Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
FBI Catalogue: Identified Individuals Speaking
FBI preliminary tape identification note: One Audio Magnetics 60/April 13 meeting
Date cues on tape: 13 April 1978 (notation on tape box confirmed in context)
Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin
Sun Myung Moon, head of Unification Church
Pat Boone, singer
Russell Chandler, Los Angeles Times religion editor
San Francisco chief of police Charles Gain
Phil Tracy, writer for New West
Temple adversaries; members of Concerned Relatives:
Linda Dunn, aka Linda Swaney
Elmer and Deanna Mertle, aka Al and Jeannie Mills
Bonnie Lyman, or Julie Lyman
“Greg Watkins’ mother”
Jonestown residents, full name unknown:
Anthony (several in Jonestown)
Bob (numerous Roberts in Jonestown) (speaks)
Carolyn (several in Jonestown)
Charlotte (probably Charlotte King)
Christine (several in Jonestown) (speaks)
Clara (probably Clara Johnson) (speaks)
Claire (could be Claire Janaro)
Carol (several in Jonestown)
Esther (probably Esther Mueller)
Jewel (probably Jewel Wilson)
Joan (probably Joan Pursley)
Leona (probably Leona Collier)
Luby (probably Luberta Arnold)
May/Mae (numerous in Jonestown)
Ollie (could be Oliver Marie Smith)
Rose (probably Rose Shelton)
Rosie (probably Rosie Burgines)
Ruby (several in Jonestown)
Temple members, Jonestown residents:
Eugene Chaikin (speaks)
Emmett Alexander Griffith, Sr.
Earnest Jones (speaks)
Jessie Weana Jones (speaks)
Marceline Jones (speaks)
Kay Nelson (speaks)
John Victor Stoen
Bernice Thomas (speaks)
Bible verses cited: None
This tape of a Jonestown meeting from April 1978 begins with a wide diversity of subjects under discussion, including the advantages and disadvantages of emigrating to the Soviet Union; the placement of a few miscreants on the Jonestown Learning Crew; a review of the news by Jonestown residents; even a little playful banter between Jim and Marceline Jones. Early in the meeting, and then for the balance of the hour, the community focuses on the breaking news that Temple antagonists Tim Stoen and the Mertles are organizing through the use of the press and the courts to force the return of relatives to the United States. In making the announcement, Jim refers to the meeting that their opponents are calling as being “for Concerned Relatives,” and his tone of voice suggests this may be the first time he has used those words, although Jonestown would become quite familiar with the group before much longer.
The conversation about “going to Russia” considers some of the issues they have discussed before: would the Soviet Union allow Jones to function as their leader; how would it respond to its use of White Nights; and how would they fit in with the new soci ety.
Jones interrupts a child who is being tested on his knowledge of the news to report that their enemies back in the States will be holding press conferences as part of a larger campaign to get court orders on custody and conservatorships for Jonestown residents. People volunteer to return to the States to take care of the enemies – a subject that comes up with greater detail towards the end of the tape – but Jones initially dismisses the offers as being too late to thwart these particular organizing efforts. Temple members in San Francisco and Los Angeles need to get to the press before the Concerned Relatives group does, Jones says. They also need to counter the calls that former members and defectors are making to current members who have not left for Guyana yet.
One former member in particular – Grace Stoen – seems to be making a great impression on the local media, being interviewed on radio call-in programs, and appearing on TV alongside Phil Tracy, co-author of the critical article in New West Magazine that precipitated the mass exodus to Guyana. Jones asks if Grace volunteers the information – or if anyone confronts her during the call-in portions of the programs – that she had sex with Jones on multiple occasions and had a baby by him.
Indeed, not only does the stateside Temple leadership seem to be unable to stop these programs, or even to organize protests before they occur, there seems to be no mechanism for getting to news to Guyana that these programs are being aired. Worse, no one seems to be able to block the calls which the Concerned Relatives are making to current members, inviting them to watch the shows. Why aren’t current members reporting these unwelcome contacts, Jones asks? We are, several people say, but nothing comes from it, so, as one woman says, “it don’t do no good to report it.”
Jones complains that his antagonists seem to be better organized than they are. One woman points out that the Temple’s inaction puts all of them at risk, and that the effect is, “we sometimes are part of a conspiracy without knowing it.” Jones agrees: “It shows we’re no match for our enemy, and if we die, we will have ourselves to blame.”
Jones takes some solace from the fact that the Los Angeles Times has not picked up the scent of the story yet. The paper has a wire service, he says, so its news would go out across the country. He also says he know why the paper has been reluctant to print anything. The Temple nabbed a spy who turned out to have connections to both the Times and a right-wing group, and Jones threatened to expose the man – and sue the newspaper – if it printed any “lies” about them.
