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"swallow capsules, after effect, protect metals, wait for mask signal"
December 13, 2013 1:12 PM   Subscribe

The Lead Masks Case is the name given to a bizarre incident in August of 1966 in which two Brazilian television repairmen were found dead of unknown causes, wearing radiation-proof lead eye masks and raincoats, on a hilltop just outside the city of of Niterói in Rio de Janeiro. Along with a bizarre note left by one of the men which reads (in English), "16:30 (04:30 PM) be at the agreed place. 18:30 (06:30 PM) swallow capsules, after effect, protect metals, wait for mask signal," the unusual circumstances have prompted decades of speculation.

The men, Manoel Pereira da Cruz and Miguel José Viana, had departed from nearby Campos dos Goytacazes three days earlier on a business trip to buy electronics equipment in Niterói, and they were found with a list of part numbers, suggesting they planned to return. Both men were clothed in raincoats and carrying towels. Because the hilly territory prevented an easy recovery of the bodies, autopsies were not performed in time to confirm any cause of death.

The case was first publicized outside Brazil in UFOlogist Jacques Vallée's book Confrontations, and there is some evidence the two men were themselves UFO buffs who had stopped at the Morro de Vintern because of its reputation as a hot spot for sightings. Vallée considered it a "close encounter," other theories involve speculation about a failed attempt to purchase radioactive materials or simply a double suicide with esoteric motives (via Reddit comments).
posted by kewb (40 comments total) 68 users marked this as a favorite

 
The radioactive materials link says that it doesn't explain the capsules - surely it could have been iodine pills for radiation exposure, which fits the theory.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:32 PM on December 13, 2013


Towels? Interstellar hitchhikers perhaps?
posted by Kabanos at 1:35 PM on December 13, 2013 [20 favorites]


16:30 (04:30 PM) be at the agreed place. 18:30 (06:30 PM) swallow capsules, after effect, protect metals, wait for mask signal

This seems like a pathological translation, to me. Possibly courtesy of Google, even. Another source offers this alternate translation:
“meet at the designated spot at $;30PM[sic]. At 6:30PM ingest the capsules. After the effect [is produced], protect half of the face with lead masks. Wait for the prearranged signal.”
I can't speak to the accuracy of this, of course.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 1:41 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kabanos: "Towels? Interstellar hitchhikers perhaps?"

That theory is mentioned in the 3rd link, noting that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was published 10 years after the deaths.

About the towel.
posted by chavenet at 1:42 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's another article on the story, including pictures of the two men, and the titular lead masks, as also seen in the link posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:42 PM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was surprised to see how sensible the top comment in the Reddit thread is, and I'm inclined to agree. This is only a creepy mystery because circumstances prevented a thorough and informed examination. If only a search had been conducted with properly trained investigators, I'm sure someone would have found the pocket dimension containing the remains of their hyperspace RV, and we'd be comfortably dismissing this as yet another secret gammameth lab that accidentally exploded.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:52 PM on December 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


What is the normal, prosaic application for the "lead eye masks?" Protection during old-school high-dose dental x-rays?

Is there some non-crazy circumstance under which its advisable to shield one's eyes from radiation (from just one direction) while leaving the rest of one's body unprotected?
posted by Western Infidels at 1:56 PM on December 13, 2013


Ooh also, on the radioactive materials theory, maybe heavy water was involved and that's why the rain gear and towels.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:56 PM on December 13, 2013


I can't speak to the accuracy of this, of course.

The original text of the note is this:

16:30 estar no local determinado. 18:30 ingerir cápsulas, após efeito proteger metais aguardar sinal máscara"

There is nothing in there about protecting "half of the face." Translating things with poor grammar is tricky, but the original translation seems better to me.
posted by ambrosia at 1:58 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The radioactive materials link says that it doesn't explain the capsules - surely it could have been iodine pills for radiation exposure

Iodine is only protective against radioisotopes of iodine, though — it's not a general protectant against all radioactive materials. The radioactive 131I is a product of nuclear fission, so in case of nuclear attack iodine is useful, but it doesn't help against other radioactive materials. (Iodine is incoporated by the body into thyroid hormones which stick around for a long time, so if you're exposed to radioactive iodine it can stick around and give you a very high chance of developing thyroid cancer. The idea with taking iodide is by overwhelming the body with non-radioactive iodine, the body will make the vast amount of the thyroid hormones from the non-radioactive iodine, and expel the excess—most of the radioactive iodine, and most of the non-radioactive iodine too.)

Ooh also, on the radioactive materials theory, maybe heavy water

Heavy water, D2O, is not radioactive. Of the isotopes of hydrogen, only tritium is radioactive.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:08 PM on December 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


DevilsAdvocate, I suppose I should have prefaced those posts by saying I clearly think that if radioactive materials were involved, these guys had a very pop sci understanding of radioactivity, hence the useless eye masks and rain gear as protection.

