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: Labeled in part “10/3/74 Peoples Rally”
Date cues on tape: Early November 1978
Vladimir Lenin, father of Russian Revolution
Josef Stalin, Soviet dictator
Rep. Leo J. Ryan
W.E.B. duBois, American black leader (by reference)
Samora Machel, president of Mozambique (by reference)
Margaret Ackman, leader in Guyana’s People National Congress
Forbes Burnham, Guyana’s prime minister
Johnny (probably Johnny Moss Brown, aka Johnny Jones)
Patty (several, probably Patty Cartmell)
Carl (most likely Carl Barnett, could be Carlos Bell)
Mark Cordell (speaks)
Tom Grubbs (speaks)
Jann Gurvich (speaks)
Lee Ingram (speaks)
Gwendolyn Johnson (speaks)
James Warren Jones, Jr.
Lew Eric Jones (by reference)
Marceline Jones (speaks)
Stephan Gandhi Jones
Timothy Glenn Tupper Jones (speaks)
Teddy (most likely Theodore McMurry)
Marilyn Pursley (speaks)
Bible verses cited: None
This tape of a Jonestown meeting from mid-November 1978 – probably less than ten days before the arrival of Congressman Leo Ryan and the deaths that followed – shows both the mundane aspects of the community’s existence, as well as the complexities and seemingly contradictory issues which consumed the people’s attention and time.
Before Jim Jones takes up the issues of the day, Marilyn Pursley – who has just escorted her developmentally-disabled daughter to Jonestown – speaks of her remarkable experience in the community during her stay. Marceline Jones follows up the woman’s comments with thanks for her support over the years.
Following the relatively brief exchange, a young man delivers a speech in dramatic form, portraying an accused political dissenter standing before a firing squad. The sequence ends with the sound of three gunshots. It is difficult to tell if this was a theatrical presentation or an impromptu skit, but it does speak to the tensions and feelings of persecution and defiance which many Jonestown residents expressed in the final days.
Jim Jones leads the meeting for the balance of the tape. His voice sounds tired at first, but as he warms to the subjects under discussion, he becomes stronger and more certain.
He begins by saying that, for the third time, someone has tried to poison him. He is tired of the assassination attempts, he says, and if he ever finds out who is behind them, “I’m going to hang you on the highest tree I can find.” He adds that people seem to have forgotten, he is not an ordinary man. The subject remains on his mind, as he returns to the subject several times over the course of the tape.
His first announcement of import is that a congressman wants to come visit Jonestown. He follows the news with a note of defiance.
Jones expresses admiration for Lenin, the father of the Russian Revolution, and admits he doesn’t have the capacity that Lenin did to be the hope of the world. He says that he would have liked to have fought by Lenin’s side. Jones segues into a reference to reincarnation, but warns his followers not to talk to outsiders about that. He draws one parallel between his life and Lenin’s, which is the both survived assassination attempts: “they shot him with two bullets with cyanide.”
(As a contextual aside: In earlier tapes, as well as in letters from Carolyn Layton, Jones had not only talked extensively about reincarnation, but suggested that he was the reincarnation of Lenin. In addition, he may have emulated Lenin on the final day, since he was one of only two people whose deaths at Jonestown were confirmed as being by gunshot wounds. Jones’ autopsy did not reveal any cyanide in his body, although the process of embalming erased the evidence of cyanide from everyone else who was known to have died of cyanide poisoning.)
While Jones speaks highly of the Soviet Union, his praise is not unconditional. He says that he believes Josef Stalin was a great leader, even if the current leadership of the USSR reviles him, and nothing that anyone can say or demonstrate about Stalin will change his opinion.
And just as Stalin stood with the Soviet people against Hitler’s Nazis, Jones continues, so will he stand with his own people. However – and Jones says this is an advantage the people of Jonestown have – they are not afraid to die. Jones does not put this in terms of a suicide threat, per se, but rather speaks of resistance. “We are not defeated. We are not going to be defeated. I don’t give a goddamn how many of you want to defeat us, we shall overcome.”
The vow to survive persists throughout the evening. Halfway through the tape, Jones again expresses a desire to live: “Twenty-nine years I’ve sweat to build a communist movement, and I did not sweat to have it come over here and die in no fuckin’ jungle.”
As much as they want to survive, though, the community faces some tough decisions. One is whether they can cut costs by getting rid of the animals at Jonestown, either by killing them or by releasing them back into the wild, which, as Jones points out, amounts to the same thing. Jones opposes the proposal on numerous grounds, ranging from the negligible cost the animals represent, to the joy that they bring, to the cruelty of destroying them, to their basic right to live. He feels as passionately about the animals as he does about the residents. “I’m telling you, I’ve got a complex about me, anybody that comes to me, animal, human, I feel a responsibility.”
