Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project : Transcripts
Transcript prepared by Stephen Rose
Tape Number : Q 042, the so-called “Death Tape”
The following partial transcript of the death tape appears as an appendix in Stephen Rose, Jesus and Jim Jones: Behind Jonestown (New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1979), pp. 214-227.
After completing the body of this book I had an opportunity to listen to a
tape recording that purports to represent the voice of James Jones and his followers
and the cries of children and others during the last moments in Jonestown. I
am a person who is more audio than visual – that is, I judge more by what I
hear with my ears than by what I see through a pair of rather poor eyes. The
tape corresponded substantially to the transcript that follows. That transcript
first appeared in the New York Times on March 15, 1979. After listening to the
tape, I checked with an acquaintance in the television industry to be sure that
the voice on the tape was actually that of Jim Jones. Elaborate tests with voice
experts confirmed that the voice was almost surely his. The tape had been edited,
of what I do not know. I was led to believe that the most responsible act would
be to include in this appendix the transcript as published by the New York Times.
The New York Times prefaced its publication by stating that “sources who are
familiar with investigations of Peoples Temple have indicated that the contents
of this tape are identical with portions of the Government-held tape that have
been disclosed over the last few months.” Reading will hardly convey the impression
that listening provides. It is of a man substantially in control of a multitude
to the point that even when confronted with a sensible effort to stop the carnage
he is able at once to rally the crowd against the brave woman protestor and
at the same time to act as her protector after she has been threatened by the
crowd. One hears on the tape Jones’s control over the lives of both black and
white followers. One hears a reiteration of the conflict over John-John Stoen.
(One wonders who Ejar is. Is it another name for the young Stoen child?) One
hears, too, the ambiguity surrounding the final events. Did Jones decree the
carnage at Kaituma airstrip – the doom of the congressman and the others? Or
was he simply a passive witness of the acting out of pathologies on the part
of his inner circle of guards and followers?
I have talked with others who hear in the tape things I do not hear, and because
the tape itself is merely at this writing “purported,” I shall not attempt to
claim for it the status of evidence. The suspicion must be that it will ultimately
be revealed as authentic and that the largely quiet conversational, but sometimes
nagging and petulant, voice on the tape is that of a man who was capable over
the years of making hundreds and hundreds of people believe that death with
him was preferable to life without him. It is the mutest of testimonies to a
world in which values – even truth itself – are torn from their moorings, leaving
in their path a debris of superstition (secular or religious – it does not matter),
paranoia, and will toward death. The transcript follows:
Excerpts From Transcript of a Purported Tape of Final Moments at Jonestown
Following are excerpts from a transcript of a tape recording obtained by The
New York Times from the International Home Video Club Inc. of New York. It purports
to be a recording of the final 43 minutes of the mass deaths at Jonestown, Guyana,
last Nov. 18, in which the followers of the Rev. Jim Jones died. Sources who
are familiar with investigations of Peoples Temple have indicated that
the contents of this tape are identical with portions of the Government-held
tape that have been disclosed over the last few months.
JONES: I’ve tried my best to give you a good life.
In spite of all that I’ve tried, a handful of our people, with their lies, have
made our life impossible. There’s no way to detach ourself from what’s happened
Not only are we in a compound situation; not only are there those who have left
and committed the betrayal of the century; some have stolen children from others
and they are in pursuit right now to kill them, because they stole their children.
And we are sitting here waiting on a powder keg.
So, to sit here and wait for the catastrophe that’s going to happen on that
airplane – it’s going to be a catastrophe. It almost happened here. Almost
happened when the Congressman was nearly killed here. You can’t steal people’s
children. You can’t take off with people’s children without expecting a violent
reaction. And that’s not so unfamiliar to us, either, even if we – even
if we were Judeo-Christian – if we weren’t Communists. The world opinion
suffers violence and the violent shall take it by force. If we can’t live in
peace then let’s die in peace.
We’ve been so betrayed. We have been so terribly betrayed
[Music and singing.]
What’s going to happen here in a matter of a few minutes is that one of those
people on that plane is going to shoot the pilot – I know that. I didn’t plan
it, but I know it’s going to happen. They’re gonna shoot that pilot and down
comes that plane into the jungle. And we had better not have any of our children
left when it’s over. Because they’ll parachute in here on us.
