THE LEAD MASKS CASE – Part Four: Contact

As we’ve seen, the Lead Masks Case is one that is deeply weird and also deeply confusing. The contradictory accounts and lack of straightforward rationale behind the whole thing make it a giant open question. What you’ve read, as incoherent as it seemed, is about the best I can do; it’ll have to suffice, until we drop our own vehicles and learn the real truth behind the mythology. As usual, we’ll settle things off with the Wet Blanket Revue, detailing the more sane possibilities, and the Venusian Conclusion, my personal best attempt at a resolution most pleasing to those of us who don’t care much for sanity.

THE WET BLANKET REVUE – LEAD MASKS CASE

The detail of this case that tends most toward a rational explanation is, of course, “swallow capsules”. We’ve got no idea what those capsules may have been, of course, but generally speaking, when weirdos swallow capsules, there’s a certain potential for disaster.

We’ve covered the results of the autopsies (yes, there were two) and the idea that nothing poisonous or otherwise deleterious was found in Miguel and Manoel’s bodies. And sure, that makes for a better story; so much so, in fact, that pretty much every paranormal story involving somebody swallowing something and then dying will always rush to inform the reader that yes, there was an autopsy, and no, nothing was found. That works out great in terms of storytelling, but unfortunately real life can be a little less cut-and-dry.

An autopsy, to be conclusive, requires a few key elements. First, the body has to be relatively well-preserved. We know that Miguel and Manoel laid dead on the Morro for at least three days before they were recovered, and they were in the morgue another few days before the actual autopsy. Secondly, certain organs need to be preserved in especially good condition; if it’s a poison absorbed in the liver, and the liver is gone, the poison is gone too. In the case of Miguel and Manoel, there’s some doubt as to whether the right organs were in the right state. As it turns out, in a rather bleak detail of the case, this whole event transpired during the outset of what was essentially a military junta in Brazil; in the associated turmoil, suspicious deaths were fairly common, and the coroner’s office found itself overwhelmed. There’s some doubt that the bodies were handled in a timely manner, and even a suggestion that certain of their organs were simply removed and disposed of before the initial autopsy because they were already too far gone to be of any value to the coroner. All of this makes poison or overdose a distinct possibility.

There’s also Hamilton Bezani’s claim that the men were killed for the money they carried, though this seems a stretch. Bezani laid out an extremely complicated plot requiring multiple collaborators and a frankly silly assassination scheme. The money, which they may not have even had, was about enough to buy a fairly shitty old car, so it wasn’t really worth the hassle. A simple mugging would have been much less trouble. That said, foul play isn’t exactly out of the question. The aforementioned junta was fast to crack down on dissidents, intellectuals, and free thinkers, and the UFO / scientific spiritualist community was one of its targets. Though there’s no indication that anybody was killed for believing in UFOs, the articles in the Flying Saucer Review are careful to indicate that ufology work in Brazil was tough, and getting tougher, as the junta did its best to bring the fringes of its society in line with its more conservative vision for the country. The government at the time was certainly not above removing its opponents through secret killings and forced disappearances; maybe the junta’s catchy slogan “Brazil: Love It or Leave It” was applied with a somewhat excessive measure of literality in the case of the two unfortunate technicians.

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So it’s possible that our boys were conned into committing suicide, or that they were rubbed out by a government that couldn’t properly digest their inherent wackiness, or maybe they were just being weirdo UFO-hippies (not an uncommon pastime back then, either in Brazil or in North America for that matter) and they took a little too much of something a little too strong.

None of these options are quite as exciting as the more bizarre possibilities. However, even if we assume that their deaths were entirely earthly and prosaic, we can admire the hell out of these brave men’s dedication to their own looniness. I think that most of us, if we were experiencing tremendous socio-economic upheaval in the wake of a military coup, would postpone our plans to get high as fuck and mind-meld with an alien civilization. Not these guys. They had jobs to do, families to support, they were citizens of a troubled nation with an uncertain future, but they had their priorities, dammit. First and foremost, they were going to get wrecked, protect those metals, wait for the mask sign, because that was the real shit.

THE VENUSIAN CONCLUSION – LEAD MASKS CASE

Try this one on for size: Miguel José Viana and Manoel Pereira da Cruz – alien killers.

These men were scientists, which goes a little way toward resolving the UFO hunter / spiritualist divide mentioned earlier. If we can suspend our disbelief and lend some credence to what they believed, the extraterrestrial phenomenon has both a psychic component and a physical component. Maybe they were simply following the scientific method; developing a hypothesis and then testing it against reality. Maybe the reason they straddled those two camps is that aliens really do manifest this way.

