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: One ConcerTape C-120/ Service April 2 
Date cues on tape: Tape content consistent with tape indentification note
U.S. President Jimmy Carter
U.S. Senator John Stennis (D-Mississippi)
Unita Blackwell Wright, mayor of Mayersville, Mississippi (by reference)
John Burke, U.S. ambassador to Guyana (by reference)
Guyana Minister of Foreign Affairs (by reference) (either Fred Wills, former Foreign Minister, or Rashleigh E. Jackson)
Fidel Castro, Cuban leader
Ian Smith, Prime Minister of Rhodesia (by reference)
Elaine Brown, member of Black Panthers, in exile during Jonestown
Victor Jara, Chilean poet and singer
Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin
Jackie “Moms” Mabley, comedienne
Margaret Mead, anthropologist
Paul Robeson, American black actor, musician, activist
Temple adversaries; members of Concerned Relatives:
Deanna Mertle, aka Jeannie Mills
Elmer Mertle, aka Al Mills
Temple members not in Jonestown:
Temple members not on death or survivors’ lists:
Jonestown residents, full name unknown:
Annie (several in Jonestown) (speaks)
Bobby (probably Stroud)
Chris (numerous in Jonestown)
Helen (several in Jonestown)
Hicks child (either Anthony Allan or Romaldo Benjamin Hicks)
Larry (several in Jonestown, could be Layton)
Rose (like Sharon or Shelton)
Sean/Shawn (several in Jonestown, none old enough for context)
Tom (likely Tom Grubbs)
“Teacher Turner” (several adult Turners in Jonestown)
Willie (several in Jonestown)
Thomas Charles Beikman
James Arthur Bishop, aka James Arthur Jones
Jim Bogue, aka Jim Morrel, Jim Murrel
Tommy Bogue (speaks)
Johnny Moss Brown, aka Johnny Jones
Burger Lee Dean (speaks)
James “Reb” Edwards
David George (speaks)
Juanita Green (speaks)
Marvin Janaro, aka Marvin Sellers
Billy Jones, aka William Dillon Dean (speaks)
Stephan Jones (speaks)
Dessie Jordan (speaks)
Christine Lucienties (speaks)
Donald Wayne McCall
Bruce Oliver (by reference)
William Oliver (by reference)
Dale Parks (speaks)
Gerald Parks (speaks)
Patty Parks (speaks)
Robert Paul (speaks)
Ruletta Paul (speaks)
Kenny Reed (speaks)
Ben Robinson (speaks)
Kay Rosas (speaks)
John Victor Stoen
Mary Alice Tschetter
Bible verses cited: None
(Note: This tape was transcribed by Michael Bellefountaine. The editors gratefully acknowledge his invaluable assistance. Thanks also to Adrian Whicker for correcting several misidentifications.)
Jim Jones leads a meeting of the Jonestown community, and many elements of such meetings – references to specific items in the news, conjecture of the coming economic collapse of the U.S. and/or nuclear war, reminders both of the miracles which Jones performs to save people’s lives and the health care that residents receive on a daily basis – are present. The main difference between this and many other Jonestown tapes is that this was recorded on a night that a number of new people had arrived.
In the course of this meeting, then, Jones talks about the benefits of living in Jonestown, even as he acknowledges some of the hardships and temporary inconveniences they have to endure. He and other leaders review some of the rules which govern the community. Newcomers also witness what happens when people break the rules: there are several reviews of the misbehavior of some Temple members already in Guyana, and Jones decides on several penalties, ranging from placing miscreants onto the Learning Crew, to requiring a woman to let a large snake crawl over her.
“Don’t expect to come over here and find Hollywood,” Jones says as the tape opens. There are problems in Jonestown. Living conditions are more crowded than what they want, family housing has not yet been constructed – although couples can live together – and people are working harder than he intended them to. Both the CIA and Social Security have blocked their money, there are essential supplies needlessly – and sinisterly – being held up at the docks in Georgetown, and the Federal Communications Commission is giving them trouble about their radio transmissions. But still, Jones adds, the community provides what’s necessary for its survival. The people just have to decide what’s more important, if “you have your little creature comforts, or is it really important that your children are taken care of in their hour of need?” A moment later, he points out that most of the people who come, especially the blacks and poor whites, are grateful to be there. Addressing the people who do complain, Jones says, “The only reason you got problems is ’cause you give yourself time for problems.” The theme returns through the two-hour tape: “Cuba was surrounded for ten years, we got no reason to complain,” Jones says later in referring to the their proceedings as a “trouble night meeting”; “You realize you have no reason to complain when two out of three babies are going to bed hungry,” Jones says about halfway through.