Not only does he plead for the lives of the community’s animals, but in the next portion of the tape, he chastises a child for pulling the wings off a bug. “The world is so full of pain. And that poor bug was still alive when you finished. Still alive. Did you– did you tear his wing off? … [There’s enough] pain in the world without torturing people, or animals.” He recommends first that the young boy go into counseling, then issues a stronger warning: “You go around here and tease dogs, and you tease cats, and by God, we’re going to tease you, if you don’t stop it. And we’re going to tease you in the Public Service Union [Jonestown’s disciplinary unit].”
Continuing in the vein of deploring violence and animal cruelty, Jones talks about the brutality to chickens as they are about to be slaughtered, and says that someday he would like to be a vegetarian. Still later, he talks of resigning his leadership position in Jonestown and going to Africa to fight against U.S. mercenaries. The tone is neither mocking nor threatening, and the words are not of a man who seems to be contemplating his imminent death.
Jones talks about the upcoming visits from Guyanese government officials, and demands that everyone listen to the tape on Guyana’s political parties. He also reminds them to tell every visitor they meet that they’re happy in Jonestown and wouldn’t live anyplace else, because you never can tell if the visitor “may be a CIA trying to provoke some situation..”
The conversation turns to exhibition sports – such as boxing, archery, rugby, tennis and Ping-Pong – in which Jonestown might be able to field teams to compete with the Guyanese. It is the upcoming basketball tournament in Georgetown that is the subject of the most discussion, though. Jones talks about his past as a basketball player, and gives the team various strategies to pursue, both in terms of plays and in demonstrations of sportsmanship. He suggests, for example, that Jonestown players embrace their opponents before a game starts, and that every time the opponents score during the game, the Jonestown players applaud. Not only does it show appreciation for the other team’s play, Jones says, but it’ll confuse them with kindness. “It’ll blow their minds,” he says several times. The micromanaged coaching style for a tournament more than a week and a distance of 250 miles away continues off and on for thirty minutes.
There is an object lesson to his advice, he says. If they show “character and grace,” if they respect their opponents, if they decline to argue with the referee, that superiority will communize some of those youth on the competing teams.
Some of the players resist Jones’ efforts to dictate their playing style, and some openly question Jones’ coaching ideas. That’s not how they play, one says. They use intimidation to gain an advantage over their opponent. Another says taking the time to applaud the other team’s play puts them at a disadvantage with the clock and the fast pace of the game. Still another complains that anyone embracing another player will make the opponent think that the Jonestown player is a “fag.”
(It should be noted that the members of the basketball team survived the deaths in Jonestown, because they were playing at the tournament mentioned in this tape. It should also be noted that some observers feel the deaths might not have taken place if the team had not been in Georgetown that November weekend, because that meant some of the strongest voices of dissent – such as those heard on this tape – were absent during Congressman Ryan’s visit.)
Jones replies to the criticisms calmly for the most part (“Okay– I’m not condemning you… You can win us lots of friends”), although he later flares at the continuing resistance (“I mean it. I’m damned serious about this. ‘Cause you’ve got in your hands the opportunity to make or break Jonestown”).
Jones also warns the basketball players about the vices of Georgetown. He reminds one player that everyone knows about his problem of stealing – a problem that is completely unfathomable, since Jim Jones had saved his life – and that everyone will be responsible for the young man’s conduct. He tells them to stay away from the girls, and for the girls of Peoples Temple to stay away from the boys during the pre-tournament meetings and parties. “It’s between boys, they’re trying to make fellowship… And the girls will only be a distraction… I don’t want somebody get one or more in a corner and getting the damn sex play going, so they won’t be watching our brothers trying to sow good will.”
The tournament is important to Jones, and he is candid in explaining why: “You can open up the whole door of Guyana to us, to the people. Once the people are behind you, it don’t make no difference what the politicians want… If these young people go in and make a good name for us, nobody’ll be able to harm us… [Even] if you lose every game, I don’t give a goddamn, you’ll still have won something in the minds of those people.”
The subjects of incoming guests – including “Americans who will be coming” – returns late in the conversation. Jones reiterates the need for people to say they’re glad they’re there, and coaches them on how to answer questions about their diet. He is emphatic in his demand (“Do you all understand that? You better say it, ‘cause you’ll regret the day you didn’t say it”), because, repeating what he said earlier, “there could be a CIA anywhere.”
Date of transcription: 6/13/79
In connection with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 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 May 24, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B68-12. This tape was found to contain the following:
A congratulatory speech by a female visitor to Jonestown identified as CYNTHY’s mother on the first few minutes of the tape. This is followed by JIM JONES critizing [criticizing] two boys for killing insects. JONES comments that, “I heard some Congressman wants to come here. I think I’ll tell him to stick it!” The tape concludes with JONES giving the basketball team a pep talk for their upcoming tournament in Georgetown.
This tape was reviewed and nothing was contained thereon which was considered to be of evidentiary nature or beneficial to the investigation of the murder of Congressman RYAN.
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted February 2003