Transcripts of Peoples Temple audiotapes available

The editors of the jonestown report are in the process of uploading a number of transcripts and summaries of the hundreds of audiotapes which the FBI recovered from Jonestown following the deaths in 1978. Twenty of them will be available by the end of November on the “Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple” website, which may be found at its new address: Other transcripts will be added in coming months.

The tapes transcribed so far consist principally of meetings of the Jonestown community — mostly chaired by Jim Jones, but including the voices of other Jonestown residents — during 1978. Several of the tapes were recorded during one White Night in April 1978. There are also transcripts of sermons and other recordings of Jones from San Francisco and Los Angeles soon to be available on the website.

Summaries of the tapes — also new to the website — will offer capsules of the conversations, lists of people either who are mentioned by name and/or who speak on the tape, and documentation (as far as it can be determined) of the date of the tape.

Many tapes remain

The FBI catalogued several hundred of the Jonestown tapes within a year of recovering them as it developed evidence to prosecute Larry Layton on charges of assassinating a Congressman. Many of the tapes were blank or contained nothing but music. For the remaining tapes — about 400 of them — the FBI divided them into categories such as “Jones Speaking,” “Radio Transmissions,” and “Unidentified Persons Speaking.” It then prepared short summaries for each of these tapes. However, since the summaries had a limited purpose and the agents who reviewed them had limited knowledge of the people whose voices they were hearing, the summaries are sketchy at best.

After reviewing the summaries which the FBI prepared, the editors of the jonestown report requested about 200 of the tapes. These tapes promise to reveal the daily workings of the Jonestown community, the early sermons of Jim Jones, and the voices of the members of Peoples Temple.