Primary Project : Transcripts
Transcript prepared by Steve Rose
Tape Number : Q 042, the so-called "Death Tape"
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After completing the body of this book I had an opportunity to listen to a tape recording that purports to represent the voice of James Jones and his followers and the cries of children and others during the last moments in Jonestown. I am a person who is more audio than visual that is, I judge more by what I hear with my ears than by what I see through a pair of rather poor eyes. The tape corresponded substantially to the transcript that follows. That transcript first appeared in the New York Times on March 15, 1979. After listening to the tape, I checked with an acquaintance in the television industry to be sure that the voice on the tape was actually that of Jim Jones. Elaborate tests with voice experts confirmed that the voice was almost surely his. The tape had been edited, of what I do not know. I was led to believe that the most responsible act would be to include in this appendix the transcript as published by the New York Times. The New York Times prefaced its publication by stating that "sources who are familiar with investigations of Peoples Temple have indicated that the contents of this tape are identical with portions of the Government-held tape that have been disclosed over the last few months." Reading will hardly convey the impression that listening provides. It is of a man substantially in control of a multitude to the point that even when confronted with a sensible effort to stop the carnage he is able at once to rally the crowd against the brave woman protestor and at the same time to act as her protector after she has been threatened by the crowd. One hears on the tape Jones's control over the lives of both black and white followers. One hears a reiteration of the conflict over John-John Stoen. (One wonders who Ejar is. Is it another name for the young Stoen child?) One hears, too, the ambiguity surrounding the final events. Did Jones decree the carnage at Kaituma airstrip the doom of the congressman and the others? Or was he simply a passive witness of the acting out of pathologies on the part of his inner circle of guards and followers?
I have talked with others who hear in the tape things I do not hear, and because the tape itself is merely at this writing "purported," I shall not attempt to claim for it the status of evidence. The suspicion must be that it will ultimately be revealed as authentic and that the largely quiet conversational, but sometimes nagging and petulant, voice on the tape is that of a man who was capable over the years of making hundreds and hundreds of people believe that death with him was preferable to life without him. It is the mutest of testimonies to a world in which values even truth itself are torn from their moorings, leaving in their path a debris of superstition (secular or religious it does not matter), paranoia, and will toward death. The transcript follows:
Excerpts From Transcript of a Purported Tape of Final Moments at Jonestown
Following are excerpts from a transcript of a tape recording obtained by The New York Times from the International Home Video Club Inc. of New York. It purports to be a recording of the final 43 minutes of the mass deaths at Jonestown, Guyana, last Nov. 18, in which the followers of the Rev. Jim Jones died. Sources who are familiar with investigations of Peoples Temple have indicated that the contents of this tape are identical with portions of the Government-held tape that have been disclosed over the last few months.
JONES: I've tried my best to give you a good life.
In spite of all that I've tried, a handful of our people, with their lies, have made our life impossible. There's no way to detach ourself from what's happened today.
Not only are we in a compound situation; not only are there those who have left and committed the betrayal of the century; some have stolen children from others and they are in pursuit right now to kill them, because they stole their children. And we are sitting here waiting on a powder keg.
So, to sit here and wait for the catastrophe that's going to happen on that airplane it's going to be a catastrophe. It almost happened here. Almost happened when the Congressman was nearly killed here. You can't steal people's children. You can't take off with people's children without expecting a violent reaction. And that's not so unfamiliar to us, either, even if we even if we were Judeo-Christian if we weren't Communists. The world opinion suffers violence and the violent shall take it by force. If we can't live in peace then let's die in peace.
We've been so betrayed. We have been so terribly betrayed
[Music and singing.]
What's going to happen here in a matter of a few minutes is that one of those people on that plane is going to shoot the pilot I know that. I didn't plan it, but I know it's going to happen. They're gonna shoot that pilot and down comes that plane into the jungle. And we had better not have any of our children left when it's over. Because they'll parachute in here on us.
I'm going to be just as plain as I know how to tell you. I've never lied to you. I 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.
What's with being so bewildered with many, many pressures on my brain seeing all people behave so treasonous there was just too much for me to put together. But I now know what he was telling me. And it'll happen. If the plane gets in the air even.
So my opinion is that you be kind to children, and be kind to seniors, and take the potion like they used to take in Ancient Greece, 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're now going back to tell more lies, which means more Congressmen. And there's no way, no way we can survive.