It isn’t that they don’t allow dissent within Jonestown, he adds at one point. But “[y]ou got to be awful careful about dissent. Dissent better be over something mighty crucial, mighty crucial.” He makes another less direct mention of dissent later, when he says how important it is for the people to stand up to their enemies in the U.S. by staying in Jonestown – thereby denying them a chance to disgrace and kill them – and that Jonestown will survive only if they stand in solidarity. “So we demand that. Solidarity, cohesiveness, unity, and no talking behind anyone’s back. You got any improvements, constructive suggestions, we welcome it. Any ideas on how to make this a better place, we welcome it, but we don’t want any back talk.”
The conversation also turns – and also returns several times – to the conspiracy against Jonestown. The forces that have aligned against them, both government and relatives, require the community to be more restrictive than it will be in the future. While there are some people coming and going, in general, Jones doesn’t want anybody to leave until everyone from the U.S. is down there. The problem is, people who leave are subject to kidnapping. Worse, some of them – he mentions Tim Stoen and Yulanda Williams by name – turn into traitors themselves and start working against the things they once believed in. Jones reminds them of what the conspiracy has done – laid siege to the community for six days, fired shots from the jungle – even as he recalls the protection they all have, including from the beasts of the jungle surrounding them, as long as they stay within the encampment.
“We’re in a war,” Jones says several times, and their enemies are not just those who attack their community. He criticizes the capitalist system, the military that would produce a weapon as insidious as a neutron bomb, the “right wing” that wants to have a nuclear war, and an intelligence system that is so out of control, even the president is not above investigation. He brings that back to the importance of adapting to the hardships of Jonestown. “[W]hen you stop to think of the murderous shit that’s being done by United States,” he says, “you’ll adjust.” As with other subjects in the meeting, the theme of neceessary adjustments recurs several times.
The community reviews the rules for the newcomers. Some are for safety – don’t get too near the chimpanzee, or you’ll get bitten; don’t go wandering into thr jungle, or you’ll get lost – while others are for health and sanitation. People are told to wash their hands; they are also told not to waste water.
Newcomers also get an introduction to the combination of rewards and discipline that the Jonestown leaders used to govern the community. Everyone has received cake and other sweets to mark the occasion of the new arrivals, but those who have earned “praises” get an extra piece. Later, when Jones goes through the list of offenses and commendations, he notes that a “praise” will cancel out a demerit, and prevent someone from going “onto Learning.”
The Learning Crew is the workforce made up of people who neglected, disregarded, or disobeyed their orders or assigned duties. The people on Learning do the hard, dirty work of Jonestown, from cleaning latrines to digging ditches. People who don’t learn their lessons on Learning, or who are sent several times, eventually suffer a more severe punishment, which Jones also describes: being placed in isolation or – as it was known – “the box.” In addition to the description of the rules on discipline, then, Jones shows everyone how the system works, by making assignments to Learning and ending the sentences of others.
While there is laughter at times in this tape, there is a great deal of underlying tension. Some is undoubtedly emerging from the community’s real concerns about the effects of the government agencies’ threats and actions against them; some undoubtedly stems from the recent defection of Jones’ close adviser, Tim Stoen, who is criticized but not vilified as he is in later tapes. That defection exacerbates Jones’ anxiety over his custody of John Victor Stoen, as evidenced in his review of his claims of paternity of the young boy: “you all know that story, you’ve all been educated with that, haven’t you? You surely have in San Francisco. They’ve all told you about that, ’cause I told everybody be told that before they come here.”
The tension shows in Jones’ description of himself, which includes uncharacteristic acknowledgments of limitations. Even though he commends the health case system in Jonestown, he still needs to perform miracles to save people from accidents, or to heal people who didn’t follow safety instructions. But then he adds, “I can’t be expected to heal everybody. I can’t be. I’m a human that feels pain, needs sleep, just like the rest of you. [T]hat shouldn’t be expected of me. Particular people shouldn’t be careless and getting me into these messes. Somebody, sometime not gonna get healed.” His fatigue extends to his inability to have sex as often as he’d like, he talks about weight problems, and he’s concerned – a more familiar comment – about his blood sugar.
In addition, there’s a harder edge to some of the criticism of individual members, with Jones seeming predisposed to believe the worst interpretation of their actions whereas – according to the accused miscreants – there were other, much less sinister explanations. A newcomer who is lambasted for saying that he would make his decision to stay in Jonestown based on whether or not he likes it, has a different explanation: he is responsible for the care of a young epileptic boy, and if he thinks the boy wouldn’t do well in the remote community, he feels he has a respnsibility to make other arrangements. On the other hand, a young man who has been so anxious to get to Jonestown that he came out there by plane instead of boat, is criticized for his decision. Didn’t he know that an important personage could have used that plane seat? Was there something in Georgetown (or in the U.S.) that was chasing him out? Doesn’t he realize that by taking the plane, he is acknowledging the trouble he’s in? (As Jones points out, nobody at Temple headquarters in Georgetown “sends anybody on the airplane unless they’re sick, or seniors, or causing us trouble.”) The crowd participates in the questions, but they come so quickly – and eventually move on to other issues – that the young man cannot answer the charges.
