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 “10/13/78 10/14/78”
Date cues on tape: Before, during and after October 16, 1978 (specific)
W.E. B. duBois
Steve Biko, South African activist
Victor Jara, Chilean poet and composer
John F. Kennedy, former president
Lyndon B. Johnson, former president
David Frost, British TV talk host and interviewer
Victor Lasky, Nixon hagiographer
John Dean, counsel in Nixon White House
Charles Colson, counsel in Nixon White House
George McGovern, Democratic Party presidential candidate in 1972
Alger Hiss, convicted Soviet spy and Nixon antagonist
E. Howard Hunt, convicted Watergate burglar
Don Freed, scriptwriter and author
Mark Lane, Temple attorney
Joe Mazor, detective who seemingly defected to Temple’s viewpoint (by reference)
Marilyn Kircher (phonetic), Jones’ childhood girlfriend
Commander Price, (first name unknown), Guyana Defense Force head
Temple adversaries; members of Concerned Relatives:
Deanna Mertle, aka Jeannie Mills
Elmer Merle, aka Al Mills (by reference)
Evelyn (most likely Evelyn Marie Eichler)
Ricky Johnson (by reference)
Karen Tow Layton
Bible verses cited:
“[I]t’s quite obvious that I have gone through the valley of the shadow, and returned. And I’ve been through the valley of the
shadow of death so many times in nearly a half century, that you wouldn’t even dream.” (Psalms 23:4, “Yea, though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”)
This tape consists of a series of messages that Jim Jones – and one unidentified male in one segment – gives to the Jonestown community during a series of perceived crises that rocked the Jonestown community in mid-October 1978. Whether Jones addresses the issues of low productivity, people contemplating suicides, runaways, or emigration to the Soviet Union – and whether Jones discusses these matters in conversational, deliberative or excited tones – it is apparent that the calm and steady experiment in socialism has spiraled out of his control, at least for the duration of this tape. Some of the reprimands along the way are out of context (who ran away? what precipitated his demand to stay away from his cabin? what is going on that he feels compelled to order people to smile?), but the overall sense is of a man trying to treat a deep gash with a single Band-Aid.
The first segment begins with a discussion of the troubles in neighboring Venezuela, but Jones reassures his followers, if things get out of hand, they can escape to the Soviet Union. “They’ll take us.” Jones then speaks about the community’s enemies, and reports what Joe Mazor – a detective who was hired by the Concerned Relatives but who defected to the Temple’s side when he saw the determination and love in the people’s faces – says about their enemies, such as Tim and Grace Stoen, Deanna and Elmer Mertle, and other members of “the conspiracy.”
But much of the first segment is an address to people who are discouraged. Jones tells them to take it easy, to let security “rove constantly” without interference, and if anyone is entertaining thoughts of suicide, to “please give your name in the radio room, because it’s a grave and dangerous thing that you’re doing to yourself.” While he wishes he could help them out of this life, he says it’s important to find a way past their depression. He recommends mood elevators and other medication (in a later segment, he speaks of tranquilizers). He recommends that people write him notes – messages in the suggestion box or personal notes for his eyes only – so he can counsel them. Whatever it takes, he says, he wants to “stop good socialists from laying down their lives.”
He makes his strong argument against suicide, for several reasons: they dissipate the energy that could be directed towards their enemies; the same energy drain affects his ability to perform miracles; they will set back their souls 500 generations (a reference he repeats in a later segment); but most of all, he asks the residents of Jonestown to imagine how their enemies would laugh. “Would you want to give them the satisfaction that you’d taken your own life? Let them smear in the press that you hated socialism, that you didn’t believe in equality and justice? Would you want that written? That’s the way they’d write your epitaph. Not that you were a hero, but that you did not like brotherhood socialism, and you preferred capitalism.” He returns to it again and again, not only in this segment, but throughout the tape: “Don’t be so silly as to lay your life down, to give the fascists a laugh, and the newspapers a headline. That is silly, and it is a waste of your whole potential.” He says the same for himself: “I never wanted to give the enemy, capitalism, racist pigs like Ku Klux Klan white bullying cops– I don’t want to give them the satisfaction of killing myself.”
Jones diverts into a melancholy aside about his own life, a heartache involving his “only girlfriend” that he says shaped the rest of his life. “[O]ne thing that I learned from that experience, that people only use you, until they become communist. And I’m glad for that experience … It made me trustworthy. Never again to fall for anyone, to only be in love with you as a family, and communism above all.”
In the second segment, Jones laments that a girl didn’t listen to what he had said the previous night about suicide and had tried to do something. She is now on a medication that makes her “more tranquil.” What’s worse, her betrayal of the cause stemmed from a problem in a “personal romance.” Once she gets better and proves herself responsible, Jones says, “we will not interfere with your sick love affairs.”