Anybody. Anyone that has any dissenting opinion, please speak. Yes. You can have an opportunity, but if the children are left, we're going to have them butchered. We can make a strike, but we'll be striking against people that we don't want to strike against. We'd like to get the people who caused this stuff; and some if some people here are prepared and know how to do that, to go in town and get Timothy Stoen, but there's no plane. There's no plane. You can't catch a plane in time.
'They'll Not Take Our Death In Vain' [Rose subhead]
He's responsible for it. He brought these people to us. He and Deanna Myrtle. The people in San Francisco will not not be idle. Or would they? They'll not take our death in vain, you know. Yes.
WOMAN: Is it too late for Russia?
JONES: At this point, it's too late for Russia. They killed. They started to kill. That's why it makes it too late for Russia. Otherwise, I'd say, yes, sir, you bet your life. But it's too late. I can't control these people. They're out there. They've gone with the guns. And it's too late. And once we kill anybody at least, that's the way I've always I've always put my lot with you. If one of my people do something, that's me.
And they say I don't have to take the blame for this but I don't live that way. They said, deliver up Ejar; we tried to get the man back here. Ejar, whose mother's been lying on him, and lying on him, and trying to break up this family. And they've all agreed to kill us by any means necessary. Do you think I'm going to deliver them Ejar? Not on your life.
MAN: I know a way to find Stoen if it'll help us.
JONES: No. You're not going. You're not going. You're not going. I can't live that way. I cannot live that way. I've lived with for all; I'll die for all. [Applause.]
I've been living on hope for a long time, Christine and I appreciate you've always been a very good agitator. I like agitation because you have to see two sides of one issue two sides of a question.
But what those people are gonna get done; and what they get through will make our lives worse than hell. Will make us will make the rest of us not accept it. When they get through lying.
They posed so many lies between there and that truck that we are we are done in as far as any other alternative.
WOMAN: Well, I say let's make an air airlift to Russia. That's what I say. I don't think nothing is impossible, if you believe it.
JONES: How are we going to do that? How are you going to airlift to Russia?
WOMAN: Well, I thought they said if we got in an emergency, they gave you a code to let them know.
JONES: No, they didn't. They gave us a code that they'd let us know on that issue; not us create an issue for them. They said that we if they saw the country coming down they'd give us a code. They'd give us a code. We can check on that and see if it's on the code. Did you check with Russia to see if they'll take us in a minute but 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's cursed. 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 of children. There is no need to finish us; it's not worth living like this. Not worth living like this.
WOMAN: I think that there were too few who left for 1,200 people to give them their lives for those people that left.
JONES: Do you know how many left?
WOMAN: Oh, 20-odd. That's a small
JONES: Some 20-odd.
WOMAN: Compared to what's here.
'What's Gonna Happen?' [Rose subhead]
JONES: 20-odd. But what's gonna happen when they don't leave? I hope that they could leave. But what's gonna happen when they don't leave?
WOMAN: You mean the people here?
JONES: Yeah, what's going to happen to us when they don't leave, when they get on the plane and the plane goes down?
WOMAN: I don't think they'll go down.
JONES: You don't think they'll go down? I wish I could tell you was right but I'm right. There's one man there who blames, and rightfully so, Judy Blakey for the murder for the murder of his mother, and he'll he'll stop that pilot by any means necessary. He'll do it. That plane'll come out of the air. There's no way you fly a plane without a pilot.
WOMAN: I wasn't speaking about that plane. I was speaking about a plane for us to go to Russia.
JONES: How To Russia? You think Russia's gonna want no You think Russia's gonna want us with all this stigma? We had some value, but now we don't have any value.
WOMAN: Well I don't see it like that. I mean, I feel like that as long as there's life there's hope. That's my faith.
JONES: Well, some everybody dies. Some place that hope runs out; because everybody dies. I haven't seen anybody yet didn't die. And I 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. Tired of it. [Applause.]
To have other people's lives in my hands, and I certainly don't want your life in my hands. I'm going to tell you, Christine, without me, life has no meaning. [Applause.] I'm the best thing you'll ever have.
I want want I have to pay I'm standing with [inaudible]. I'm standing with those people. They're part of me. I could detach myself my attorney says, detach myself No, no, no, no, no, no. I never detach myself from any of your troubles. I've always taken your troubles right on my shoulders. And I'm not going to change that now. It's too late. I've been running too long. Not going to change now. [Applause.]
