Primary Project : Transcripts
Transcript prepared by Mark Lane
Tape Number : Q 042, the so-called "Death Tape"
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The following partial transcript of the death tape appears in Mark Lane, The Strongest Poison (New York: Hawthorn, 1982), pp. 199-206
Published here for the first time are substantial excerpts from the last minutes at Jonestown.
The transcript is but a partial record of the event. The transcript is a stage of evidence once removed from the tape recording and is, therefore, less valuable. It is devoid of the screams of protest and anguish. Yet if the transcript is understood in the context of the events, it has some validity.
The setting is the pavilion in the center of Jonestown. An audience, consisting to a large extent of black children, women, and elderly people, is surrounded by scores of guards armed with semiautomatic weapons, shotguns, pistols, and crossbows. Jones has control of the microphone. He knows that Christine Miller is probably one of the most despised members of the commune. During the months that she lived in Jonestown, she demonstrated lack of concern for the welfare of the other residents. Her antisocial behavior in a difficult pioneer setting earned for her the least enviable reputation in Jonestown. He calls upon her to speak for the opposition, thus attempting to solidify support for his position. Others, including Marceline Jones, who try to protest, are denied access to the microphone and must try to shout from the floor. Jones is supported in his decision by a voluble claque, especially huge Jim McElvane, who prevents dissenters from being heard. Jones silences Marceline, drowning out her protests with, "Mother, Mother, Mother."
JIM JONES: It was said by the greatest of prophets in time immemorial no man takes my life from me, I lay my life down. So to sit here and wait for a catastrophe that's gonna happen on that airplane, it's gonna be a catastrophe. It almost happened here, a congressman was nearly killed here but you can't steal peoples' children; you can't take peoples" children without expecting a violent reaction.
What's gonna happen in a few minutes is that one of the men on that plane is gonna shoot the pilot; I know that; I didn't plan it, but I know it's gonna happen. They gonna shoot that pilot and down comes that plane under the jungle and we had better not have any of our children left when it's over cause they'll parachute here in on us. I'm praying just as plain as I know how to pray. I've never lied to you, never have lied to you. I know that's what's gonna happen. That's what he intends to do and he will do it. He'll do it.
It oppresses on my brain seeing all these people behave so treasonous. It was just too much for me to put together but I now know what he was telling me and it will happen, if the plane gets in the air even. So, my opinion is that we be kind to children and be kind to seniors, and take the potion like they used to take their infant [inaudible] and step over quietly because we are not committing suicide. It's a revolutionary act. We can't go back, they won't leave us alone, they are now going back to tell more lies, which means more congressmen. There is no way, no way we can survive....
CHRISTINE MILLER: Is it too late for Russia?
JONES: Looks like it's too late for Russia. They've killed. They've started to kill. That's why I think it's too late for Russia, otherwise I'd say [inaudible] that you're right but it's too late. I can't control these people. They are out there. They are gone with the guns. It's just too late. Once we kill anybody, at least that's the way I learned, I just put my lot with you. If one of my people do something, it's me. I don't have to take the blame for it but I don't live that way. If they deliver up [inaudible] who tried to get the man back there. The guy whose mother has been lying on him and lying on him and trying to break up his family and they've all agreed to kill us by any means necessary. You think I'm willing to let them get ya'll? [crowd roars, "No!"] Not on your life. No, you're not going, you're not going. I can't live that way. I cannot live that way. I've lived for all and I'll die for all....
MILLER: I'd say let's make an airlift to Russia. That's what I say. I don't think nothing is impossible.
JONES: HOW are you gonna airlift to Russia?
MILLER: Well, I thought they said if we got in an emergency, they gave us a code and to let them know.
JONES: No they didn't. They gave us a code that they'd let us know not us creating an issue for them. They said if they saw the country coming down, they'd give us a code. We can check on them and see if it's on the code. Check with Russia to see if they'll take us immediately, otherwise we die; I don't know what else to say to these people. But to me, death is not a fearful thing. It's living that catches it. I have never, never, never, never seen anything like this before in my life. I've never seen people take the law and do in their own hands and provoke us and try to purposely agitate mother and children. There is just no future. It's just not worth living like this....
JONES: What's gonna happen when they don't leave? I hope that they could leave, but what's gonna happen to us when they don't leave, when they get on the plane and plane goes down?
MILLER: I don't think they'd do that.
JONES: YOU don't think they'd go down? I wish I could tell you why but I'm right. There's one man there who blames, and likely so, Debbie Blakey for the murder of his mother and he will stop that pilot by any means necessary. He'll do it. That plane will come out of the air. There is no way you can fly a plane without a pilot.
MILLER: I wasn't speaking about that plane. I was speaking about a plane for us to go to Russia.
JONES: To Russia? Do you think Russia's gonna [inaudible] want us with all this stigma? We had some value but now we don't have any value.
MILLER: But I don't see it like that. I feel like that as long as there's life, there's hope. That's my faith.
