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 Identified Individuals Speaking
FBI preliminary tape identification note: One Ampex 60 In paper marke[d] Gary Lambrev (suicide)
Date cues on tape: (According to Garry Lambrev, the conversation likely took place in March or April 1974)
Garry Lambrev (speaks)
Karen Layton (speaks)
Bible verses cited: None
(Note: Garry Lambrev’s discussion of this tape appears here.)
Garry Lambrev, a once and future member of Peoples Temple, is in a deep personal crisis, severe enough that he talks several times about suicide during a conversation with a Temple member. Karen Layton, who has called him to talk him through his distress, seemingly prevails – near the close of the conversation, Lambrev speaks about trying to get away from work so he can take a weekend trip with the Temple – but given the things she has said during the call, her success seems completely incidental.
Lambrev was a longtime member of the church, the first Californian to join after the Temple’s migration to Redwood Valley from Indiana. He had also left several times, only to rejoin again. The tape gives conflicting evidence of his status at the time of the call: he agrees with Layton’s glowing descriptions of Jim Jones, and yet he talks in the present tense about being on the outside. At the time of this call – which Lambrev dates to the spring of 1974 – Karen Layton “had been one of my ‘minders’ … and Jim held her partly responsible for my hurried departure on the previous occasion.”
Nevertheless, her handling of a potential suicide is naïve at best, her response blinded by her loyalty to the Temple. She says some soothing things – Garry is so talented, he has so much to offer, everyone needs him – but they are buried under the Temple’s party line.
When Garry talks about the pain he’s going through, Karen compares it to the “agony and misery” that Jim Jones goes through every day, and finds Garry’s troubles lacking in comparison. Once Garry understands that, she continues, he’ll get over his “emotional indulgences,” a term, she quickly assures him, is not judgmental.
But there are aspects of his potential suicide which are worth exploring. If he is truly suicidal, she suggests, he should wait and do it for the cause. “If we can just hold on for a few more years, you know, and then everybody graduates. You know about that. Just graduate and get out of this goddamn mess.”
Committing suicide at the current time might bring repercussions he needs to remember from what Jim has told them. He would “regress all that way back and start it all over again.” In addition, when he came back, he wouldn’t have Jones around to guide him. The final disadvantage would be that he would be back after the nuclear war.
And even all this is secondary to her most immediate concern, the question she asks him first: “But the church has nothing to do with your feeling suicidal, though, does it?”
The tape reveals how early the concept of mass suicide – which Jones described as revolutionary suicide – was part of the normal conversation, and how it was used to exploit and shame members facing genuine emotional issues. A single suicide was considered cowardly and wasteful, but the graduation of everyone together would allow them all to “get out of this goddamn mess.” With these considerations already part of the discussion, familiar to all parties, in early 1974 – four and a half years before the mass deaths – it seems the conversations on the subject became nothing more than just part of the background noise.
Date of transcription: 6/8/79
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 5, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered Q 608 1B47 #50. This tape was found to contain the following:
Side A has a telephonic interview of a person named GARY by a female named KAREN. GARY is contemplating suicide and KAREN is attempting to help him and win him to People’s Temple. Side B is blank.
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted May 2013