Maybe the next time you'll get to go to Russia. The next time round. This is what I'm talking about now is the dispensation of judgment. This is a revolutionary a revolutionary suicide council. I'm not talking about self self-destruction. I'm talking about what we have no other road. I will take your call; we will put it to the Russians. And I can tell you the answer now, because I'm a prophet. Call the Russians and tell them and see if they'll take us.
WOMAN: I said I'm not ready to die.
JONES: I don't think you are.
WOMAN: But I know what you meant.
JONES: I don't think you are.
WOMAN: But I look at all the babies and I think they deserve to live.
JONES: But don't they deserve much more they deserve peace.
WOMAN: We all came here for peace.
JONES: And we've have we had it?
JONES: I tried to give it to you. I've laid down my life, practically. I've practically died every day to give you peace. And you still not have any 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.
WOMAN: I know that. But I still think, as an individual, I have a right to
JONES: You do, and I'm listening.
WOMAN: to say what I think, what I feel. And I think we all have a right to our own destiny as individuals.
WOMAN: And I think I have a right to choose mine and everybody else has a right to choose theirs.
JONES: Yes. I'm not criticizing.
WOMAN: Well I think I still have a right to my own opinion.
JONES: I'm not taking it from you. I'm not taking it from you.
'Your Life Has Been Extended' [Rose subhead]
MAN: Christine, you're only standing here because he was here in the first place. So I don't know what you're talking about, having an individual life. Your life has been extended to the day that you're standing there because of him.
JONES: I guess she has as much right to speak as anybody else to. What did you say, Ruby? [Voice.] Well you'll regret that, this very day if you don't die. You'll regret it if you do though you don't die. You'll regret it.
JONES: I saved them. I saved them, but I made my example. I made my expression. I made my manifestation and t-he world was ready, not ready for me. Paul said I was a man born out of due season. I've been born out of due season, just like all we are and the best testimony we can make is to leave this goddamn world. [Applause.]
WOMAN: You must prepare to die.
WOMAN: I'm not talking to her. Will you let would you let her or let me talk?
JONES: Keep talking.
WOMAN: Would you make her sit down and let me talk while I'm on the floor or let her talk.
JONES: How can you tell the leader what to do if you live. I've listened to you. You asked me about Russia. I'm right now making a call to Russia. What more do you suggest? I'm listening to you. You've yet to give me one slight bit of encouragement. I just now ... to go there and do that.
JONES: Everybody hold it. We didn't come hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it.
JONES: Lay down your burdens. I'm gonna lay down my burden. Down by the riverside. Shall we lay them down here by the side of Guyana? No man didn't take our lives. Right now. They haven't taken them. But when they start parachuting out of the air, they'll seek some of our innocent babies. I'm not I don't want ... They've got to shoot me to get through to some of these people. I'm not telling them take your child. Can you let them take your child? [Voices: No. No. No.]
JONES: I want to see [Lots of voices.] Please, please, please, please, please, please, please.
MAN: I'm ready to go. If you tell us we have to give our lives now, we're ready all the rest of the sisters and brothers are with me.
JONES: Some months I've tried to keep this thing from happening. But I now see it's the will it's the will of Sovereign Being that this happened to us. That we lay down our lives in protest against what's been done.
That we lay down our lives to protest at what's being done. The criminality of people. The cruelty of people. Who walked out of here today. Do you know who walked out. Mostly white people. [Voices.] Mostly white people walked.
I'm so grateful for the ones that didn't those who knew who they are. I just know there's no point there's no point to this. We are born before our time. They won't accept us. And I don't think we should sit here and take any more time for our children to be endangered; because if they come after our children, we give them our children, then our children will suffer forever.
JONES: What comes now, folks, what comes now.
MAN: Everybody hold it.
JONES: Say peace. Say peace. Say peace. Say peace. What's come. Don't let Take Dwyer on down to the east house. Take Dwyer.
WOMAN: Everybody be quiet please.
MAN: That means sit down, sit down. Sit down.
'I Tried So Very, Very Hard' [Rose subhead]
JONES: They know. I tried so very, very hard. They're trying over here to see what's going to happen in Los Angeles. Who is he?
JONES: Get Dwyer out of here before something happens to him. Dwyer. I'm not talking about Ejar. I said Dwyer. Ain't nobody gonna take Ejar. I'm not lettin' Śem take Ejar.
