Summary prepared by Michael Bellefountaine. 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 “Peoples Rally 11/10/78”
Date cues on tape: 10 November 1978 (notation on tape box confirmed in context)
Joe Hill, labor union organizer
Paul Robeson, black singer
Salvador Allende, deposed president of Chile
Gen. Augusto Pinochet, president of Chile
U.S. Senator Edward Brooke
U.S. Rep. Charles Diggs
California Lieutenant Governor Merv Dymally
Don Harris, reporter for NBC
Tim Reiterman, reporter for the San Francisco Examiner
Leo Ryan, congressman assassinated at Port Kaituma
Temple adversaries; members of Concerned Relatives:
Suzanne Jones Cartmell
Elmer “Mert” Mertle
Howard & Beverly Oliver
Bonnie Malmin Thielmann [listed as Bonnie Burnham]
Marceline Jones (speaks)
Willie Sneed (speaks)
Bible verses cited: None
(Note: This tape was transcribed and summarized by Michael Bellefountaine. The editors gratefully acknowledge his invaluable assistance.)
(Note: This tape was one of the 53 tapes initially withheld from public disclosure.)
Recorded a week before the arrival of Rep. Leo Ryan’s party in Guyana in November 1978, this tape is of a community in crisis. The people of Jonestown know the delegation is coming, and that it will be filled with the relatives whom Jim Jones has been lambasting for months, with members of the press, and with representatives of the U.S. government. No one knows how long their enemies will be in Guyana, whether they will be able to get into Jonestown, or what the community would do if the unwelcome guests appear.
Jim Jones is alternately concerned, perplexed, angry, and defiant. The snatches of conversation with the residents of Jonestown, including Marceline Jones – Jones spontaneously edited the tape with the on/off switch on his microphone, and many responses are cut off after a few words – reveal a weariness and apprehension in reaction to their perceptions of threat, both external and internal.
Made during a community meeting, the tape opens with Jones issuing directives about the treatment of animals, attendance in classes, and medical passes for special treatment at mealtimes, but he has reserved most of his fire to direct at the people of Jonestown who are homesick for their kin back in the United States. Since the tape begins (and ends) with the meeting in progress, is it unclear if the community knows from the beginning that the tone of Jones’ orders has been colored by news of the congressman’s anticipated arrival in Guyana. Soon after the tape begins, though, Jones raises the issue.
He begins by listing everyone who will be in the party coming from the U.S. He talks about the Concerned Relatives – both individually and as an organization, even if he doesn’t refer to it by name – who provided the impetus for Ryan’s investigation. He tells them about the lies being told against Peoples Temple: “they say we are communist, we are degenerate, we are against Christ … They say I initiate people here, every male I have to screw and every female I screw, and that we cut up people, kill them, bury them, eat them… [b]abies have been burned alive… anything that fits their purpose.”
Even if he doesn’t understand the hate behind the lies, Jones says, he knows why they tell them. “They make up stories about what we are supposed to do, so that they can justify what they will do. We’re supposed to cut up babies, so when they come in here, they’ll cut up babies.”
It is unclear if Jones believes that the people coming to Guyana know of the threats that the Temple has made to destroy itself. He makes a few references to the “knowledge” that the relatives have of what the community would do in response, but the language is ambiguous and the rhetoric is heated by the crisis of the moment.
But how does Jones know what the Concerned Relatives are saying? He has “infiltration,” he says, an imposter from the Temple who has worked his way into the organization’s hierarchy and is reporting back to Jonestown.
Jones also has intelligence in Georgetown, members of the Temple who will point out the relatives to Guyanese immigration officials as the plane from the U.S. disembarks. They will try to limit the visitors’ visas to one day – which would preclude a trip to Jonestown – but Jones doesn’t know if they’ll be successful.
Against this backdrop, he blasts dissenters within the Jonestown community. The outsiders don’t have what they need to destroy Jonestown, but some people have the “audacity” to say they miss their relatives in the States.
