The Words of Marceline Jones

Among the letters of testimony praising Jim Jones are several purportedly from his wife Marceline. There is potential for them to be interesting, because – if genuine – they would reveal the thoughts of a woman who knew that her husband had had numerous sexual and emotional relationships with women other than herself; whose desire for departure was blocked by threats from her husband that she would never see her children again; whose presence was as calming to many members as it might have been baffling to others; and whose identification on the last day, when Jones cries out, “Mother, mother, mother, don’t do this,” will likely never be completely resolved.

However, the letters may not be genuine, in that Marceline likely did not write them. They may genuinely capture some of her beliefs and even some of her words, but they are the beliefs and words that everyone in Jonestown already knew. They seem less reflective of her deeper thoughts and feelings, without any new insights.

The first paragraph of the handwritten note, for example, is in the third person – referring to Marceline as “she” – before someone corrects it into the first. The writing itself is not that of Marceline either, as is apparent when compared to her last will and testament. Perhaps most telling is that the handwritten note both misspells her name and leaves a blank space for someone to fill out as to how many years she’d been married to Jim.

The six-page typed document with a cover sheet that reads, “Jim Jones … as seen through the eyes of those HE LOVED…” is likely a transcription – perhaps an edited transcript – of a conversation Marceline had with an unknown interviewer. Based upon the similarity of the typeface to extended transcribed stories of Jim Jones’ mother Lynetta, the purpose of the exercise seems to be the research for a biography of Jim Jones. Its first page includes the small headline, “Marcy,” which also suggests she did not write it herself.

The three-page letter “To Whom It May Concern” mirrors (or anticipates) much of what is included in the tape transcript. It is typed rather than handwritten, but its language is similar to the first handwritten note. Compare, for example, “even if I were not married to him, still I will always follow him” in the handwritten note, to “if I were not married to Jim, I would still be a member of his congregation” in the final paragraph of this letter. Its closing is typed as “Mrs. Marceline Jones,” and there is no signature.

Much more heartfelt and intimate is a one-page note, almost certainly to Marceline from Jim (Because this ends rather abruptly, without a signature and even without the closing of a parenthetical remark, this might be the first page of a longer letter). Addressing the recipient as “God’s wife,” the letter expresses both affection and regret, and seems to have an audience of one.

Handwritten note of Marceline’s praise of Jim Jones, RYMUR 89-4286-BB-18-z-60
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Transcription of Marceline Jones, RYMUR 89-4286-BB-18-z, pp. 62-68
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Marceline’s “To Whom It May Concern”, RYMUR 89-4286-EE-1-I&J, pp. 73-75
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Letter to God’s Wife, RYMUR 89-4286-EE-3-LL
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(The managers of this website are grateful to Rikke Wettendorff for her assistance in transcribing these letters.)

Last modified on October 22nd, 2013.
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