Q590 Summary

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

To read the Tape Transcript, click here. Listen to MP3 (Side 1, Side 2).
To return to the Tape Index, click here.

FBI Catalogue: Tapes Not Summarized

FBI preliminary tape identification note: One Audio Magnetics 60/April 13 meeting

Date cues on tape: April 7, 1978 (birthday of Ethel Mathilda Belle)

People named:

Public figures/National and international names:
President Jimmy Carter
First Lady Rosalynn Carter
former President Dwight D. Eisenhower
former President Harry Truman
Rep. Charles Diggs (D-Michigan)
Sen. John Stennis (D-Mississippi)
Adolf Hitler
former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover
Nelson Rockefeller
Ruth Carter Stapleton, sister to Jimmy Carter (by reference)
Guyana Prime Minister Forbes Burnham
Cheddi Jagan, head of the Peoples Progressive Party
Fred Wills, former Guyana Minister of Foreign Affairs (by reference)
Sammy Davis, Jr., black entertainer
Walt Disney
Jane Fonda, actress
Jackie “Moms” Mabley, comedienne
Telly Savalas, actor
John Wayne, actor
Mae West, actress

Doctor Emery, Oregon doctor
Harold Rogers, whistleblower
“Congress Millerman, a New York Congressman”

Temple adversaries; members of Concerned Relatives:
Beverly Oliver

Temple members not on death or survivors’ lists:
Gary Young

Jonestown residents, full name unknown:
Martin (probably Martin Amos)
Rose (probably either Sharon or Shelton)

Jonestown residents:
Paula Adams
Ethel Mathilda Belle (speaks)
Chlotile Butler (speaks)
Patty Cartmell
James “Reb” Edwards
Judith Ijames
Lee Ingram (speaks)
Lew Jones (speaks)
Marceline Jones (speaks)
Stephan Jones
Ramona Lamotha
Alfred March (speaks)
James McElvane
Kay Nelson
Bruce Oliver
Shanda Oliver (speaks)
Andrea Yvette Walker (speaks)
Tony Walker

Bible verses cited: None


This Jonestown community meeting from the spring of 1978 includes many elements of gatherings from that period – discussions of the infamy of relatives, recitations of the news, and a political philosophy that seems shaped more by external events than by a consistent ideology – but there is much laughter and light-hearted play through most of the tape. Even when the conversation steers towards the serious, like the White Night the community finds itself in once again, the tone is conversational, almost routine, rather than fearful or threatening.

Taken as a whole, even the news is less serious than on most occasions. The people talk about entertainers like Sammy Davis, Jr. and Mae West, TV actors like Telly Savalas and the cast of M*A*S*H, and movie actors like John Wayne and Jane Fonda much more than they talk about U.S. imperialism or racism. Still, some of the community’s views on issues of the day emerge, even as it discusses celebrity news. One item, for example, is that John Wayne is dying following open heart surgery, and has called upon President Carter’s sister – evangelist Ruth Stapleton – so that he can convert in his final hours. “Jesus Christ is going to come out at the last minute, save him a spot maybe in heaven­­,” says one Temple member, to which Jones replies, “Said he had a feeling in the hospital room that Jesus entered his heart. The poor fuckin’ heart’s been just opened [to] let a little blood in. I don’t know how he got that big fart Jesus in there on top of that.”

It is not the only aspersion Jones casts on Jesus. Late in the tape, when a woman talks about the brightness from the satellites she sees during her nights on security, Jones follows up with a series of one-liners that evoke increasing laughter and applause. “It’s a first signal that Jesus is coming,” he says. “…And if he lands, he’ll have holes in his ass bigger than the one he’s got. And if we capture him, Reb will cook him.”

The people of Jonestown consider conspiracy, but it’s not the conspiracy against the community. Rather, as Jones says, it’s “the horrors of that TV business,” a subject that recurs several times in the hour-long tape. The evils of television include:

  • The depiction of anyone who goes up against the capitalist system ending in failure or defeat;
  • The use of TV to release pent-up revolutionary violence through its narcotizing effects;
  • The diversionary aspects of TV that keep people from thinking about their plight;
  • The isolation and alienation from the community fostered by television viewing;
  • The sensory numbing aspects of TV, so that people forget they’re hungry;
  • Its ability to help people convalesce more quickly, which saves insurance companies money; and
  • Perhaps, most ominously, cable television’s ability to monitor the activities of its subscribers.
  • For the most part, Jones listens quietly as different people tick off the problems created or exacerbated by TV, but he picks up on the final point. “TV on or off,” he says. “It will monitor you… You worry about a little watching we do, how’d you like being watched while you screw and watched while you blow your nose and watched while you wipe your ass or take your Tampax out, huh?”