JONES: Why then is everybody dying? Some place that hope around God but everybody dies. I haven't seen anybody yet that didn't die. And I'd like to choose my own kind of death for a change. I'm tired of being tormented to hell, that's what I'm tired of. I'm tired of it....
ANOTHER WOMAN: Not that I'm afraid to die, by no means, but I look at our babies and I think that they deserve to live you know?
JONES: I agree but also they deserve nothing more than to be at peace.
WOMAN: We also live for peace.
JONES: Have you had it?
JONES: I tried to give it to you. I laid down my life practically. I've practically died every day to give you peace. And you're still not having peace. You look better than I've seen you in a long while but it's still not the kind of peace that I want to give you. A person is a fool to continue to say that you're winning when you're losing. Win one and lose two [inaudible]. No plane is taking off. Suicide [inaudible] Stoen has done it. I've talked with San Francisco to see that Stoen does not get by with this infamy. That's infamy. He had done the thing that he wanted to do. To have us destroyed.
WOMAN: When you when you when we destroy ourselves, we're defeated. We let them, the enemy defeat us....
JONES: I'm speaking to you not as your administrator; I'm speaking as a prophet today. I wouldn't have said these things and talked so serious if I didn't know what I was talking about. If anybody calls back the immense amount of damage that's gonna be done but I cannot separate myself from the pain of my people. You can't either, Christine, if you stop and think about it; you can't separate yourself; we've walked too long together.
MILLER: I, I know that, but I still say, as an individual, I have a right to say what I think, what I feel and I think we all have a right to our own destiny as individuals and I think I have a right to choose and everybody else have a right to choose theirs. You know? I still have a right to my own opinion....
JONES: If anybody else wants to speak what did you say, Louise? You'll regret this very day if you don't die. You'll regret it. You'll regret it.
WOMAN: [Inaudible] so many people?
JONES: I saved them, I saved them but I made my example, I made my confession, I made my manifestation and the will was not ready ...
JONES: I'm gonna lay down my burdens, down by the riverside. So we lay Ćem down here in Guyana what's the difference? No man didn't take our life by now . . . but when they start parachuting out of the air, they'll shoot some of our innocent babies. I'm not gonna, don't want to see that they gotta shoot me to get through to some of these people. I'm not letting l them take you. Dorothy, will you let them take your child?
WOMAN: John John
JONES: What's that?
WOMAN: You mean you want to see John, the little one
JONES: I want to see
AUDIENCE: [much excitement]
JONES: Please, please, please
WOMAN: [Inaudible] John's life above others?
JONES: You think I put John's life above others? If I put John's life above others, I wouldn't be standing here with you at all. I'd save John out and he could go out on the driveway tonight . .
WOMAN: [Inaudible] John [inaudible]
JONES: He's just no different to me than any of these children here. He's just one of my children. I don't prefer one above another. I don't prefer any of you above John. I can't do that. I can't separate myself from your actions or his actions. If you'd done something wrong, I'd stand with you. If they wanted to come get you, they would have to take me....
JONES: You're just as precious as John and I don't know what I'd do wait and judge the things I do. I've waited against all evidence....
JONES: Stay at ease, stay at ease, stay at ease. Take Dwyer on down to the East House.
WOMAN: Everybody be quiet please.
JONES: We've got some respect for our lives......
JONES: I've tried so very hard......
JONES: Get Dwyer out of here before something happens to him. Dwyer? I'm not talkin' Ćbout you [inaudible] I said Dwyer. Ain't nobody going to take your [inaudible] I'm not letting them take your child. GET IN FOLKS, IT'S EASY, IT'S EASY......
JONES: It's all over all over. What a legacy. What a legacy. The Red Brigade's only ones made any sense anyway. They invaded our privacy, they came into our homes, they followed us six thousand miles away. The Red Brigade's showed them justice; the congressman's dead.
Please get us some medication. It's simple, it's simple, there's no convulsions with it, it's simple; just please get it before it's too late, the GDF [Guyanese Defense Force] will be here, I tell you, get moving, get moving, get moving.
Don't be afraid to die; we're guilty if these people land out here, they'll torture some of our children here. They'll torture our people, they'll torture our seniors, we cannot have this.
Are you gonna separate yourself from whoever shot the congressman? I don't know who shot him. Speak of peace and those had a right to go and they had a right to how many are dead [inaudible] My God Almighty God Almighty......
JONES: I don't know how in the world they'll ever write about us. It's just too late, it's too late. The congressman's dead, the congressman's [inaudible] dead, many of our traitors are dead, they're all laying out there dead.
JONES: I didn't but my people did, my people did. But they're my people, and they've been provoked too much. They've been provoked too much. What's happened here has been an act of provocation....
JONES: Can we hasten, can we hasten with that medication, you don't know what you've done. I tried. [applause] [inaudible] [music]. I guess they saw it happen and ran in the bush and dropped the machine gun [inaudible] my life. But there'll be more.
