The Lead Masks Case: Murder? Suicide? Or Something Beyond Strange?

First Published: February 22, 2019 Last updated: March 5th, 2019 Written by: Marcus Lowth Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes Posted in: UFOs

The Lead Masks case is full of intrigue and mystery right the way around. Not least because at the center of this grim affair is the strange and unsolved deaths of two young men. That the case is a UFO encounter is not certain, but sightings in the area at the time of the discovery of the men’s body means it has fallen to the UFO community to pursue the truth of this dark but fascinating encounter.

Lead Masks Case

The incident unfolded in Brazil in the summer of 1966. It entered the wider network of the UFO community through the 1990 book by Jacques Vallee, Confrontations. However, Charles Bowen would publish a relatively comprehensive report several months after the incident for the March 1967 edition of Flying Saucer Review magazine.

With the arrival of the Internet, interest in the case has only increased. As well it might. The Lead Masks case is truly one of the most perplexing and disturbing on record. That it remains of interest to all with a fascination with anything strange or mysterious, and still unsolved over half a century later, to boot, shows how truly layered this case is. What truth might be beneath those layers, if indeed it is ever reached, is a search that continues into the twenty-first century.

Is this a case of a pair of deaths as a result of a UFO? If so, was it a tragic accident or an intentional attack? Or might the explanation be even stranger? So bizarre, in fact, that that one wonders how it could possibly not be true? Just what did happen on that lonely clearing in the woodlands around Vintem Hill?

A Grim Find On Vintem Hill

On the Thursday morning of 18th August 1966 in the small town of Niteroi just outside of Rio de Janeiro, at a little after 9 am, a teenage boy local to the area wandered across two young men laying on the ground. They appeared to be asleep. He watched for a short time and then left.

Unbeknown to the two men, the teenager had watched them the previous day at around 5 pm, sitting straight upright in the same clearing. So intrigued was the boy, he returned the next morning to take a closer look at the area and see what the two men had been doing.

Two days later, around the same time on the morning of Saturday 20th August, the same teenager was in the woodland hunting birds. When he saw the two men laying in the same position as they were previously, he went over to investigate. The nausea inducing smell told him all he needed to know.

Each of the men was dressed in a neat suit and wearing what appeared to be a brand-new raincoat over the top. Next to each of their heads was a bizarre mask of sorts crudely formed from lead.

The teenager turned and ran back to the village, informing his friends of the grim discovery, and ultimately, the police. The woodland terrain would delay police for almost a day but they were soon at the scene trying to make sense of the strangeness of it. As well as the very real fact that two young men were dead. Seemingly through some bizarre ritual or experiment.

The strangeness, however, was only just beginning to come to light.

Lead Masks Witnesses

A Bizarre Scene Of Dark Serenity

The men were soon named as locals from the village of Atafona, both electricians, 43-year-old Jose Viana, and 32-year-old Manuel Pereira da Cruz. Each was well-respected at his trade, and well-liked among the villager and wider community. They didn’t appear to have any known enemies.

While some strange reports would come into investigators once details of the case were released to the public, some of the initial findings were already beyond strange for police.

For example, the entire area in the woodland clearing was perfectly serene. There were no signs of any type of struggle. Indeed, both of the men were neatly presented, their clothing and hair in place and both laying calmly on their backs. It was as if they had simply lay down there of their own accord.

Furthermore, initial studies showed the men both died of massive heart attacks. And even stranger, their deaths happened within seconds of each other. To say that would be a coincidence of the highest proportions would be as equally large an understatement.

Just what had taken place between 5 pm on the 17th August and 9 am on 18th when the local teenager, although mistaking them for sleeping, had actually discovered their recently deceased bodies? What connected the two men and their bizarre but deadly fate?

We will come back to the widely accepted timeline of events that led two respected men with wives and young families to their mystifying end.

UFO Sightings On The Same Night

It would soon come to light that several residents of the area had witnessed UFO sightings around the same time. And what’s more, several of these were on the evening of the 17th August. Many residents would report seeing oblong orange-colored objects over the area of the two men’ death. Some would even report strange orange beams of light shooting towards the ground from these glowing objects.

