Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
FBI Catalogue: Jones speaking
Date cues on tape: Jonestown meeting, November 1977 (verified by Thom Bogue)
Former Chinese leader Mao Tse-Tung
Former U.S. President Richard Nixon
Guyana Prime Minister Forbes Burnham (by reference)
Guyana Deputy Prime Minister Ptolemy Reid (by reference)
Guyana Foreign Minister Fred Wills (by reference)
Guyana Commissioner of Police C.A. “Skip” Roberts (by reference)
Peoples Temple members
Chris Lewis, murdered in San Francisco in December 1977
Temple members not on death or survivors’ lists:
Jonestown residents, full name unknown:
Leon (probably Perry)
Edith Bogue (speaks)
Tommy Bogue (speaks)
Brian Davis (speaks)
Marceline Jones (speaks)
Bible verses cited: None
(Note: This tape was one of the 53 tapes initially withheld from public disclosure.)
The tape consists of a portion of a meeting in Jonestown during which two young men – Tommy Bogue and Brian Davis – who made an unsuccessful escape attempt appear before the community to explain their actions and to learn what discipline they will face as a result. Neither the beginning nor the end of the meeting appear here, so there is no firm indication of what the community’s decision will bewhen the tape ends. (The boys’ voices are difficult to differentiate, and both are indicated on the accompanying transcript as “young man in trouble.”)
Tommy and Brian had apparently left the Jonestown community under cover of darkness after having stolen several items such as flashlights and matches. They had made few plans beyond the escape itself, and weren’t even going to stay together: one had planned to go to Venezuela, and the other planned to live along a local river, catching fish to survive. Jim Jones is upset, in part, because he says he has had to involve the Guyana government in locating the young men, costing him good will and political capital; the community is upset, in part, because it lost a day of work searching for them.
At the beginning of the tape, Jones is reminding the young men of the dangers they faced while they were gone. There are wild animals in the jungle, he says, ranging from tigers and ocelots, to several kinds of snakes that can kill a human being. The animals don’t bother the people of Jonestown, he reassures them later in the tape, “because we have a protective aura. Nothing comes in here.” But that protection doesn’t extend beyond the perimeter of the community.
Jones also tells Tommy and Brian that everyone in the country was on the lookout for them. He had alerted every person in the government, from the prime minister on down to the local police. There is a law, he says later, making everyone in the country responsible for returning Temple members to Jonestown. And that’s how they were caught. “How do you suppose we knew where you were? You passed two government people. They informed us. All the natives informed us.”
What’s more, he adds, had they made it to the Venezuelan border, “[t]he Border Patrol said, if you try to cross, you’d be shot.” If they had been captured by the local police, they could have been thrown in jail and “whipped 39 times with a cat o’nine tails.” And if they hadn’t been caught soon, someone would have found them in the jungle after five or six days, and they would have been barely alive.
At some points in the tape, Jones asks the young men what they would have done to survive, although — apparently in an effort to prevent them from lying — he reminds them that the Jonestown leadership knows a lot already. When the escapees say they would have found jobs, Jones sounds perplexed. There are jobs available at Jonestown, he says. Beyond that, they have free medical care, as well as the love of the community.
Later in the meeting, though, Jones offers another reason the young men shouldn’t have left, and the tone of his voice suggests this one is closer to his true belief: “There’s no possible way we can tolerate anarchy,” he says, “no possible way that we can tolerate people going out and living on their own.”
Tommy and Brian apparently have declared they wanted to return to the U.S., but Jones says they won’t return to what he calls “that fascist Babylon” until everybody in San Francisco has joined them. At that point, he says to cheers and applause, “then we’ll be glad to be rid of the likes of both of you.”
Jones’ anger seems genuine. He speaks through gritted teeth on several occasions. He sets the tone of the abuse leveled at the boys by calling them “vermin,” “parasitical,” “contemptible.” At one point, he snaps, “You’re vile. You’re evil. You’re insidious. You’re low.” At another, he literally spits numerous times in disgust.
While Jones’ criticism of the boys is the most prolonged, he is by no means alone, and other community members follow his lead. While tentative at first, eventually a number of voices speak against them. The anger of the community is as deep as Jones’. “We didn’t want to look for you at all,” one woman shouts. “We woulda left you [in the jungle].”
A woman who had counseled one of them, promising him confidentiality, says she thinks their actions have relieved her of that obligation. Jones agrees — “It’s all obliterated… Your privileged relationship with your counselor no longer exists in this room. She’s ordered by the good of the collective to tell everything you’ve said” — and the woman speaks of the young man’s lack of interest in the community, in the cause, and in socialism itself. At other points in the tape, other women — or perhaps the same one — says the young man described himself as being more of a capitalist than a socialist, although he is apparently willing to accept the benefits of a socialist life.
Tommy Bogue apparently takes physical punishment from his mother, Edith. Following one of the tape’s edits, there is a sound of slapping, which continues until Jones stops it. “That’s a mother’s heartbreak,” he says in defense of her action. “You stomped over her goodwill and intention. And she’s striking out because justice and reason did not prevail.”
A few minutes later, Edith Bogue speaks in an anguished tone about her own disgust. “I can’t tell either of you how much I despise both of you for what you’ve done for Father and this cause,” she says. “I’m the one that brought you into the world. I am responsible for your being here. I feel I should be allowed to shoot you tonight, and if nothing else, kill myself, to keep the church from getting in trouble.”
Jones responds to her proposal by calling for a vote on it, although the results of the vote are lost in another tape edit.
A new revelation during the meeting rekindles Jones’ anger. When the boys were caught, according to someone on the security team, one of them tried to resist being taken in by waving a cutlass. “Do you want the cutlass with somebody here? Would you like to take the cutlass?” Jones says, then adds: “The government will not hold us a bit responsible. Give us a reason why not.” The accompanying movements are not communicated on the tape, but Jones seems to be offering the cutlass to the boy to fight the others now.
The same threat against their lives returns a third time, when Jones demands that Tommy and Brian justify to him why they deserve to live. They reply that they can’t, and say they don’t deserve to live.
As the tape ends, the man who acted as supervisor of the boys asks for the same punishment that will be meted out to his charges. After all, he had put them in a situation where they could run away. Jones replies that his was an error of love, so he will not be punished. The tape ends a few seconds later.
Date of transcription: 6/27/79
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 June 8, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B102-1. This tape was found to contain the following: JAMES JONES speaking to two male members of the community who ran away and were captured.
JONES stated that this community cannot tolerate people leaving and living on their own.
The mother of one of the runaways says they should be killed and she wants to kill them, and then commit suicide so no members of the community will get in trouble with the government.
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted September 2003