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When a murder goes unsolved, it's frustrating, there's no justice and no closure for the victim's family and loved ones, and there's always the slight chance that the killer might strike again. But let's be real. No matter how much empathy you feel for the victim, often you hear these cases, you hear these stories and just go on about your day without it truly affecting your life. Rarely is a case so bizarre, so unexplainable that it throws your own reality into question.
Take this one, for example. On August 20th, 1966, 18 year old George DeCosta Alves was flying a kite with his friends on a hill near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was a sunny afternoon and he was enjoying the fresh air outside of the city. And then he saw something up the hill, two dead bodies lying in the grass. Both were dressed in formal suits and identical raincoats. They were laying peacefully with their hands behind their heads, almost like they'd lay down for a nap and just never woke up.
And on the ground next to them were two masks about the size and shape of sunglasses, but made out of solid lead. The whole scene was so surreal, it sent Jorgy running down the hill in terror. But things would only get weirder from there. By the end of the week, police weren't even sure if the killer they were looking for was human. This is supernatural, APA cast original, and I'm your host, Ashleigh Flowers, some of you might know me from my show Crime Junkie in this show, I'm teaming up with podcast to dive even deeper into the unexplained paranormal.
Events are fascinating to me because they force you to reconsider everything you thought you knew a lot of the time, maybe even most of the time. Supernatural claims can be debunked. But sometimes even skeptics have to admit that the facts of a case don't add up to a solution. To get to the truth, you have to look beyond what we know is real and consider what else could be. Even if it sounds irrational or hard to believe on this show, we're going to take some of the strangest occurrences from around the world, put them under a microscope and try to figure out what really happened this week.
We're starting with a pair of unexplained deaths in Brazil known as the lead masks case.
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By the time police got the call about the bodies on Cuéntame Hill, it was already starting to get dark. The Hill is surrounded by thick forest and brush. So for everyone's safety, they decided to hold off until morning. Of course, the press didn't take the same precautions when officers finally did arrive on the morning of August 21st, 1966. Then Hill was already swarming with reporters. They even snapped a few photos before the bodies were carried away.
Unfortunately, all of the original sources are in Portuguese, and more than 50 years later, it's hard to track them all down. But some of them were summarized in English in the Flying Saucer Review, which, despite the name, was a fairly credible journal in the 60s.
Based on those articles, here's what we know about the police investigation. The only easy part of this case was identifying the victims, 32 year old Manuel Pereira D'Cruz and 34 year old Miguel José Vianna. Both men were electronics technicians from the town called Composts Dos Goitre Causes, which is about 175 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro. Both of them were happily married, well-respected in the community, and led pretty normal, unassuming lives. According to their families, Miguel and Manuel had left town on the morning of Wednesday, August 17th, 1966, three days before their bodies were found.
They said they were heading to Sao Paulo to buy some electronics equipment, along with a used car they've been looking at. They took some money with them somewhere between two and three million cruzeiros. The conversion rate is a little hard to calculate, but that's somewhere worth like a few thousand U.S. dollars. Today, at about nine a.m., Miguel and Manuel headed out to the bus station, accompanied by a friend named Elsia Gomez. Elsea wanted to go into the bus station and see them off, but the other two men insisted that he just drop them off outside.
Elsia didn't understand what the big deal was, but he didn't think too much of it. He watched Miguel and Manuel walk into the bus depot and then he went back home. That was the last time he ever saw his two friends alive. Now, even with the minimal evidence police had at this point, there were a few things about this story that didn't add up when the bodies were found. They only had a combined 161 thousand cruzeiro on them.
The rest of the two to three million is unaccounted for still to this day. And of course, they didn't go to Sao Paulo like they told everyone else. They went to a town called Niteroi, which is a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, which is a good couple hundred miles away. The investigators went back to Niteroi hoping to find some answers there. But once they pieced together the rest of August 17th, 1966, all they had were more questions.
Miguel and Manuel's bus would have arrived in Niteroi at around 2:00 or 230 that afternoon, their first stop was an electronic store. They'd been to that store before. So we can assume it carried some kind of equipment that wasn't sold in their own town. But for some reason, they left the store without buying anything and they didn't even talk to the sales clerk there. Now, maybe the store was out of whatever they were looking for, but they'd taken a five hour bus ride to get there.
Why on earth wouldn't they at least check with the clerk before leaving? Either way, after they leave the electronic store, it starts to rain. So they stop into a clothing store nearby and buy a pair of matching raincoats. Again, this doesn't raise any red flags on its own.
