The sixth edition of the jonestown report presented a nice roundtable of opinions about audiotape Q875, the only tape in the Peoples Temple collection known to have been recorded after the deaths in Jonestown. I was one of the contributors to the discussion, penning the article, Closing on Q875? In that article I attempted to address three points that seemed to be key to the entire mystery of the tape: who made it, where it was made, and why it was made. I set out to present the reader with enough information so that he or she might be able to come to the same reasonable conclusions that I had.
However, in recent weeks, I have had cause to revisit the tape, and have come to the conclusion that I made an error concerning one specific point of information. Whereas my original piece does not conclude whether the tape was made by Temple insiders, Temple defectors, or outsiders – instead offering arguments for and against each scenario – I now believe the tape was made by outsiders.
Those who are familiar with the tape will recall that the audible portions of the tape are marked by extraneous noise, unintelligible speech, and the ever-present radio going in the background. My own investigation of the audio on Q875 was the basis for my article, and provided me with the information I need to form “reasonable conclusions” concerning the three points.
One point of contention I focused on was where Q875 made. All we know is that it was found along with 900 other audio tapes in Jonestown. My opinion was then, as it still is, that Q875 was made in Jonestown. I used three pieces of supporting evidence to explain why I thought it was reasonable to believe the tape was made there. The first was the tape’s location in Jonestown where it was recovered. If it had been made in Georgetown – the only other alternative, given that it features Guyanese radio broadcasts – then someone would have had to transport it 250 miles to Jonestown, quite a distance to travel just to drop off a tape. The simpler and more reasonable explanation is that the tape wasn’t transported at all.
The two other bits of information that I used to base my belief on were both audio clues. During one of the segments, as I mentioned in my earlier piece, a dog can be heard growling, albeit very quietly, at a male who tells the dog (twice) to “shu-up.” We know there were no dogs in Georgetown at the time, and we do have photographic evidence that there were dogs in Jonestown then.
It is the other audio “clue” that is the reason I am writing this update.
In the article I wrote last year, I said I had heard on Q875 a man saying the words, “He’s in Georgetown with Richard…” The argument I made was that this statement gave credence to the probability that the tape was made in Jonestown. Quoting myself from last year’s article:
It seems logical to conclude that the tape wasn’t made in Georgetown simply because most people don’t use language this way. More likely, if the tape was made in Georgetown, the person would have said, “He’s here…” or “He’s here in town…”
However, after more careful analysis of the audio, I have come to a different conclusion about what the speaker says at that moment. Let me preface this by saying that I had always had problems with what I perceived the speaker saying immediately after he says, “Richard”. What I heard sounded like, “Garr”, “Carr” , or “Kerr”, like he was saying a last name almost. “He’s in Georgetown with Richard Carr right [now]…” for instance. Since I couldn’t be sure, I left it alone. Besides, as far as I knew, there was no one in Jonestown or Georgetown with that name. However, my uneasiness with this “Carr” problem vanished when I came to this new conclusion.
Based on further manipulation of the audio quality, I have concluded that the speaker says, “See, Jones thought a breach occurred, right?” Layering that over the top of, “He’s in Georgetown with Richard [unintelligible] right….”, it is easy to see how I could have confused these cognates. The two more obvious mistakes are confusing “Jones thought” for “Georgetown”, and confusing “Richard [some word that sounded like “Ger or Carr”] with “…breach occurred…” Anyone who has heard the tape will understand what I was up against in trying to decipher this audio. There is no reference to Georgetown, and he is not saying, “Jonestown”. Again, he is saying, “See, Jones thought a breach occurred, right?”
So, where does this leave things? My personal belief is that this new information does not deflate my “made in Jonestown” argument much, although is does take away some weight for it. The new information does, however, present us with usable material.
First, there is no need now to speculate on who “Richard” was. Secondly, we don’t have to speculate on who was with “Richard”. Thirdly, we can presume that the speaker had no intimate relationship with Jim Jones because of the way he refers to him simply as “Jones”. This, in my opinion, only lends credence to the “outsider” theory that posits outsiders, not Temple members, made Q875. At the very least, the speaker knew enough to know of a man named “Jones”, and that “Jones” was somehow connected to what had happened. In addition, the question in his statement – “See, Jones thought a breach occurred, right?” – sounds like something someone would say if they were trying to figure out a timeline of events. Again, this smacks of outsiders.
Unfortunately, in the final analysis, we are still left with a big fat question mark. In my last article, I said that it was the obligation of researchers and historians to move as close to the truth as possible. By correcting my own mistake, I continue to pursue this goal.
(Josef Dieckman has written extensively about both the so-called death tape (Q 042) and the “day after” tape (Q 875). His complete collection of writings for the jonestown report may be found here. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)