If any Jonestown residents did return to the United States, Jones asks, what do they think they would find? He reverts to a familiar theme that blacks will soon be rounded up and put in concentration camps, but he has new information to back up the claim: a number of black elected officials, including their highest-placed friend, California Lt. Gov. Mervyn Dymally, were just defeated at the polls in the off-year elections. If such powerful men go down, “What the hell do you think they’re going to do with you? They’re going to grill you, twist your arm, make a stoolie out of you, and then when they finish with you, kill you.”
Jones describes the people who want to return to the U.S. as “fools,” “morons,” or – worst of all, judging from his tone of voice – “goddamn dreamers.”
But the underlying issue is why people even think about their relatives and want to see them. Their family members – “177 of them, [relatives of] practically every one of you here” – are the ones making the trouble, so the community should just “forget them all.”
The relatives include one of his own. He speaks of a daughter whom he spent thousands of dollars on over the years to save her life – an assertion he returns to throughout the tape – and “now she talks about killing me, her mother, and all of her brothers.” He says he doesn’t know her anymore, “nor would I hesitate one moment if she crosses this hill with a gun, to blow her brains apart like a piece of cabbage.”
But his daughter would not be the only one to die. He says that as many as 40 people may be coming, but “if they enter this property illegally, they will not leave it alive.”
There are also traitors within the community, and Jones calls one out. One unnamed black man – someone in a supervisory role who has worked with young people – has been on the floor before. This time, he has been accused of telling people about the paths out of Jonestown and about the location of the passports. “[I]f I place my judgment on you, man,” Jones says angrily, “you won’t be walking … you’ll be in a hospital bed.”
His anger continues to build through the balance of the 20 minutes that the tape runs. He makes another reference to having the ability to put someone in a hospital bed, then reminds the gathering of his abilities to cure cancer and raise the dead. “Why do you keep playing with that which men call God and we call socialism incarnate? I’m a liberator. I’m a savior… there is no space that I am not present. Now I fill all space, occupy all time… I have no beginning and I have no ending… I am that which they call God.”
Jones has noted a few moments earlier that he has lost 21 pounds in two weeks “because of you assholes,” but as he gives voice to his anger and frustration, the weight loss has changed. People may think he’s sick, he says, and that illness or fatigue may cause him to lose his power. “You people there’re out here sitting, worried I’m going to die, I’m very much alive,” he says. “I have no sickness in me. I am as able as I ever was, as young as I ever was, and as powerful, and I shall always remain the same.” And the weight loss was voluntary: “I wouldna lost the 21 pounds, if I hadn’t wanted to. So just settle your minds. You’re not killing me.”
As the tape nears the end, Jones is fully enraged, and the rage is directed at those who have followed him for years. “I’ll wipe out some of you just like that,” he says in a deliberate tone. “I will see you in the grave. Many of you.”
Date of transcription: 8/28/79
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 inJonestown, Guyana, South America, and was turned over to U.S. Officials in Guyana and subsequently transported to the United States.
On August 20, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B93-55. This tape was found to contain the following:
JIM JONES sermon on inhumanity to animals (horses).
JIM JONES states, “I have a daughter on board a plane arriving on Tuesday night, amongst GRACE (STOEN) who’s living with WALTER JONES, TIM STOEN, STEVEN KATSARIS, ANTHONY KATSARIS, JIM COBB, MICKEY TOUCHETTE, WAYNE PIETLA, the two sinister OLIVERS, BONNIE BURNHAM (phonetic), MIKE CARTMEL, SUSAN CARTMEL, DIANA MERTLE, MIKE and SUSAN don’t live together, SUSAN is nothing more than a common whore, MERT – MERTLE, TIM REITERMAN, who is a rightist fascist with the Examiner, DON HARRIS, another rightist with NBC, someone of the same ilk with the Chronicle, LEO RYAN…some coming in secretly … some at night … They will kill … destroy … How do I know? Because I have a very reliable person, inside, infiltrated, doing heavy work … This criminal RYAN… If they enter this property illegally, they will not leave it alive…”
“I’m a liberator, I’m a savior. And I’m also powerful … I am here, there, there is no space that I am not present. That I fill all space, occupy all time. You’ve forgotten who I am … I have no beginning and I have no ending … I am that which they call God.” (crowd applauds and agrees)
Differences with FBI Summary:
This summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted April 2004