I’ve written extensively about life as a Peoples Temple survivor. Anyone can read it in Snake Dance: Unravelling the Mysteries of Jonestown. I also revealed many a dark corner of Peoples Temple and its leader Jim Jones – including his abusive treatment of me. I “withheld nothing,” to put it mildly.
It wasn’t because I relish public confessionals. More because of what I knew by that fateful November night; what I felt entrusted to do; how breathtakingly delayed that became; the macabre game of “catch-up” now. And I wanted to pre-empt anticipated damage control rather than to let the rumor mill run amok.
I retained a cache of documents which would shockingly filet a one-sided media story into two. I experienced that last year-and-a-half not in Guyana, but as part of a small crew still in San Francisco, and witnessed first-hand an orchestrated conspiracy against people I loved and whose dreams and accomplishments I shared. I had keys to unlock hidden agendas and cover-ups.
I was also a threat to the feds and believe me, they’ve let me know it! Even (or especially) in recent years. Just ask my husband.
But I always knew that my especial vulnerability personally was what was done to me by Jim Jones Christmas, 1975 in L.A. Like if people can just paint you as a circus freak, then they don’t have to listen to a word you say!
From Snake Dance, p. 283:
What I felt towards ‘L.A.’ wasn’t the reservoir of past feelings one might envision it to be. Rather it loomed before me like a huge, ill-placed stumbling block. Now, what he [i.e., Jim Jones] had done to me was no longer an internal matter – not ever. Were I to speak, it would become living history.
But now this early on [because I spoke out very early], I had to decide. Decide what would happen if I spoke up publicly and someone decided to expose that ghastly incident in L.A. That an opponent could use the very tactics of my mentor [i.e., Jim Jones] to twist and wring my heart into public view, as well as to twist and wring my words into a discredited silence.
Indeed, it began early. I was working with the editor of a prominent New York newspaper shortly after the tragedy and within days of an article coming out, he was feeding back to me what “someone” had told him about L.A. “to discredit me into silence.”
But to still have this happening at such late date, and not even at the hands of “pros” – just casually cruel “fellow survivors”…. And then to discover that it was widespread in back-door gossip, in talk to producers, etc., much not even traceable, just pervasive….
That’s been dismaying.
I want these reckless people to know that when you denigrate a good person, it is your own good name that you have hurt, not mine.
But since so many have done this, even publicly, then yes, I will make it a public matter because I know who I am and my own good motives and I have nothing to hide.
As many are aware, I suffered a notorious incident in Peoples Temple, in Los Angeles in the wee hours of December 26, 1975. It was thrust onto me by not only Jim Jones, but by virtually everyone – I was forced to undress, then ridiculed and castigated, a debacle designed to silence me (and over what? most relevant question!), and with no one coming to my defense.
Precious few survivors have asked me about it; instead, I’ve been made the butt of gossip and at least three survivors exhibited disturbing behavior in the Nelson film, as if I were a dead person who could not even speak for myself.
One smugly said I had “passed up a love note” (no “love note” – never happened); one spoke with seemingly great authority about my naked body when she wasn’t even there!; a third leered sadistically as though my pain was his pleasure.
A fourth (independent of the film) did not let 48 hours pass after my husband and I left the Bay Area in 2005 (an emotional return after 27 long years!) before she was spreading a new lie that “Laurie was also beaten [never happened] but she still kept slavishly serving Jim Jones” (that never happened either).
A fifth survivor believed an absolute fiction spread by a liar (not the survivor) more than thirty years back, that I had allegedly condoned my own torture(!!!) and he has told who knows how many people ever since that that was “a fact.”
Lest “the movie stars” think that they were performing a public service by tattling on Jim Jones, let me inform them that Mr. Jones is long since dead but I’m still very much alive, so the only person whom they were hurting was me. The same for the gossip circuit and the rumor mill.
It is tragic to lose loved ones and friends, but why doesn’t enduring tragedy make people better? It is dismaying if people who have suffered so much have really learned so little. If they all hated Jim Jones so much, then why do they emulate him?
I set the record straight on the incident in Snake Dance. I knew that I was entrusted with a greater task, daunting enough without added roadblocks; and I feared that “bad people” (like the feds, for instance) would use that incident against me. Little did I imagine that amongst “the bad people” would be my fellow survivors!
It’s not even the story that they think it was. But since so few seem to have read my book and the gossipers resist any accountability, I will set the record straight yet again, now in a more traveled public forum:
I’m not designed to move in lockstep – it has never been my way. And as I wrote in my own book: “I would not put up with for seven minutes now what I put up with for seven years then.”
Back then of course, there was a well-oiled lockstep machine, as well as Jim Jones’ unique capacity to turn his own Planning Commission into a lynch mob. To say I was a lamb amongst wolves would be putting it mildly.
Yet I loved the work and wanted it to succeed; so I was horrified to be cast as “the enemy,” and that “the remedy” was psychological destruction. Peoples Temple did have real (political) enemies – the old saying, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get you!” But I of all people had no enmity towards this group or its leader, either one.
One doesn’t just turn on a dime either, and begin counterattacking “friends.” Or as I put in my book, “If I needed to go through this any time in my life, why not at the hands of Nazis?” That might have been easier to process. No grey areas, no conflicts. They’re Nazis.
So how and why did that wrongful spectacle happen? And why to me who never hurt anyone, who never threatened anyone, who never demanded anything of Jim Jones, sexual or otherwise?
Well, this was Jim Jones’ night of derangement, not mine, so let me offer this backdrop:
This man was an incredible humanitarian every moment of his life that his pathology was not getting the better of him. And that was confusing for people. People don’t process angels and demons together very well (I don’t, either!); and Jim Jones seemed to have an abundance of both.
“The dark side” was his sexual pathology. Indeed, it was not only key to the wrongful torture of me that night, but also underlies how/why Peoples Temple ended in mass suicide.
Oh, it’s clear “once you see it”; but like filling in chunks of a picture puzzle (first you see the trees, then the river, then the sunset, etc.), you don’t “see the whole picture” until its details are successively sequenced in.
That will be appearing in a separate piece, “Criss-Cross: The Anatomy of a Psychotic Break.” It’s a needed backdrop to the tale of not just that night, but to the treacherous night of November 18, 1978.
For now, however, a summary must suffice – enough to preface the notorious incident in L.A. And yes, that may mean assertions hard to absorb in a gulp. “The whole picture” is filled in step by step. Just on a separate palette, referring the reader to “Criss-Cross.”
And “criss-cross” is literal – like “having one’s wires crossed.” The expressed goal of Peoples Temple was racial and economic equality; indeed, most were sterling in its fulfillment. So was Jim Jones! Indeed, a role model.
So the subject of mass sex with the leader, the theme of that ghastly night, was a painful detour, then as well as now. What could one possibly have had to do with the other?
Well, they didn’t, they shouldn’t have, but they did. As will be laid out in “Criss-Cross,” the roots were in Jim Jones’ own personal life history, whereby he fatally “criss-crossed“ the two.
Here it’s but the backdrop. To how a sensitive, wholly innocent young woman (namely, me!) was “thrown under the bus” that night, and “the wrong bus” at that.
I should not have been thrown under any “bus.” Nor is there any onus of embarrassment on me. That was on Mr. Jones; and now on his former followers who still don’t seem to know the difference.
This is a thumbnail version from “Criss-Cross“:
I believe from Jim Jones’ wealth of disturbing patterns that he was brutally raped by his own father as a child, an unresolved trauma leading to projections, denials, overcompensations, addictions, fixations, and the like.
