NBC: Interview with Stanley Clayton

Transcriber’s note: This NBC interview – which now appears through MSNBC, and which may be viewed here – features survivor Stanley Clayton, a witness to the Jonestown mass suicides who managed to escape into the jungle as the suicides occurred. This interview takes place in the weeks following November 18th, most likely at the Park Hotel in Georgetown.

Some of the questions asked to Stanley involve: the order of events of the suicides; what happened to the babies; people who resisted the poison; how long it took for people to die from the poison; how and where the bodies were laid; the armed guards; the presence of guns; the death of his wife; and how he managed to watch the children die, among others.

Reporter: When did people start to die? I mean, who started to die first? How did it go?

Stanley Clayton: Jim Jones said um—let’s do the babies first. Take care of the babies first. So at that time—um—they’re having nurses going out—picking up babies—out of mothers’ arms. And—mothers—some of the mothers themselves were coming up with their babies. And—and they were—forced to take the—the potion.

Reporter: The Kool-aid and cyanide?

Clayton: Yes. (Smokes a cigarette)

Reporter: And they—where did they take the babies? Into that back area and lay them down on the ground?

Clayton: They took them um from—after they injected them and took the poison, they took them and laid them right outside the pavilion. Right off into the um garden where they plant food and so forth. They laid them right out there.

Reporter: So all the babies were laid out there dead?

Clayton: (Nods) Yes.

Reporter: What about people who didn’t want to die and they saw this going on?

Clayton: People that—that didn’t want to die, they a lot—I’d say a lot of them didn’t want to die. They were just sitting there, frightened um—afraid. Um Jim was—

Reporter: Jim Jones?

Clayton: Jim Jones was continuously saying: hurry, hurry, we must all do this. We must all die. We must die with dignity[1] and so forth. Um—begin to come out of his seat and go flowing through all these—where all the people were sitting. And he began to pull them out of their seats and lead them on into where the potion was. And—

Reporter: Did they go willingly?

Clayton: Um—little struggle—little struggle. Wasn’t very much struggle. Some—I’d seen in one case, she struggled pretty hard. She didn’t want to die.

Reporter: And how did they kill her?

Clayton: They injected her—in the arm.

Reporter: How quick did she die?

Clayton: Um the death took less than five minutes.

Reporter: How many people struggled like that?

Clayton: (Smokes a cigarette) I can only say I seen that particular one. I can only say I’ve seen that one.

Reporter: Where would they take the bodies after they died?

Clayton: After the bodies were injected—or sipping the cup, there would be two people. They would lead them—shoulder by shoulder, you know, to um a clear opening—a field. They would lay them down—face down—and let them lay there and die.

Reporter: Did you see a point where they laid people on top of people?

Clayton: No. I didn’t see that.

Reporter: Does that surprise you now that you heard that?

Clayton: Yes, it does.

Reporter: How do you explain that sir?

Clayton: Now—I can’t find the words to explain it. It’s just something that—I’d never—I’d never thought would exist. Never—never wanted to—(Camera zooms in on Stanley) never did wanted to believe it that this was going to take place. It was just something that—after I’ve seen that coming through—that it was going through um. Only thing I was trying to do was trying to figure a way out of it. Cause I never believed in taking my life. Never believed in suicide.

Reporter: How did you get out of it?

Clayton: I managed to slip through one of the guards.

Reporter: The guards with the crossbows?

Clayton: Yes.

Reporter: Did they also have rifles?

Clayton: There was rifles around. Um there was rifles around when Jim Jones was going through the crowd of people. There was rifles. Further off in different areas um—were mostly what was around the pavilion, with people with bows and arrows going around circles and circle like. (Unintelligible word) They would run and shoot them. Ain’t nobody run. (?)

Reporter: You only saw a few people struggling?

Clayton: Yes.

Reporter: That tells me that most of them—well what does it tell me? Does it tell me that they were willing to die, or most of them were too afraid to do anything else, tell me?

Clayton: I would say that most of them were too afraid to do anything because—because of the weapons. Because of the pressure that they were under. Mostly the people you are talking about are seniors—and younger children and so forth. And—

Reporter: Did you lose your lady?

Clayton: Yes I did.

Reporter: How?

Clayton: Um I saw her one time and—and another time I didn’t see her so—I don’t know if she volunteered or she was forced.

Reporter: How many were still alive when you left?

Clayton: I would say more than a hundred.

Reporter: More than a hundred were still alive?

Clayton: Yes.

Reporter: Bodies were laying everywhere, and you were still there?

Clayton: Bodies well—there was one on the corner of the pavilion—and in the back of the pavilion. (Camera zooms out)

Reporter: Where they found those stacked on top of each other?

Clayton: Um I wouldn’t know if they were stacked, because I didn’t go over to that part—section over there.

Reporter: Did you hear any shooting?

Clayton: (Camera zooms back towards Stanley) Um I heard shooting later when I was in the bush.

Reporter: How much?

Clayton: I heard five or six shots.

Reporter: That’s all?

(Brief tape cut)

Clayton: Yes. I heard a voice—not really knowing what the voice was saying, just—just it was someone who sounded like they were calling somebody. And that was it. It died out. Just stayed out in the bush at that time.

Reporter: How are you going to handle this nightmare?

Clayton: I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s a nightmare. I don’t know. (Camera zooms in on Stanley)

Reporter: How could you stand by and watch all those children die?

Clayton: (Smokes a cigarette, sighs) It was agony. It was agony. And heard— (Shakes head) (Murmurs) What could I do? (Unintelligible word) Jim Jones had his people carrying guns—with bows and arrows. If anyone tried anything—shoot him. My intention was just to get out of there. Get away from it.

Reporter: Okay.

Clayton: The best way I knew how.

(Brief tape cut)

Reporter: Mr. Clayton, there was a bucket down at this end, and there was a bucket of poison down at the other end. What did you see happening in—in the middle—of the pavilion? (Camera points down towards the reporter’s notebook)

Clayton: At that time people were just—say all the time, people were just sitting there, not wanting to go. Um Jim Jones and his security man were coming in the crowd. They were leading people either to this drum to the drum that was in the back.

Reporter: Were they leading them or were they forcing them?

Clayton: They were—I say both. Because people was—like um, in one case I remember, one—one particular male—he um—I’d seen one of the guards took him and led him and he didn’t go. He came back around and he sat down again, and another one came and they led him again and he did not go. Then another one came and led him again and um—I didn’t see at that time if he took it or what. But when I came back around and I saw him—I’d seen that he was already influenced with the stuff.

Tape Ends.


[1] Jones’ comments that Stanley Clayton is referring to can be heard on tape Q042, known better as the “Death Tape.” Listen here.