I’m going to be just as plain as I know how to tell you. I’ve never lied to
you. I never have lied to you. I know that’s what’s gonna happen. That’s what
he intends to do; and he will do it. He’ll do it.
What’s with being so bewildered with many, many pressures on my brain seeing
all people behave so treasonous – there was just too much for me to put together.
But I now know what he was telling me. And it’ll happen. If the plane gets in
the air even.
So my opinion is that you be kind to children, and be kind to seniors, and take
the potion like they used to take in Ancient Greece, and step over quietly;
because we are not committing suicide – it’s a revolutionary act. We can’t go
back; they won’t leave us alone. They’re now going back to tell more lies, which
means more Congressmen. And there’s no way, no way we can survive.
Anybody. Anyone that has any dissenting opinion, please speak. Yes. You can
have an opportunity, but if the children are left, we’re going to have them
butchered. We can make a strike, but we’ll be striking against people that we
don’t want to strike against. We’d like to get the people who caused this stuff;
and some – if some people here are prepared and know how to do that, to go in
town and get Timothy Stoen, but there’s no plane. There’s no plane. You can’t
catch a plane in time.
‘They’ll Not Take Our Death In Vain’ [Rose subhead]
He’s responsible for it. He brought these people to us. He and Deanna Myrtle.
The people in San Francisco will not – not be idle. Or would they? They’ll not
take our death in vain, you know. Yes.
WOMAN: Is it too late for Russia?
JONES: At this point, it’s too late for Russia. They killed. They started to
kill. That’s why it makes it too late for Russia. Otherwise, I’d say, yes, sir,
you bet your life. But it’s too late. I can’t control these people. They’re
out there. They’ve gone with the guns. And it’s too late. And once we kill anybody
– at least, that’s the way I’ve always – I’ve always put my lot with you. If
one of my people do something, that’s me.
And they say I don’t have to take the blame for this – but I don’t live that
way. They said, deliver up Ejar; we tried to get the man back here. Ejar, whose
mother’s been lying on him, and lying on him, and trying to break up this family.
And they’ve all agreed to kill us by any means necessary. Do you think I’m going
to deliver them Ejar? Not on your life.
MAN: I know a way to find Stoen if it’ll help us.
JONES: No. You’re not going. You’re not going. You’re not going. I can’t live
that way. I cannot live that way. I’ve lived with – for all; I’ll die for all.
I’ve been living on hope for a long time, Christine and I appreciate – you’ve
always been a very good agitator. I like agitation because you have to see two
sides of one issue – two sides of a question.
But what those people are gonna get done; and what they get through will make
our lives worse than hell. Will make us – will make the rest of us not accept
it. When they get through lying.
They posed so many lies between there and that truck that we are – we are done
in as far as any other alternative.
WOMAN: Well, I say let’s make an air – airlift to Russia. That’s what I say.
I don’t think nothing is impossible, if you believe it.
JONES: How are we going to do that? How are you going to airlift to Russia?
WOMAN: Well, I thought they said if we got in an emergency, they gave you a
code to let them know.
JONES: No, they didn’t. They gave us a code that they’d let us know on that
issue; not us create an issue for them. They said that we – if they saw the
country coming down they’d give us a code. They’d give us a code. We can check
on that and see if it’s on the code. Did you check with Russia to see if they’ll
take us in a minute but otherwise we die?\
I don’t know what else to say to these people. But to me death is not a fearful
thing. It’s living that’s cursed. I have never, never, never, never seen anything
like this before in my life. I’ve never seen people take the law and do – in
their own hands and provoke us and try to purposely agitate mother of children.
There is no need to finish us; it’s not worth living like this. Not worth living
WOMAN: I think that there were too few who left for 1,200 people to give them
their lives for those people that left.
JONES: Do you know how many left?
WOMAN: Oh, 20-odd. That’s a small –
JONES: Some 20-odd.
WOMAN: Compared to what’s here.
‘What’s Gonna Happen?’ [Rose subhead]
JONES: 20-odd. But what’s gonna happen when they don’t leave? I hope that they
could leave. But what’s gonna happen when they don’t leave?
WOMAN: You mean the people here?
JONES: Yeah, what’s going to happen to us when they don’t leave, when they get
on the plane and the plane goes down?