Basic psychology: People “re-play” unresolved traumas. (Note: even more so if the trauma is blocked from conscious memory.) They try to “fix” what they could not process at the time. Like I had “a bad father” so I will be the ultimate “good father,” but “I’ll do it by repeating the bad patterns in a good way.”
Neither doable nor “a fix”! But from this tortured psyche: Instead of being a shattered, humiliated, disempowered, abused and violated little boy, I’ll be the sexual stud who will “compassionately help others face their homosexuality.” Sort of like “a kinder, gentler rape.”
Thus did “Father” sleep with his “children,” women and men alike, with Jones projecting that his followers were all homosexual themselves, never him of course!
Now if that sounds twisted, then welcome to the sex world of Jim Jones! This was someone in need of major therapy before he ever hit puberty.
And how did the “solution“ of mass incest fix anything? It just seemed to drive this man to Quaaludes and whatever else he was taking. Since his followers, however devoted, could not just twist themselves into pretzels against their own sexual orientation.
Indeed by that night in L.A., clearly “the program” was going poorly, but no one was telling him that. He had so proclaimed that this was a strategy; that no one was thinking, no, this isn’t a strategy, it’s a pathology. Verboten to “go there.”
Much less to see that these practices (meant to “protect” us, we were told) were dangerous, how, or why. Of course the mass sex practices were highly dangerous, because this man’s psyche harbored a hidden criss-cross between racial abuse and sexual abuse.
And although we are admittedly skipping steps covered in “Criss-Cross“:
The end game was that for racially-abused people (= his own people later on in life), “willing to die” is to die resisting their oppressors, whereas for sexually-abused people (= himself as a child, projected onto his own people), “willing to die” is……suicide.
(There’s a glaring “missing piece” here as well, but be patient. We’ll get to it.)
Childhood histories of this kind can also create suicides. Just ask any psychiatrist. Even (or especially!) sexual conquests (= sexual addiction) do not make this better. They just re-enforce the underlying pathology.
Thus did this man harbor “a time bomb” in his psyche, inflamed by his own sexual practices. His inner circle, meanwhile, was clueless that that torment came from a childhood sexual calamity un-related to “saving the world” at all; they were just molded into a warp, so to speak, by this excessively dominant man.
Now when someone that powerful harbors a pathological “iceberg,“ and then he himself releases the floodwaters (i.e., the mass sex “time bomb“), then that’s when that person (however altruistic, however sacrificial otherwise) can endanger others.
How? Well, anyone can have subjective fixations – like “this is the way the world is” – because this is how I believe that my world is. But if the fixations are sexual and it’s you with the iron will, then you can project them onto your sex partners.
Once the sex partners buy into the wrong fixations, you’ve got presto chango cult! Before you know it, they’re risking their lives for “the cause” not just because of how the world is, but because of how the leader re-routed that world through his own pathology.
Here a pathology dangerous to others in its subterranean “criss-cross” between racial and sexual humiliation. The tragic intersection, so to speak, between a civil rights leader and the leader of a mass suicide. (Remember, for racially-abused people, “willing to die” is to die resisting an oppressor; for sexually-abused people, “willing to die” is….. suicide.)
Of course we were never told any secret life history. Well, actually we were. No one can be psychologically “run” by such a core calamity and not be brimming over with “clues.“ (To be explored in “Criss-Cross.“) But these were just people, not trained psychiatrists; and no, we were never outright told.
This is all we saw on the surface:
Jim Jones actually rarely humiliated black people. He thought that a racist culture had humiliated them enough. Yet he thought that sex with him was humiliating. He had had more humiliation in the childhood rape than any little boy could bear; but now it was he who was “Father” having sex with his “children.”
Which is why most of his sex partners were white. He thought that white people couldn’t relate to what blacks endured in a racist culture. So he resorted to projecting his own Waterloo of humiliation onto the whites: sex.
I was in fact there when he said (triumphantly, to boot!), “If you want to be with me, prepare to be raped!” So much for “Father’s love.”
Then “the lucky sex partners” were made miserable, guilty, tormented, working day and night. Like surrogates for him.
At first it was just a tiny group of white women sex partners simply called “staff.” No one could utter a word against them. Just don’t. Peoples Temple needs these few for the work to survive.
But if we were all about racial and economic equality, then why was “staff” locked into his sexual teachings? As they were, with more converts to come.
By the time of Jim’s meltdown that notorious night in L.A., he was soliciting “confessions” from sex partners, but they looked so frightened that I thought if anyone said he was a bad lover, it would be equated with being “against racial and economic equality”!
For by then, everything, all of it –race, sex, economic equality, everything– was coming to a boil as “Jim Jones’ unbearable sacrifice.”
It should have been broken down into: sacrifice for a better life for others, good; “sacrifice” to re-enforce rather than reverse one’s own pathology, bad. But it never was.
Nor did anyone probe why sex with Jim Jones was supposed to make heterosexuals realize that they were homosexuals. (Much less white people realize that they were black! Be patient. We’re getting there.)
To the contrary. It was more like sleep with Jim Jones and be imprinted with his mind-set. Then whatever your commendable sacrifices, the mind-set in which it was done was his.
Am I saying that had he not created a coven of sexual enablers, that a mass suicide plan would not have evolved, but rather what people under attack (however dire their straits) do “normally” – like self-defense or at the least, passive resistance? Or even worst case scenario, die trying to protect others?
Yes, I’m saying exactly that. I know it because the first I heard of mass suicide was not in the mock drill in 1976 (“the grape juice incident“), but at a Planning Commission meeting way back in September, 1973, just after the college students left the church: “How would you all feel about jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge?”
And it was made to be about politics – like who would they talk to, to destroy us politically. The press, influential right-wingers, who? And which favorable reporter might we choose to reveal why we did it post-mortem?
Yet the very next meeting, ashen-faced women (from “staff”) passed out blank paper for us all to write out not, “I‘m a socialist and I‘m ready to die for the cause,” but rather, “I fucked with Jim Jones and I loved it.” Whether we had or hadn’t, did or didn’t.
That’s not politics. That’s protecting sexual secrets against blackmail: “If you out me, I’ll out you.”
Is that why we were being asked if we would jump off the Golden Gate Bridge? No one asked.
Just protect the secret. No one ever probed the unspeakable “secret beneath the secret.” I don’t think that even those closest to him knew.
But that’s still not the whole story. Bad enough thinking that heterosexuals could be turned into homosexuals, but how could white people (i.e., the sex partners) be turned into black people? Can you just humiliate a white person into being black? And through sex? Something that is supposed to be pleasurable?
And how could that have come from being raped by his own father? His father was white. Jim was dark-complected but not black. So why criss-cross sex with race?
O.k., here’s the most vicious twist: The father was racist, Ku Klux Klan and, I learned privately, had been a violent alcoholic brute. Well, he undoubtedly did not rape his young son silently. Best bet? That young Jim tried to help a black person, only to be met with the likes of, “You little N-lover! You wanna be a N? I‘ll show you what it’s like to be N!!” As he raped him. His own father.
That would mess up the kid forever and set up “the criss-cross“ between race and sex in the process. The kid, hating everything his father was, goes on to not just “identify” with black, but to be black (he claimed emphatically); and racial humiliation “equals” sexual humiliation.
That would “create a Jim Jones.”
And again (painfully): For racially-abused people, “willing to die” is to die resisting the oppressor; for sexually-abused people, “willing to die” is….. suicide.
Still, members saw the empowerment, not the pathology – the tireless help, aid, counsel, resources, support, and especially the implacable commitment to black people and against racism. You had no reason to suspect that “the world of wonders” was (in his own life experience) one massive, superhuman transcendence of “the world of horrors” – a world that was never surfaced, never aired, never healed.
