Jack Chen

I contributed two pieces to the class response project: Imagining I was Tim Stoen, and The Development of Stephan Jones. I became interested in Tim Stoen and Stephan Jones when I learned more about who they were. My journey into exploring their lives while creating this project was a very enlightening one. Stephan Jones’ talk only enlightened me further.

My fascination with Tim Stoen started ever since I learned that he was a Stanford Law school graduate. Of all the people who were deceived by Jim Jones, I would never have expected a really well-educated person to be one of them. I thought that if I lived back then, I would have probably been like Tim Stoen: a well-educated man who could be tricked by Jim Jones.

The second person I was most interested in was Stephan Jones. He was the obvious person to research more about for me because of his relationship to the whole tragic event. In addition to being literally brought up by Peoples Temple culture and life, he was also one of the few survivors in Guyana. Out of all the survivors who we have discussed, he seemed to stand out and be the most mystical from the very beginning. Before I started looking for answers, I always wondered what kind of person he is now and how Jonestown and Jim Jones have impacted his life.

I had to go through many different methods of thinking before finally coming up with ways to present Tim Stoen and Stephan Jones that I felt comfortable with. When we first were assigned into groups and started thinking of project ideas, I thought it was going to result in several skits. In that mindset, I started thinking of different kinds of skits that were possible. One idea that really stood out to me was to give the audience a taste of Jim Jones’ “mind-reading” ability. It would have started out with someone giving a sermon, much like in Eli’s presentation, and then progress to the fortune telling. The person playing Jim Jones would pick a classmate who is seated amongst the audience members and start stating “facts” about his/her life. Of course, I later realized that Professor Gainer’s vision for the project was to have each of us share personal reflections or interpretations of members or events. This terrified me because I have always had problems with stage fright and public speaking.

Of course, I knew instantly that I wanted to present about Stephan Jones and Tim Stoen. The issue was that I was having a hard time coming up with a creative way to present what I felt about them without sounding like I was reading an essay. Because we were supposed to assume that the audience had very limited knowledge of Jonestown, I also wanted to incorporate some information on both Stephan and Tim Stoen. Finally, during a class meeting, the idea of a poem came up and I knew instantly that that was going to be one of my presentations. I thought it was a perfect way to present Tim Stoen because I wanted to show everyone what he went through in his life. I started on the poem immediately and it started to take the shape of a slam poem. As I got to the point in Tim’s life where he was fighting for his son John, the poem became increasingly urgent, ending with a sad note when Tim finds out that his son died along with more than 900 others at Jonestown. The problem was, however, that I have never written a slam poem before so I wasn’t sure exactly how it would turn out. I also know that to read slam poetry effectively, one needs to be emotional and able to convey the emotions on stage. I knew that I would not be able to do so as public speaking alone is hard for me already. The effort was not in vain, however, because I was still able to gather the important events in Tim’s life and organize them. I still wanted to do a poem because I thought it would be a much more effective and aesthetic way to allow the audience to appreciate his life, instead of reading an essay on stage.

While I knew how I was planning to present Tim Stoen, I was still having a hard time coming up with a way to talk about Stephan Jones. I had decided on showing how he’s changed since Jonestown, because I was curious as to how he had changed as well, except I did not know what form to present it in. During yet another class, someone mentioned videos and the idea of showing how Stephan has changed through his interviews struck me. It is clear to anyone who watches Stephan’s interviews that he has matured and dealt with his past very well. I already knew how to edit videos from a previous video editing shop class I took in high school so I stuck with this idea.

After introducing Professor Gainer to my two ideas, he helped me by mentioning that I could do a list poem for Timothy Stoen. This idea appealed to me because if I wrote it from Tim’s perspective, I could inform the audience about his life while humanizing him at the same time. By starting every line in my poem with “I”, I hoped to show that these events could have happened to me, or anyone else. I wanted to end the poem with a slow reading of everything that he lost, and convey how it all happened instantaneously for him. I felt that this method would garner greater empathy. Professor Gainer also liked my Stephan Jones development idea so I started working on obtaining the proper video clips to utilize in my presentation.