WOMAN: At one time, I felt just like [inaudible], but after today I don't feel anything because the biggest majority of the people that left here for a fight and I know it really hurt my heart because
JONES: Broke your heart, didn't it?
WOMAN: It broke my heart completely. All of this year the white people had been with us and they're not a part of us. So we might as well end it now; because I don't see [Music and voices.]
JONES: Well it's all over, all over. What a legacy, what a legacy. What's the Red Brigade doing, and one's that ever made any sense anyway? They invaded our privacy. They came into our home. They followed us 6,000 miles away. Red Brigade showed them justice. The Congressman's dead.
Please get us some medication. Simple. It's simple, there's no convulsions with it. It's just simple. Just, please, get it. Before it's too late. The G.D.F. will be here, I tell you, get movin', get movin', get movin'. [Voices.]
Don't be afraid to die. You'll see 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 going to separate yourself from whoever shot the Congressman? I don't know who shot him.
VOICES: No. No. No.
JONES: Let's make our peace. And those had a right to go, and they had a right to how many are dead? Aw, God, Almighty God. Huh. Patty Park is dead? [Voices.]
WOMAN: Some of the others who are ... long enough in a safe place to write about ...
JONES: I don't know how in the world they're ever going to write about us. It's just too late. It's too late. The Congressman's dead. The ... Many of our ... are dead. They're all laying out there dead.
JONES: Please can we hasten? Can we hasten with our medication? You don't know what you've done. I tried. [Applause and music.]
JONES: They saw it happen and ran in the bush and dropped the machine guns. Never in my life. But there'll be more. But we've got to move. Are you gonna get that medication here? You've got to move. Approximately about 40 minutes.
WOMAN: Do ... have to know when the people that are standing there in the aisles, go stand in the radio room yard, everybody get behind a table and back this way. O.K. There's nothing to worry about. Everybody keep calm; and try and keep your children calm. And all those children that help, let the little children in and reassure them. They're not crying from pain; it's just a little bitter-tasting, they're not crying out of any pain. Annie Miguel, can I please see you back ...
'Sit Down and Be Quiet' [Rose subhead]
MAN: So much to do before I came here. So let me tell you about it. It might make a lot of you feel a little more comfortable. Sit down and be quiet, please.
One of the things that I used to do, I used to be a therapist. And the kind of therapy that I did had to do with reincarnation in past life situations. And every time anybody had an experience of going into a past life, I was fortunate enough through father to be able to let them experience it all the way through their death, so to speak.
And everybody was so happy when they made that step to the other side.
WOMAN: I just want to say something for everyone that I see that is standing around, or crying. This is nothing to cry about. This is something we could all rejoice about. We could be happy about this. They always told us that we could cry when you're coming into this world. So we're leaving it, and we're leaving it peaceful, I think we should be you should be happy about this. I was just thinking about Jim Jones. He just has suffered and suffered and suffered. We have the honor guard and we don't even have a chance to ... here ... one more chance. That's few that's gone. There's many more here ... That's not all of us. That's not all, yet. That's just a few that have died. I'm looking at so many people crying. I wish you would not cry. [Applause.] I've been here one year and nine months. And I never felt better in my life. Not in San Francisco, but until I came to Jonestown. I had a ... life. I had a beautiful life. I don't see nothing that I should be crying about. We should be happy. At least I am [Applause.]
WOMAN: Good to be alive today. I just like to thank Dad, Ścause he was the only one that stood up for me when I needed him. And thank you, Dad.
WOMAN: I'm glad that you're my brothers and sisters. I'm glad to be here.
JONES: Please, for God's sake, let's get on with it. We've lived we've lived as no other people 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.
JONES: It's far, far harder to have to walk through every day, die slowly and from the time you're a child till the time you get gray, you're dying.
Dishonest, and I'm sure that they'll they'll pay for it. They'll pay for it. This is a revolutionary suicide. This is not a self-destructive suicide. So they'll pay for this. They brought this upon us. And they'll pay for that. I leave that destiny to them.
JONES: wants to go with their child has a right to go with their child. I think it's humane. I want to go I want to see you go, though. They can take me and do what they want whatever they want to do. 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 relax. The best thing you do to relax and you won't have no problem. You'll have no problem with this thing. If you just relax.
MAN: a great deal because it's Jim Jones. And the way the children are laying there now. I'd rather see them lay like that than to see them have to die like the Jews did, which was pitiful anyhow. And I just like to thank Dad, who give them this life, and also death. And I appreciate the fact the way our children are going. Because, like Dad said, when they come in, what they're going to do to our children they're going to massacre our children.