How the world of horrors was so infused into the world of wonders as to cause mass suicide, will be detailed in “Criss-Cross.” It doesn’t need airing here except to note that the same mind-set pounded into people unaware of its origins at Jonestown, happened with the lynch mob swayed against me that night.
Understand, I neither had any role in, any appetite for, nor did I in any way collude with my own torture that night. My situation, as I will clarify, was impossible, irresolvable, unfixable before I ever even stepped into that room.
Nor was I part of the sexual maelstrom swirling around Jim Jones – not ever. By which I am not, understand, condemning or judging others who were. Sane people did, regrettably, get their brains twisted regarding sex, mostly because:
Jim Jones’ story was that he only went into sex to get people out of it, i.e., into humanitarian concerns. And as marriages crumbled beneath his feet, with people now 24/7 helping others, that seemed to be true.
No one saw Jim Jones’ own internal war; and by the time he had converted enough sex partners to his world view, no one could. His world view was then “law.”
Thus it was the creation of a (at first tiny, then expanded) cadre of “enablers” based in his sexual pathology, that kept this group as a “cult” rather than the mainstream implosion that Jim Jones (and many others!) had hoped it would become.
O.k., that’s where the Planning Commission came in. The forum where the notorious incident happened.
These were the people who ran the church’s many departments. But it also became a breeding ground for “enablers.” Most fiercely loyal, with a mix of reasons good and bad. Others bolted, which became dangerous.
My own induction into “P.C.” was Jim Jones reciting his sexual practices, including news of an “accidental” child. A wife threatened ruin of her well-placed mate; he bedded her to defuse her. Then he bedded the husband because “men need this too.”
Then came scores of others “to bring them to socialism.” Including bedding a beautiful, kind-hearted young white woman and “fucking her for eight hours to get her over being hung up on me.” He even arranged that they be discovered, so that humiliation could finish off her “hang-up.”
I was shaken! I went to “the lucky recipient of the eight-hour fuck” (a friend) with, “Are we supposed to be asking for sex?” She told me, “Don’t worry about any of this, Laurie. We’ll all get to die soon.” (Comforting, yes?)
Then she revealed that the “erotic, ecstatic” marathon that Jim had claimed, was a horror of frigidity for her, followed upon by endometriosis requiring surgery. Apparently (I only learned in later years) a hysterectomy. In her early twenties.
I was aghast. I wouldn’t pass on “the bad review” to Jim – I wanted to protect her. So I just wrote Mr. Jones that “If this is happening, it’s happening, but I would rather not have known.” And that sooner or later, someone was going to stab him in the back. (No brownie points for Laurie, this.)
Or stab all of us in the back. I was unsettled from the start – not just because I thought the mass sex scenario strange (wasn‘t racial and economic equality what we were all about?), but because I thought it dangerous.
For sex was not just Jim Jones’ pirating of his flock’s energies and a disturbing way to create allegiance. It was also fraught with backfires! Indeed, many an “enemy” came from the cadre of scorned ex-lovers who (however unwittingly!) went to work with government agents to do in a politically vulnerable group. Which endangered everyone:
Let’s say you wind up in isolation, militarily defenseless, under siege and with children to boot, as Peoples Temple did. Then if you do have real political enemies (as Peoples Temple did), they send someone to threaten mass extermination (they did that, yes); you have a former insider assuring said enemies that “You can count on Jim Jones to overreact” (that happened too, yes); they kill the Congressman themselves as the “trigger” (as they did); and then are glad for a pathological implosion and (let’s be frank here) relish the results, dead children and all. “Saved them the trouble.”
“Speculative”? Taking seventeen hoursto send a MEDEVAC plane to the airstrip, when it had taken perhaps one hourto fly the Congressman in just the day before? Not even send the MEDEVAC until the CIA radioed from on-site that Jonestown was “all dead“? Per the U.S. government’s own log. Not “speculative.”
My God, the assassination hit the news by 7 p.m. in the States! I heard it myself on an AM radio. It was a Saturday night. 7 p.m. (San Francisco time) services were called off because it was already all over the news. By then 11 p.m. in Guyana, but still ten hours before the airstrip survivors got any help!
So none of this is “speculative.” Just foul. Nor is it “conspiracy theory.” Other people not adding up two plus two and getting four doesn’t make me “a theorist.”
Well, but aren’t we moving far afield? Not really. As I’ve said countless times, this was a symbiosis. Mad-dog leader on the one side; mad-dog intelligence agencies on the other, community crushed as in a vice.
Back to the notorious incident:
That night in L.A. was “crunch point” in the States – when Mr. Jones’ pathology came to a boil. And me, I was “it” that night. Just not for any reason that was claimed, especially by Jim Jones.
O.k., by the time of the L.A. incident, Peoples Temple was hardly at the end of its rope (to the contrary – on the upswing!), yet this leader’s pathology was of course dominant in “the notorious incident.“ And as I wrote in my book, that’s when I began viewing him as “two people” because the schisms were by then laid bare.
So back to the beginning we go, to what I called in Snake Dance , “a huge, ill-placed stumbling block” – the notorious incident in L.A. that I feared would torpedo my credibility on Jonestown.
I have no fear of that now. If people are still into back-door gossip, then what more can I say than “shame on them.“
Not that that incident was not devastating for me. It was. And no one helped me. They were told, “No one talk to her. No one sympathize with her,” and these were people who followed instructions pretty well.
Indeed, I could have been locked into hatred, resentment, on the one hand; denial or evasion on the other. On its surface, the incident was a brutal rejection of me personally. It was crushing.
I just doubt that it was me personally that Mr. Jones was trying to “kill off.” This was more like torture to “break” someone – so they renounce who they are, or suddenly start telling you what you want to hear rather than what you cannot bear to hear.
For that’s who I was that night – the embodiment of what Jim Jones could not bear to hear – an anathema. That’s why he attacked me that night, not over sex. Sex was just a bad side show to try and nullify the unwanted message.
It’s a strange, unexpected tale, so let me just tell it. Then maybe you the reader can relate to my catbird seat re everyone’s pathology: both Jim Jones’ personal pathology; and (through the “In Plain Sight” project) the ideological and government pathology which played its own key role in destroying Jonestown.
Back to the issue at hand – that fiercesome night of December 26, 1975, the notorious incident in L.A.:
Jim Jones’ sex life wasn’t my scene – I was just thrown into a maelstrom where I did not belong then. Nor should I have been demeaned in a nationally-released film now with thoughtless cruelty by people who should know better.
But since so many seem to have been wrongly titillated by a wrongful spectacle to the point of wrongly denigrating me, then yes, I will set the record straight publicly and then maybe those people can re-evaluate their actions.
This is what happened that night:
“In the one corner” you had ringmaster Jim Jones; “in the other corner,” shy, fragile, insecure me. Everyone was corralled to yell and scream, although I guarantee that had you asked them what I was guilty of, not one intelligible answer would have emerged.
An unfair fight par excellence. All the more painful in that I had never intended the rift. I didn’t want a fight. Indeed, I had asked Jim for help and was rebuffed. I hadn’t realized (how could I?) that I was treading on the very fault line of “the earthquake” that would later swallow up even him: namely, what was to happen years later on in Guyana.
Jim Jones didn’t hate me, however it seemed at the time. What he was (it took me ages to realize) was threatened. I was the proverbial “messenger”; and I had recently delivered supremely UN-welcome news:
“The message,” delivered in a most eerie way (namely, psychically-channeled poetry), was that Peoples Temple would be going down to worldwide condemnation and ruin – not glory, not martyrdom, not acclaim.