To present the development of Stephan Jones, I wanted to show how he was while living in Jonestown, after the “mass suicide” occurred, and present day. I already knew there was going to be an interview with him right after the “mass suicide” because it was used in many documentaries. What I wasn’t sure about, however, was what I was going to find out about Stephan and how he dealt with his past. Fortunately there have been plenty of interviews that show how well Stephan has moved on. The other problem was finding a way to show how he was while he was living in Jonestown, which would have to be audio since everything in Jonestown was recorded. I found an interesting clip in which Stephan was heard chastising another member during a catharsis session but did not end up using it in the end because Professor Gainer thought it would be too hard to understand. In the end, I found it just as effective to show how Stephan changed as an adult from when he was a teenager.

After everyone completed his or her scripts and presentations, we started practicing, which ended up serving as a very helpful tool to help me get past my stage fright. The first rehearsal that we had did not go as smoothly as planned because of technical difficulties that everyone was having. I was, however, able to practice speaking into a microphone while standing up on the platform before my entire class. By the time April 10th rolled around, I had practiced enough to feel comfortable enough to read it to an audience. It should be apparent that I still didn’t feel completely at home up on the stage, however, because I still made a few mistakes.

Although I was nervous during my portion of the performance, I do think that my pieces added to the overall effectiveness of the performance itself. My Tim Stoen list poem came early on and introduced Tim Stoen to everyone for the first time in the presentation. I also thought that the poem did a good job in introducing his son, John Victor Stoen and the custody battle for him. After my poem, those who did not know much about Jonestown should have been more curious about John Stoen, who was the center of Tim’s life in my poem. This served as a perfect precursor to Chloe and Jess’ presentation about John Victor Stoen and all the other children who perished in Jonestown.

I also thought my next piece, The Development of Stephan Jones, was very well placed by Professor Gainer. Like my Tim Stoen list poem, this piece was the first in the performance to officially introduce Stephan Jones. I felt that this piece could have gone either before or after Kate or Ben’s Stephan Jones pieces. Placing it before their two pieces gave the audience knowledge about how Stephan was now, and left them curious as to how he was as a teenager growing up with Jim Jones. Both Kate and Ben’s pieces then filled this curiosity nicely. If my piece had come after theirs, it could have served as a nice ending thought, showing how Stephan carried on after Jonestown. In the end, I thought that my responses definitely added to the presentation as a whole in terms of introducing two great people and inducing curiosity and interest in them.

The process of creating and performing our class response helped me better appreciate and understand the Jonestown narrative. Coming into the class, I had only a faint idea of what Jonestown actually was. All I knew was the typical “a bunch of people committed suicide” and “don’t drink the Kool-Aid”. After the course readings, lectures, discussions, and my project, however, I learned that Jonestown is so much more than that. The biggest message of the Jonestown narrative that I will never forget is that “the people in Jonestown were ordinary people”. Our very first reading, Raven, gave many names to the nameless “cultists” that I associated with Jonestown. With every subsequent reading, more and more names were given and personalities were filled in. Authors who did not try to include everyone, as Tim Reiterman did, were able to add depth to the select people they wrote about. It was these readings, such as A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres, that took the first step in destroying the image of “people who committed suicide mindlessly” for me. They were the first step in my realization that each of the people involved with Jonestown were no different from anyone else. Our few class discussions about our readings only further supported this feeling because we each chose or talked about a few people that interested us. Everyone in the class had someone that interested them and were able to share what it was that fascinated them about the person. This served to further humanize people at Jonestown because I realized that everyone had someone in the Jonestown narrative that they could relate to on some level.

