Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
FBI Catalogue: Tapes Not Summarized
FBI preliminary tape identification note: One Tracs 90/Service tape April 8
Reynolds (elderly female member in States)
Public figures/National and international names:
Jimmy Carter, U.S. President
California Governor Jerry Brown
Josef Stalin, former Soviet dictator
Leon Trotsky, Communist activist murdered by Stalin
Lambasa/Labasa, “prime minister of Nigeria”
Patrice Lumumba, assassinated Prime Minister of Zaire
Robert Mugabe, leader of Zimbabwean Patriotic Front in Rhodesia
Joshua Nkomo, leader of Zimbabwean Patriotic Front in Rhodesia
Zaire Prime Minister Mobutu Sese Seko
Eldrige Cleaver, Black Panther leader
Wallace Deen Muhammad, leader of Nation of Islam
Madalyn Murray O’Hair, American atheist
Lynn Compton, judge in California
Robert Richardson, judge in Hawaii
Archie Simonson, judge in Wisconsin
Cheddi Jagan, leader of Guyana’s People’s Progressive Party
Walter Rodney, Guyana political activist
Will Battle, San Francisco official
Amos Brown, pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco
Thad Brown, black San Francisco tax collector
Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle columnist
Yvonne Golden, black educator in San Francisco
Carlton Goodlett, San Francisco physician, newspaper publisher
Richard Hongisto, Sheriff of San Francisco
John Maher, co-founder of Delancey Street Foundation
William Usary, San Francisco city official
Rodney Williams, candidate for sheriff of San Francisco
Carol Young Jones
Jonestown residents, full name unknown:
Carol (numerous in Jonestown)
Chris (numerous in Jonestown)
“Comrade Christian” (either Vernetta Carolyn Christian or Robert Louis Christian)
Darren (likely Werner, could be Daren Janaro)
Joe (numerous in Jonestown)
J. Jones (numerous in Jonestown)
John “Senior” (either Johnny Moss Brown aka Johnny Jones, or John Victor Stoen)
Kay (likely Kay Nelson)
Ronnie (numerous in Jonestown)
Martin Amos (speaks)
Jack Beam (Speaks)
Terry Carter, aka Terry Carter Jones
Mary Ann Casanova
Sandra Yvette Cobb, aka Sandy Jones
E.L. [Eddie Lee] Dennis
Miguel De Pina
James Edwards (“Reb”)
Jann Gurvich (speaks)
Lee Ingram (speaks)
Ava Phenice Jones, aka Ava Cobb, Ava Brown
Chaeok Warren Jones
Forrest Ray Jones
Johnny Jones, aka Johnny Moss Brown, Jr.
Marchelle Jacole Jones, by reference
Monyelle Maylene Jones, by reference
Timothy Borl Jones
Timothy Glenn Tupper Jones
Valerie Yvette Jones
L. V. McKinnis
Henry Mercer (Speaks)
Robert Rankin (speaks)
Harriet Sarah Tropp
Richard Tropp (speaks)
Bible verses cited: None
(Note: This tape was transcribed by Jeff Brailey. The editors gratefully acknowledge his invaluable assistance.)
This tape is of a nighttime meeting in Jonestown, on March 8, 1978 (the date that the Guyana government accredited the Jonestown school, according to Raven, by Tim Reiterman and John Jacobs, p. 417). Many of the aspects are typical of such meetings – people report on the news they’ve heard through Jones, Jones offers corrections and a pro-Soviet editorial spin, Jones complains about the complaints he hears, and people remind each other how miserable conditions were and are in the US – but there are singular events as well. Jones is in high spirits for much of the evening, and some of his oratory is reminiscent of that in the Temple’s days in California. So is some of the subject matter. The points he makes about religion are familiar to Temple members – the only heaven there is to be found is on earth, the only people making money out of religion are the preachers who drive Cadillacs and whose wives host tea parties, the only God they’ll know is the one standing before them – but it is rare that Jones speaks like this in Jonestown.
The tape begins with Jones in a reflective mood. He speaks of the benefits of cooperation which he would like to see in Jonestown, the spirit that gives life meaning and makes them happy. Nevertheless, he is pleased with the progress of the farm and the bonds between the people. “In spite of all the problems we have, it’s utterly fantastic to watch what socialism can do. And if you’d be more cooperative yourself, we’d live in a near perfect society – yes we would – a near perfect society.”
His pride extends to the Jonestown school, which has just been recognized by Guyana’s government as a “legal school.” That is important for a number of reasons, he says: it demonstrates what self-government can do; it represents progress – and the government’s recognition of that progress – for their community; and it belies what Jonestown’s critics have said about the place. Most important, by showing their “self-sufficiency,” it allows them to maintain their “isolation” from the area’s existing communities, something which Jones believes is positive, because it allows them to strengthen their internal security and keep their people close by. It was a hard-fought struggle, though, Jones notes. The government wanted the children of Jonestown to attend a school in Port Kaituma, but “I refused to [allow that] and we had a White Night over it. You remember, we had a hell of a White Night.”
Jones sees good news in the shifting relationship between Guyana and the U.S. Official American attitudes have changed, allowing it to embrace the opposition political party headed by Cheddi Jagan. And if Jagan ever came to power, he said, the people of Jonestown would have “much less difficulty than we now have” with the government.
Jones’ optimism extends to the people before him. Several young students from the Jonestown school come forward and ask pointed question about the need for money in a socialist society, about the reasons that an oil-rich nation like Nigeria could have a weak economy, about Josef Stalin’s animosity towards Leon Trotsky during the 1930’s, and even about President Carter’s possible change of heart in proceeding with the neutron bomb. Jones compliments the young ones asking the questions, and tells the teachers to continue to offer challenges to their students, even as their students confront them in class with these questions.
