The Lead Mask case has baffled true-crime fans and armchair sleuths for over 50 years now. On August 20th, 1966, police recover the bodies of two Brazilian television technicians deceased on the Morro Do Vintem hill in Rio de Janeiro. The autopsies showed no signs of violence and home-made lead masks were found resting by the bodies, hence the name the Lead Mask Murders.
Two Dead Men
Police carry the bodies away from the two dead men found on a Brazilian hilltop.
A small boy was hunting for birds on August 20th, 1966, when he smelled an awful odor nearby. Gathering the courage to see where the smell was emanating from, the boy discovered the remains of two men.
Although it wasn't unusual for the occasional body to be found in these mountains, according to one visitor, a clinical psychologist called Elaine Villela said, “The place is scary, with some isolated stretches and others with very poor homes. I don't advise anyone to go there alone. It is a labyrinth of uneven paths, winding climbs, junctions and high-voltage towers."
What was strange about the two bodies was that this same boy had seen these same men 3 days prior, in the same spot at around 5 pm. The boy told police they were just "sitting on the hill." The next day the boy returned and saw the two men again, this time lying on the ground, which to him, looked like they were just sleeping.
The Lead Masks
Manoel and Miguel were television technicians from Campos.
Police identified the two men as Manuel Pereira da Cruz, 32, and Miguel Jose Viana, 34, from Campos, Brazil. Both men were married with families, which they had told that they would travel to Rio to buy some electronic equipment.
The bodies of both Miguel and Manoel were found close together and completely intact (no animals had gotten to them). They were both wearing their "Sunday best" suits with matching raincoats atop and they were laying on pintoba leaves. Police stated that these palm-like leaves had been cut with a knife and used as make-shift bedding, however, the knife was not present.
The strange lead mask sunglasses that both victims wore while on the hilltop.
What's totally strange about this case is the lead masks that they found the men wearing. Father Oscar Gonzalez Quevedo, a professor of parapsychology, stated that these masks would allow the "emanation of "luminous radiations from new worlds", capable, for example, of affecting what he called the "third eye".
Also found beside the two dead men was a "strange cement frame", a bottle of magnesium mineral water, a handkerchief donning the letters 'M.A.S.', a strange note, and electronic schematics containing the Ohm's Law equation, which deals with power, voltage, current, and resistance.
A Strange Note
Stuffed inside the pockets of these two dead men wearing lead masks were several undeciphered letters containing Egyptian hieroglyphics and a strange and eerie note reading, "At 4:30 p.m. we are in the determined place. At 6:30 we will take the capsules with orange. After the effect, protect half the face with lead masks. Wait for agreed signal."
They discovered lead remnants in the homes of the dead men leading police to surmise they had constructed the glasses themselves.
After a month of investigating, Brazilian police told media that these mysterious deaths were a part of a robbery of the two men. However, the man who they arrested, a petty criminal called Hamilton Benzani, recanted his statement 3 years later, and it forced police to admit that they couldn't solve the case.
As investigators dived deeper into the lead masks of murders, they surmised that a robbery would have been unlikely, as neither of the men showed any signs of violence or death by asphyxiation. A sum of $2,000 (inflation included) was found on their persons, which any robber would have grabbed.
The case has been closed, the police officially stating that the men may have been killed in a "spiritualist experiment".
The hill where the lead masks killings happened. Notice the high-powered telephone wires.
The murder with the lead masks is strange. And when strange cases go unsolved or provide inadequate clues to solve them, often time the public will turn to other-worldly explanation.
On the same night as the two men died (17 August, 1966) town locals also reported something else strange in the skies. Several residents saw "orange and blue lights hovering over the mountain where the men were found on the night they died".
An article that appeared in the Jornal do Brazil, as well as other newspapers, told the experience of a wealthy local socialite called Senhora Gracinha Barbosa Coutinho Da Sousa. Senhora Sousa was driving with her 3 children in the backseat of her car when she spotted an "unusual object flying over the Morro do Vintem" on August 17th. Sousa claimed this object sent out rays in all directions, had a band of fire around its edges and rose and fell vertically for 3 to 4 minutes.
An Unlikely Conclusion
Police arrested Elcio Gomes, a once good friend of the two dead men, 10 days after the reported deaths for making "contradictory statements".
And he had one hell of a story to tell.
Gomes claimed he was the spiritualist who introduced the two television technicians into a world of "strange experiences." He claims that the three of them had caused a tremendous explosion in Praia de Atafona, that was so large that locals thought an earthquake had rumbled beneath their feet.
The Brazilian Navy, who had heard a "strange conversation" between 3 ham radios, verified this explosion and Gomes's story. A local fisher reported an "object" fall into the sea after the explosion.
Gomes claimed that the 3 were conducting an experiment with a strange device that possibly shot down a unidentified flying object (UFO). Ufologist believe the men traveled to the top of the hill that night to meet with the extra-terrestrial entities, or perhaps they could recover their craft.