While the course readings served to allow us to form our own opinions about the people in Jonestown, the lectures definitely served to humanize the people in Jonestown. Every speaker that came to give us a lecture, whether they were a survivor, author, or director, stressed the fact that they wanted to humanize those in Jonestown. The biggest tragedy that I felt was conveyed was the fact that the people in Jonestown were shunned and avoided. Tim Carter was also very hurt by the phrase “don’t drink the Kool-Aid” and showed how this phrase was actually almost an insult to the members of Peoples Temple. If I had to summarize all of the speakers’ main points, it would have to be that the people who were at Jonestown were just that, people, just like everyone else. The several survivors that we have had to speak to us also added a new dimension to the people of Jonestown. They told stories about their childhood and the emotions that felt while being part of Peoples Temple and Jonestown. Their stories and emotions were things anyone could relate to and helped answer questions about their lives that our readings could have never done. With every speaker, new information about someone’s life or some event was revealed, making the Jonestown narrative grow increasingly understandable  and relatable to.

Our course project was just the final touch to give us an almost hands-on experience with Jonestown and its people. While all the lecturers and readings helped to detail and paint the Jonestown narrative and humanize the people, the project was what allowed us to get personal with whoever we focused our presentation on. For me, I was allowed to look further into Tim Stoen and Stephan Jones’ lives. I had read about Tim Stoen, mainly all in Raven and heard about him a few times in the lectures but never fully appreciated what he had to go through until I started writing my poem from his perspective. I realized that he must have felt such despair and hopelessness during his fight for John Victor Stoen. This feeling of despair is one that anyone could have experienced, and one that plenty of people experience everyday. Writing this poem ultimately allowed me to empathize with a “cult member”, someone I never even met. Stephan Jones was also a big name throughout learning about the Jonestown narrative, but he was mainly known as Jim Jones’ son or the person who opposed Jim Jones. In the lectures, he was rarely talked about, and sometimes was brought up just to mention that he could probably better answer the question when he comes to speak. The readings gave me a clear idea of what his life was like back in Jonestown, but not much afterwards. I feel like the most essential detail to human zing anyone is to tell the complete story of his or her lives. If their narrative just ends when the Jonestown narrative does, then they were just a part of the story; they didn’t have a separate and independent life that “normal” people have. With my project, I continued both Tim Stoen’s and Stephan Jones’ “story” and completed the details of their lives by researching how they carried on with their lives after the Jonestown narrative part of their lives were over. Much of the class project dealt with people in a similar way and helped me better understand the Jonestown narrative as I observed what everyone personally felt about Jonestown. There is definitely still more to the Jonestown narrative, such as any classified information the FBI has yet to release, but the combination of course readings, lectures, discussions, and our project have completed my understanding of the Jonestown narrative as much as a semester of studying Jonestown could.

Jack Chen

Rebecca Moore Talk response

Reading Rebecca Moore’s book, Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple, filled in a lot of the Jonestown story that Reiterman’s Raven did not cover. I did not even realize how much perspective I was still missing until after I read Moore’s book. Instead of basically ending the book after the end of Peoples Temple, she goes past it and talks about how Jonestown lives on. It went over how everyone shunned Peoples Temple after the event and tried to be disassociated from it, effectively dehumanizing all those who had died. Moore also did a very effective job in summarizing the rise and fall of Jim Jones in just about half of the book. The part that most interested me was how the assets from the Temple went to family members last. The fact that the government basically got reimbursed only made it seem worse. Throughout the entire book, Moore was about to stay relatively objective, especially when compared to Reiterman. It is interesting to see how differently the two authors portray this event and its people, given the personal involvement that each of them had.

Moore’s lecture was a nice concise, yet detailed, overview of what Peoples Temple was all about and what was happening around that time in terms of social movements. Because I am personally not as strong in history, it was very helpful to learn more about different events and groups that existed during that time. One particular comparison that she stressed during her talk was between the Black Panthers group and Peoples Temple. She talked about how Huey Newtown used the phrase of revolutionary suicide to mean that they knew they might die for the cause they were fighting for, but kept fighting. She then talked about how Peoples Temple, more specifically Jim Jones, used revolutionary suicide to mean actually dying to spread a message. Both groups compared revolutionary suicide to other types of suicide. The Black Panthers compared it to reactionary suicide while Jim Jones compared it to self­ destructive suicide for selfish purposes. By comparing these two groups, Moore wanted to show how Peoples Temple was more of a political movement instead of the negative brand of a cult. She explained how the social movements at that time were very violent in general, including assassinations, armed resistance, the Vietnam War, etc. It was interesting to see that although Peoples Temple ended in a horrifying way by taking away the lives of hundreds of people, many events around the same time were just as violent. The point that Moore seemed to want to drive home was the fact that Peoples Temple was, among other things, a political movement. Just as the Black Panthers considered themselves to be true martyrs for African American liberation, the followers of Peoples Temple also considered themselves as martyrs for the same cause.