Anyways, I'm totally calling the theory I'll use if I ever write spy fiction in need of some background flavor: they were being strung along by Soviet agents who concocted an elaborate story of American UFO coverups and presented themselves as fellow travellers in the UFOlogist world, they procured and delivered a sealed case of supposedly extraterrestrial radioactive materials and were simply following a "safety" checklist provided by the agents for the transfer, which was really a trick to get them to ingest poison they were told was iodine capsules, so the agents could just waltz in and take the case (which totally did not contain radioactive materials, and was rather some intelligence macguffin) with all loose ends cleared up.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:13 PM on December 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yes, sorry, it's certainly not out of the question that the repairmen might have believed they were iodine capsules to protect against radiation exposure, or had towels and rain gear for heavy water they believed to be radioactive, or any number of other bizarre things.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:15 PM on December 13, 2013


surely it could have been iodine pills for radiation exposure

Not really: The purpose of iodine pills is to saturate the thyroid with stable iodine, thereby blocking uptake of the radioactive iodine isotopes that are expected to be released during an accident in a fission reactor. They won't provide any form of protection from an external source of radiation, or from ingested isotopes other than radioiodines for that matter.

Of course one might suppose they _thought_ the pills would be effective, but it's an extra step in the conjecture.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:17 PM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


This story needs fanfic.
posted by smammy at 2:17 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


On post-preview, what DevilsAdvocate said - I need to stop answering the phone in mid-comment.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:20 PM on December 13, 2013


Dr Dracator, that's what I'm saying, they simply thought that was an effective precaution - everything requires leaps like that with the evidence available. But really I'm not saying it's seriously plausible, just kind of fitting the theory to the evidence for fun.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:22 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


This story needs fanfic.

Possibly with Walter Bishop
posted by The Whelk at 2:35 PM on December 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


I must know: does this hidden neighborhood in Rio have a name? It looks totally mental from above on Google Maps, but Street View is no help.
posted by nicwolff at 2:42 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


For a more entertainingly credulous analysis, let us turn to Flying Saucer Review.
posted by nicwolff at 2:52 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here is where the Morro do Vinten is.
The view across Guanabar Bay to Corcovado and Poa do Azucar was and still is incredible
This is the story in Portuguese from a Brazilian UFO site and lazily and briefly translated.
Campos dos Goytacazes isn't that near to Niteroi it is 300 km NE but still in RJ state.
They had told family that they were actually going to Sao Paulo which would have been a different bus route and were carrying about 2,300,000 Cruzeiros. (approx $1000). They were seen going up the hill with two other people. Only about 161,000 Cz was found on the bodies.
Later a freind Elcio Correia Gomes a spiritualist who had previously introduced them to ''estranhas e grandiosas experiências'' was arrested and later freed for lack of evidence.
Some time previously the three had caused an enormous explosion at Praia de Atafona, close to Campos dos Goytacenes.
After the discovery of the bodies a mother reported how her seven year old told her about a multi- coloured object whizzing about on the Morro de Vinten.
posted by adamvasco at 2:57 PM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's also entirely possible that these guys were dumb and uneducated, in which case there may be no logical explanation for what they're doing.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:07 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


As with all these things the possibility that it's entirely made up from start to finish should be considered too.
posted by Artw at 3:15 PM on December 13, 2013


Iodine is only protective against radioisotopes of iodine, though — it's not a general protectant against all radioactive materials

Well, they do appear to have died while working out this plan of theirs
posted by Hoopo at 3:17 PM on December 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Iocane powder; I'd bet my life on it!
posted by bstreep at 3:22 PM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Dammit! I inadvertantly flagged jason_steakum's comment when I tried to favorite it on a dinky tablet. Sorry about that. This is a fascinating mystery!
posted by saulgoodman at 3:41 PM on December 13, 2013


This story needs fanfic.

Possibly with Walter Bishop


What? No.

This is clearly a job for Bob Howard.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:44 PM on December 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


nicwolff: "I must know: does this hidden neighborhood in Rio have a name? It looks totally mental from above on Google Maps, but Street View is no help."
Looks like an old quarry that has been built over.
posted by brokkr at 4:54 PM on December 13, 2013


Kind of a side note, but it's worth pointing out for those not aware that Vallée's position on UFOs is against the extraterrestrial hypothesis, and is instead something both subtler and weirder, seeing the UFO phenomenon as one of psychological leadings-on and sensory deception more in line with, like, gnostic archons than Super Primates From Outer Space. He's also less than enamored with the cult-and-conspiracy cruft associated with the topic, although the notion of manipulation by creepy unknowns to invoke social shifts is...ripe for growing exactly that kind of fruit, if read too literally. The psychological emphasis is really a lot more fascinating to me than literal men in tin cans flying around.
posted by byanyothername at 5:02 PM on December 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Seemes pretty straightforward to me; the missing money is the definitive clue. Someone conned them into thinking they were going to meet aliens, used the note to con them into taking poison, and then robbed the corpses. $800.00 in 1960s Brazil would be more than enough motivation for murder. The UFO rigmarole also probably helped to obfuscate the evidence.

