Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
FBI Catalogue: Jones Speaking
FBI preliminary tape identification note: Marked in part "11/16/78 Thur Rally"
Date cues on tape: 16 November 1978 (notation on tape box, confirmed in context)
Public figures/National and international names:
President Jimmy Carter
Rep. Leo Ryan
Margaret Ackman, leader in Guyana’s People’s National Congress
Hamilton Green, Guyana Minister of Health, Housing and Labor
Mohamed Hamaludin, Guyanese journalist
Charles Garry, Temple attorney
Mark Lane, Temple attorney
Karl Menninger, psychiatrist
Temple adversaries; members of Concerned Relatives:
Debbie Layton Blakey
Bonnie Burnham [aka Bonnie Thielmann]
Joe Mazor, detective hired by Concerned Relatives (by reference)
Other Temple members:
Jonestown residents, full name unknown:
Irene [either Eddins, Edwards, or Mason]
Jane [probably Mary Jane Bailey]
Joyce [probably Touchette, could be Rozynko]
Paul [probably McCann]
Rose [either Rose Shelton or Rose Sharon]
James "Reb" Edwards
Judy Lynn Houston (by reference)
Patricia Dian Houston (by reference)
Jimmie Jones (by reference)
Marceline Jones (speaks)
Timothy Tupper Jones (by reference)
Rita Lenin, aka Rita Tupper
John Victor Stoen
Bible verses cited: None
(Note: This tape was one of the 53 tapes initially withheld from public disclosure. This tape was also one of the few which the FBI itself transcribed.)
Taped a few days before the arrival of Rep. Leo Ryan and his party – which is already in Georgetown and is negotiating with Temple attorneys Charles Garry and Mark Lane for access to Jonestown – this recording is in two parts. The first is of a community filled with uncertainty, increasing defiance, and dwindling choices. Jim Jones often speaks about taking his own life on this tape, to the point that he stops considering any other alternative for himself, but he holds out other option for other people. Neither does he brand those who are considering other options as traitors – just as his rhetoric about life in the United States seems less inflamed than other tapes of the final days – but his criticism of the relatives who have accompanied the congressman (as well of Ryan himself) is scathing.
The second part of the tape, made later the same day or perhaps the following day, is of Jim Jones issuing instructions to a community meeting via the public address system. Marceline Jones then talks more personally to the community, and seems to be in its midst, rather than removed as Jones was.
The tape of the community meeting begins with some housekeeping conversation about the cost and durability of pairs of eyeglasses. It is a discussion that considers the future affordability of the glasses, but it is also a short discussion and – since the tape has many edits – it could be from an earlier meeting.
Jones begins the discussion about Ryan be saying that he does not know “whether we will receive any guests tomorrow or not,” although the main consideration at this point is his perception of Ryan’s belligerence. “I’m not so inclined to be told when to receive guests,” Jones continues, which is the issue Ryan is pushing. According to Jones – who says he is quoting Ryan – the congressman believes he has the authority to enter Jonestown whenever he wants. “‘I got a right to come wherever I want to, whenever I want to,’” Jones quotes Ryan as saying. “He says the Constitution gives him the right to come down here and see us, because we’re American taxpayers.” The issue returns several times in the first half of the meeting. A few moments later, Jones says since they are taxpayers, they are paying Ryan’s salary, and that gives them the right to drop in on Ryan whenever they want, “midnight or in the morning.” Later, as Jones’ mood becomes more defiant, he says, “[Ryan] thinks … the Constitution and the Monroe Doctrine gives him the privilege to go wherever he wants to, [but] it also gives me the right to shoot him in the ass.” To rising cheers, he adds, “I can assure you that if [Ryan] stays long enough for tea, he’s gonna regret it.”
Ryan’s encounters with Temple members in Georgetown have been mixed. He has menaced one woman with hints of his knowledge of her personal life, Jones says, but his meeting with the Jonestown basketball team – in Georgetown to participate in a tournament that weekend – impressed him with the physical health of community members. However, Ryan supposedly asked, how about their psychological health, a question which Jones said he answered with a question of his own: “Who the hell are you? Are you a psychiatrist…?”
Jones’ resistance to the impending visit is passive at the beginning of the session – he says he is tired of being pushed around from continent to continent, and perhaps they should emulate Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce nation when he said, “I will fight no more forever” – but the defiance builds as the tape progresses. “I want to shoot somebody in the ass like him so bad, so long, I’m not passing this opportunity up. Now if they come in, … they come in on their own risk.”
Still, at this point in the meeting, some issues seem open for debate. The mother of one young man in Jonestown has been impressed with what she’s seen in Georgetown, and Jones asks the young man if he wants to see his mother. He apparently declines – his voice is too soft to be picked up on tape – but Jones replies quietly, “I thought you did. I thought you wanted to see her in some way.” Jones also talked about how, in his “mercy,” he had been prepared to let certain relatives see certain community members, but that the relatives kept agitating for more visits. “If you want to bring her in, it doesn’t make any difference. At this stage, it’s up to you. I’m just speaking for myself. I’m tired of being pushed around.”
But then the opposition that Jones expresses towards Ryan extends to the relatives in the congressional party as well. Jones notes that his bête noire, Tim Stoen, who is in Georgetown, has suggested that if John Victor Stoen – the subject of a custody suit and a deeper tug of war between Jonestown and the Concerned Relatives organization – were given to Tim, all their troubles would be over. But Tim has no rights over John, Jones says, because “John’s my son,” and even the mother – Grace – has admitted as much.