I feel that Moore was very effective in giving background information for what she was going to talk about. She put her ideas forward in an organized manner and informed those who did not know as much about Peoples Temple or the Black Panther Party. Although most of the information on Peoples Temple was just a refresher because of all the material we read in class, I thought she effectively used the information to show how Peoples Temple was indeed a political movement. One of the most interesting parts of the lecture, however, was the question and answer time. Most of the information that she talked about could probably be read somewhere online, but the advantage of having the actual relative of a Temple member there, was that there could be more personal questions. The biggest question that probably causes confusion for everyone was how well educated people got drawn into Jim Jones’ control. Moore explained rather convincingly that the people joined the Temple were probably idealists. They saw Peoples Temple as a very effective way to improve society. What they didn’t realize, however, was that they slowly gave up their ideals piece by piece. She told us that they made compromises with their ethics because they wanted to help society. This made sense to me because I took a medical ethics class and knew how hard it was to decide which was more of the “right” choice. A well-remembered question posed by one of my teachers comes up in regard to ethics: “would you kill one person if it meant saving a million others?” It was also very interesting to learn about Moore’s family and how they reacted. She explained the logic of her mother as never wanting to force her daughters back home because she hoped that they would know that there was a home waiting for them. This reminded me of Steven Katsaris’ method of dealing with his daughter. After the entire lecture, I gained more of an understanding of how Peoples Temple may have been a political movement more than anything and how the family of Temple members reacted/felt both during and after Jonestown.

Stanley Nelson and Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (film) response

Stanley Nelson’s film Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple was a nice take on Jonestown. It was interesting to see how his documentary basically allowed the people he interviewed to speak for him. He doesn’t give as much background information compared to everything that we have been reading. Anything you learn about Jonestown through this film is either from other people or old footage. This provided a nice contrast to constantly reading the author’s interpretation of the information that they researched. Instead of getting a second hand perspective from people who were not actually at the event, the documentary focused on only people who were actually there and/or actually lived in Jonestown. The beginning of the film actually made it seem as though Jonestown was a pleasant place, which I am sure it was for a while. As the film went on, however, all of the survivors started talking about Jim Jones’ descent and all of a sudden Jonestown did not seem like a pleasant place at all. It is important that all of this came from actual former members of Peoples Temple because they serve as living proof that people actually enjoyed Jonestown and that some even thought it was heaven on Earth.

What I enjoyed about the film was being able to hear and see the different perspectives of people who were related to the Jonestown event. It was interesting to see how the reporters who were there treated it, and how the actual survivors talked about it. It was nice to see the fact that one man in particular, was able to kind of talk about Jonestown in a more lighthearted manner. In one scene, he describes how he saw everyone’s hand go up in admitting that they had sex with Jim Jones and how he was looking around and thinking “is this where we’re going?” The scene around that time got a couple of chuckles, which was nice especially because we all know that Jonestown had such a tragic and depressing ending. While watching the film I was also expecting to see Stephan Jones. Stephan appears in interviews for other news sources so I fully expected to see him give his input in the film but was surprised when the film ended without his appearance. I was also pleasantly surprised at the fact that Nelson did not narrate anything in the film. He pointed this out and takes pride in that fact. I did not even realize that there was no narration, mostly because anything that could’ve been said was incorporated into the film. In the end, I thought Nelson’s documentary did a good job in providing a new perspective on Jim Jones, Peoples Temple, and Jonestown.

