The Unsolved Mystery Of The Lead Masks Case

We're all familiar with that part in crime shows where an unwitting passerby happens to stumble upon a terrifying crime scene. Sometimes, however, real life is creepier than the imagination of the most talented screenwriter out there ... and that's how we end up with unsolved mysteries that haunt people to this day. 

As Stacy Conradt of Mental Floss tells us, one of the stranger incidents of this type happened in 1966, in the Niterói municipality of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. On August 20 of that year, a young man was flying a kite on Vintém Hill when he made a truly chilling discovery: Two bodies lying on the ground in some tall weeds. These weren't just any old mortal remains, either. The dead men were both dressed in suits and waterproof coats, and they had strange lead masks over their eyes. They were carrying an empty water bottle, two towels, and a notebook that contained a strange note: "16:30 be at agreed place, 18:30 swallow capsules, after effect protect metals wait for mask signal."

What had the men been doing on Vintém Hill in such strange attire? Why were they wearing those strange masks? What was the note about? And what on Earth could have killed them? Those are the central questions of the "Lead Masks Case," a startling mystery that remains unsolved to this day.

Mystery masks and mysterious intentions

The two men's identities were quickly uncovered. They were Miguel José Viana and Manoel Pereira da Cruz, electrical engineers who had left their homes two days previously, purportedly to buy some gear for work. Instead of a quick supply run, however, they took a bus to Niterói. At one point in their journey, they stopped at a bar and bought the water. There, an employee noticed that VIana in particular appeared to be on edge, constantly glancing at his watch. Did this have something to do with the strangely precise times mentioned in the note?

As Domagoj Valjak of the Vintage News writes, one part of the mystery is the fact that we have no idea how these strangely dressed, oddly behaving men died. Their bodies didn't reveal any obvious cause of death, and while the whole "swallow capsules" part of the mystery note might suggest a poison, the officials neglected doing a toxicology analysis, so there's no way to ascertain that, either. The men's peculiar clothes were also an enigma, and many investigators have noted that the masks and overcoats might have been meant to protect the men from the effects of radiation. A scan of the bodies, however, revealed perfectly normal radiation levels. 

The Lead Masks Case prompted many strange theories

The Lead Masks Case was so strange and outright creepy that many people have tried to find a solution to its mystery. Some researchers have speculated that da Cruz and Viana were trying to sell illegal radioactive materials to some nasty characters from the criminal underworld, and when the deal went wrong, the men were killed and dumped on Vintém Hill in an evidently successful attempt to baffle the authorities. Another, slightly more far-fetched theory posits that the men were following strange instructions from aliens, and the capsules and clothing was meant to protect them from the radiation of a landing UFO. Others believe that this was some sort of time travel plot, or that the men were part of some strange doomsday cult. 

One of the more believable theories came from a friend of one of the men, who said da Cruz and Viana had been involved with "scientific spiritualists," a religious cult that, like many folks in the mid-1960s, was fond of psychedelic drugs. As such, the Lead Masks Case might simply have been the unfortunate aftermath of two guys performing some sort of strange ritual that involved way too many hallucinogens for them to handle.