Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
FBI Catalogue Identified Individuals Speaking
FBI preliminary tape identification note: One Scotch C-90/ “Stephen Jones 14 August 1978”
Date cues on tape: The contents of the tape are consistent with the identification note
Public figures/National and international names:
Victor Jara, Chilean singer
Temple adversaries; members of Concerned Relatives:
Jonestown residents, full name unknown:
Jim Jones Jr.
Marceline Jones [by reference]
Stephan Jones (speaks)
Bible verses cited: None
(Editor’s note: Because of the many verbal fillers and false starts in the original transcript, a version of this tape edited for clarity appears here.)
In this wide-ranging conversation taped as part of a Temple project to assemble a biography of its leader Jim Jones, Stephan Jones – Jim and Marceline’s only biological son – reflects on his own development as boy and teenager. He talks about growing up in the Jones family, about his family’s exposure to real poverty in Brazil, about being a young elementary school pupil from a family that was so different from kids around him, about an assassination attempt on his father in Redwood Valley, about the early years in Jonestown, and about the inspiration and lessons his father gave him in his development in a leadership role in the community. More than anything else, though, the theme of the interview is one of a son’s respect, love and loyalty to his father, and of wanting to be by his side through his tribulations, even at the moment of his father’s death (although the contextual note beginning four paragraphs below should also be given serious, and perhaps overriding, consideration over what immediately follows).
The expressions of Stephan’s respect, love and affection permeate the conversation, and the son says more than once how he views his father as a role model and example to be emulated. His father was an “identification point” for him in the turmoil of his own life, and he hopes the young men of Jonestown similarly see himself as their identification point.
The love has its accompanying jealousy. He was on security – and thereby apart from his father – during the crisis known as the Six Day Siege, and not only lamented that he wasn’t joining Jim Jones in his final fight, but was upset that his brothers were the ones to have that privilege.
He admits that he has been hostile through much of his life, and resented the people who vied for his father’s attention or who benefited from his gifts without enduring what the family had endured. “I felt that they had rode in on Dad’s love and his compassion… We’d had to suffer with Dad, so it was like, we’d paid for the love we got, and I always felt like they just got it, and I resented it.” It took the Six Day Siege to remove that hostility: “I felt like they were now experiencing, what I’d experienced in my 19 years, and I felt now that maybe they’d be more appreciative of what they had, and I felt they deserved it more now.” For that reason, he says, he considers the crisis to have been “a hell of a blessing, because it brought me back to reality, it brought me closer to people.”
An alternative analysis of the tape comes from Stephan Jones. In several emails from April 2016 – when this tape was transcribed – Stephan notes that his interview, and the larger biographical project for which it was supposed to be a part, was as much of a performance piece as were some of his father’s posturings, whether the latter be sermons before the Temple congregation, meetings of the Jonestown community, or converations with government officials in Guyana. He knew his father would hear the tape, and he also knew his father’s state of mind as the summer of 1978 drew to a close.
“Everyone said only what they thought Dad would want to hear when they found themselves speaking into a microphone, especially when questions are being asked by Dad or his representatives,” Stephan writes. “Of course, some of us had our confrontational exceptions in meetings, but those who did knew to pick their fights and, although they often failed to stand their ground and speak their minds when they should have, an ‘interview’ like this would not have been a time to do so. In fact, it would be an opportunity to deflect scrutiny.
“Of course, there’s no doubt some truth laced throughout the words. For example, I remember painting Dad’s shaming tactics in a good light and talking about his constant, domineering, overshadowing presence as if it was engaged parenting.
“In order to live with what we and our lives had become,” he continues, “as we crafted our pleasing stories, a part of us wanted them to be true and, in some cases were our greatest deceiver. And to effectively pull off this inward and outward deception, at least a bit of what we said had to be true.”
Date of transcription: 3/8/79
In connection with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into the assassination of U.S. Congressman LEO J. RYAN at Port Kaituma, Guyana, South America, on November 18, 1978, a tape recording was obtained. This tape recording was located in Jonestown, Guyana, South America, and was turned over to U.S. Officials in Guyana and subsequently transported to the United States.
On March 6, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B47-60. This tape was found to contain the following:
A Caucasian male, possibly JIM JONES’ son, talking about his years growing up around his father. The male is being interviewed by an unknown female and the tape also contained music.
This tape was reviewed, and nothing was contained thereon which was considered to be of evidentiary nature or beneficial to the investigation of Congressman RYAN.
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted May 2016