Although the film was great for the purposes of learning more about and gathering insight into Jonestown, I do not think Nelson’s talk was as good. He was introduced along with the many awards that his films have won over the years. He then proceeded to play the last ten to twenty minutes of his film. At the end of the film, he opened up the question and answer session. This then led to mainly a discussion about how he actually came up with the idea and pursued Jonestown. He started off the talk by telling us that the idea for this film first came up when his wife heard about the Jonestown anniversary on the radio and suggested that they do something about it. This apparently was enough motivation to create the entire film because when asked what really made him want to create this film, he gave the same answer. He then talked about how he didn’t try to hassle and convince those who declined to be interviewed for the film, which was nice to say the least. He did, however, unsuccessfully try to convince Stephan Jones to talk to them and ended up saying that he was glad Stephan declined because that would have ruined the whole dynamo the documentary had. He then went on to talk about the tedious editing process and all the work they put into editing and cutting out parts of the film. When asked what he found the most interesting out of all of his interviews, he replied that the fact PBS, the company he was working for, actually wanted more details about sexual life in Peoples Temple was pretty interesting to him because PBS usually doesn’t want to show that kind of material. This disappointed me because of all the things that he could’ve picked out from all of his interviews to be interesting, he picked out something related to PBS instead of some cool fact that he learned that the film did not disclose. Although it was interesting to see the “behind the scenes” on how the film was made, Nelson’s talk definitely paled in comparison to Moore’s lecture in terms of information and relevance to Jonestown and Peoples Temple.

Leigh Fondakowski book/lecture response

Leigh Fondakowski’s book Stories from Jonestown contained a lot of new and interesting material from the numerous interviews that she and her colleagues conducted. It was a great change of reading material because most of what we have been reading about Jonestown basically reiterated the same facts in different ways. What happened in Jonestown is going to stay the same forever, the perspective of the Temple members, however, can only be obtained by talking to the actual survivors themselves. This is what Leigh’s book does differently; almost every single page in her book is filled with details about her process of interviewing and making the play. There was a lot more information about what Stephan Jones thought during Jonestown and his feelings towards his father than any of the other books have had. It was especially interesting to see how many of the survivors felt guilt at first but then learned to keep living and to appreciate the times that they actually enjoyed at Jonestown. There are many new interviews and other sources where you can find Stephan Jones speaking but this book also had so much on other survivors, some who were coming out and speaking publicly about Jonestown for the first time. One of the things that I always wondered about was what would’ve happened if someone had just physically stood up to Jones and tipped the barrel of poison over. Even this was covered in the story by Tim Carter when he claims that everything was in such a confusion and chaotic state that he didn’t even think of kicking the poison over. I feel that this book provides the closest and most authentic insight into Jonestown because of the fact that it was centered on either the survivors or relatives like Rebecca Moore.

In her lecture (2/27/13) Leigh Fondakowski began by telling us how she got started on Jonestown in the first place. She worked on this project for an astonishing three years to gather interviews and two years to put the play together. Although I have not seen it, the pictures she displayed at the end of her lecture makes the play seem interesting. She also reads several passages from her book that showed how Stephan Jones was as a child or what Tim Carter was thinking when he was called to deliver the suitcases and saw everyone dying. She described the interview process and how she got drawn into the “Jonestown Vortex” that Rebecca Moore warned her about. Her main objective, however, seemed to be to try to humanize the survivors of Jonestown. She also said that Jim Jones could be humanized through Stephan’s stories in her book, and that was also developed in the play by having the same actor act as Stephan and Jim Jones. The way she ended her play was also very interesting. Although she kind of describes it in her book, I never got the full sense of what the end of the play was or what all of the passport pictures were actually for. Throughout the play, actors actually put up blown up passport pictures on boxes in the background. At the very end of the play, these boxes would be the main focus and everyone would be able to see all of the faces of those who died at Jonestown. She said that the audience was so moved by this that some even actually tried to go up on stage to look at the photos more closely, which surprised me because audience members of a play usually stay in their seats. So in a way, she described her play as actually ending in a sort of art installation.