WOMAN: I don’t think they’ll go down.
JONES: You don’t think they’ll go down? I wish I could tell you was right –
but I’m right. There’s one man there who blames, and rightfully so, Judy Blakey
for the murder – for the murder of his mother, and he’ll – he’ll stop that pilot
by any means necessary. He’ll do it. That plane’ll come out of the air. There’s
no way you fly a plane without a pilot.
WOMAN: I wasn’t speaking about that plane. I was speaking about a plane for
us to go to Russia.
JONES: How – To Russia? You think Russia’s gonna want – no – You think Russia’s
gonna want us with all this stigma? We had some value, but now we don’t have
WOMAN: Well I don’t see it like that. I mean, I feel like that – as long as
there’s life there’s hope. That’s my faith.
JONES: Well, some everybody dies. Some place that hope runs out; because everybody
dies. I haven’t seen anybody yet didn’t die. And I like to choose my own kind
of death for a change. I’m tired of being tormented to hell, that’s what I’m
tired of. Tired of it. [Applause.]
To have other people’s lives in my hands, and I certainly don’t want your life
in my hands. I’m going to tell you, Christine, without me, life has no meaning.
[Applause.] I’m the best thing you’ll ever have.
I want – want – I have to pay – I’m standing with [inaudible]. I’m standing
with those people. They’re part of me. I could detach myself – my attorney says,
detach myself No, no, no, no, no, no. I never detach myself from any of your
troubles. I’ve always taken your troubles right on my shoulders. And I’m not
going to change that now. It’s too late. I’ve been running too long. Not going
to change now. [Applause.]
Maybe the next time you’ll get to go to Russia. The next time round. This is
– what I’m talking about now is the dispensation of judgment. This is a revolutionary
– a revolutionary suicide council. I’m not talking about self – self-destruction.
I’m talking about what we have no other road. I will take your call; we will
put it to the Russians. And I can tell you the answer now, because I’m a prophet.
Call the Russians and tell them and see if they’ll take us.
WOMAN: I said I’m not ready to die.
JONES: I don’t think you are.
WOMAN: But I know what you meant.
JONES: I don’t think you are.
WOMAN: But I look at all the babies and I think they deserve to live.
JONES: But don’t they deserve much more – they deserve peace.
WOMAN: We all came here for peace.
JONES: And we’ve – have we had it?
JONES: I tried to give it to you. I’ve laid down my life, practically. I’ve
practically died every day to give you peace. And you still not have any peace.
You look better than I’ve seen you in a long while but it’s still not the kind
of peace that I want to give you.
WOMAN: I know that. But I still think, as an individual, I have a right to –
JONES: You do, and I’m listening.
WOMAN: – to say what I think, what I feel. And I think we all have a right to
our own destiny as individuals.
WOMAN: And I think I have a right to choose mine and everybody else has a right
to choose theirs.
JONES: Yes. I’m not criticizing.
WOMAN: Well I think I still have a right to my own opinion.
JONES: I’m not taking it from you. I’m not taking it from you.
‘Your Life Has Been Extended’ [Rose subhead]
MAN: Christine, you’re only standing here because he was here in the first place.
So I don’t know what you’re talking about, having an individual life. Your life
has been extended to the day that you’re standing there because of him.
JONES: I guess she has as much right to speak as anybody else to. What did you
say, Ruby? [Voice.] Well you’ll regret that, this very day if you don’t die.
You’ll regret it if you do though you don’t die. You’ll regret it.
JONES: I saved them. I saved them, but I made my example. I made my expression.
I made my manifestation and t-he world was ready, not ready for me. Paul said
I was a man born out of due season. I’ve been born out of due season, just like
all we are – and the best testimony we can make is to leave this goddamn world.
WOMAN: You must prepare to die.
WOMAN: I’m not talking to her. Will you let – would you let her or let me talk?
JONES: Keep talking.
WOMAN: Would you make her sit down and let me talk while I’m on the floor or
let her talk.
JONES: How can you tell the leader what to do if you live. I’ve listened to
you. You asked me about Russia. I’m right now making a call to Russia. What
more do you suggest? I’m listening to you. You’ve yet to give me one slight
bit of encouragement. I just now … to go there and do that.