Still, there has been bad publicity about the Temple on LA broadcast media, and what is even more disturbing to Jones is that it seems to be originating from people who defected from the Redwood Valley days. “Los Angeles ain’t interested in what’s going on in Redwood Valley, unless,” Jones adds, “there’s money and a conspiracy and organizing behind it… It’s pumped in, planned, orchestrated and symphonized.”
Jones’ reactions run a wide range, from bewilderment that this could have happened without his knowledge or influence, to concern, to periodic expressions of anger. But he is also defiant. “One goddamn good thing here,” he says midway through the tape. “What the fuck can they do? We all ready. We all ready to die. What the fuck can they do? The son of a bitches, fuck them.”
The community also considers other methods of defense. One man suggests monitoring traffic in and out of Temple buildings by placing “a worker at the front door, presumably painting something or repairing something to make it look that there wasn’t an actual guard.” Although he initially endorses the idea, Jones then wonders if it wouldn’t backfire with the discovery of the workers’ true identities, that it might result in more bad news.
Jonestown residents consider how they should handle approaches by the media, but that unleashes horror stories of their treatment in the press. One woman says that one Temple member tried to refuse an interview by slamming a door in a reporter’s face, and when the reporter turned to her instead, “I told her I didn’t have no comment … and don’t be asking me no questions and stuff. And then she took all that stuff and she put it on the news, talking about … how hostile we was.”
They also talk about the stories that the press is covering – that Jones has referred to himself as a prophet, that the Temple engages in beatings and corporal punishment to enforce discipline – but the one that bothers the Jonestown community the most are the reports that Jones faked his healings, that the cancers coughed up into his hand were chicken guts. The subject returns more than once, and it seems to genuinely trouble the community. When these people make these accusations, one man wonders aloud, why don’t they report what they saw with their own eyes, the miracles that Jones performed. Or if things were so bad, he points out, why did they stay so long? And why didn’t they report the chicken guts before now?
But most of the voices that come through at this point are from the people who volunteer to go back to the States to take care of their enemies. They talk about who they’ll kill, and how they’ll kill them.
Jones initially scoffs at the small numbers of people who offer to solve their problems in this manner, and the seeming incompetence of those who have volunteered. “What do I do, Father, after I’ve done it?” he says in mimicry. “Always wanting Father to tell you what to do after you done it.” He also questions their commitment to see the job through. “They love [Father] as long as he don’t ask them to suffer anything.” But he wouldn’t have that problem, he adds. “If I was a follower, I know what the fuck I’d do, but I have to be cursed to be the leader.”
He also points to the example of John Victor Stoen, the young boy who is the subject of the custody suit that Tim and Grace Stoen have filed against Jones, the young boy that Jones claimed to have fathered. At first, Jones expresses regret that he didn’t press his idea to have the boy adopted when he had the chance. But then he expresses his admiration for the boy who offered to save the community by surrendering himself. “[John] says … it’s all over me, isn’t it, Dad? Well, why don’t you just let them have me? That’s sensitive, that’s growth, that’s tremendous, that’s character.” They’ll never do that, Jones adds, but if a five-year-old can offer himself as sacrifice, then why can’t some of the older people.
His anger and sarcasm seems to soften, though, as he indirectly encourages the action. “Five organized seniors could take care of this shit, and then go over and say bye-bye and get reincarnated on a higher plane,” he says, and then reiterates the point: “Five well-organized, good socialists that knew what the hell was going on could take care of this shit.”
One unidentified elderly woman takes up the gauntlet that Jones has thrown down. She vows to choke Tim Stoen to death for the trouble he’s caused to the movement, then says, “You don’t have to tell me what I wouldn’t do, I know I would. I would have that much strength, and honey, my days are numbered anyway. I don’t mind dying. You understand?”
But the tone has been set: the enemies in the States have the organization, and they have the press behind them. They may not have the court orders yet – “they didn’t want to perjure themselves” – but for the moment, they don’t need that. “They couldn’t even tell the truth and abuse it and twist it,” Jones says as the tape ends. “They didn’t know how to do that and be decent.”
Date of transcription: 3/13/79
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 March 13 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B47, 32. This tape was found to contain the following:
A female named BERNICE stated she wanted to return to the United States and kill TIM STOEN.
Another female claiming to be dying of heart trouble requests of JONES to send her back and she will “take care of” LIZ. This female states, “I’ll kill her ass”, and that she would “choke TIM to death”.
Review of this tape did not indicate any references to Congressman RYAN’s trip to Guyana.
Differences with FBI Summary:
While the FBI summary is accurate as far as it goes, it is also highly selective, summarizing only two minutes of tape of a wide-ranging – and in other places, just as provocative – conversation of the Jonestown community.
Note: This tape was transcribed by Michael Bellefountaine. The editors gratefully acknowledge his invaluable assistance.
Tape originally posted April 2004