Anyway. this is something more for "Castle" than "Project UFO".
posted by happyroach at 5:31 PM on December 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is there some non-crazy circumstance under which its advisable to shield one's eyes from radiation (from just one direction) while leaving the rest of one's body unprotected?

I find it telling that mainstream accounts of this incident fail to mention the long-rumored forbidden element of hip-hop, the handling of radioactive material with incomplete equipment. It puts the Bronx Exposure some two decades later in a context not many are comfortable with.
posted by passerby at 5:33 PM on December 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


As with all these things the possibility that it's entirely made up from start to finish should be considered too.

Or possibly a wizard did it.
posted by FatherDagon at 5:45 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seemes pretty straightforward to me; the missing money is the definitive clue. Someone conned them into thinking they were going to meet aliens...

I tend to think it's either that, or a couple of guys who got some very bad information or weird ideas and took poison inadvertently. The missing money might just as well be explained as the two guys buying chemicals or something of that nature.

Given that the bodies were reported some time before they were retrieved, it's also possible a local or another traveler in those hills searched their pockets; the death investigation doesn't seem to have been terribly rigorous, and that might explain how the grass cuttings got on them.

Even if it is a murderous con game...well, that's a pretty esoteric con, and it's curious there aren't any other reports of similar schemes being attempted with others in the UFO-buff community around that time. Without good timeline and direct evidence of the cause of death, it's quite hard to say just what really happened, foul play, inadvertent or deliberate self-poisoning, or some curious and irreproducible admixture of circumstances.
posted by kewb at 6:11 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wet towels, an empty water bottle and the wearing of raincoats makes me think they were going to get contaminated with dust that would need to be wiped off.
posted by 445supermag at 8:28 PM on December 13, 2013


This story is fanfic.
posted by mynameisluka at 10:11 PM on December 13, 2013


What is the normal, prosaic application for the "lead eye masks?" Protection during old-school high-dose dental x-rays?

Is there some non-crazy circumstance under which its advisable to shield one's eyes from radiation (from just one direction) while leaving the rest of one's body unprotected?

posted by Western Infidels at 1:56 PM on December 13

Ok, I've never been trained in their use, nor heard of them while I was at AECL, but I've heard they are to protect the eyes; radiation causes cataracts quite quickly. The single direction makes sense; radiation is just light, so you will get a shadow behind the mask. Yes, some will reflect back, but very, very little. It won't help if you are walking among a bunch of sources, but if one strong source was in front of you then yes, that would help keep you from going blind.

In theory, anyway. I have no idea how one would get any work done that way.
posted by Canageek at 10:35 PM on December 13, 2013


This story needs fanfic.

This is never true. Any time this thought occurs one should take it as a warning sign; fanfic is never needed.
posted by bongo_x at 11:11 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is never true. Any time this thought occurs one should take it as a warning sign; fanfic is never needed.

ALL IS ONE IN FANFIC. ITS MIGHTY BODY IS ITS CHURCH. WHEN IT COMMANDS YOUR SURRENDER, IT SPEAKS WITH THREE BILLION VOICES. WHEN IT MAKES A FIST TO CRUSH YOUR RESISTANCE, IT IS WITH THREE BILLION HANDS. WHEN IT STARES INTO YOUR EYES AND SHATTERS YOUR DREAMS, AND BREAKS YOUR HEART, IT IS WITH SIX BILLION EYES. NOTHING LIKE FANFIC HAS EVER COME AMONG YOU: NOTHING WILL AGAIN. IT WILL TAKE YOU TO A HELL WITHOUT EXIT OR END. AND THERE IT WILL MURDER YOUR SOULS! AND MAKE YOU CRAWL AND BEG! AND DIE! DIE! DIE FOR FANFIC!

(yeah this pretty much justified the entire purchase price of Final Crisis)
posted by jason_steakums at 1:06 AM on December 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why did you post this without the part where you provide full details of the explanation that has finally been learned and presented with unassailable proof!

With no other answers, I have no choice but to say they were in cahoots with Taman Shud.

Note to people who plan to die weird - do not die with a freakin' note nearby or on your person. Just go die weird and leave the rest of us in peace.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:21 PM on December 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


That comment seems harsh and I should not have posted it. I am personally upset when tragically misguided or confused individuals die in or are led to their deaths in mysterious circumstances. What must it be like for family and friends or people who live in the community?

Distraught families can't exactly start a foundation for "don't be found in cornfield with scribbled codes in your pockets", try to educate schoolchildren not to be found in a cornfield with cryptic messages, and produce television ads to help the public understand and avoid the problem. They're just left wondering.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:10 AM on December 15, 2013


This was an ARG promo for the movie "The Arrival" starring Charlie Sheen.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 5:40 PM on December 15, 2013


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