JONES: Everybody hold it. We didn’t come – hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it.
JONES: Lay down your burdens. I’m gonna lay down my burden. Down by the riverside.
Shall we lay them down here by the side of Guyana? No man didn’t take our lives.
Right now. They haven’t taken them. But when they start parachuting out of the
air, they’ll seek some of our innocent babies. I’m not – I don’t want … They’ve
got to shoot me to get through to some of these people. I’m not telling them
take your child. Can you let them take your child? [Voices: No. No. No.]
JONES: I want to see [Lots of voices.] Please, please, please, please, please,
MAN: I’m ready to go. If you tell us we have to give our lives now, we’re ready
– all the rest of the sisters and brothers are with me.
JONES: Some months I’ve tried to keep this thing from happening. But I now see
it’s the will – it’s the will of Sovereign Being that this happened to us. That
we lay down our lives in protest against what’s been done.
That we lay down our lives to protest at what’s being done. The criminality
of people. The cruelty of people. Who walked out of here today. Do you know
who walked out. Mostly white people. [Voices.] Mostly white people walked.
I’m so grateful for the ones that didn’t – those who knew who they are. I just
know there’s no point – there’s no point to this. We are born before our time.
They won’t accept us. And I don’t think we should sit here and take any more
time for our children to be endangered; because if they come after our children,
we give them our children, then our children will suffer forever.
JONES: What comes now, folks, what comes now.
MAN: Everybody hold it.
JONES: Say peace. Say peace. Say peace. Say peace. What’s come. Don’t let –
Take Dwyer on down to the east house. Take Dwyer.
WOMAN: Everybody be quiet please.
MAN: That means sit down, sit down. Sit down.
‘I Tried So Very, Very Hard’ [Rose subhead]
JONES: They know. I tried so very, very hard. They’re trying over here to see
what’s going to happen in Los Angeles. Who is he?
JONES: Get Dwyer out of here before something happens to him. Dwyer. I’m not
talking about Ejar. I said Dwyer. Ain’t nobody gonna take Ejar. I’m not lettin’
Œem take Ejar.
WOMAN: At one time, I felt just like [inaudible], but after today I don’t feel
anything because the biggest majority of the people that left here for a fight
and I know it really hurt my heart because –
JONES: Broke your heart, didn’t it?
WOMAN: It broke my heart completely. All of this year the white people had been
with us and they’re not a part of us. So we might as well end it now; because
I don’t see [Music and voices.]
JONES: Well it’s all over, all over. What a legacy, what a legacy. What’s the
Red Brigade doing, and one’s that ever made any sense anyway? They invaded our
privacy. They came into our home. They followed us 6,000 miles away. Red Brigade
showed them justice. The Congressman’s dead.
Please get us some medication. Simple. It’s simple, there’s no convulsions with
it. It’s just simple. Just, please, get it. Before it’s too late. The G.D.F.
will be here, I tell you, get movin’, get movin’, get movin’. [Voices.]
Don’t be afraid to die. You’ll see people land out here. They’ll torture some
of our children here. They’ll torture our people. They’ll torture our seniors.
We cannot have this.
Are you going to separate yourself from whoever shot the Congressman? I don’t
know who shot him.
VOICES: No. No. No.
JONES: Let’s make our peace. And those had a right to go, and they had a right
to – how many are dead? Aw, God, Almighty God. Huh. Patty Park is dead? [Voices.]
WOMAN: Some of the others who are … long enough in a safe place to write about
JONES: I don’t know how in the world they’re ever going to write about us. It’s
just too late. It’s too late. The Congressman’s dead. The … Many of our … are
dead. They’re all laying out there dead.
JONES: Please can we hasten? Can we hasten with our medication? You don’t know
what you’ve done. I tried. [Applause and music.]
JONES: They saw it happen and ran in the bush and dropped the machine guns.
Never in my life. But there’ll be more. But we’ve got to move. Are you gonna
get that medication here? You’ve got to move. Approximately about 40 minutes.