But what is weird, the clerk said that they left in such a rush that they didn't even bother to put on the coats before running out into the rain, the coat that they just bought. Now, you might assume that the big appointment that they were rushing to was with the owner of that used car that they were looking to buy. But you'd be wrong, they didn't buy any car during the trip. So if they weren't buying electronics and they weren't buying a car, what were they doing there?
Oddly, the next time they surface is at a bar in the same neighborhood as the clothing store. And when they get to the bar, they're still like very anxious about the time Miguel goes to the counter and orders a bottle of mineral water. According to the bartender, he's acting just very like nervous and impatient. And while he's ordering, he keeps a glancing over at the clock after paying for the water, Miguel keeps the receipt. And this might not seem like a big clue, but Brazil has a recycling policy where you could return empty bottles for a deposit.
So whatever or whoever they're waiting for, Miguel assumes it won't take too long and he'll have time to return the bottle before heading home that evening. No one saw Miguel and meanwhile leave the bar. So we don't know if they met someone there or they left alone. But at five p.m., they're seen at the foot of Interim Hill, which is just outside town. They pull up in a jeep driven by someone with blond hair. There were two other men in the car as well, but the witness couldn't see them clearly.
Whoever these three men were, they were the last people to see Miguel and Manuel alive. So by this point, police had mapped out all of their movements from leaving home in the morning to arriving at the Hill that night, but none of it offered any clues about what actually happened next. We already mentioned a few of the strange details at the scene of the deaths, but if we take a closer look, it's even more baffling. Let's start off with what they didn't have the money that they brought with them.
The most obvious possibility is that this was a robbery gone wrong. But staging a scene like this would have taken a lot of time and effort for not a ton of money. And they also left some behind. Also, there were no injuries on either of the bodies. No cuts, no bruises, no burns, no sign of violence at all. When the coroner did an autopsy, there were no internal damages either. And strangely, despite sitting out in the open for three days on a hill that's swarming with wildlife, the bodies were totally untouched by animals.
No one can really say what that means, but it kind of seems like there was something unnatural about the deaths if even the vultures didn't want to touch them.
If this wasn't a murder, the next possibility was suicide. But this theory sort of falls apart, too, because Miguel still had the empty water bottle and the receipt. If he knew he was going to die, why go through the trouble of saving that receipt? Beyond that, police find three pages of handwritten notes that definitely didn't suggest a suicide pact.
The first page has a list of electronics parts numbers, along with some algebra work. The equation uses ohms law, which is E equals I. R, which is used to calculate the strength of an electrical current. Now, the two men were electronics technicians after all. So everyone assumes these are just notes for a work project. Now, the next page, though, is more of an enigma translated from Portuguese. It says, quote, Sun one tablet after the meal Monday, one tablet in the morning on an empty stomach Tuesday, one tablet after the meal, Wednesday, one tablet before bedtime, unquote, quote.
Obviously, this is talking about some kind of prescription, but as far as anyone knows, neither Miguel or Manuel were sick. Now, the last dose that Wednesday before bedtime dose would have been taken right before they died. But due to decomposition, the coroner couldn't get anything useful out of the toxicology report. So we still don't know what was in those mysterious tablets. And this was a little hard for me to understand because just a second ago, I know we said the bodies were kind of untouched by wildlife.
I expected them to be in good condition. But whatever was going on the time, they just either didn't have the technology, they didn't have the time and they weren't able to test for it. So finally, the third page has another set of instructions. This one said, quote, Sixteen thirty B at the determined location 1830 swallow capsules after the effect, protect metals, wait for mask signal, end quote. Now, the confusion isn't a translation issue.
It doesn't make any sense in Portuguese either. It almost seems like the note was kind of scribbled down quickly in some kind of shorthand, which probably means someone gave the instructions verbally and someone else wrote them down. Putting it all together. We can at least gather that Miguel and Manuel weren't the victims of some kind of random attack. They came to the hill for a reason. And that brings us to our last piece of evidence. The lead masks themselves.
Now, you're probably picturing a full mask that, like, covers your entire face, almost like what welders wear. But these were about the size and shape of sunglasses made out of solid lead. They were apparently homemade and cut roughly from scrap metal led blocks, radiation. So it's often used as a coating for protective goggles and face shields. But these masks were too small to offer any real protection. And since they were solid metal, it would be impossible to see or do anything while wearing them.
So at first, police had no idea what to make of these masks. But after some digging, it turned out that this wasn't an isolated incident. According to a flying saucer review, there was another case four years earlier where another electronics technician had been found dead on a hill with a lead mask. In that previous case, the police determined that the man went up to the hill and took some kind of drugs because he was convinced it would allow him to pick up radio and TV signals with his mind.