I was shown, told, recorded (via word-for-word “dictation“) the tragedy exactly as it would happen years later on, complete with a thousand rotted corpses sent to mass unmarked graves (“a thousand unmarked graves…. [due to] foul-decaying flesh…”)
I was told to entitle the work, “Allegory,” perhaps because it alludes to myth and is drenched in pathos akin to an ancient Greek chorus. In that sense, it’s hardly “a documentary.” It’s surreal.
But it also tells in minute detail, what was to happen (years later on) at Jonestown. I was impelled to transcribe the work even though I myself was battling denial, pained with heartbreak, and DID NOT WANT this to happen.
(Note: I have proof. I read “Allegory” to Marceline Jones on her last trip to San Francisco [pre-tragedy obviously] a tape finally converted to modern format in recent years. See the “Tapes“ section of this website. Better still, listen.)
“Allegory” also arrived at Jim Jones’ door at a time when his own pathology had reached critical mass. Namely, the self-created mass sex disaster which was neither sustainable nor fixable; indeed, its real causation never broached.
So this was the night of “bringdown.“ How it was made everyone’s fault but his own.
He began that night by soliciting confessions about “the honor” of sex with Jim Jones. (Again, everyone looking frightened. Sex with this man apparently did not equal joy!)
He rehashed his “sacrifice,“ how people drained him, manipulated him, congratulated a hetero man (who wasn’t even sleeping with him!) for “being so comfortable with his homosexuality that he ejaculates in the bed” and a subservient woman for ‘just lying there and fucking” instead of bothering him with talk, etc., etc. By now a full-blown horror story of a pathological sex addict who could never resolve his own life history and kept trying to work it out (unsuccessfully at that!) through other peoples‘ bodies.
All about him. All about sex. That night anyway. I don’t even doubt that his pain was real. People working through their pathologies is painful, whoever they are. People not working through their pathologies, but still repeatedly crashing through the same wrong doors is excruciating.
Oh, I had not yet deciphered the pathology. I just saw the king of sacrifices (unrelated to sex) who was now pained beyond endurance. So I wrote a note retracting a request to phone someone who had flirted with me at an airport, saying he was wealthy and wanted to be a contributor.
I realized that I had made the request partly because I was wounded by a previous (equally wrongful!) “confrontation” and I wanted some time off. Now I thought I shouldn’t ask when his pain had to be worse than mine. That’s all. It was a “girl scout” note. I was the most innocent person in the room.
I could not have foreseen his 180-degree twist of my words in my wildest dreams. I could not yet even fathom his ire towards me in the prior episode. Because I had never done anything to hurt him. Nor was that my intent now.
Do you remember “The Pelican Brief”? A young law student stumbled upon the truth of a double-assassination and suddenly became “fair game.“ Well, that wasn’t quite my situation then (oh, my later stumbling on the truth of the Congressional assassination, yes – that “says it”!) but I did know the truth about something and it had already provoked Jim Jones’ rage before.
What I knew that so threatened Jim Jones, understand, was nothing that could just be “cleared up” or even aired. It was literally what was to happen years later on in Guyana: “Allegory.” Which someone (not me) had brought to him and he was furiouswith me for having written.
And maybe there was nothing I could have said or done that could have countered, “This can’t possibly be true. She must just want me dead” on the part of this paranoid, overwrought man.
I also could not have known that “Allegory” was a prophetic work. Yet I could not renounce it either, whatever upset it had already caused, again now, and yet later on. The surreal was still “all too real” and its Source too sublime.
I suppose that my real, unspoken “crime” was heresy(!); with my prime imperative being to “not crack under torture.” (And I didn’t. I spoke all of twenty-five words that night.)
His imperative was to scapegoat me in a fury then shun me into oblivion so that no one would ever even know what this was really all about.
a/k/a “KILL THE MESSENGER”
Tyrants throughout history have done this to dissidents. Except that I wasn’t “a dissident” – I was a real “lover” but in a different sense – my heart was broken as I listened to the outpouring of grief from an “impossible” time and place.
I was in a time warp relationship to this man. “Future Girl.” I had to be killed off lest I come true.
So you’re the leader and you receive a supremely UN-welcome message. Then how do you “kill the messenger”?
First, what you don’t do is to dignify the message as credible, especially if you yourself are frightened or threatened by its contents. You don’t even say what the message is! You just kill the messenger on other grounds and “spin” the messenger’s (alleged) motives accordingly. Like “When did you stop beating your wife?” when no one had lifted a hand, much less a weapon.
Or you say that they did or meant something else; you pick something that you can relate to. Something that gives you control, because if you accept the message at face value and it’s that frightening or threatening, then you’re lost.
So let’s say you paint the messenger as a bank robber. Then it becomes, “Oh yeah, I remember her. Wasn’t she the one who robbed a bank?” No one can tell you which bank or when (or if!) it happened or even if the alleged culprit was there. Everyone’s just angry and upset because “she robbed the bank.”
But Jim Jones wasn’t a bank robber – he was a sex addict. So I wasn’t “a bank robber.” I was “a sexual manipulator.” And purportedly of the very worst kind. Indeed, [apparently] if he didn’t meet my [imaginary] demands for sex, I wanted him dead!
This was insane. I had had no sexual contact with that man. He never made any advances to me, I never made any to him. Indeed, this was the second time that he had exploded at me publicly for (the first time) saying that I had had sexual fulfillment with someone else; and (now) asking about seeing someone else. Not him. Someone else.
Confused? Let me cut back to what the year just past had been like for me. What epiphany had put Jim Jones and me at sword’s point by that treacherous night. “The real story,” so to speak.
Otherwise you (and frankly everyone at the time!) thinks that it was about “the sexual zoo,” which it wasn’t. Not only that, but then I remain denigrated when “the message” should have been elevated, not demeaned, in the first place.
This was what led up to that notorious incident in L.A. and having nothing whatsoever to do with sex:
Life in Peoples Temple had already turned freak-out for me before that fateful night in 1975 and for reasons beyond “cult.” I was in an unprecedented “Cassandra” position and forced into isolation by an environment where my sensitivities were an anathema.
Few know what it is like to be approached by a spiritual (non-corporeal) Being, especially an extraordinary Being. Not an ordinary human disincarnate – what we commonly call “a ghost.” Enough people have experienced that for some common acceptance.
But I know of no parallel to this – a heart-rendering text given word for word revealing the deaths of people I loved, a scenario which came to pass exactly as it was pre-recorded.
Nor can I convey what it was like to “live in two worlds” during that time period. I was vulnerable, isolated and had “no human guide,” so to speak. I was a channel from a higher Being Who told/showed me the tragedy exactly as it would unfold four years later on in Guyana.
I couldn’t have borne this happening to me (seeing the deaths and to boot, in worldwide condemnation, not acclaim!) except that its Author was so sublime and the poem shrouded in hypnotic language of great beauty.
It’s one of the stranger tales in the history of the world. I was a poetic rendition of “Cassandra” – even despite myself! I wanted the tragedy to not happen; I was battling denial all the way. I was transfixed, awed by the visitations but felt powerless in their face.
Note that there is nothing vague about “Allegory.” It’s the one-by-one dying of everyone, including children: “a nation is dying…I see them fall, one by one…weep not, my little child, though this day your dye is cast… “; the lament of “a thousand unmarked graves” due to “foul-decaying flesh”; Jim Jones discredited worldwide: “and though all men may revile your name”; of the stunned aftermath, “a dirge too low to justly grieve, a song too weak for too-wrong deaths!”