Because I have already finished reading Stories from Jonestown, most of the lecture did not seem that informative (she mainly read three passages in the book). Although it was interesting to hear about her process in writing the play and the book, this lecture, like Stanley Nelson’s, was nowhere near as informative as Rebecca Moore’s lecture. It was also interesting to hear about her plays but because I

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Jordan Vilchez Talk response

Jordan’s talk was very interesting because she provided an inside look at Peoples Temple. She joined Peoples Temple as a teenager because her mother sent her to live with her sister. Gradually, she became a devoted member through the path that has become all too familiar. She goes to a meeting, where she was befriended and felt the love and community in the Temple. Then, because she did not have a mother and father to rely on, Peoples Temple members became her parents. This is the point where there’s basically no turning back for most new members. She continued to tell stories such as how she told on herself and her brother for breaking a window because she truly believed that Jim Jones could read minds and would find out either way. She also told stories of the roles she played as a teenage member, which was the usual lack of sleep because of the trips, work, school, and asking for donations.

I think that Jordan’s talk was very informative because there were many things that only a survivor could tell. She was very open and had answers for all the questions asked. Only a survivor could have told us how adjusting to coming back to the U.S. would be like. She was fortunate enough to have family back in the U.S. waiting for her, and to be able to go back to school (eventually getting a Masters degree). She was also straightforward with what she talked about. It is obvious in the way she talked that she regretted not speaking up. In fact, the only reason she would have even considered going back given the chance is to speak up. Her stories and answers taught me a lot more about life as a teenage Temple member.

Tim Carter (no reading due)

I was very excited to go to Tim Carter’s lecture because he seems to be the one that is trying the hardest to spread information about Jonestown. Many sources that one might read or watch to learn about Jonestown has Tim Carter in it. While Jordan Vilchez’ talk was effective at providing insight into Peoples Temple from a teenager’s perspective, Tim Carter’s was effective because it was from an adult’s perspective. Although he said that he would not like to talk about his son or wife who died in Jonestown, they were still mentioned in the lecture many times. Every question or topic aside from his son or wife was gladly taken and answered by Tim. Although his lecture was not terribly long, every time a question was raised, he would be able to answer the question and then go off on new tangents that the question reminded him of. This method of “storytelling” or sharing was very effective because I also find it much easier to recall things once someone else gets the thought processes going.

Tim’s lecture contained many new pieces of information that I have not heard anyone else declare yet. First of all, he adamantly stated that John Victor Stoen was Grace and Jim’s son, not Timothy Stoen’s. This surprised me because although there is a mystery surrounding this topic, no one has come out and explicitly sided with one side. Although he believes this because Grace told him herself, I can’t help to think that she could have been lying for some reason. Another thing that resonated from his lecture was the fact that he really despised the phrase “drink the Kool-Aid.” He became visibly upset while talking about this phrase. He also thought that Jim Jones was planning this for years, another topic that is usually up for debate. Many people wonder if Jim Jones only started pursuing the idea of killing everyone after he succumbed to drugs, but Tim was sure he came up with the idea years ago. He also told us that Jim Jones’ orders were ignored on the final few days, which came as a surprise because I did not know this before. He described Jim Jones as a genius, charismatic, and the best speaker he’s ever heard in his life, which is just about what every other Peoples Temple member says as well. There were too many interesting things that he revealed to summarize in a few sentences. Every question that was asked led to completely new stories and perspectives. Out of all the lectures so far, I think this is the one in which I learned the most about what was actually going on inside of Jonestown and with Jim Jones.

Julia Scheeres Response

When I was sitting down for Julia Scheeres’ lecture I thought it was going to be about the journey of interviewing people and then digging around for more information. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised when she actually had her own story to tell parallel to Jonestown. Bringing in her own childhood made her presentation much more effective and kept me interested. She, like all of the other presenters, handled questions very well and would also go off on stories once asked a question. This helped fill in a lot of interesting details about her journey writing her book. She also kept referring back to her New York Times bestselling book Jesus Land, which sounds interesting but was also disorienting because I have not read the book. She explained her reasoning behind choosing only a few people to focus on and why she became interested in the topic in the first place.