You wanna get that medication here, you've got to move....
JONES: Give them a little rest, a little rest. I do hope that those attorneys will stay where they belong and don't come up here. [inaudible] It's hard only at first. Only at first is it hard. It's hard only at first. When you're looking at death, it's living is much, much more difficult; raising up every morning and not knowing what the night's bringing. It's much more difficult. It's much more difficult....
WOMAN: I'm looking at so many people crying. I wish you would not cry and just step over. Just take it. ...
JONES: Please, for God's sake, let's get on with it. We've lived as no other people have lived and loved; we've had as much of this world as you're gonna get. Let's just be done with it. Let's be done with the agony of it. It's a lot harder to have to watch you everyday die slowly from the time you're a child to the time you get gray, you're dying. It's honest and I'm sure that they'll pay for it. They'll pay for it. This is a revolutionary suicide. It's not a self-destructive suicide, so they'll pay for this. They've brought this upon us and they'll pay for that. I leave that destiny to them.
Who wants to go with their child has a right to go with their child. I think it's humane. I want to see you go, though they can take me and do what they want whatever they want to. I want to see you go, I don't want to see you go through this hell no more. No more, no more, no more.
We're trying. If everybody would relax. The best thing to do is relax and we'll have no problem. You'll have no problem with the thing if you just relax....
JONES: It's not to be feared. It's not to be feared. It's a friend. it s a friend. While you're sitting there, show your love to one another.
Let's get gone, let's get gone. There's nothing we can do. We can't separate ourselves from our own people. For twenty years, lay them in some old rotten nursing home. They've taken us through all this [sic] anguished years. They took us and put us in chains and that's nothing. There's no comparison to that, to this. They've robbed us of our land and they've taken us and driven us and we tried to find ourselves we tried to find a new beginning but it's too late. You can't separate yourselves from your brother and your sister. No way I'm gonna do it. I refuse. I don't know who fired the shot. I don't know who killed the congressman but as far as I'm concerned, I killed him. You understand what I'm saying, I killed him. He had no business coming. I told him not to come. [music] [pause] Die with respect die with a degree of dignity. Lay down your life with dignity. Don't lay it down with tears and agony. It's nothing to death, it's like [inaudible] said it's like stepping over into another plane. Don't be this way. Stop this hysterics. This is not the way for people who are socialistic communists to die. No way for us to die and let's die with some dignity, let's die with some dignity. Then you'll have no choice, now we have some choice. You think they are gonna allow this to be done and allow us to get by with this? Must be insane. It's just something to put to the rest oh, God. Mother, Mother, Mother, please. Mother please, please, please, don't do this. Don't do this. Lay down your life with your child but don't do this. Free at last. Keep your emotions down, keep your emotions down. Children, it will not hurt if you'll be quiet, if you'll be quiet....
JONES: I tell you I don't care how many screams you hear, I don't care how many anguished cries, death is a million times preferable to ten more days of this life. If you knew what was ahead of you. If you knew what was ahead of you, you'd be glad that you're stepping over tonight. Death, death, death is common to people the Eskimos, they take death in their stride. Let's be dignified. If you'd quit telling them they're dying if you adults would stop some of this nonsense. Adults! Adults! Adults! I call on you to stop this nonsense. I call on you to quit exciting your children when all you're doing is going into a quiet rest. I call on you to stop this now if you have any respect at all. Are we black, proud, and socialists or what are we? Now stop this nonsense; don't carry this on anymore. You're exciting your children. No, no sorrow that it's all over. I'm glad it's all over. Hurry, hurry, my children, hurry. All right, let's not fall into the hands of the enemy. Hurry, my children, hurry. They're seniors out here I'm concerned about. Hurry. I'm not leaving my seniors to this mess. Quickly, quickly, quickly, quickly. [Inaudible] No more pain now. No more pain. I said no more pain. Jim Cobb is laying on the airfield dead at this moment. [cheers] That Oliver woman said she would come over and kill me if her son wouldn't stop her. These are people, the peddlers of hate. All we're doing is laying down our life. We're not letting them take our life, we're laying down our lives....
JONES: Stop it all this nonsense. Stop this screaming. All we're doing is taking a drink and going to sleep. That's what death is sleep. You can have it, I'm tired of it all....
JONES: Where is the vat, the vat, the vat, with the green sea in it? The vat with the green sea in, please?
Lay it here, so the adults can begin. Don't follow my advice, you'll be sorry. You'll be sorry. Better we do it than they do it. Just trust me you have to step across. You used to think this world, this world is not our home; well it sure isn't. As we were saying, it sure wasn't.
JONES: [Inaudible] telling me [inaudible], sure [inaudible] some people are sure these pilgrims, are for the [inaudible] of stepping over into the next plane. But it set an example for others. We've set one thousand people said we don't like the way the world is . . . [inaudible] take our life from us. We laid it down, we got tired. We didn't commit suicide, we committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an angry, mean world.
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