Just days after the tragedy happened, I opened it randomly to “a thousand unmarked graves” and I finally knew for certain what I had done. But it was the Fall of 1974, four years earlier, when it was written.
It also highlighted the child custody “cause celebré” bringing the Congressman to Guyana, but well before either legal parent defected.
It showed a thriving paradise overseas: “a cool green garden-home…. where little children come to play,” at a time when brush was barely cleared.
It showed a community now trapped and under siege: “They are surrounded by a wall that is both massive and clothed in heavy guard… There is no known means of escape!”
“Allegory” began just minutes before the deaths (“the penultimate hour of tribulation,”) even including the final futile outcry (as later recorded on tape!) to “’Leave this place!,’ a suppliant cries.“
It even included the assassination as “the trigger” for the one-by-one mass suicides: “My heart, laid waste, would cry, bleed, drain ‘neath the dead weight of slain men’s bones [the airstrip killings]…. Hush no recourse waits, my heart has known its last reprieve….. And one died… Another died… Yet another died…”
This wasn’t any scenario that Jim Jones wanted! He wanted Peoples Temple to be a world-wide cause celebré, maybe even planetary transformation thanks to the daring, vision and courage of this man. This was much the opposite.
The work itself has raw emotional angst – both then and now. But the Being Himself held no fear for me – to the contrary. He was loving, compassionate, enfolding, supportive, protective, serene.
It was Jim Jones who was the terror for me! If this came out, would I be branded “traitorous“? “Insane“? I quavered at transcribing “Allegory” at all. I thought I might be pilloried.
But then one evening (this man having great gifts himself – just “split”), Jim walked up to me, really just walking past me, not even stopping and he said, “No one will ever understand you. No one ever understands me.” His voice was gentle, reassuring, calm.
It wasn’t even like a person talking to me– more like a Spirit. Coming just as I anguished, “How can I let myself do this?” Now I knew that I had to complete the work because doing it was the imperative, not how it was received. (Even, apparently, by Jim Jones himself!)
Of course now we have sophisticated sci-fi scripts about changing events through time travel. If only we could go years back and change one detail, then none of where we are today would have happened. If only beings from the future came to warn us, we could be kept from blowing ourselves up tomorrow. Etc., etc.
This Being was from the past-present-future – best I can express it. But He never, once, ever, told me to warn or prevent. He just said, “This is for all of America when Jim Jones is gone.” He also told me to keep “Allegory” in the States – which somehow helped keep me in the States.
Meanwhile, we had a pressured environment with its own mental, emotional, social, psychological demands. And although I was a perfectly loyal devoted follower in any other respect, this was not tenable.
So despite my trepidation, I asked Jim (in writing) for help. I said I had been shown mass death, including his death, and that it was “frightening” to me. Naively, I thought he might respond not just because I explicitly said “frightening,” but that he had once told me, “You can write one great work,” adding gently, “Some day people may be able to relate to your eloquence.”
I repeated to him “one great work” – that you said that and that this is “it.” Well, apparently he had no recall (he rarely recalled “revelation”) and the next I met his eyes, he looked at me like I was mad. And never responded to my plea.
I went along for six months until I felt to no longer bear it alone. I assembled a tiny group for a reading. I told them, “This is about the death of Jim Jones and many of our people.”
But this was a bit deceptive in that “Allegory” is so beautiful linguistically, so powerfully rhythmic and with such haunting metaphors, that it’s possible to be transfixed and not immediately snap in with, “This is about death, folks. Mass death.”
So one woman in that tiny audience was entranced and borrowed “Allegory” to show her husband, a close confidante of Jim Jones. And yeah, a little bizarre in that there’s a child next to Jim at the opening of “Allegory“ – identified as his “progeny” – who later turned out to be the child that brought the Congressman to Jonestown. And the woman entranced with the work was the mother of that very child, with her husband the later arch-enemy who claimed “Jim Jones’ progeny” (which no, my friends, was hardly based on a poem!) as his own.
But somehow I still got the review of “Tim says this is just like Shakespeare!” (Maybe God just has a strange sense of humor…) So I thought well, that’s probably good. Tim Stoen is rating it as “Shakespeare,” so how much trouble can I be in?
Then someone came and said, “Bring your poetry to the next P.C.” I had no idea of the planned ambush. Mere days later, Jim exploded at me in fury and turned the whole Planning Commission against me for….. writing poetry!! He launched his attack against such a “narcissistic” pursuit, like I was fiddling while Rome burned. Everyone joined in.
Then once he thought I was demolished from the assault, he threw in: “Is it sex that you want?” I was stunned. My fear had been of being branded traitorous or insane. Now suddenly I was thrust onto the wrong playing field. I was “a narcissist” to be trivialized and ridiculed, or even a sexual manipulator? This was mad. And why was he so enraged? Because of my….. writing poetry??
On the other hand, if he had said outright why he was so upset, namely “Laurie’s written poetry about my death,“ it would have been worse by far!
But that’s what it was about – not sex. I never asked Jim Jones for sex – to the contrary. One night he made us all write out how did we feel about him sexually and did we want to be with him. Big chance, make one’s case.
Well, I couldn’t do it. Yes, I was young, lonely, driven. Yes, I felt rejected, alienated, frustrated. Yes, I loved this man for everything good he was doing in the world. But no, I wasn’t up for “being taught a lesson” in lieu of love. My gut kept saying that that could turn out badly.
So I just wrote him that I had had sexual fulfillment with other men and that now I felt like part of my life was missing.
I guess that made the oft-repeated “If you’re only honest with me, I’ll never embarrass you” fly out the window! The next P.C. began in a cold fury: “Laurie. Stand up.“ Then, “Laurie says she had sexual fulfillment with a man other than me. This is audacious and presumptuous.“ I even remember fanatical Sharon Amos shrieking in the background, “No one has orgasms with anyone but Jim Jones!”
(I didn’t walk then? Unclear why. But life was a little more complex. I thought there were greater concerns than my neglected sex life.)
Indeed, on that deadly night in L.A. (shortly following “the poetry confrontation“), Jim was not upset with me for “coming onto him” (as he falsely claimed) at all, but because I had asked to see another man – someone else – not him!! The wealthy stranger who had flirted with me at the airport and said he might want to contribute to our cause. So I asked Jim about calling the stranger.
By then I had been made so miserable, that I might have been happy to flirt with anyone! But I wasn’t courting Jim Jones. Whatever his liaisons with others, he made no advances to me. Why would I come onto a man who radiated blockage and fear, not interest or openness? What’s the point?
So why his cruel, devastating attack upon me? Well, he could not, would not acknowledge any real “Cassandra” in our midst, so “it must be that she wants me dead.”Which not only was false, but “Allegory” had less than nothing to do with sex. (Obviously.)
But being paranoid by nature, he had to project “why she must want me dead.” And of course he assumed that since he lied about sex, anyone would lie about sex; so he lunged at me with, “Did that man [at the airport] even exist?”
What was he thinking? That I had made up a fiction about a flirtation as a manipulation to trap him into a bed? The “evidence” being that I had written the tour de force about his (well, not just his!!) death, so “that must be why she did it”? Like “sleep with me or die”?
That “conclusion” still boggles my mind! I was grieved at the thought of mass death; at the thought of his death as well. I needed comfort, support, reassurance, not this. But this so shattered me, that it took ages to decipher a caliber of twistedness which had no basis in my being, only his.
Yet that’s all that was left as “an explanation”: “She must want me dead because I’m not screwing her!”That that’s why he tortured me that night with brutal humiliation, enraged screaming, contempt.
At the time, of course, I could barely even process our beloved leader morphing into “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” I had witnessed saintly kindness across the years; now under sexual pressures (notably homosexuality) the debut of a brutal, sadistic bully. (Of course. His own father.)
