Sometimes fate has a weird sense of humour. The parents of Hermes Luiz Feitosa, for example, surely had no idea that their son, whom they named after the messenger of the gods, would one day meet his end in a strange experiment possibly aimed at communicating with beings on a higher plane of reality.
That happened in 1962, four years before Miguel José Viana and Manoel Pereira da Cruz would meet a similar fate on the Morro do Vintém. The details of Hermes’ passing are even sketchier than the tenuous and mutually-contradictory hodgepodge of a mess that is the gathered mythology of the Caso das Máscaras de Chumbo. I can’t lock down the date to anything more precise than the year. Even the location is up for grabs. A lot of sources claim that Hermes also died on the Morro do Vintém, though others say it happened on the Morro de Cruzeiro, near Neves, which seems more likely. Despite the slender details, sources agree on one thing: Hermes also had a lead mask, handmade, crafted to cover the eyes, and was found dead of no apparent cause, with no injuries and no toxicology. Feitosa is mentioned in the first of the articles FSR ran on the Lead Masks Case, in 1967:
The mystery was heightened by the revelation that in 1962 another man, a TV technician named Hermes, had been found dead on the top of Morro do Cruzeiro near Neves. His corpse also had a lead mask lying beside it. Speculation continued the outward-bound trend when the Folha de Sao Paulo of August 31 published an article in which a “Professor of Yoga” suggested that the men may have been trying to carry out a telepathic experiment with high-frequency thought waves. He explained that in experiments of this kind, alkaloids such as LSD-25, or Mescalin, are taken to step up mental alertness and the frequency of the brain (whatever that means).
Man. Yoga in Brazil in the 60’s was weird. And just what the hell were all the TV technicians up to?! The authorities were apparently just as confused as I am; when Miguel and Manoel’s bodies turned up on the Morro do Vintém, they reopened the case on Hermes (it had been settled with similarly unsatisfying conclusions) but they failed to find any connection between the two. It seems that climbing a hill, dropping acid, and trying to communicate telepathically with Martians was just so damn common among Brazil’s electronics technicians that it didn’t count as a correlating detail when three different men all dropped dead doing it.
In terms of Hermes’ intent with his sojourn on his own deadly Morro, nobody really knows. The yoga professor’s assertion that it was a “telepathic experiment” suggests that Hermes was trying to contact someone, or something, much like Miguel and Manoel. There is another suggestion on the Portuguese Wikipedia that “Investigations had revealed that the victim had gone to that place with the specific intent to experiment alleged psychic abilities that would have allowed him to pick up radio and television signals without the use of electronic means, but only through the power of mind”. The claim is unsourced, so the question of who carried out these ‘investigations’ and what their results were (if it even happened) remain up in the air.
As for accompanying UFO’s, the official UFO chronology maintained by NICAP (the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena) does mention a UFO encounter in Brazil on July 30, 1962. The brief entry specifies “Car motor stopped, then oval UFO seen alongside road.” It is the same year, but without knowing exactly when Hermes met his end, we can’t know if this sighting happened around the same time or not. NICAP’s entry specifies the area as near Pojucara, which is in the extreme northeast of Brazil, quite distant from both Niterói and Neves.
If we widen our discussion to somewhat more circumstantial matters, we find that the Lead Masks Case bears some similarities to a rather darker chapter in the history of ufology, namely the mass suicide of the Heaven’s Gate cult. Heaven’s Gate was a millenarian (doomsday) religious group who believed that the world was about to be ‘recycled’ and that survival required humans to leave their physical bodies and join their spirits with aliens who were currently passing by Earth in a UFO hidden in the tail of comet Hale-Bopp. From an initial group of hundreds, Heaven’s Gate underwent ascetic practices and other rituals to train for their ‘graduation’, turning away those who weren’t ready, and eventually arriving at an ‘away team’ of 39. These beings ‘dropped their vehicles’ in March of 1997. Like Miguel and Manoel, they were dressed identically (black tee-shirts, sweat pants, and Nikes, rather than suits and raincoats) and a square cloth covered each of their faces. They had committed suicide by overdose. Aside from the cosmetic similarities, there is a similar underlying duality of belief; like Miguel and Manoel, Heaven’s Gate had a weird mixture of new-age philosophy involving telepathy, and a concrete, classical, physical conception of the UFO phenomenon. Nobody seems to have asked why they would have to abandon their bodies in order to board a physical UFO; why would disembodied intellects ride in a machine?
Ultimately, we resolve with a mess of speculation. It seems like there is some way of contacting some very strange beings, and it involves covering your face and dying. The event is simultaneously mental and physical. It’s a door through which only the initiated can pass, and like a black hole, the information that goes through it does not come back out. If we could know what happened to these people, they wouldn’t have had to die to find out. It’s an unsatisfying conclusion, but it’s not abnormal; we live in that confused state every day, and we will, until the day we too pass through a similar door.