Miguel and Manoel developed their technology along two lines. The first, a psychic component, ‘called’ the aliens and brought their UFOs. The second, physical component was some kind of explosive weapon capable of bringing those bastards down. Following along in their exploits, they certainly do seem to be progressing toward something. First, in the garden; no UFOs present, but some kind of device was tested, which resulted in a massive explosion. Then, the event at Atafona beach; they show up just in time to set up their gadget, and lo and behold, a UFO shows up, followed by an explosion that sends it crashing into the sea. They’d contacted the aliens through their psychic mastery and brought them in for what was supposed to be a peaceful and mind-expanding first contact (during which there’s a 100% probability the aliens would have insisted that we get rid of our nukes) and then BLAMMO!! Go to hell, revolting monsters from beyond the stars!! That trick only works once, of course; they tried again at the Morro, but the aliens had caught on, and they paid the men back for the loss of their ship.

I like this scenario for a few reasons. In the context of the very peace-oriented and enlightenment-oriented new-age UFO mythology, it’s funny for me to think that these guys would do the soul-scouring emotional labour required to develop the magical psychic ability to communicate with aliens, but that they did so not because their intentions were actually peaceful and welcoming, but rather because that was simply what worked. But what I think is really interesting is that humans, of course, really aren’t tranquil, welcoming beings. We’re violent and xenophobic, and that’s a terrible truth, but it’s part of being human nonetheless. We’re also stupid and brash and impulsive and we tend to do idiotic things without first considering the consequences. There’s a way in which blowing up a UFO landing on a mission of peace is a charmingly idiotic and delightfully human thing to do. It reeks of confidence and pride, satisfaction in one’s own essence, willingness to defend human individuality. These damned aliens are trying to change us! They want us to be peaceful and serene, just like them, the fascists! Well fuck that, buddy! Let’s blow those dictatorial sons of bitches to kingdom come!

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Vanity, thy name is Russell Casse.

I follow a guy on Twitter who hunts Bigfoot, meaning he actually hunts him in order to kill him, because he thinks Bigfoot is a dangerous predator and he’d be saving human lives by putting him down. I have a soft spot for people like that, and I like to think that Miguel and Manoel fall into that category. I think it goes without saying that I don’t condone warfare or violence in the ‘real’ world, but spending time in the world of the paranormal is kind of like living a metaphorical life. There’s a way in which a ‘true’ story about people trying to contact an alien is really a much more general story about what we, as a species, as a mind, would look like ‘from the outside.’ We’ve never had a chance to look at ourselves from the outside; we can only speculate. That’s why you hear people say “I think one thing aliens would find really strange about us is…” A view from the outside is an objective view; the other sees us as we are, without the justifications and excuses we perform in our thinking about ourselves. Humans are, in an objective sense, needlessly violent. That’s something an alien would just see. That seeing is what real ‘contact’ is. When they contacted Miguel and Manoel, they saw something that exists in all of us.

It would be dishonest for us to greet aliens with a shit-eating grin and tell them all about how peaceful and placid and open-minded and happy we are. They’d see right through it. Maybe, at first contact, we should have the Secretary General of the UN give a short speech, and then have some brash knucklehead walk up and sucker-punch one of the aliens. At least it would be an honest representation of our real nature. Maybe the aliens would be OK with it, maybe they’d be pissed, but at least we’d all be starting off on the same page. Somebody in the UFO community has to be that guy, has to remind us that human foolishness and violence is one of the things that ETs will encounter, or else the whole thing is just a self-congratulatory pack of lies about how evolved we are. We need people like Miguel and Manoel to keep us honest and humble, to show us that the truth is out there, human evolution is out there, but sometimes we blow shit up when we shouldn’t, and we have to keep that in mind. When you meet a stranger, it’s important to put your best foot forward, but if you want to really communicate with somebody, you’ve got to be yourself.

Further Reading

You can find a few Portuguese websites by Googling the Portuguese name of the case (“O Caso das Máscaras de Chumbo”) and using Google’s translate function. These are a little more detailed than the English accounts, though the auto-translate obviously makes it a little quirky. Below are listed English-language sources:

Jacques Vallee, Confrontations (the section on the Lead Masks Case is near the beginning)

These are the original articles from Flying Saucer Review (PDF format). Thanks to Reddit user HangOn2UrEgo (consider a change of handle) for these babies:

The Mystery of the Morro Do Vintem (Charles Bowen) FSR Mar-Apr (v.13/n.2) 1967

No Easy Solution to the Morro Mystery (Charles Bowen) FSR Jul-Aug (v.14/n.4) 1968

Follow-up on the Morro Do Vintem Mystery (Gordon Creighton) FSR Jul-Aug (v.17/n.4) 1971

 

Thanks for reading! I haven’t quite settled on next month’s topic, though I’ve got some ideas. If you’d like to request something, I’m happy to consider any suggestions. Until then, keep watching the skis. I’m Leonard Nimoy.

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