem Hill the arranged place? We have no way of knowing. Then, there are the capsules. Most sources say toxicology turned up nothing because the organs were not preserved. Therefore, we do not know if the men took the capsules or what they contained.
To be literal, we are not even sure if the notes refer to that day, though at least that seems likely. “Protect the metals” may refer to some metals they were meeting to get rid of. “Wait for mask signal” obviously means they were waiting for someone to tell them to put on their masks.
One explanation is that the men were meeting someone for a clandestine deal involving radioactive material. However, that would not explain the capsule mention, the towels or the jackets. Another explanation is that they were conducting an experiment, but there is no evidence of an experiment leading to their death, such as materials for said experiment. They may have been duped, murdered and dumped on the hill, though there was no evidence of violence or violent injuries. They also may have been waiting for an intergalactic ride. But really, we don't know and most likely will never know what occurred those last couple of days.