Q234 Summary

Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.

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FBI Catalogue: Jones Speaking

FBI preliminary tape identification note: Labeled in part “11/6/78 comments”

Date cues on tape:     Tape contents consistent with identification note

People named:

Jonestown residents:
Part 1:
Johnny Brown
Robert Christian
Lee Ingram
L.V. “Pop” Jackson
Nancy Sines
Al Touchette

Coded references
Part 2
Harry (speaks)

Bible verses cited:      None


This tape consists of two parts. In the first, Jim Jones issues instructions to the Jonestown community for maintenance and repairs before some visitors arrive, and for behavior towards the guests during their stay. The second consists of a conversation among for people – including Jim Jones – on three HAM radio locations.

The majority of the first part of the tape consists of Jones issuing very specific instructions for repairs and problems to be taken care of in Jonestown that day. He demands that people wash and/or paint various decorative fences, that some of the buildings – especially the older ones – get a fresh coat of paint, that cobwebs in living quarters and debris outside or near work spaces be removed. More than once, he demands that residents cut the grass around their cottages and dorms.

Recognizing that most living quarters have numerous people living in them, he assigns the responsibility to everyone. “If you’re in the cottage, you are responsible. If nobody else, it is your responsibility. I don’t care if there’s anybody else in that dormitory, we’ll bring them up before the public. They’ll get their censure. You do your job. You take care of  it, because one person can.”

He pays particular attention to the entrance to Jonestown, and asks that dead and unsightly trees be removed, and that the road from the entrance into Jonestown be leveled to take care of low spots where water and mud collect. “As far as our Welcome to Jonestown sign, I think it should definitely not be now used to embarrass us. Such a sign should be placed only in a beautified area.”

Just as important as the physical beauty of Jonestown is what people are (and are not) supposed to say to the visitors. He warns his followers that the guests may seem friendly, but they could be CIA. There is a tape on how Jonestown residents must react to visitors, and they must all “[m]emorize that tape.” He returns to the subject at the end, when he instructs everyone to “[r]emember… we have meat every day, … tomorrow we’ll be having fish, we’ll be eating fish. The general family will be eating fish. So all of you talk about that. Fish and rice and vegetables and pastries, and all sorts of teas and coffee. That is important.”

The second part of the tapes is a three-way conversation among Temple HAM radio operators, likely in San Francisco and in Georgetown and Jonestown, Guyana.  Most of the conversation is hard to hear because the voices are taken from the airwaves, and some are very faint. In addition, much of the conversation is in code and without context. Yet the messages being exchanged are clear to participants, with sentences being repeated to assure proper transmission, and some remarks extensively parsed. “Absolutely important,” one unidentified woman says about a message indecipherable to anyone working without a codebook (including the transcriber of this tape).

The main topic of conversation is who is coming to Jonestown, and how the residents will respond. One concern seems to be who will have the authority to speak with visitors, but the decision seems to be deferred until everyone arrives.

Jones’ message is the least coded and – consequently – most clear. People who have visited Jonestown are awed by its beauty and accomplishments. In addition, doctors around the world have been impressed with the medical services which have been delivered with the assistance of the radio. He asks for letters from all these people.

It is hard to know from this tape if the preparations are being made for Ryan’s visit. There is an urgency, especially in Jones’ message, but the date is still almost two weeks before the congressman’s arrival. As Jones noted in the second part, there were people going in and out of the jungle community on a regular basis, but the requests for maintenance and beautification in part 1 indicates a more important visitor. The reference to CIA does not help in this regard: by the end of Jonestown’s life, Jones tended to suspect any unknown visitor – official or familial – as a spy.

FBI Summary:

Date of transcription: 5/29/79

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 29, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B70-20. This tape was found to contain the following:

JAMES JONES speaking about the arrival of visitors, which could include CIA personnel.

JONES requested a massive clean‑up effort in Jonestown, in anticipation of the arrival of visitors.

Differences with FBI Summary:

The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.

Tape originally posted March 2008