Now, one delusional technician we can accept, but three is a different story. There was something bigger going on here and no one knew how many lives would be taken, but. For this was over. We'll keep digging into the investigation right after this. Let's get back to the story. When Miguel and Meanwell died in August 1966, they left behind dozens of questions and no answers, making the case even stranger, a victim, had died in the same unusual circumstances four years earlier.
That previous case was reopened, but police didn't find any connections to Miguel Ormonde. Well, apart from the fact that all three of them were TV repairman. The investigators keep digging and pretty soon they found another lead. But it wasn't quite what they expected. As it turns out, Lucio Gomez wasn't the last person to see Miguel and Manuel before they left for Niteroi while they were waiting for their bus. They actually ran into Miguel's niece. Just by coincidence, he tells her the same story about going to buy a used car.
Now, of course, the niece is a little skeptical and she wonders like, why are you taking a five hour bus ride to a city 200 miles away just to buy a car? Like you could probably do that a lot closer to home. So Miguel breaks. He tells her the truth, or at least part of it. Buying the car isn't really the purpose of the trip. There's another secret purpose. And he can't tell anyone about it yet, not even her.
But he promises that when he gets back, he'll tell her whether or not he believes in Spiritism.
Spiritism is basically the belief that the spirits of the dead live on in a different realm and it's possible for the living to make contact with them. It's hugely popular in Brazil. In fact, it's the third most popular religion in the country. But it was actually started by a French writer in the late 1950s known as Alan Cadec. Now, in the 1400's, sciences and clairvoyants were a big deal in Europe. And like every trend, it inspired a wave of knockoffs.
Eventually, a bunch of mediums were exposed as frauds, and skeptics started to doubt whether anyone was legit. But Alan Cadec, who was a scientist and a medical doctor, had been decencies himself and he'd seen some things that he couldn't dismiss as a mere hoax. If these phenomena are in fact real, there has to be some way to prove it. So to get to the bottom of it, Kartik Devizes, an experiment, he puts together a list of over a thousand questions about the spiritual realm, the creation of the universe, the meaning of life, etc.
. Then he takes these questions to ten different mediums throughout Europe who claim to be able to channel spirits. None of the mediums had ever met each other or communicated in any way. But to many of the questions, all ten of them gave the same response.
Karda compiles those matching answers into a book titled The Spirits Book, which outlines his new philosophy without getting too far into it. The basic idea is that every person has an immortal spirit or what some might call a soul. During life, it's tethered to their physical body, and after death, that spirit is released and eventually reincarnated into a different body. This idea on its own isn't unique. But what's important here is the approach. Karta considered himself a scientist, not a mystic, and once he had a working theory of how the spirit world worked, it opened the door for a whole movement of scientists to do their own research.
Which brings us back to Mogollon Meanwell. While searching in Mighell's home, police found a book about scientific spiritism again, not that unusual in Brazil, so it probably didn't catch anyone's eye until his niece made her revelation. But inside the book, there were passages highlighted about intense luminosity spirits and, most importantly, mask's.
This was the best lead they had so far. It was also completely insane.
The investigators kept hoping for a more rational explanation. But a week into the investigation, on August 25th, 1966, a new witness came forward and the case took another turn for the bizarre.
On the night that Manuel and Miguel died, a woman named Griselda was driving by Vintage Hill with three of her kids. She saw something hanging over the top of the hill, an orange, oval shaped object engulfed in a ring of fire. She stopped the car and she and her kids just stood there and watched it for a few minutes.
It was rising and falling in the sky, sending out rays of blue light in every direction. That first eyewitness account would be easy enough to dismiss on its own. But after the details leaked to the press, multiple other witnesses called in with the exact same story. And they all said they didn't come forward sooner because they knew how stupid it would sound.
They felt like they would sound crazy and be dismissed. With all this buzzing around in the papers, the police had no choice but to dig into the spiritism angle. They spoke to Manuel's wife and she confirmed that her husband and Miguel were both spiritist and before Manuel's death, she saw him arguing with another member of their Spiritist group, Elsia Gomez. That's the same Elsia Gomez who drove Manuel and Miguel to the bus station. Now, Lucio had been ruled out as a suspect pretty quickly because he was still at home nearly 200 miles away when the deaths took place.
