In order to keep your sanity while buying items on eBay, you have to prepare yourself for the fact that your high bid will lose in the very last second to an even higher bid.
Last February, I was able to win rare color photographs taken in Jonestown after the deaths but before the removal of the bodies. The seller bid and received the envelope in the Washington D.C. area marked Jonestown. While I would have preferred the seller to have sold the photos as a single collection, he decided to break up six groups of two or three pictures in each before placing them on EBay.
I believe the photographs came from either a professional photographer or a government agent. They are not for the faint-hearted since they show the bodies of men, women, and children in decomposition and rigor mortis. I would not place any of the photographs here just out of respect for the deceased.
I was naturally the first bidder, but – since this is an auction process, after all – there was a second bidder who tried to outbid me, and then there was a third. I feel lucky that I was able to win four of the group pictures. The two I did not get include a picture from a cabin, which the seller claimed to feature the body of Rev. Jim Jones and a picture of the needle with cyanide. Since we know Jones died of a gunshot wound in the pavilion, we can presume the seller didn’t do his homework. However, the other photographs seem authentic.
I have received the photos and have stored them in a safe place for now. I don’t look at them much because there are just so heartbreaking I now realize that the press never depicted the faces of the Jonestown dead out of a sense of respect.
At this point, most of the items on eBay pertaining to Jonestown are press photographs. I suppose since many of the major newspapers are going digital, they don’t need actual archives anymore. Still, there are times when a Jonestown item placed on eBay seems peculiar or suspicious. Recently, for example, a seller offered a letter from Rev. John Moore from May 1978 which praised Jonestown. I was outbid by another seller, but – funny – the same item turned up again on the site just a week or so later. At that point, eBay removed that item. I have placed bids on other items, only to lose out when the site’s administrators removed them for various reasons. As with many other places on the Internet, considering the purchase of items on eBay requires a great appreciation of caveat emptor: let the buyer beware.