One of the most intriguing was that of Senhora Gracinda Barbosa Coutinho da Sousa who claimed to one of the national newspapers that she saw an “unusual object” on the night in question. What’s more, it was directly over Vintem Hill. The report would describe Sousa as a credible witness and of rational mind. They would write about the sighting:

…she was driving along with three of her children when they saw an orangy color with a band of fire around its edges. The object was sending out rays in all directions and was hanging over the top of the hill. She stopped the car, and with her children watched the object as it rose and fell vertically for some three or four minutes!

When news of the two dead men from the area reached Sousa, she would speak to the police of her sighting. According to the newspaper reporting the sighting (the Jornal do Brazil) claimed the Chief of Police insist that the details initially remain out of the public domain.

However, it would appear that Sousa was indeed well-respected. Following her going on the record, around a week after bodies discoveries, more people would come forward to report very similar sightings at the same time.

Lead Masks Body

A “Violent Explosion On The Beach” Several Weeks Before?

While there is discrepancy among some researchers as to the accuracy of the incident, reports in Flying Saucer Review would suggest that several weeks earlier on the evening of 13th June, a “violent explosion” had occurred in the dead men’s hometown. So bad that buildings miles away rocked in the aftershock of it.

According to Bowen’s report, the magazine had received regular press clippings of a “UFO event” along the beach front at that time. However, the press suddenly stopped reporting on the incident. This was, according to the claims, due to police wrapping “a cloak of security” around the incident.

Furthermore, rumors began to spread of some kind of “experiment” on the beach involving local residents, and of a strange experimental device discovered in a garden in the area. Witnesses apparently reported seeing a “ball of fire” cross the sky on the evening in question, while fishermen would claim a “flying saucer” crashed into the sea.

Whether there is a connection or not, two of the people present that evening on the beach who apparently witnessed the events were Viana and Cruz. Did a UFO crash into the waters near the area? Or might something altogether stranger have been responsible?

As we will examine later on, if the reports that would surface several months after the events are accurate, there could have been a bizarre and discreet movement within the populace at the time.

Timeline Of Events

What we know for sure begins at 9 am on the morning of the 17th August. The two men left their village, claiming they were on their way to Sao Paulo. They planned to purchase a car as well as electronic equipment for work. They had taken with them a significant amount of money, around $4,000 in today’s monetary value.

Incidentally, despite no proof they had purchased a car or equipment, only a small amount of the money they left with was found on their persons. Given there was no bruising, marks, wounds, or any sign of a struggle whatsoever, though, robbery seemed highly unlikely as a way to explain the missing money.

After boarding the bus, the pair arrived in Niteroi, the village where their bodies would be discovered. It was a little after 2 pm when they purchased the brand-new raincoats they were wearing upon discovery. It was, according to weather records, raining at the time they departed the bus. This likely means the raincoats were incidental to the events.

Following this purchase, based on receipts from their pockets, they would visit a local bar. There, they would purchase a bottle of mineral water. They apparently purposely retained the receipt. Most likely so they could reclaim money back on the empty bottle on their return journey. Again, this action would suggest they were certainly not planning to meet their end on Vintem Hill that evening.

At a little after 3 pm, the pair set off into the woodlands of the area. And towards the clearing where they would perish several hours later. Remember, the teenager who would ultimately discover their bodies claimed to see them “sat upright” at around 5 pm that evening. What happened next is guesswork at best, and ultimately unknown.

Lead Masks Note

One of the notes

Bizarre Lists, Coded Notes, And Claims Of Espionage!

However, there were more bizarre finds for investigators to try and make sense of. Perhaps most intriguing was the pieces of paper containing a strange code. To this day, this code means nothing to all who have viewed it. There were also various lists of instructions.

On one note would offer:

Sunday, one pill after meal. Monday, one pill after breakfast. Tuesday, one pill after meal. Wednesday, one pill lying down!

Another note would state:

4:30 pm be at appointed place. 6:30 pm swallow pill. Then protect face with metal and await for signal to show itself!

