(Joel X. Thomas has been a lifelong musician, performer, and recording artist. He is also a regular contributor to the jonestown report. His investigative articles in this edition are The Jonestown Express, November 17, 1978: Life on the Eve of Tragedy, The Jonestown Radio Tower (It’s not what you think), The Infrastructure of Jonestown’s Recording and Speaker Systems: A Photographic Overview, and Mystery of Q042 Death Tape Unspooled. His complete collection of articles for this site is here. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Cell phones, electronics, televisions, and computer software are always being updated with new technology, as more information and advancement becomes available. Such is the story with Jonestown.
One might think that everything has already been told, but almost 45 years after the event, discoveries are still being made. During the introduction of Peoples Temple and Jonestown in the Twenty-First Century, author Rebecca Moore asks the question “if another work about Jonestown is necessary.” My own answer is yes. Through the numerous podcasts, website forums and webpages, I see that researchers and curious onlookers come every day to Jonestown for the very first time.
The opening chapters of the book outline an overview and synopsis of the history, giving a quick briefing of a very detailed and involved epic story. The book goes through various stages of history, religions, politics, and economics by outlining the various phases of Peoples Temple by its locations in Indiana, California, and Guyana.
No single book could ever explain the magnitude of every detail that occurred. There will always be more questions. Some already answered, some still being discovered. Peoples Temple and Jonestown in the Twenty-First Century attempts a retelling of the story while including more recently uncovered information.
The final chapter is where the book finally lives up to its title by describing many of the various forms of media, entertainment, and music that has depicted the events of Jonestown. The impact of the story has obviously affected people around the world for a new generation, and their feelings and expressions of Jonestown’s impact upon them have been present over and again in a multitude of forms.
As much as the book includes in the form of artistic interpretations, I do offer two instances of what I consider to be serious omissions.
- Eli Roth’s 2013 found footage film The Sacrament is almost a retelling or reboot of the Peoples Temple disaster, as it might have happened in modern times.
- Paranoid Production’s 2019 video game “The Church in the Darkness” for Microsoft Windows, macOS, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, is an action/adventure game involving the infiltration and rescue of a family member at a remote jungle religious encampment.
Although these two modern references are undoubtedly inspired by the Jonestown Massacre, the characters are of course fictitious, and the storyline is merely borrowed from true events. And for that reason I can see why they might not have been included in the book. Nevertheless, they are another example of the fascination that the world has, and an outlet of being drawn to the story.
In spite of the fact that information about Peoples Temple and Jonestown is more readily available, solid and accurate information seems to be harder and harder to come by. Jonestown is littered with inaccuracies and errors. During my own investigation, I have seen the level of confusion that still exists on a first hand basis. Rumors still persist, misinformation offer clickbait to numerous sites, and mislabeled pictures either accidentally or intentionally include errors in their captions. It’s no wonder this story continues to confuse people 43 years later.
“…Collect all the tapes, all the writing, all the history. The story of this movement, this action, must be examined over and over…”
So to reiterate my answer to Moore’s question from the introduction: Yes, another work is necessary, as will many more, until we can solve as many mysteries and answer as many questions as possible from the wealth of information that still remains unmined.