    The conversation does steer towards more familiar ground during the discussion of TV, when one woman reports that the government would be able to turn on your set during a national emergency and give you instructions. And what would it tell you in a nuclear war, Jones asks rhetorically. “Hello, patron. The bomb is coming. You have 18 minutes to get ready to have your ass fried.” Only the rich will be able to escape that fate, Jones says, to get to the tunnels and the underground shelters constructed for them.

    The other subject in the news that returns for discussion several times concerns UFO’s, and how the alien spacecraft have eluded Air Force fighter planes. As with the television discussion, Jones allows the conversation to unwind before he weighs in with his views – again relating to nuclear weapons – that Earth’s arsenals would be futile against the sophisticated interplanetary craft.

    In the midst of the conversation, Jones spends some minutes relating a dream that he had about his people being on a high bridge and jumping off one by one. “I couldn’t stop this one, I’d try to catch that one, I’d try to catch this one, and I’d try to catch that one.” Some he was able to save, some were left paralyzed, but, as he notes, “I couldn’t control the situation… [T]here wasn’t an answer. There was no solution.”

    The success for him in the dream was that people were dying. Still, not everyone did. “[T]here was folk back up there couldn’t die, on the fucking bridge,” he says. He “couldn’t get everybody to jump off, ‘cause there … was no guarantee everybody was gone die.”

    Afterwards he asks people about the dreams they have, and tells them, if they dream about fucking, they should work on their socialism.

    The subject of dreams has come up in the context of how little sleep he gets, a few catnaps here and there. But he doesn’t want to go to sleep – especially with those dreams – and as long as the medical staff checks on him during his sleepless hours, he’ll be fine. But if they don’t check, or if he has to constantly remind them, “I’ll tell you, subconsciously, you reveal something.”

    The subject of death arises in contexts other than that of the dream. He is so tired, Jones says at one point, that “anything would be pleasant. Any form of death right now.” A few minutes later, as he urinates behind a sheet, he speculates how many times he’ll have to do that before he dies. And, he adds, if the idea of “hold[ing] that ugly thing,” as he describes his penis, or “empty[ing] your bowels” is miserable for them, “Then you’ll be ready for revolution.”

    The news turns more serious when Jones talks about their supporters in Congress who are running into political trouble and allegations of scandal. One Congressman has been charged with molesting boys, something Jones knows can’t be true. “He could pay and have boys come to him,” he says.

    Towards the end of the tape, Jones eats a piece of chicken. It is something he is uncomfortable doing – perhaps because, as many accounts claim, the people of Jonestown weren’t eating much meat then – but Jones says he needs the protein to help with his blood sugar problem. He adds that he hasn’t eaten in quite a while, that the chicken is “age-old,” that it’s cold, and that as a result, “I can assure you, I’m not enjoying it.” He also expresses resentment that he has to defend his eating chicken. “[You] have to explain everything you do. Everything you do, you gotta explain. I’m so tired of it, I don’t know what to do.”

    Jones is most animated when he talks about news out of Guyana. The country’s two main political figures – Prime Minister Forbes Burnham and opposition leader Cheddi Jagan – have talked about forming a coalition government, but the Soviets have told Jones, he would be ill-advised to meet with Jagan right now. The Temple leader seems both deferential and uncertain in his concern over Soviet perceptions. The superpower respects their community – “we were real, we were genuine revolutionaries like they were in the days of their revolution” – but the USSR has to be careful, because the reality is, one misstep can lead to nuclear war. Jonestown doesn’t have to worry about such political implications. “They told us … don’t make these statements about the USA. Well, shit. Fuck that… I don’t think have to make the same kind of compromises.” When someone else expands upon that underlying consideration and asks whether they might become “pawns” for the Soviet Union, to be used against the U.S., though, Jones downplays the concern.

    Still, another woman asks how the Soviets would respond if Peoples Temple conducted its White Night drills while after migrating. The people of Jonestown have made demands of the government of Guyana, and achieved them through the use of White Nights, she says, but how would the Soviets respond if they resorted to similar tactics in the USSR? The tape ends before Jones can answer the question.

    FBI Summary:

    Date of transcription: 3/9/79

    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 March 7, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B47 31.

    This tape was reviewed, and nothing was contained thereon which was considered to be of evidentiary nature or beneficial to the investigation of Congressman RYAN.

    Differences with FBI Summary:

    There is nothing to compare between the two summaries, since the FBI did not write anything for this, or 64 other tapes which bear the notation “Tapes Not Summarized.” These tapes seems to have little on them which the FBI could use for its purposes of investigating crimes arising from the Jonestown tragedy, but then again, that describes many other tapes as well. The difference seems to be that one or two FBI agents catalogued this set of tapes – as evidenced by the typewriter used in writing the reports – and that generally, the transcriptions were made early in the process, before someone may have asked for greater detail in the reports.

    Tape originally posted May 2004