Believers in the UFO phenomenon and alien-human contact can generally be assigned to one of two ‘camps’. The first is the ‘classical’ alien-hunter, if you will. This group typically believes in the existence of UFOs as physical objects, piloted by aliens with physical bodies. In their mythos, the aliens are usually considered to be inscrutable, with technology far beyond our own and mentalities to match. They are rarely thought to be kindly beings; they may be outright malevolent, or, more often, they are indifferent – the kind of scientific indifference that can and does result in human suffering, much the way human scientific indifference results in the suffering of lab rats of livestock. These aliens interact with people in bizarre and potentially dangerous ways; they abduct us, they perform medical testing and experimentation involving vivisection and sexual invasion, and they harass the military, or they conspire with shady government types to rob us of our rights. The people who subscribe to this view of intelligent alien life are the Max Fenig types – they are technologically competent, scanning the shortwave bands and the internet for clues implicating governments in cover-up activities, posting up on deserted hills with high-powered cameras hoping to record a UFO, running metallurgical analyses on supposed alien artefacts, and so on. They take as their baseline the assumption that aliens are a species at least somehow comparable to our own, who are invading our planet in a manner that is essentially a military one, albeit highly technological and highly covert.
“Somebody’s always paying attention, Mr. Mulder.”
The second camp could hardly be more different. These are the ‘spiritualist’ or ‘new age’ alien believers. For these people, aliens are almost always considered to be both extremely intelligent and highly compassionate. They contact humanity not to test on us, enslave us, or conquer us, but to enlighten us. These are advanced beings, both technologically and spiritually, who are hoping to guide us toward our own peaceful evolution as a species. Their goals for us are morally good ones. Specifically, in every single example of this I’ve ever encountered, the aliens are desperate for us to give up our nuclear weapons, to hammer our H-bombs into ploughshares. They also often have an ecological message. There is a widespread human anxiety over separate but interrelated crunch-points implied by the nuclear stalemate of the Cold War and beyond on one hand, and the threat to the environment posed by both ‘peaceful’ industrialization and global war, on the other. Solving these problems seems next to impossible. It’s comforting to think that another advanced species reached this bottleneck and passed through it successfully, and moreover that they’re willing to help us succeed as well. For these believers, aliens usually don’t visit us in physical UFOs (they’re far beyond that) and in fact they generally don’t even leave their ‘home’ planet. Instead, they communicate telepathically with certain humans, who serve as their mediums (the most famous of these probably being Ken Carey, who channelled The Starseed Transmissions), or they possess human bodies outright, as was the case with Ti and Do, the leaders of the Heaven’s Gate cult, who maintained that they themselves were transplanted alien intelligences in human bodies (these are called ‘walk-ins’).
There are those individuals who fail to align with either group, but they’re fairly rare, and the ambiguity is usually due to their unwillingness to make concrete claims about a mysterious phenomenon. Whitley Strieber, the author of Communion, for instance, is famously reluctant to propose definite terms for the UFO and abduction phenomena he has experienced; he refers to the entities he encountered by the ambiguous term ‘visitors’, and he considers even the presumption that UFOs are related to extraterrestrial entities to be an unwarranted leaping to conclusions. Miguel José Viana and Manoel Pereira da Cruz, however, are unclassifiable for a different reason; they represent a highly unusual synthesis of both camps.
When police began asking questions after the grisly find on the Morro, they found that Miguel and Manoel’s lives were highly influenced by a particularly technological and scientific strain of what was then called ‘spiritualism,’— something we might today call ‘new age science’ or even ‘UFO occultism.’ Their first tip came from an examination of Miguel and Manoel’s workshop. Amid electronics gear and scraps of lead, apparently the same initial material from which the masks had been fashioned, they found extensive notes on spiritualism, along with a book by one Bezerra de Menezes on ‘scientific spiritualism.’ According to the Flying Saucer Review, the preeminent UFO periodical of the time, which published a series of three articles on the subject, the book had “passages marked regarding masks, intense luminosity and accompanying spirits”. Unfortunately my unfamiliarity with the language means I’m stymied as far as that book is concerned, as well as with the notes, even providing they’d been transcribed.
But Miguel and Manoel were hardly a outlying, head-cracked duo in an otherwise scientific field of pure objectivism. That wouldn’t be nearly as fun as the truth. As it turns out, the police, quite to their surprise, soon learned that practically everybody involved in the high-level electronics trade in Brazil also had something to do with scientific spiritualism, a hobby that revolved around revelations from beings in higher planes of reality, telepathic communication with disembodied extraterrestrial entities, séances, hallucinogenic drug use, and other decidedly un-scientific endeavours.
Elsewhere, other scientists were drilling holes in their own heads. It was the 60’s.
