I first heard of the Peoples Temple/Jonestown story back in 1980 when I about nine, when I saw the movie with Powers Boothe. Iwas too young to understand much about it then, but many months ago, on a whim, I decided to find out more.
I wanted a glimpse into Jim Jones’ troubled soul. I searched online for videos and articles about the Temple leader. To my surprise, I found quite a few. Then I learned that tapes with Jones’ voice – the best avenue into him which still exists – were available through this site. I’ve listened to many of them, from his fiery sermons in San Francisco, to his laidback chatter in Jonestown, all peppered with contradictions, profanity, sexual innuendos and the “N” word. In listening to these tapes, I came to realize that Jones could be very entertaining and charming, that he had an extensive vocabulary, and that he could talk nonstop for hours. He could change his voice, too. He sounded at times stern and rough, other times friendly and jovial, and then stoned or Daffy Duck like. But he certainly had an annoying laugh.
I believe Jones was on the path of self destruction long before Guyana. He spoke of death many times and came to the conclusion that “there’s no point to this.” Sometimes I wonder where Jones and all of his followers would be today had they chosen life.
(Tammi Murray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)