And also the ones that they take capture, they're gonna just let them grow up and be dummies, like they want them to be. And not grow up to be a person like the one and only Jim Jones. So I'd like to thank dad for the opportunity for letting Jonestown be not what it could be, but what Jonestown is. Thank you, Dad.
MAN: It is not to be feared. It is not to be feared. It is a friend. It's a friend. Sitting there show your love for one another. Take your time
JONES: Let's get gone. Let's get gone. Let's get gone. We had nothing we could do. We can't separate ourselves from our own people. For 20 years laying in some old rotten nursing home. Taking us through all these anguish years. They took us and put us in chains and that's nothing. This business that business 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 yourself from your brother and your sister. No way I'm going to 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.
WOMAN: Right. Right.
JONES: I, with respect, die with the beginning of dignity. Lay down your life with dignity. Don't lay down with tears and agony. It's nothing to death. It's like Mac said, it's just stepping over to another plane. Don't be this way. Stop this hysterics. This is not the way for people who are Socialists or Communists to die. No way for us to die. We must die with some dignity ... we have no choice. Now we have some choice. Do you think they're gonna allow this to be done? And allow us to get by with this? You must be insane children, it's just something to put you to rest. Oh God.
[Children crying.] Mother, mother, 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 keep your emotions down. Keep your emotions down. Children, it will not hurt. If you'd be if you be quiet. If you be quiet. [Music.] [Children crying.]
It's never been done before, you say. It's been done by every tribe in history. Every tribe facing annihilation. All the Indians of the Amazon are doing it right now. They refuse to bring any babies into the world. They kill every child that comes into the world. Because they don't want to live in this kind of a world.
Death 'A Million Times Preferable' [Rose subhead]
So be patient. Be patient. Death is 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 spend more days in this life. If you knew what was ahead of you if you knew what was ahead of you, you'd be glad to be stepping over tonight.
Death, death, death is common to people. And the Eskimos, they take death in their stride. Let's be digni let's be dignified. If you quit telling them they're dying if you would also stop some of this nonsense adults, adults, I call on you to stop this nonsense.
I call on you to quit exciting your children, when all they're doing is going to 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 any more. You're exciting your children.
All over and it's good. No, no sorrow that it's all over. I'm glad it's over. Hurry. Hurry, my children. Hurry. All I the hands of the enemy. Hurry, my children. Hurry. There are seniors out here that I'm concerned about. Hurry. I don't want any of my seniors to this mess. Only quickly, quickly, quickly, quickly, quickly. Let's just Good knowing you.
No more pain, Al. No more pain, I said, Al. No more pain. Jim Cobb is laying on the airfield dead at this moment. [Applause.] Remember, the Oliver woman said she she'd come over and kill me if her son wouldn't stop her. These, these are the people the peddlers of hate. All we're doing is laying down our lives. We're not letting them take our lives. We laying down our lives. Peace in their lives. They just want peace.
MAN: I'd like to say that my my so-called parents are filled with so much hate and treachery. I think you people out here should think about your relatives were and be glad about that the children are being laid to rest. And I'd like to say that I thank dad for making me strong to stand with it all and make me ready for it. Thank you.
JONES: All they do is taking a drink. They take it to go to sleep. That's what death is, sleep. I'm tired of it all.
WOMAN: Everything we could have ever done, most loving thing all of us could have done and it's been a pleasure walking with all of you in this revolutionary struggle. No other way I would rather go than to give my life for Socialism, Communism, and I thank Dad very, very much.
WOMAN: Dad's love and nursing, goodness and kindness and bring us to this land of freedom. His love his mother was the advance the advance guard to Socialism. And his love, his nurses will go on forever unto the fields of
JONES: to that, to that, to that, words to that was the green scene thing.
WOMAN: Go on unto the sign. And thank you, Dad.
JONES: With the green and please bring it here so the adults can begin. you don't, don't fail to follow my advice. You'll be sorry. You'll be sorry.
We do it, than that they do it. Have trust. You have to step across. We used to think this world was this world was not our home, and it sure isn't saying, it sure wasn't. don't want to tell them. All he's doing if they will tell them assure these can't some people assure these children of the in stepping over to the next plane. They set an example for others. We said 1,000 people who said, we don't like the way the world is.
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 inhumane world.
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