Indeed, much of the tape is taken up in the community’s response to three different people whose alleged misdeeds illustrate some of its most serious concerns.
Robert Paul is called before the community over the charge that he had sex with a woman in Georgetown, and she’s now causing trouble. He is criticized for his infidelity – his wife is in Jonestown, and yet he couldn’t wait until he arrived there to satisfy himself – for the difficulty he has brought to the encampment, and for having feelings of sexual desire in the first place. The problem is, as Jones points out more than once here – and as he has pointed out elsewhere – that feelings of romance, of love, of coupling take energy, attention and time away from the revolution. “[Y]ou nailed her, you got her fucking, and that’s the typical capitalist tradition,” Jones says. “That’s love. You people are in love. I tell you, leave me out of it. For Christ sake, leave me out of it.” Paul’s wife Ruletta joins in the attack, accusing him of running out on her in the States, forcing her to “whore around” to feed the baby, that he was no good, and that he wouldn’t listen to anything anyone told him. “You gonna listen now,” she concludes. “You gonna listen now, ’cause you in Jonestown.” The responding cheers are the most sustained of the night. There is a tape edit before her husband can offer a substantive reply. Robert Paul was in Georgetown on November 18, and survived. Ruletta and the young child Robert Jr. died in Jonestown.
Gerald Parks is called before the community over a report made against him that he doesn’t like the food, that, as Jones accuses him, “they had to get special food for you. Now I want to get this shit out of the way, because we are not running a delicatessen.” The issue of food is a sore subject for Jones – especially since, as he says in other tapes, Debby Layton Blakey, who defected a few months earlier, is going around telling people in Washington that the diet of Jonestown is limited to rice and beans – and Jones says he’d like to hear what Parks has to say for himself. “Yeah, you may explain your position. I’d very much like for you explain your position, because it pissed the hell out of me.”
Parks says he didn’t ask for special food, that – contrary to what Layton was charging – the problem he had was “the food that they had prepared was so highly seasoned, so hot . no way can I eat that kind of food.” Jones initially challenges the defense – “We were told over the radio that they had to go get you special foods. Everything made a report. They don’t make it to hurt nobody” – but later softens his tone, and says he knows Parks had “some abdominal distress and surgery potential.” The Parks family was one of the two that left with Rep. Leo Ryan on November 18, and Jerry’s wife Patty was the only defector shot to death – probably accidentally – at the Port Kaituma airstrip.
The third person subjected to lengthy questioning and discipline is Kay Rosas. As Edith Roller describes the infraction, “Kay Rosas was rebellious, refused to do what Penny [Kerns] said.” Moreover, it is clear she has been rebellious before – and quite often – and the previous measures haven’t worked. Jones at first suggests that nothing short of the threat of “the barrel of a gun” is sufficient, but this is rhetoric that he often uses merely to show displeasure. However, in the next moment, an unidentified male asks if Jones wants the anaconda – a South American boa constrictor which, as Jones later notes, can grow over 30 feet in length – and he replies, “Get him.” Rosas is apparently forced to endure the sensation of a snake crawling over her, and she cries for forgiveness.
After an unknown amount of time – there are a few tape edits – the snake is removed, but the punishment isn’t over. “Tiger?” Jones says. “That’s what we need to do. The fucking tiger hadn’t been fed tonight. Take her out to the tiger.” The exposure to the tiger – even more terrifying in the imagination than the reality of the snake – elicits more cries for forgiveness. The tape ends within a few minutes after she returns, and it is unknown whether there was additional discipline. Rosas died in Jonestown.
In each of these instances of discipline, people in the crowd stands behind their leaders, expressing their own anger at Rosas, disbelieving the denials of McCann and Parks, calling out their own questions, hooting with catcalls at some of the answers. Only when Jones himself offers forgiveness or at least softens his criticism does the crowd back down. The tension of the evening is felt by everyone, and the people standing before Jones’ judgment are standing alone.
Date of transcription: 3/22/79
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 20, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B62 # 99. This tape was found to contain the following:
Recording of a Sunday evening meeting.
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:
The summary is accurate – in that the meeting was most likely held on a Sunday evening – yet the implication is very misleading. The description would suggest that the tape was of a church service, since that’s when many of the Temple’s meetings were held, whereas it is in fact a community gathering in Jonestown. Beyond that, the notation of the day of the week that the meeting took place may be the most insignificant piece of information about the tape.
Tape originally posted June 2005