WOMAN: Do … have to know when the people that are standing there in the aisles,
go stand in the radio room yard, everybody get behind a table and back this
way. O.K. There’s nothing to worry about. Everybody keep calm; and try and keep
your children calm. And all those children that help, let the little children
in and reassure them. They’re not crying from pain; it’s just a little bitter-tasting,
they’re not crying out of any pain. Annie Miguel, can I please see you back
‘Sit Down and Be Quiet’ [Rose subhead]
MAN: So much to do before I came here. So let me tell you about it. It might
make a lot of you feel a little more comfortable. Sit down and be quiet, please.
One of the things that I used to do, I used to be a therapist. And the kind
of therapy that I did had to do with reincarnation in past life situations.
And every time anybody had an experience of going into a past life, I was fortunate
enough through father to be able to let them experience it all the way through
their death, so to speak.
And everybody was so happy when they made that step to the other side.
WOMAN: I just want to say something for everyone that I see that is standing
around, or crying. This is nothing to cry about. This is something we could
all rejoice about. We could be happy about this. They always told us that we
could cry when you’re coming into this world. So we’re leaving it, and we’re
leaving it peaceful, I think we should be – you should be happy about this.
I was just thinking about Jim Jones. He just has suffered and suffered and suffered.
We have the honor guard and we don’t even have a chance to … here … one more
chance. That’s few that’s gone. There’s many more here … That’s not all of us.
That’s not all, yet. That’s just a few that have died. I’m looking at so many
people crying. I wish you would not cry. [Applause.] I’ve been here one year
and nine months. And I never felt better in my life. Not in San Francisco, but
until I came to Jonestown. I had a … life. I had a beautiful life. I don’t see
nothing that I should be crying about. We should be happy. At least I am – [Applause.]
WOMAN: Good to be alive today. I just like to thank Dad, Œcause he was the only
one that stood up for me when I needed him. And thank you, Dad.
WOMAN: I’m glad that you’re my brothers and sisters. I’m glad
to be here.
JONES: Please, for God’s sake, let’s get on with it. We’ve lived –
we’ve lived as no other people lived and loved. We’ve had as much of this world
as you’re gonna get. Let’s just be done with it. Let’s be done with the agony
JONES: It’s far, far harder to have to walk through every day, die slowly –
and from the time you’re a child till the time you get gray, you’re dying.
Dishonest, and I’m sure that they’ll – they’ll pay for it. They’ll pay for it.
This is a revolutionary suicide. This is not a self-destructive suicide. So
they’ll pay for this. They brought this upon us. And they’ll pay for that. I
leave that destiny to them.
JONES: – wants to go with their child has a right to go with their child. I
think it’s humane. I want to go – I want to see you go, though. They can take
me and do what they want – whatever they want to do. I want to see you go. I
don’t want to see you go through this hell no more. No more. No more. No more.
We’re trying. If everybody – relax. The best thing you do to relax and you won’t
have no problem. You’ll have no problem with this thing. If you just relax.
MAN: – a great deal because it’s Jim Jones. And the way the children are laying
there now. I’d rather see them lay like that than to see them have to die like
the Jews did, which was pitiful anyhow. And I just like to thank Dad, who give
them this life, and also death. And I appreciate the fact the way our children
are going. Because, like Dad said, when they come in, what they’re going to
do to our children – they’re going to massacre our children.
And also the ones that they take capture, they’re gonna just let them grow up
and be dummies, like they want them to be. And not grow up to be a person like
the one and only Jim Jones. So I’d like to thank dad for the opportunity for
letting Jonestown be not what it could be, but what Jonestown is. Thank you,
MAN: It is not to be feared. It is not to be feared. It is a friend. It’s a
friend. Sitting there show your love for one another. Take your time –
JONES: Let’s get gone. Let’s get gone. Let’s get gone. We had nothing we could
do. We can’t separate ourselves from our own people. For 20 years laying in
some old rotten nursing home. Taking us through all these anguish years. They
took us and put us in chains and that’s nothing. This business – that business
– there’s no comparison to that, to this.
They’ve robbed us of our land and they’ve taken us and driven us and we tried
to find ourselves. We tried to find a new beginning. But it’s too late. You
can’t separate yourself from your brother and your sister. No way I’m going
to do it. I refuse. I don’t know who fired the shot. I don’t know who killed
the Congressman. But as far as I’m concerned I killed him. You understand what
I’m saying. I killed him. He had no business coming. I told him not to come.
WOMAN: Right. Right.