Jones reminds his listeners that they have done what Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. duBois and previous Back-to-Africa movements only dreamed of doing, “a group of people leaving America and shaking the dust of capitalism off their feet.” As he exhorts them to come out of a seemingly community-wide depression, he tells them to remember the black heroes who have died or were unjustly imprisoned, to remember the starving babies of the world. Their ultimate goal, he says, is to live as they do in the USSR (or, alternatively, to live in the USSR itself), because “[i]f we help the Soviets, if we help socialism, we can change all of that … [and] defeat capitalism.”
Things have become much more tense by the third segment, and Jones is much more personally combative. Some unidentified person(s) ran away, and Jones says he’s calling in the police and the military, because he’s “not going to fool with this.” In his agitation, he talks about the Guyana jails, which “are not as nice as ours” and where “they mean business.”
He reverts to a more familiar theme of miracles cures which he has performed in recent days, and the safety the people of Jonestown have from snakes and wild animals of the surrounding jungle. But the runaways are what loom most in his mind, especially what they represent for the “loss of production” in the fields.
The fourth segment is short and direct: People need to stay away from his cabin, or “[y]ou might find yourself in a lot of trouble that’s meant only for mercenaries.” The usual sign-off of sending love to his followers is missing. Instead, he warns of “trou-ble, trou-ble.”
The fifth segment opens with a male reporting in a calm voice about the miracles Jones has performed, adding a testimony of a miracle he himself witnessed a week earlier. Echoing a sentiment Jones had expressed earlier in the tape, the unidentified male says, “I said all this to point out that things just don’t happen, they happen just. And we really have to remember who and what Dad stands for.” Jones then signs on to report two more miracles and to warn people to watch out for the “full moon.”
Jones begins the sixth message with a demand that people smile at each other, encourage each other, give folks “a friendly greeting and a pat on the shoulder occasionally.” He also warns the women who go to Georgetown not to be fooled when men approach them on the street. You may think you’re attractive to them, Jones says, but the truth is, they’re looking to marry you so they can emigrate to the US through an American wife. “That’s the only reason any Guyanese would have interest in you.”
Jones is calmer in the seventh message, as he outlines alternatives for the future of Jonestown residents. They can go to the USSR, even if they don’t know the language. There may even be some ambiguously-defined scholarships to allow them to attend Soviet universities. Jones also offers the Jonestown settlement as a place people can stay here “forever” after the rest of the community migrates to the Soviet Union, although he adds his opinion that separating oneself from Jones and his miracles would be “foolhardy.” He even suggests that people could return to the US, if they chose, although he can’t understand that either. “There’s no problem about that. If you really want to live in Babylon, and face a nuclear hell, [and] concentration camps … that’ll be your privilege and your prerogative.”
In the eighth segment, Jones takes pains to reassure the people about his health. He admits his maladies, but says he is recovering. “I want to tell you, those that worry the most about my health, I will long outlive you.” He adds that he wouldn’t have brought them to this place in order to leave them.
The last segment is a reading of the news, and may represent the end of an earlier tape over which the series of bulletins and announcements was made. After a few notes about an Austrian reporter kicked out of the Soviet Union and a Greek oil tanker than ran aground off the Irish coast, Jones reads a long analysis about the rehabilitation of Richard Nixon, as evidenced by publication of his memoirs, favorable news articles and invitations to speaking engagements. We should welcome this, Jones reads. “Keep Nixon under wraps? Hell, no. We should be demanding that the genie be let out of the bottle, so people can really see how wicked the system of USA imperialism is.”
The sign-off indicates that the news segment wasn’t far removed from the rest of the tape, though. He urges more and greater production, asking people to do “in eight hours what you did in ten.” They need to make their goals, he says, “so we can get our people out of the state of horror that they’re in.”
Date of transcription: 6/14/79
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 June 4, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B93-115. This tape was found to contain the following:
JIM JONES reading announcements, makes the comment, “STOEN, the MYRTLE’s and FOREMAN [Liz Forman] murdered CHRIS LEWIS.” JONES later talks of suicide and states, “If you have feelings of suicide, we will help you with a tranquilizer … Don’t give the fascist‑capitalists a laugh … Don’t give the enemy satisfaction.”
Later JONES states “… If we find someone has run away, we’ll call the Guyana Defence Force and they’ll give you 30 to 40 lashes.
Thereafter follows announcements concerning medical “miracles” performed by JONES and immigration to the Soviet Union as well as the daily news.
Differences with FBI Summary:
While this summary meets the FBI’s needs, there is one statement which seems misleading.
The cause of the deaths in Jonestown was a mixture of potassium cyanide and tranquilizers, the latter to help the body relax as the poison took effect. The sentence, “If you have feelings of suicide, we will help you with a tranquilizer …” could be interpreted to mean that Jones was encouraging suicides even before November 18, 1978.
This is not the case, at least in this tape. To the contrary, this tape includes several messages imploring people not to despair, not to surrender hope. If they feel like committing suicide, he says, we can help you get past those feelings through the use of tranquilizers. You may feel doped for a few days, and shouldn’t operate heavy machinery, but people should do whatever they can to get past their suicidal thoughts.
Tape originally posted April 2002