Even had a word been let in edgewise (it wasn’t), where was my “defense”? When he claimed (as he did) that I had “come onto him” (never happened), was my retort to have been, well no, folks, that never happened – I just told “Father” that he and most of his followers were slated for death accompanied by worldwide ridicule and scorn? I didn’t want to believe that myself.
And then I would have exited that room alive how, whether clothed or not?
When the L.A. catastrophe befell me, it was to boot, superimposed onto what I already could not handle: “Allegory,” which in the melee went into deep-freeze denial until almost the time of the tragedy. (That story of how and when it resurfaced is in my book.)
How could I process that phenomenal epiphany in a setting only poised to brand me traitorous or mad or a liar or an outcast? Oh, there wasn’t a thing about channeling “Allegory” that was not innocent, heartfelt, authentic on my part. But I had no grounding, no on-site human support, for such an unprecedented encounter.
Nor had I any standing – like “she has psychic gifts” or the like. That would be “blasphemy.“ I would be “toast” before I got a sentence out of my mouth.
And the subject matter? Oh, my God! Especially if I had no grounding or standing. That means no credibility. That means “fiction.” And who would “project” such a fate? Unless maybe they had some terrible motive?
I had read “Allegory” to that tiny group at random, on an impulse, on instinct. That only led to trouble, of course; now even worse. The processing of that “anathema,” rather than being aided, was now compounded by having to process (mentally, emotionally, socially, psychologically) the L.A. disaster that Jim Jones created for every wrong, twisted reason of his own.
I was fragile to begin with, the earth now crushed beneath my feet. And not a soul moved in to help. I wasn’t even offered (the famous) “Peoples Temple counseling.” The orders as people departed the room that night were “No one talk to her. No one sympathize with her.”
Then Jim Jones himself arose from his chair, cold, contained, not even glancing my way, and departed with his entourage. I was the last one left in the room that night, nearly unable to move. I could have collapsed into hysteria and no one would have noticed or cared.
But if anyone thinks that somehow I caused that horror show, like there was fault or blame, that’s daft. I just wound up with a double-helping of “situations no one could handle”: “Allegory” and the notorious incident in L.A. In short, I couldn’t be allowed to be who I was or speak what I knew, so I was painted as being “someone else” and terrorized into silence.
It was years before I was finally clear that this was all just a good old-fashioned “kill the messenger.” Jim Jones didn’t hate me. He was threatened by me. I know that now. Then it was unthinkable. It was he who was all-powerful. I was a just a shy, fragile, insecure young woman.
Also at low ebb – flattened by the previous shocking “poetry confrontation”; and that I had just returned from back East to see my father who was dying of cancer and no one even cared.
Nevertheless, how could I have succumbed to such an outrage? Well, once you heed an enraged demand to disrobe before a mixed group, you’re probably already “toast” – defenseless by design. But nudity in and of itself wasn’t threatening to me. I had gone skinny-dipping with strangers as a hippie. Like big deal.
I guess I thought that if it was about nudity, I could handle it. Unfortunately, it soon enough became clear that what it was about was cruelty.
There’s a famous short story called “The Lottery.” In it, every year a village chooses a scapegoat by lot and that person is stoned to death. It’s ritualized – like that one person could purge all the evil amongst them, so they count their ritual as good.
But then, right then, I wasn’t even thinking “scapegoat.” The room that night, thick with repression, silence, fear, just made me unbearably sad. (And what were people supposed to say? That they were pretty sure that they were heterosexual pre-Jim Jones, now they’re “homosexual,” and “how wonderful and thank you Father”?)
This scene was really bad, really sad, but at least there was no yelling or screaming. Yet.Right then, right there, “kill the messenger by turning her intothe scapegoat” would have been too twisted, too diabolical to even occur to me!
So I thought at first o.k., God knows why he’s doing this (bizarre hazing ritual? whacked-out loyalty test?) but I’ll somehow endure. Nor did he seem to be on the attack over “Allegory,“ an even scarier prospect.
But Jim Jones was relentless in his assault, his cruelty, his accusations, his swaying the lynch mob. He pulverized me for TWO HOURS. By the time he got to, “What do you have to offer? Who here wants to fuck her?,” it was getting extremely threatening. But by then it was also too late.
Finally that night (were anyone listening instead of just attacking me), he voiced what was really bothering him – that I mustn‘t write anymore. He was emphatically, aggressively upset about my writing. “Why are you always writing? Say ‘I have no special talents.’ Say it!!” (Which would have altered reality…. how?)
Finally, at the tail end of the TWO HOURS of torture, came the real point: “You want me to die, don’t you?” I had been silent, mute, motionless. But now tears came streaming down my face: “I don’t want you to die, Father.”
Honestly, I didn’t want anyone to die. That was the whole point!!!!
Yes, my fear of his bringing up “Allegory” had become paralytic. I was more terrified of that even than of the horror show that he was creating. If he had held “Laurie says she is foretelling our doom” up to public ridicule, then the incident in L.A. might have looked like a picnic.
Oh, he never did bring up “Allegory” directly. But now he didn’t have to. “You want me to die, don’t you?” said it all.
Meanwhile, this man was sleeping with every Tom, Dick and Harry, Susie, Kate and Sally, yet could not find a moment to talk with me about my frightening visions of mass death? Just publicly rant that “she must want me dead”?
“The final straw” was a tirade over the church-wide P.A. system in San Francisco more than a year after the L.A. incident. It was March, 1977, just weeks before Jim left for Guyana. Not a word had been murmured about poetry since the incident in L.A.; I was just now upset about senior staff spying on me and ordering me around.
Next I knew, I heard Jim Jones’ voice booming over the church wide P.A. with, “The people here are saying that she must want you to die, Father. Why don’t you just drop me in boiling oil?”
Then he sent someone to me to ask if I had anything to “confess.” I approached him startled. I had nothing to “confess.” What did he want me to say?
“Warn” those people? How might that have been done, exactly?
(Or as my wonderful, sane husband and I sometimes quip: “Maybe you should have just taken the poem to the police.” Yeah, right.)
But it’s also confounding when you identify as “family” for so many GOOD reasons. When you think that the stakes are so high for everyone and it’s almost like you would rather die than to damage a movement which meant so much for others.
In fact, it was impossible for me to turn against Peoples Temple. Everything that came through in “Allegory,” however tragic, excruciating, heartbreaking, was in the spirit of identify, identify, identify. When I transcribed “Allegory,” I was hardly functioning like “a court reporter.” I was functioning as an empath.
Now my emotions were shipwrecked. My only saving grace was that I’m not fragile mentally. So when Sharon Amos came to me “post-catastrophe” feigning a partial backtrack of “Jim’s sorry about what happened. It was a new kind of therapy” (what would “the next therapeutic step” have been? shoot me in the head?), I looked at her incredulously, said I was “fine” (I wasn’t), but then added, “Tell Jim I’m saving the poem about his death. I want to know from him that that’s all right.”
She went up front to ask him and came back with a ghastly-uncomfortable “Yes.”
Then “the inner circle” concocted stories to justify the horror show: Sharon screamed at me that “You wanted a dog dead because you didn‘t like its owner.” (I what????) Karen came up with, “Laurie fantasizes about Jim’s death.” Carolyn (who had had the leader’s child!) decided that celibacy was fine for me because “You’ve already had your chances to screw around.“ (And whenwas that “last hurrah“? My early twenties?)