This and weirder things were related when police questioned Elcio Gomes, an erstwhile assistant to the hapless Miguel and Manoel (the man’s name may in fact have been “Elcio Correa da Silva” – sources disagree). His testimony further revealed that the ‘scientific’ in ‘scientific spiritualism’ wasn’t mere lip service. There was plenty of the weirdo tech-savvy classical UFO hunter in the ill-fated pair. They may have expected to contact aliens through telepathy, séances, and similar new-age froo-froo antics, but they expected them to come in classic, physical UFOs, and once they got them here, they were apparently preparing to deal with them with good old human technology, with good old human zapping and formulae and, most distinctively, that classic man’s-best-friend, the trusty explosion. As the FSR reports,
Once Gomes was under examination, there were many more statements. Miguel and Manuel[sic], like Gomes, were “scientific spiritualists”; that in common with many other Brazilians they regularly attended sceances; that they were members of a secret society with unknown aims, but apparently devoted to “spiritism”. Another revelation was that almost all electronics specialists and enthusiasts in the district are spiritualists as well. Furthermore, it was told how Miguel and Manuel[sic] were hopeful of entering into communication with beings “on Mars”; that they collaborated in many strange “electronic” experiments; that they and Gomes had engaged in an experiment in Manuel’s garden (this was confirmed by Manuel’s father) when a device they had built had exploded violently.
Once word got around that Gomes had broken his secrecy regarding these experiments, the local residents opened up again, much as they had after Ms. de Souza’s revelations regarding the orange UFO over the Morro on the night in question. The explosion in Manoel’s garden had apparently been massive, shaking walls and causing a huge ruckus. Yet it paled to another experiment that the trio had engaged in at the Atafona Beach. The details, again, had fallen by the wayside. Suffice to say, the three had been spotted on the beach on June 12, setting up some kind of apparatus, after which an “intensely luminous object came down over the shore.” Again according to the FSR,
Five minutes later, when it began to rise, there was a blinding flash and an explosion which rocked the city of Campos, and buildings far beyond. When enquiries were made, local fisherfolk testified that they had seen a flying saucer fall into the sea. At this stage, we begin to read in the reports that the Brazilian Naval and Air Force Intelligence Services were taking an interest in both the deaths [on the Morro] and the explosions [at Atafona]. In the very last report we have on the case, appearing in O Cruzeiro of September 16, there was a story that the Navy’s monitoring service had intercepted a strange conversation over the air between three radio hams on the evening of June 12. The station prefixes were CKJ-22 and CK-22, who were talking to CKJ-21. Details of the conversation were not disclosed, but investigations had shown that no such prefixes existed in the register of amateur radio transmitting stations in Brazil.
It was rapidly becoming obvious to police that Miguel and Manoel were some very strange cats. At the very least, things certainly tended to explode a whole lot when they were around. Their investigation had, however, still failed to produce any kind of explanation as to how or why they had died on the Morro. A certain imprisoned gangster named Hamilton Bezani offered a confession at one point, claiming that he and some others had contacted Miguel and Manoel, offering to sell them some kind of radioactive material. They had given them capsules to supposedly protect them against radiation, and had told them to retrieve the goods from the Morro, a common spot for conducting illicit transactions. The capsules were, in fact, poison. All Bezani had to do was wait, then go up to the Morro and retrieve the cash that the pair had on them to purchase the materials. Police jumped at the opportunity to get this case laid to rest, but they soon pegged Bezani’s confession for a con (later, they speculated that he was trying to get transferred to the prison in Niterói, which was apparently known as being easy to escape from). His story didn’t hold up, he wasn’t able to relate key details he should have known, he couldn’t identify any of his co-conspirators except in extremely vague terms, his story failed to explain the lead masks, and he couldn’t produce the money.
There’s a good reason for that last fact. When Jacques Vallee visited Niterói, he took the apparently unprecedented step of asking Miguel’s family about this supposed missing cash. He was told that while the duo had indeed left Campos with a back-story about buying a used car, his relations had quickly found that he’d actually taken very little money with him. The car, the electronics purchases, all of it was a smokescreen. This is further confirmed by Miguel’s widow, who told Vallee that as Miguel was leaving, he quietly levelled with her: he was taking a trip to Niterói in order to perform some kind of experiment on the Morro. With a cousin, he was more candid: “Buying a car isn’t the real purpose of this trip. When I get back, I’ll tell you whether or not I believe in spiritualism.”
Miguel and Manoel had a rendezvous with something up there; maybe it was an extraterrestrial in a UFO that had stopped their hearts, maybe it was some kind of disembodied intellect that had overwhelmed their brains, maybe it was a drug overdose that dispatched them in a more straightforward manner, Toledo Pizza’s report notwithstanding (in fact, they actually dug the pair up for a second autopsy, but to no avail). Maybe they expected to die, maybe they thought it was a possibility, maybe it took them completely by surprise. But whatever happened, it wasn’t random happenstance. It was something they were prepared for; something they’d researched for and practiced for, developed a plan for. They reckoned with something on the Morro do Vintém that day. We’ll probably never know what.
But, as it turns out, somebody else may have known, at least briefly— because it turns out that Miguel and Manoel weren’t the first Brazilian spiritualists to die with lead masks on their faces.