Some of the questions remind Jones that the community is still too dependent upon U.S.-generated textbooks and reference materials. They need more Soviet books, he says, “so these kids can get some history that’s not filled with the poison pen of capitalism, tryin’ to make everything look that there’s no principles in anybody and everybody is a capitalist at heart, lookin’ after power.” They need to take up the Soviet’s offer to give them films. They need to counter American news sources, which are biased in their slant against socialism.
The questions also stir Jones to offer some of his own familiar rhetoric. He spend several minutes talking about the difficulties that women in the U.S. face in filing rape charges against their attackers. He returns several times to the strength and peaceful humanitarianism of communist countries around the world, and the valiant efforts of international liberation struggles. And several times, he brings up news items on nuclear weapons, and his prediction of their use – “I think that you’ll see a nuclear war come out of that situation” – is casual and offhand, in keeping with statements in other tapes that nuclear conflagration is inevitable.
The conditions around the world and even back in San Francisco should show Jonestown residents how lucky they are to be where they are. Some of the people who criticized Jim Jones during his San Francisco years now long for their return, he says, because there’s no one left to defend the city in its slide towards police brutality and official corruption. He doesn’t mind the tensions back there. The more the city, the US and the world has difficulties, the more trouble they’re in. As for him, “I’m glad they’re in trouble. And the more they’re in trouble, the more I can get our people out of there, while they’re fightin’ over other issues.”
Jones eventually shifts the conversation to contrast the “spiritual motherland” of Russia with the “bullshit” spirituality of the Christian religion. Back in San Francisco, he says, “in those days, you’re talkin’ about some heaven nobody ever ever saw. But Africa’s real! Russia’s real! Guyana’s real! … We know it’s real, we’re settin’ in it.”
Noting some of the complaints he’s heard about Jonestown, he claims that the people would like him better if he paraded around like some of the other preachers they’ve known, taking their money and living well. He has sacrificed his life for them, he reminds them, but he has also sacrificed his chances to “pocket” the money that came to the church and make himself rich.
For that reason, he has little patience when people talk about the “knickknacks” they had to leave behind in San Francisco. They traded their knickknacks for protection when they came to Guyana, he says. Speaking about a resident who lamented giving up her grandmother’s clock, he said that he told her, “you probably woulda given it up by now, because some sonovabitch woulda broke in your house, set it afire, burned your ass alive or mugged you in the street, and you wouldna got to enjoy [it].” Besides, he points out, “You give [your knickknacks ] up when you die! Or when … you get burned up, Honey, your grandma’s watch’ll go with you… Ain’t never seen nobody take their grandma’s watch to the graveyard.” A moment later, he mentions another woman by name: “Lela Murphy complained about what she gave up back there, and I remember Lela Murphy gettin’ mugged three times in San Francisco.”
And the promise of safety in Jonestown is not just conjecture on his part, Jones adds. “[Y]ou’da been dead if you’da stayed there… [E]leven people have had accidents and been killed in the church because they didn’t come here.” He does not identify the eleven.
But much of his righteous anger is aimed at religion, and the reason is that “it bothers [me] some of you folk out there still got a little religion, … [that] some of these old religious kooks out there … still worship Jesus and mumble about the Bible. They won’t go up there and find out where Africa is, but they wonder where heaven is.”
He returns to the subject late in the conversation, and talks about a time that he pulled a prank on a religious convention, by preaching nonsense and laughing as the “Amens” rolled in, just because he was in high form. “They didn’t listen to a thing I was sayin’. I was just shoutin’ out anything, I just shout out all kinds of nonsense. And they got us into emotionalism, religion, emotionalism, jumpin’ up and down, you get into this music, you don’t get the seriousness of it and the communist purpose behind it, you get into the same thing… [I]t’s easy to get caught up in emotionalism and get diverted from your goal.”
Finally, a few minutes later, he returns to the subject one more time, in language familiar to those who heard him in San Francisco. Speaking of the slave trade – and by extension, the slave traders who used the Bible to subjugate them – he says, “Fifteen million of our people taken from there, and before they got to United States, 12 million of us died in boats! Packed in like mackerel … I’m not talkin’ about no Jesus comin’, I’m gonna do Jesus’ work. … [Y]ou’re still standing saying, ‘Coming soon, Sweet Jesus.’ And he’s left you two thousand years. That’s a long time to be a deserter… It’s two thousand years since the sonavabich was last seen. And you lookin’ for him. I don’t look for nothin’ gone two thousand years.”
The tape is one of the few in which Jones talks about the nuts and bolts of conditions in Jonestown. When he talks about the sacrifices he’s made, and the thanks that he doesn’t get for his work, he mentions the fried chicken they recently had for dinner, and how much it cost the community to put on that meal. In a later conversation about monetary systems, he tells a woman that she doesn’t need money in Jonestown: “When you go to the meal, you get the same meal. You can get as much – I see your plate’s heapin’ with the meat, the pork, the gravy and the rice tonight. Heapin’ up. Nobody had to pay for it.”
Jones is in a feisty mood for much of the tape, which is also rare. He mimics his children – at one point affecting an Asian accent in talking about his adopted children from Korea – he laughs at antics which were purely visual and therefore unknown, and he works the crowd as a stand-up comedian might, with a humor that only the people of Jonestown would understand. “What next?” he says over the laughter of the crowd. “Everybody behaving yourself? … How many will speak in tongues to get off the Learning Crew?” Even when he is forced to pass on disciplinary issues, the rage that often clogs his tone is missing almost completely in this tape.
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 38.
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 January 2006