Meanwhile, another follower believed Sharon Amos waving a piece of paper right after the incident, saying that I had immediately written Jim condoning him torturing me! Something like, “I realize that you had to do this because I know that you love me especially and if you didn’t do this to me, then all the other women would be jealous”(????)
And I only find out about that recently? I was horrified even at such late date, that anyone could be that wicked – namely, that when I could still barely walk, move or breathe, she was busy fabricating “damage control“ for Jim Jones?? But the (now-) survivor she told the lie to has told who knows how many people ever since. People who feel free to scorn me over yet more lies to this day!
Much of what I had feared had now come upon me: I was (allegedly) a liar, a manipulator, a narcissist, an outcast and wanted the leader dead – oh, not even to mention being the (alleged) scapegoat for the mass sex disaster that I had had no role in creating.
Though I can also tell you that the Being Who gave me “Allegory” was so much higher than Jim Jones, that I’ve never regretted “the epiphany” – to the contrary! I am profoundly awed to this day. Despite the torture treatment over it. Even despite that where it landed me emotionally, socially, organizationally, was impossible.
For the gift that I was given was so much greater – to know that our fate was seen and known in advance and our people watched over, greatly loved and blessed. To know that despite our perilous missteps, that Beings of immense wisdom watch over us and pour out their compassion, has been “the pearl of great price” and more.
I only wish that it had not fallen on deaf ears. (It didn’t with Marceline Jones, but that was a later, different tale.) But sometimes you can know profoundly what you cannot yet even handle, you can trust the unseen, let the hurricane blow past you – all you lose that way is your home, not your being. Fighting it would have made it even worse.
Yet I could not leave this group either. How could I abandon others in such treacherous waters, dangerous straits? At heart, I very much wanted the Guyana endeavor to succeed. It was a world of hope for so many. And there wasn’t a thing I wrote that I wanted to happen. Indeed, I grieved over it years in advance. I grieved over that exact tragedy, detail for detail, exactly as it would later happen, years in advance.
I was also incredulous at what was done to me because I would never do that to anyone else. In fact the only brief thing that I did write Jim about it later on, was that I would survive, but to please never do this again to anyone else.
Ironically of course, my stoicism also won me a “stay out of Guyana and live” ticket. Jim personally invited me overseas in the fall of 1977 upon my collapsing into hysteria Stateside after he left. (Because I missed him? Because I felt abandoned? No!! Just because it was finally safe to do so!!)
He had tried to rush in with a “spin” (all the way from Guyana!) that the incident in L.A. had only happened “out of love, faith and trust in you.” Well, that’s when Laurie suddenly turned calm. I told him point blank, “I’m not that much of a masochist, Jim. I’d rather you had put a bullet through my brain.” And that “I have nothing more to prove. If you don’t know what I’m made of by now, when will you ever know it?”
And (since I had been given a choice), that I was “needed Stateside because no one else can fill in for my work.” (That was actually true.)
He let that be. Then he showered me with praise from then until the end. How much he appreciated my work, how I could again do creative work in Guyana; that when packets were sent overseas, he always read mine first; that I would be given important projects into the future; even “all his love and concern” (whatever that meant – how could someone who had taken no time to know me, just to ruin me, possibly “love“ me or be “concerned“ for my wellbeing?)
But every new snippet of praise stabbed me through the heart, even though I thought that maybe he was trying to make amends. It hurt me so, that he couldn’t just say, “I’m so sorry for what I did to you, please forgive me,“ that I was pulverized at any prospect of rejoining him. I was happy and proud for the accomplishments at Jonestown. But any thought of going there myself made me feel trapped.
But even all that didn’t mean that I didn’t weep my heart out when the tragedy happened. I did.
So to those who demeaned me in the Nelson film over the L.A. incident, as though I were dead and could not even speak for myself: You did this to me publicly, so maybe you can now have the decency to step forward and apologize. I’m right here and you had no right to speak in my stead, especially in the disgraceful manner in which it was done. I had to go to a public movie theatre with my husband to see that?
I also want people to understand that this is still “kill the messenger” – “kill the messenger redux” if you will. These people would not have done gratuitous public humiliation to each other. No way. These locksteppers stick together like glue – “one happy family.” Well, just so long as they are not threatened by unwanted revelations. Then it’s apparently hard, cold and mean.
“Cult” all over again? “Ex-cult”? Hard to tell the difference. And that’s the bizarre irony of it:
That the “in” people at that time were “sure” that the problem was that “Laurie must want Jim dead.” Now “the in group” is “sure” that “Laurie must just be defending Jim Jones.” I mean, why would I even suggest that it was the CIA who killed the Congressman instead of the Peoples Temple men that “everyone knows they did it”? Doesn’t that mean that I must have some terrible motive?
Well, what if it’s rather that the on-site NBC film footage shows the opposite!! Which it does. So why not JUST LOOK?? The project is called “In Plain Sight” and it’s not “speculation.” The assassins were filmed head-on by NBC and they did not include the man who said “We [including ‘I‘] did it!”! (See “Eyewitness Identifications?: There Was No Bob Kice.”)
Indeed, the assassins were not from Jonestown at all. They were strangers. Professional assassins. Unless some fellow survivor would like to come forward and identify the seven-foot-tall lead assassin dressed like a walking rain forest. From Jonestown? Not a shadow of a chance!
Yet people have been smearing me for years with the likes of “Jim Jones defender this” and “deluded that” and “conspiracy theory that” and it’s been frustrating, even maddening. Especially in that even with thirty years of claims, even I wasn’t in a position to lay this scenario out cold in a verifiably, visually, factually credible way before now. Because I lacked that key piece of proof – the on-site NBC film footage of the assassination.
But now that has changed. No one from Peoples Temple killed that Congressman. It was an agency operation – so-called “black ops.” Look at “In Plain Sight.” This is now proven.
So whereas the survivors were grieved about what happened, various evil bastards with political agendas were relieved at what happened. Children and all. “Collateral damage.” (And got away with a Congressional assassination….)
Now if anyone wants to know why I’ve landed down as I have over the past thirty years, or thinks that it was even slightly due to not recognizing the pathology in Jim Jones, there’s your explanation in a nutshell.
Besides, how could I have filled both spots – then “wanting Jim Jones dead,” now “defending Jim Jones”? I can’t. In fact, I am innocent of either one.
Nor am I up for being shoved into “boxes.” Unacceptable both then and now. I had no appetite, inclination, nor acceptance of “kill the messenger” then; nor do I have it now.
All I want now is to emerge with a clean spirit out of so much mud and pain, and to speak from both heart and mind as best I can. So whatever issue people think they have with me, surely it is not with my character or my integrity. Maybe they need to examine their own.
And yes, people’s behavior has given me pause as to why do this thankless mountain of work on “In Plain Sight.” Yet doing the project for a precious few very good, injured people in spite of “the crowd,” and of course for the dead (and for history), will have to be good enough. They so very much would have wanted this done. If there were anything they would have wanted done, this is it:
This was the twistiest mess of inept amateurs versus polished pros, whereby (tragedy on top of tragedy!) the community did not realize that they were being framed. And that knowledge, that proof (let‘s be clear: it‘s now proven), is of course emerging way too late to save anyone’s life.
Yet anyone who cares about the humanity, not just “the victimization” of the deceased, can appreciate that were it not despair, hopelessness and self-culpability layered onto the panic and fear of that night, but rather rage at those bastards who killed the (anti-CIA) Congressman to then frame it on “the cult crazies” (who were also headed to Russia and “had to be stopped“) in a remote third-world jungle where no one would even investigate….
Or is anyone so “sure” that knowledge of a frame would not have overridden even Jim Jones’ pathologies, at red-hot heat that night, to live and set things aright – that there was something right-at-hand, urgent and exculpatory and not despair, but rather fierce pride, to live for….