The case would take a further twist when tests revealed that the writing on the notes was not that of either of the two men. Given that this appeared to be a “countdown” type instruction leading up to the Thursday when all indicators suggest is when they died, it would appear this note was in their possession for several days before they even left their village that fateful morning.

Who gave them these notes? Why? And what do they mean?

Given the large amounts of money involved with the case – money that was now missing no less – several other theories developed. Mainly around the notion that the two men may have connections to drug-smuggling. Or even espionage.

Is it possible, for reasons we will explore in a moment, that they were attempting to purchase volatile and illegal materials? Perhaps this led them to a double-cross? However, that still wouldn’t explain how the pair actually died. Did the beams from the UFOs surge downwards and cause cardiac arrest?

Or, should we consider, for speculative reasons, that their deaths were part of a “covert-operation”? Leaving no markings and signs of foul play, might this suggest the involvement of intelligence agencies?

The Little-Known “Other Lead Mask” Case, Telepathic Experiments, And Spiritism

Although not as well known, according to Flying Saucer Review, another almost identical case occurred in 1962. And what’s more, while he wasn’t an electrician, he was a television technician and repairman. Named ‘Hermes’ he was found with a lead mask lying beside his otherwise peaceful corpse. His body lay on top of Morro do Cruzeiro.

We should not overlook such strikingly similar details nor push them away as coincidence.

Nor can reports at the time that there were increasing attempts among the populace to experiment with “high frequency thought waves”. What’s more, the use of LSD was prevalent in these experiments. This, in order to “step up mental alertness” as well as “alter the frequency of the brain”. Remember the notes with the instructions to swallow tablets.

Where this apparent secret gathering of amateur fringe scientists came from is quite a mystery. However, shortly after Elcio Gomes – an associate of both of the men – would face questions by the police. The case, and indeed the idea of bizarre thought experiments, took yet another twist.

Bizarrely or not, he would claim to police that himself, and the two dead men, were members of a “secret society”. One of “scientific spiritualists”. As if that wasn’t strange enough, this society was one of “electronic specialists and enthusiasts”. And their stretch covered the entire region. He wouldn’t reveal the aims or goals of the group. But did state their devotion to “spiritism”.

Perhaps even stranger still were the claims that the two dead men were attempting to “communicate with beings on Mars”. And had previously performed “many strange electronic experiments”.

He would also confirm that he, along with the two men, had built the device which exploded on the evening of 13th June. The UFO sighting that evening, however, was genuine.

Lead Masks Glasses

A Truly Bizarre Case, Rife With Mystery And Speculation!

While it is pure speculation of investigators at the time, and since, some claims suggest that the experiments the men were performing in June 1966 may have somehow shot down the UFO. Or perhaps, given the electronic elements to these experiments, created some kind of wave or surge that both downed the craft and destroyed their device. It would appear that whatever happened, newspaper coverage, after an apparent rabid interest, ceased almost overnight.

Furthermore, why did these “electronic experiments” start to begin with? And why would experts in electricity, in otherwise solid and required jobs to the community in which they lived, band together, in private no less, to conduct experiments with a focus and spiritual development?

Were they perhaps themselves part of a strange experiment? One of romantic notions of a secret society? Where they would perform equally secret and life-changing experiments? If so, who was behind this? And what were they monitoring or trying to achieve?

Is it possible, whoever they might prove to be, were using experts in electricity? Using experts in energy fields as guinea pigs to test out secret government or intelligence agency technologies and theories? Were the “tablets” perhaps to keep such “members” loyal to the cause, like some kind of mind-control drug? And if so, were these “government agencies” working for the Brazilian authorities or for a “foreign” agency?

And if these experiments were “on behalf” of an outside agency, do the many UFO sightings in the area at the time share a connection to them? Were government agencies attempting to “communicate” with UFOs? Or perhaps even open a portal to their world?

Check out the video below which discusses the case a little further.


The stories, accounts, and discussion in this article are not always based on proven facts and may go against currently accepted science and common beliefs. The details included in the article are based on the reports and accounts available to us as provided by witnesses and documentation.

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About Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years experience. Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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