Unsolved Mystery: the Lead Masks Case of Vintém Hill

On August 20, 1966, a young boy was flying his kite on Vintém Hill in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He noticed what looked like two piles of clothes lying parallel to each other in a small depression on the hill. Upon further inspection, he realized that he was looking at two dead bodies. Immediately, he reported his findings to the police, instigating what is to this day one of the world’s most puzzling unsolved mysteries.

Why Is It Called the Lead Masks Case?

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The two mens’ bodies were dressed in formal suits and heavy raincoats. Next to them was an empty water bottle and a package containing two wet towels. What was most strange was the fact that both men were wearing lead masks over their eyes.

These lead masks appeared to be crudely cut from sheet metal and didn’t seem to serve any functional purpose other than to possibly block the mens’ eyes from the beating sun. Things got even stranger when the mens’ pockets were searched. Inside were a number of receipts, a list of alphanumeric codes, and an odd set of instructions, which read:

“16:30 be at agreed place, 18:30 swallow capsules, after effect protect metals wait for mask signal.”

The capsules referred to in the instructions were not found, indicating that the two men had likely ingested them before their deaths.

Who Were the Victims in the Lead Masks Case?

The men were soon identified as Manoel Pereira da Cruz and Miguel José Viana, two electrical engineers from Campos dos Goytacazes, a small town approximately 170 miles northeast of where their bodies were found.

There were no signs of violence, so it is assumed that their cause of death was related to the ingested capsules referenced in their cryptic instructions. However, due to the local coroner being overloaded with work, their bodies were not examined for weeks after their deaths, by which time they were too decomposed to provide a conclusive determination as to how they died.

Still, police were desperate to see this case solved. Via the receipts in the victims’ pockets, as well as interviews with witnesses, a timeline of events was created:

  • On August 17th, da Cruz and Viana traveled by bus to Niterói. It is assumed that they were carrying a large amount of cash, as a huge withdrawal had been made from their business account.
  • Upon arriving in Niterói, they purchased the heavy raincoats that they were wearing at the time of death.
  • They went to a bar. The bartender described them as being agitated, constantly checking their watches.
  • They were last seen alive riding in the back of a Jeep driven by two other men.

What Were da Cruz and Viana Doing in Niterói?

Source: Unsplash

Further inspection into the lives of the victims revealed that they were self-proclaimed “spiritual scientists.” According to a friend of theirs, the pair had recently invented a device used to contact “otherworldly beings.” With this element of the story added, it was inevitable that conspiracy theorists would latch on.

Following the two mens’ deaths, a local townsperson reported seeing a bright orange light over Vintém Hill. Many assume this light to have been extraterrestrial. Had da Cruz and Viana been communicating with aliens? Had these aliens taken part in their deaths? If you search for the lead masks case on the internet, you’ll find tons of theories that echo these sentiments.

Of course, there is a less fun, but more reality-based explanation of what may have happened to them.

Has the Lead Masks Case of Vintém Hill Been Solved?

With no disrespect to proponents of the extraterrestrial involvement theory, we’d like to propose another possibility. Da Cruz and Viana may have been duped into coming to Vintém Hill. Being electrical engineers, they clearly had money. And being “spiritual scientists,” they were what many criminals may have perceived as gullible. 

Had people brought the two men to Vintém Hill under the guise that they would meet otherworldly beings? Were they then killed and robbed by these con artists?

Two pieces of evidence seem to back up this theory. First, the men were last seen riding in the back of a Jeep driven by two other men (potentially the killers). Second, they had no money on them when their bodies were found, despite having recently withdrawn a large sum of cash. 

Perhaps da Cruz and Viana ingested poison capsules—believing them to be mind-altering substances—died and had their money stolen.

Of course, this doesn’t explain the strange orange light seen on the night of their deaths. However, it must be pointed out that only one person reported seeing this light. While it may be a stretch to call this witness a “liar,” keep in mind that people tend to interpret things how they want. And an orange glow in the sky could be the result of many things that aren’t extraterrestrial.


The lead masks case has baffled investigators for decades. Even if da Cruz and Viana were murdered, we’re left with the question, who were their killers? While the two engineers may have been extremely intelligent, this doesn’t mean they weren’t naive. It is sad to think that people may have taken advantage of their idealism. But sadly, this is the most likely scenario.

Do you think someone murdered da Cruz and Viana? Or do you think that there was alien involvement in their deaths? Let us know in the comments!

One Response

  1. People are making this case to hard. Since when does people listen to one person. They had money with them. Who ever picked them up probably was their killers. The higher people wanted them killed. Find the 2 that picked them up and you probably found the killers. Case solved.
    The numbers, I feel that was military and medical time, like 16:30 was 4:30, 18l:30 was 6:30
    The second scenario sounds more reasonable.
    That’s my opinion or thoughts on this case.

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