Members of Peoples Temple – and especially Jim Jones – made an untold number of audiotape recordings in Jonestown, Guyana, California, and even as far back as Indianapolis. The FBI recovered about 1000 of these tapes in Jonestown following the deaths of 18 November 1978. The numerical designations to the tapes are those assigned by the FBI.
The first two links below take you to transcripts and summaries prepared by the Jonestown Institute, and to summaries prepared by the FBI, of tapes recorded by members of Peoples Temple in Jonestown, Guyana, California, and Indianapolis. The third link takes you to a chronological list of tapes recorded in Jonestown in 1978. The fourth link takes you to various transcripts and an analysis of the so-called “Death Tape.” The fifth link takes you to transcripts and numerous commentaries on Q 875, a tape which was recorded on 19 November, the day after the mass deaths.
- Index of Tape Transcripts and Summaries
- Index of FBI Summaries
- The Chronological List of Tapes (1978)
- The “Death Tape”
- The November 19th Tape
Almost all of the 964 tapes in this collection – whether transcribed or not – have been digitized and are available as MP3s. The MP3s available for download have been edited with mono-to-stereo conversion and the removal of clicks and silences, in the interest of optimizing sound clarity and length. If you are interested in obtaining access to the raw, unedited digital WAV files of any tape for sound analysis purposes, please contact this website.
The Index of Tape Transcripts and Summaries includes designations for digitized tapes which have been transcribed. Digitized tapes which have not yet been transcribed are designated in the listings at Index of FBI Summaries.
We have re-organized the site to aid users, and thus tapes appear in the Indexes by topic:
- Sermons by Jim Jones
- Other speeches by Jim Jones
- Tapes made in Jonestown
- News analyses and news of the project
The Jonestown tapes which have been transcribed and summarized also have a name index. Housed at Special Collections at the San Diego State University Library, this index allows anyone to determine which transcripts include the names – and sometimes even the voices – of different Peoples Temple members and Jonestown residents.
The transcripts are unedited and are as completely reflective of what was said as was possible to transcribe. That means if a speaker started a sentence several times before completing it, the false starts are included. It also means that, if a sentence starts in the middle because the tape recorder had been switched off or there was a delay in turning on the microphone, the transcript starts in the middle of the sentence as well.
Taken by themselves, the transcripts have no context. Therefore, each transcript has a separate summary which includes the date of the tape — as far as it can be determined — the people who either speak or are named in the tapes, and any biblical references made.
Each summary has two descriptions of what the tape contains. The first was made by Fielding McGehee III of The Jonestown Institute. The second was made by the FBI, the mandate of which was to seek evidence for any prosecutions related to the assassination of Congressman Leo Ryan. Each summary concludes with a description of any significant differences between what the transcriber found of importance and what the FBI did.
We urge you to use the transcripts in tandem with the summaries.
The audiotapes and typed transcripts span the years of Peoples Temples existence, from the 1950s through November 1978, and contain sermons delivered by Jim Jones, conversations between Jones and his followers or various public figures, Jonestown meetings that discussed Peoples Temple ideologies as well as issues within the settlement, news broadcasts by Jones, various radio broadcasts from Jonestown, and recordings of Russian language lessons. As a supplement to the transcript summaries, a Personal Name Index has been prepared as a part of this finding aid to facilitate further research of the audiotapes and transcripts by enabling the researcher to find the transcript on which an individual name is mentioned. Tapes retrieved by the FBI at Jonestown are identified by the letter Q, followed by a number (e.g., Q 134), which was arbitrarily assigned by the FBI after the agency’s initial review of the audiotapes. In addition to the FBI audiotapes, the collection contains 24 tapes of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recordings of Temple shortwave radio traffic.
About 400 tapes which the FBI collected in Jonestown were either blank or contained only music. There were 53 others which were initially withheld from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, as they were found to have evidentiary value, but have now been released. They are indicated on the FBI summaries with a dagger. The remaining 613 tapes were each reviewed, summarized, and catalogued into one of five categories by the FBI: “Jones Speaking,” “Identified Individuals Speaking,” “Unidentified Individuals Speaking,” “Radio Transmissions” and “Miscellaneous.” The FBI master summary is broken into six files, as well as into the individual categories.
In addition to the FBI, complete collections of the tapes are located at two places: the Jonestown Institute; and Special Collections and University Archives, Library and Information Access, San Diego State University.
When quoting or using these tapes or summaries, please credit The Jonestown Institute as the source. Thank you.