When the lecture first started, Julia started off by talking about her other book, Jesus Land, and how it was set in Indiana and about how it was like growing up with a black brother. I initially thought that this book was a book she wrote from Stephan Jones’ perspective. When I heard that it was actually about herself, and she actually lived in Indiana with an adopted black brother, I was amazed at how similar her story was to Stephan’s. What were the chances that two white families that adopted a black child in Indiana would somehow become related? Then she revealed even more about her life such as how she was sent to a Christian therapeutic school in the Dominican Republic. The school had so many parallels to Jonestown and Jim Jones that I began to think that maybe she’s trying to tell us she was actually in Jonestown. The reform school had: teachers fighting teenagers as punishment, chopping hair off as punishment for trying to run away, catharsis sessions, not being able to speak to anyone as punishment, and censure of letters and other forms of communication. This sounded so similar to Jonestown that I had trouble believing there was actually another place like it. She continued to talk about her book and how she disliked writing about Jim Jones because that what was Jim Jones would have wanted: to go down in history. I respected this because many people think that the reason horrible acts like school shootings are committed are because the criminal is glorified and continuously talked about in the media. She did not want to do the same with Jim Jones. I was surprised to hear that Tim Carter did not want to be interviewed for her book because he is in so many other sources of media about Jonestown. Although she was not able to get very well known people like Stephan or Tim, she was able to get others, sometimes in incredible ways. She told us how she tracked Tommy Bogue down by seeing the automotive company logo he worked for on his clothes in a television interview and finding him through his job. Julia had many more anecdotes that were all very unique and interesting to learn a bout.

Julia Scheeres’ book A Thousand Lives The Untold Story of Jonestown was a very good read. Wh en I started reading it I was afraid that it was going to be another Raven, basically telling me facts and giving me biographies of everyone. Although Raven was a very good book to learn much more a bout Jonestown, it was also very biased and did not do as good of a job of trying to humanize those in Jonestown. A Thousand Lives presented the Jonestown story in such a way that I felt pulled into it.

Stephan Jones talk

I was very excited to see Stephan Jones come and talk because I know that he doesn’t usually accept invitations to talk. After learning so much about Jonestown, Stephan seemed almost like a celebrity: this famous person that has been talked about in every book we’ve read and we are actually going to meet him. I thought it was a very smart move on Stephan’s part to read one of his pieces because not many people have read it. It was an efficient and aesthetic way to express how he’s changed and how he feels about everything now. I am still amazed that he has forgiven his father and can say that he loves him. I also did not expect him to answer every question, but he did so efficiently and with nice stories. Like many previous speakers, his addressed questions with stories so he was able to provide a bigger window into his life while at the same time answering a specific question. I think this method of answering questions is really effective. It was nice that he tried to keep everything as informal as possible, although it did just mainly end up with him answering questions.

There were several things in his talk that surprised me, which was nice because it would’ve just been a rehash of our readings otherwise. The fact that he was sure that someone else shot his father came as a surprise. Of course some people believed that someone else shot Jim Jones, but others also thought that he might have committed suicide. Stephan, however, was completely sure and was sure that Jim Jones actually ordered himself to be shot because he was scared of drinking the poison. Even if I knew that it was definitely someone who shot Jim Jones, I would still think that maybe the person shot him because they saw him trying to run away. Another thing that was news to me was the relationship Stephan had with his grandmother. The story of getting pushed back to the wall and then being told to stand up straight was a funny story but really showed the character of his grandmother. Stephan also talked about why he thought people chose to stay with the Temple. The reasons he thinks people stayed with Peoples Temple made sense to me: “time spent is time wasted” and peer pressure. Stephan also said that Jim Jones’ inner circle was composed of only white people because he had sexual relations with all of them. The reason that there were no black people was apparently that they intimidated Jim Jones, which makes a lot of sense if it’s true. I also always wondered why Jim Jones had to make everyone declare that they were homosexuals. I always thought that maybe he enjoyed the power of making people admit that but Stephan said it was because he wanted to feel okay about himself as a bisexual, which makes complete sense. Stephan spoke very eloquently throughout the whole talk and definitely further enlightened me about Peoples Temple and Jim Jones, which I  did not even think as possible.

Originally posted on October 13th, 2013.

Last modified on October 15th, 2013.
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