Besides, Jones says, turning over John Stoen would only be the beginning. “If I’d give ‘em all of you, they wouldn’t get off my back.” Things have already gone too far, he adds. “And I don’t know about you, I just wanted to be sure you understood where I’m coming from. I don’t care whether I see Christmas or Thanksgiving, neither one.” At this moment, Thanksgiving is a week away.
The subject of death underlies the rest of the conversation. Sometimes Jones talks about going down with a fight, sometimes he talks about the ease of sticking one’s nose into a cup of water and dying “if you want to.” As he says several times in the balance of the tape, “we been debating about dying till, hell, it’s easier to die than to talk about it.”
Nevertheless, he says he is choosing only for himself. “Everybody has to work it out on their own.” If people “want to move … to Kansas City,” he invites them to talk about it (although he adds that it would give the rest of them peace not to have to look at those who want to leave). If people want to move to the Soviet Union, “maybe we can start negotiating with the Soviets, and a few can make it over there.” But as for himself, he repeats, “I am not moving no more.”
All these themes – the uncertainty about whether to let the congressman in, the continuing harassment from relatives that will grow even stronger in future weeks, the opportunity for other people to go elsewhere if they so choose, his own decision not to be pushed around any more – return several times throughout the tape.
Jones returns to the subject of the Stoens as well, but the second time is with more detail and more antagonism. While he repeats longstanding descriptions of Tim as a transvestite and of Grace as an adulterer who locked her son in a garage while she had her trysts, Jones says he has more concrete reasons for seeing the Stoens as a threat. Tim wants to go after their IRS tax exemption in the U.S., and wants Guyana to kick them out of the country because they aren’t the religious group they said they were when they got the land. “I’m telling you,” Jones observes, “[Stoen] is not satisfied one way or the other. He’s got me a cult back there, and now I’m not a religious group here.”
Stoen’s motivation, according to Jones, is that “we’re so evil, … we’re the most evil thing on earth and that he stayed alive for no other cause, but to destroy us.” And he isn’t the only one with this goal. The Concerned Relatives don’t care if they kill everyone when they come in here, Jones said. Defector Mickey Touchette said she was interested only in saving her brother, and “[i]f the rest of them die, that’s good. That’s good.” Even Grace Stoen is so set on punishing him that she doesn’t care if she destroys her own child in the process.
After several moments of silence, the second, shorter part of the tape begins with Jones issuing instructions over the loudspeakers of what he expects of the community when the congressman arrives. It is unclear whether this tape was made later the same day as the first part or the next day, but it is clear than the uncertainty over Ryan’s arrival has passed.
Jones tells the people of Jonestown to get some rest before the visitors arrive and then to dress as well as they can. He instructs them to “be friendly, be cordial,” to smile, but not to approach the visitors. If any of the relatives approach them, he says, “be civil, but don’t get engaged into a long conversation with them.” A few minutes later, he instructs them on what to say if they’re questioned about life in Jonestown: “tell them how happy you are, you tell them what your food is, how much food, how much meat that we eat. We have all kinds of varieties of foods, fruits, every day, every day… [Y]ou wouldn’t go back to the United States if someone were to give you a ticket tomorrow.”
Some of the relatives may approach you with a sealed envelope, Jones says several times. It could be a court order or a summons, he warns, so they are to take the envelope – unopened – to security.
As opposed to the first part of the tape, Jones speaks in terms of damage control. He doesn’t talk about death, but rather how they can survive this visit. It will be over soon, he says – the visitors may not even come back the second day – and if everyone relaxes, stays calm and follows what he says, they’ll be fine. Indeed, his pleas for patience and calm seem every bit as urgent and passionate as his earlier defiance. “We do not want to see all of our children sacrificed over a jackass from San Mateo… We’re not a menace to anybody, we’re a peace-loving people.… That’s why I told you to put your weapons down, we don’t want any weapons, we don’t want to have any holocaust with our own people, it’s exactly what the CIA wants, a fight between us and our own people.”
He recognizes that much of the contention between Jonestown and the relatives stems from the custody of the children in general, and one in particular. “We must not have an incident over one child. I don’t want to sacrifice the entire community over my child, the one I’d sacrifice again over my life.”
Marceline then reiterates her husband’s instructions, and concludes the tape with a reminder of who they are and why they are there: “We are here living communally, and we’re also here working on ourselves to make ourselves more loving … more just, so that the whole world might be free.”
Date of transcription: 6/27/79
In connection with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) investigation into the assassination of U.S. Congressman LEO J. RYAN at Port Kaituma, Guyana, South America, on November 18, 1978, a tape recording was obtained. This tape recording was located in Jonestown, Guyana, South America, and was turned over to U.S. Officials in Guyana and subsequently transported to the United States.
On June 24, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B60-4. This tape was found to contain the following:
JIM JONES holding a meeting and discussing the visit tomorrow of Congressman RYAN and newsmen. He describes RYAN as a right wing reactionary and the visit as a CIA plot. Expressed resentment of uninviting demanding nature of visit, discussing RYAN in derogatory street terms, the possibility of flying the Russian flag, refusing admittance to group, seizing NBC cameras, etc. JONES stated he would like to “shoot his ass” and rather die than move. JONES stated the Russians and PPP (phonetic) have promised support. He reminds members to speak positive and as little as possible and furnish all letters to security unopened. JONES states he is tired as he has been up 8 days and mentions dying numerous times and earlier stated they have been through 84 “White Nights”.
Tape originally posted May 2004