But on August 27th, they questioned him again, and this time Alfio cracked. Not only were he Manuel and Miguel all scientific spiritist, they were part of a secret occult society. In fact, according to Elesha, nearly every electronic specialist in the area was involved in the society. The purpose of this secret group is still sort of a mystery. But they were involved in some strange experiments related to Spiritism. Specifically, Elsia Manuel and Miguel had been working on a technique to contact beings on Mars.
One of the basic teachings of Spiritism is that there's life on other planets. And where there's life, there's a spirit. Hypothetically, it would be possible to contact a Martian living or dead the same way you'd contact a human spirit. Earlier that year, they'd built an electronic device for that purpose, which they attempted to use in Manuel's garden. But all it did was violently explode. But after the smoke cleared, Manuel found a strange powder sprinkled around the garden.
And to him, this was evidence that his spirit had been there. A while later on June 13th, they tried this again, this time probably for safety reasons. They decided to move their experiment to Arizona Beach, which is about 24 miles outside of town. Soon after they get there, an intensely luminous object descends over the shore. After about five minutes, the glowing object starts rising. Then, and this part was confirmed by witnesses. There is a blinding flash of light and it all goes kaboom.
Once again. After the explosion, Miguel and Manuel found the same suspicious powder around the beach, possibly a sign that the light they saw was an alien spirit. This is where it gets really interesting because the police already knew about what happened at Daytona Beach, the explosion was so powerful it was felt all the way back in composts. The Brazilian navy was already looking into it. On the evening before the attack on a beach explosion, the Navy's monitoring system had picked up a conversation between three ham radio stations they didn't recognize.
They checked the logs and those three stations didn't officially exist. They weren't registered to anyone in Brazil. According to LCO, Miguel and Manuel ran a secret radio station, so one of the three signals had to have come from them. The other two are still a mystery, but whoever they belonged to, they must have been in on the experiments as well. There are a few theories about who these people might be, and we'll look into those possibilities right after this.
Now, let's get back to the story. A couple weeks into their investigation in August of 1966, the Rio de Janeiro police had pieced together the last days of Miguel and Manuel. They were conducting some kind of experiment to contact spirits on Mars using a device that had a tendency to explode. As for how that experiment was supposed to work, no one really knows. But we can at least try to piece together a theory. We know that our two victims were interested in scientific spiritism and also that they worked in electronics.
So it's pretty likely that they knew about the work of Sir William Crookes.
Crooks was a British scientist in the late 1940s, around the time that Alan Cadec was writing the Spirit's book.
Like most people in London at the time, William Crooks had been to a lot of sciences and he'd seen things that he couldn't explain, particularly he'd seen apparitions of intense lights. Crooks was a leading expert on spectroscopy, the study of light. So this gave him an idea. The spectrum of light we see is just a form of electromagnetic radiation. Our eyes are tuned to pick up on a certain range of wavelengths. Radios or cell phones can pick up waves at other frequencies.
So Crookes thought maybe there's another unidentified wavelength that our brain can use to send and receive thoughts, a.k.a. telepathy. Theoretically, there could be an undiscovered nerve center in the brain that can send and receive thought waves the same way our eyes can pick up light waves. Now, there's no real evidence of this, but even today, there's still a lot we don't know about how the brain works. So anything is possible. And quite honestly, I love this theory.
Unfortunately, Crookes didn't get a chance to test his theory, but it was hugely influential on the separatist movement and apparently on the electronics community in Brazil.
A few weeks into the led mass saga, a newspaper called The Fire Day saw Paolo interviewed a man who identified himself as a professor of yoga. The man knew a lot about the spiritist in the area, and he guessed that Miguel and Manuel were probably trying to contact spirits telepathically using high frequency thought waves. He goes on to say that a lot of local spirits use psychedelic drugs like LSD or mescaline to enter this higher state of consciousness. Now, there's a few studies that look at how psychedelics affect brain activity.
The general finding is that the way the brain acts on psychedelics is similar to the way it behaves when a person is dreaming. The imagination is unconstrained and the sense of self identity is weakened. And according to Spiritist teachings, it's much easier to perceive spiritual phenomena. A Brazilian scholar named Father Quevedo echoed the same idea in an interview with the Brazilian newspaper O Globo. Father Quevedo said that whatever drugs Benwell and Miguel took were meant to induce a trance state where they would be able to perceive light emissions from another realm.
These emissions would be dangerously powerful and bright, so the lead masks were meant to protect their eyes. There's still one more loose thread, though. The three men in the Jeep who dropped them off at the Hill, they were never identified. But it seems likely that they were part of the secret Spiritist group as well. They may have even been the ones who orchestrated the whole experiment. If so, they might be the only people that know how Miguel Emmanuel actually died.