And that’s maybe the most bizarre twist of all: That these people might have actually been “ten minutes to martyrdom,” yet bungled their way into infamy instead.
So how do we judge what panicked, defenseless, fearful, loose-cannon people expecting a retaliatory invasion, did? How do we judge the people (a majority contingent of those!) who may have preferred death to being forced back to the States? Because of the conditions they left, not because they were “slaves to Jim Jones”? How do we judge people thrown into despair because they were “sure” that they had just killed a U.S. Congressman and would be made to pay for it forever?
Or what about the government agent (Joseph Mazor) who came into Jonestown and threatened “mass extermination” just two months earlier, making Jim Jones’ claim of “Either we do it or they do it” plausible to frightened people with no way out?
Well, maybe that’s the whole point. That maybe we need to judge less and comprehend more.
And yes, of course it is confounding that someone, or many “someones” had not long since stood up and said, I don’t care what happens – framing, torture, slaughter, defenseless, isolated, trapped, whatever – I still will not lay a hand on a child. I’ll defend young and old with sticks and stones if needs be; but lay a hand on our own children, never. Any bloodshed will be on them, not us.
There is scarce record that that kind of protest was ever lodged. Their self-enclosed world endangered them physically, politically, emotionally, into a state of siege with no way back. So tragically, they followed a man who was yes, a magnificent catalyst for their new lives, but with pathology that worsened along with his physical health – a pathology that was predisposed to a suicidal end
But they also did the best they could with perilous odds on all sides. And I believe they passed on to a good place – that “a flood angels [did] wing them to their rest” (from Hamlet).
And if we can finally comprehend, not just “sit in judgment,” is that not a better way for us all?
As for me, I’ve learned from experience I know first-hand what it’s like for “friends” to throw rocks at me while despicable people get away with infamy. Along with the pitfalls of feeling trapped into hatreds and resentments and powerlessness.
Should we not at long last just step out into the light and become better humans? If we don’t comprehend our life experiences, how can we grow, evolve, change? And always it is better to know than to not know.
And surely not to play “kill the messenger redux.” Because at least I know, if others don’t, that messages supercede, even outlive messengers. I’m not the right target and I never was.
Nor is anyone saying that it’s “a good thing” that Jim Jones was part humanitarian saint and part pathological bastard. It wasn’t. It was dangerous, deadly, costly!! But to see everything as it was and to learn from it? Yes, that’s a good thing.
And anything exculpatory for the people who died (and there is very much exculpatory), that’s a good thing too. Especially, if they were considered expendable (again, it’s called “collateral damage”) by powerful political elements, that should not be covered up just because of (however tragically and of course it was) pathological elements on the part of Jim Jones.
Nor for that matter, should the intelligence agencies’ infamy be covered up because defectors who worked with government agents (again, however unwittingly!) to destroy Peoples Temple are threatened by unwanted revelations and want to protect themselves with “kill the messenger” games.
So I ask the survivor group, you don’t care about the “In Plain Sight” project that breaks the original NBC on-site film footage down frame-by-frame, so we can see who the assassins were (and were not)? Which has now been done for you and you won’t even look? You don’t care if the CIA framed these people and the FBI covered it up? You just reject it out-of-hand and “kill the messenger”? Then who are you in relation to the people who died?
Yes, you care about yourselves and you care about your own losses and that’s all very tragic of course. But why don’t you care about their story, the story they could never live to tell? The story they would have wanted to have told for them?
Do you really think that the elements who duped the Congressman to his death cared if anyone at Jonestown survived? Do you really think that the people of Jonestown had a better chance with those nice CIA folks orchestrating the seventeen-hour time delay?
Does anyone remember from the old song, “Nobody’s right when everybody’s wrong”? But it’s the people of Jonestown who were caught in the middle between every deadly side and that was the tragic humanity of their fate.
So I’m committed to the “In Plain Sight” project – the very project I envisioned all those years back (yes!!!), only now able to get it done. And I’m so very grateful for that. It’s been a burden of conscience and love and now I can finally discharge it and do it right.
What else matters anyhow? A travesty from long ago that people who should know better decided to compound rather than heal?
Personally I’m past that episode long since. I’ve just been wounded by the wrongful hits on my credibility. Especially by of all people, fellow survivors. There is nothing more dismaying than people who have suffered so much, yet apparently learned so little – apparently, not even so much as the golden rule.
Yet if people still do not “get” why all of this is appearing in the same article…… Namely, why is the only deciphering ever of Jim Jones’ psychotic break appearing in the same article vindicating me? I want to be clear on that:
The message is that whatever pounding I’ve taken from questionable people that “Oh, don’t listen to her, she just defending Jim Jones,” I was in no way, shape, or form responsible for Jim Jones’ psychotic break. Nor do I excuse it, defend it, justify it, nor do I merit any of the other wrong, hurtful accusations that have been hurled my way.
To the contrary. Apparently I’m the only one to decipher the psychiatry at all!!; and God knows, could I have seen then what I see now, and been the person then that I am now, I might well have acted on it. Others might have too.
At the same time, no one should presume that Mr. Jones’ psychotic break justified or excused or defends those dangerous political elements (still with us today!!) who had callous disregard for anyone at Jonestown just so long as they destroyed Jim-Jones-political-threat; and (a bone to throw to the defectors) falsely promised that they would “rescue” individual relatives.
Well, they had seventeen hours to mount a rescue, but deliberately delayed until everyone was confirmed dead. That’s on their own official log (to appear on “In Plain Sight”). So there was no intention to “rescue” anyone, was there? Children? “Collateral damage.”
As well as getting away with the assassination of a U.S. Congressman in the process! The vehicle for that expose being the “In Plain Sight project.
I mean even a psychotic Jim Jones valued those precious lives. He just threw them off his own psychotic cliff when he himself was tossed into a pressure-cooker with no escape valve. And yes, of course its roots were self-created. That’s the whole point of a psychiatric expose in the first place!!
Take this parallel. (Hardly perfect. Just to make this one point.) Look at Andrea Yates who drowned her own children in the bathtub. In a non-psychotic state she probably loved her kids. Even though she killed them. She did it. “Guilty.”
Yet if someone had set up a loudspeaker in her home broadcasting, “Kill your own kids! Kill your own kids! We’ve threatened to kill you off before and now we’re ready to do it,“ then you probably would not have called that party “innocent.” Much less the champion of children’s rights.
Oh, Leo Ryan personally was undoubtedly sincere in his championing of “Concerned Relatives.” He was just not in a position to do that. He was used and duped himself. He was a target.
But what was done to Jonestown from the outside? No better than an evil masquerade. Threaten to kill the community yourselves, frame them to cover up your own assassination of a hated Congressman (hated for forcing the CIA to report black ops to Congress), and then HOPE that a maddened leader offs his own people “to protect them from invasion.”
Well, and to protect yourselves against investigation. That too. You’ve “killed two birds with one stone” (anti-CIA Ryan; pro-Soviet Jones) and no one even suspects.
Indeed your front group, “Concerned Relatives” (with every due respect to personal losses) is cast as tragic heroes. After all, “they tried to stop it, didn’t they”?
And is this all nasty, convoluted, ugly? Of course! But even if I leave this topic for good (big temptation!), no one will be able to say that I didn’t explain anything. I’ve tried to “explain the unexplainable” at every turn.
Nor do I plan on walking away from this subject wrongly “discredited” at all; now with this, the psychiatric expose and the “In Plain Sight” project, I don’t have to. I am so very credible. Now it’s all right there. Just LOOK.