JONES: I, with respect, die with the beginning of dignity. Lay down your life
with dignity. Don’t lay down with tears and agony. It’s nothing to death. It’s
like Mac said, it’s just stepping over to another plane. Don’t be this way.
Stop this hysterics. This is not the way for people who are Socialists or Communists
to die. No way for us to die. We must die with some dignity … we have no choice.
Now we have some choice. Do you think they’re gonna allow this to be done? And
allow us to get by with this? You must be insane – children, it’s just something
to put you to rest. Oh God.
[Children crying.] Mother, mother, mother, mother, mother, please. Mother please.
Please. Please. Don’t do this. Don’t do this. Lay down your life with your child.
But don’t do this.
Free at last. Keep – keep your emotions down. Keep your emotions down. Children,
it will not hurt. If you’d be – if you be quiet. If you be quiet. [Music.] [Children
It’s never been done before, you say. It’s been done by every tribe in history.
Every tribe facing annihilation. All the Indians of the Amazon are doing it
right now. They refuse to bring any babies into the world. They kill every child
that comes into the world. Because they don’t want to live in this kind of a
Death ‘A Million Times Preferable’ [Rose subhead]
So be patient. Be patient. Death is – I tell you, I don’t care how many screams
you hear; I don’t care how many anguished cries, death is a million times preferable
to spend more days in this life. If you knew what was ahead of you – if you
knew what was ahead of you, you’d be glad to be stepping over tonight.
Death, death, death is common to people. And the Eskimos, they take death in
their stride. Let’s be digni – let’s be dignified. If you quit telling them
they’re dying – if you would also stop some of this nonsense – adults, adults,
I call on you to stop this nonsense.
I call on you to quit exciting your children, when all they’re doing is going
to a quiet rest. I call on you to stop this now, if you have any respect at
all. Are we black, proud, and Socialists – or what are we. Now stop this nonsense.
Don’t carry this on any more. You’re exciting your children.
All over and it’s good. No, no sorrow that it’s all over. I’m glad it’s over.
Hurry. Hurry, my children. Hurry. All I – the hands of the enemy. Hurry, my
children. Hurry. There are seniors out here that I’m concerned about. Hurry.
I don’t want any of my seniors to this mess. Only quickly, quickly, quickly,
quickly, quickly. Let’s just – Good knowing you.
No more pain, Al. No more pain, I said, Al. No more pain. Jim Cobb is laying
on the airfield dead at this moment. [Applause.] Remember, the Oliver woman
said she – she’d come over and kill me if her son wouldn’t stop her. These,
these are the people – the peddlers of hate. All we’re doing is laying down
our lives. We’re not letting them take our lives. We laying down our lives.
Peace in their lives. They just want peace.
MAN: I’d like to say that my – my so-called parents are filled with so much
hate and treachery. I think you people out here should think about your relatives
were and be glad about that the children are being laid to rest. And I’d like
to say that I thank dad for making me strong to stand with it all and make me
ready for it. Thank you.
JONES: All they do is taking a drink. They take it to go to sleep. That’s what
death is, sleep. – I’m tired of it all.
WOMAN: Everything we could have ever done, most loving thing all of us could
have done and it’s been a pleasure walking with all of you in this revolutionary
struggle. No other way I would rather go than to give my life for Socialism,
Communism, and I thank Dad very, very much.
WOMAN: Dad’s love and nursing, goodness and kindness and bring us to this land
of freedom. His love – his mother was the advance – the advance guard to Socialism.
And his love, his nurses will go on forever unto the fields of
JONES: to that, to that, to that, words to that – was the green scene thing.
WOMAN: Go on unto the sign. And thank you, Dad.
JONES: With the green – and please bring it here so the adults can begin. –
you don’t, don’t fail to follow my advice. You’ll be sorry. You’ll be sorry.
We do it, than that they do it. Have trust. You have to step across. We used
to think this world was – this world was not our home, and it sure isn’t – saying,
it sure wasn’t. – don’t want to tell them. All he’s doing – if they will tell
them – assure these – can’t some people assure these children of the – in stepping
over to the next plane. They set an example for others. We said – 1,000 people
who said, we don’t like the way the world is.
Take our life from us. We laid it down. we got tired. We didn’t commit suicide;
we committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an