Without their statements, we can only speculate. One culprit could be the pills they took. It's close to impossible to die of an actual like LSD or mescaline overdose, but the pills they took could have been tampered with or it actually could have been something else entirely. There was nothing in the autopsy to suggest they were poisoned, but there wasn't a full toxicology report. So we don't really know. Another possibility is electrocution. Their previous experiments all involved in electronic device, although there was nothing like that found on the Hill.
If there was a device involved at some point, it would be pretty dangerous to mess with it outside in the rain. There was no signs of electrocution on the bodies either, but decomposition might have made it hard to tell. And of course, there is another option we can't ignore. Miguel and Manuel could have been murdered. These are two men who were driven by curiosity. They wanted to find the truth, even if it meant putting themselves in danger, even if it meant lying to their families.
This made them dedicated researchers, but it also made them easy to manipulate. Think about the unidentified men who dropped Miguel and Manuel off at the Hill, the handwritten notes with the instructions which looked like they were dictated by someone else, the money that disappeared. Here's another narrative of what might have happened. The two men are approached at a seance, which we know that they went to regularly. They're manipulated into trying some radical new experiment. When Elsia finds out he's not on board, there's an argument and Miguel and Manuel decide to go on without him.
They're lured to a remote location and given instructions not to tell anyone where they're going. Miguel and Manuel hand over a big chunk of money, supposedly to pay for the materials they're given, pills which could have been poisoned. And again, we can't say for sure without a toxicology report, but we can't rule it out either. I don't know about you, but this theory feels kind of off almost like a letdown. For one thing, it's disappointing to think that this is all just another random act of violence.
And the more you think about it, this would be a lot of effort to go through for just a few thousand bucks. And at that they didn't even take all the money. But what's really hard to swallow is that Manuel and Miguel's quest for the truth was taken advantage of from the beginning. Spiritism was about separating the real psychics from the frauds. It's heartbreaking to think that two of its followers fell prey to a scam and it cost them their lives.
Now, there is one more theory I want to talk about, and it's a little out there, but it's at least worth considering, none of the theories we've mentioned so far have really explained the last piece of evidence that we have, the glowing object that was seen floating above the hill. Let's say there really was an orange fire engulfed object hanging above the hill, shooting rays of blue light in every direction. That doesn't exactly sound like a human aircraft.
It doesn't sound like something Manuel and Miguel would be able to make on their own since their previous creations were disastrous, to say the least. But it does sound like a lot of reported UFO sightings. We've been assuming that Miguel Emanuels experiment failed. But what if it didn't? What if they didn't die at all? They just moved on to a different world. Alan Codecs, first Spiritist Tax, the spirits book has a section on Trance States, it says, quote, The annihilation of corporeal ties is almost complete.
The soul is only held there, too, by a single thread, which any further effort on his part would break forever, unquote, quote, When a person enters a trance, their soul basically drifts away from their body and enters into the spirit realm. And after seeing the harmony of the whole universe open up, sometimes these souls don't want to go back to their bodies. When this happens, the spirits book says, quote, If he sees that his future situation will be better than his present one, he makes an effort to break the links that bind him to the Earth and quote, Just for the sake of argument, what if Manuel and Miguel made contact with the Spirit world and chose to stay there?
It would explain the light that was seen over the hill. It would explain the sudden simultaneous death with no apparent cause, and it would explain why no signal pointed to suicide. They weren't planning on the outcome. It just happened. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but of all of the options we've discussed, it's the one Manuel and Miguel would have wanted. After just a few weeks of investigation, the lead masks case was closed in September of 1966. There wasn't enough evidence to consider it a homicide.
The press forgot about it and the whole story dried up almost overnight. Over the past 50 years, there have been plenty of revisitation and amateur theories, but no new developments at this point.
I think it's safe to say we'll never get a real answer. I mean, that is, of course, unless we want to hold our own science and ask Manuel and Miguel ourselves. Thanks for listening.
I'll be back next week with another episode, you can find all episodes of Supernatural and all other cast originals for free on Spotify. Spotify has all your favorite music and podcasts all in one place. They're making it easier to listen to whatever you want to hear for free on your phone, computer or smart speaker. And if you like the show, follow that podcast on Facebook and Instagram and app podcast network on Twitter. Supernatural was created by Max Cutler and stars Ashley Flowers and into the podcast Studio's original.
It is executive produced by Max Cutler, Sound Design by Ron Shapiro with Production Assistants by Carly Madden and Joel Stein. This episode of Supernatural was written by Kate Gallagher with Writing Assistants by Dracul.