Art Notes 2017

In addition to the stories by artists, composers and filmmakers in this section of the jonestown report, we learned of these other developments within the past year:

Jonestown in Television

Murder Made Me Famous: Jim Jones, an episode of the docuseries appearing on ReelTV, produced by National Enquirer, and hosted by People Magazine Senior Writer Steve Helling, aired in early May 2017. The program features interviews with former Temple members Kathy Barbour, Jordan Vilchez, clinical psychologist Patrick O’Reilly Ph.D., and authors Julia Scheeres and Jeff Guinn.

In August 2017, Vince Gilligan outlined his plans for the HBO miniseries focusing on Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones and based upon Raven, the 1981 book by reporter Tim Reiterman. Gilligan, best known for his critically-acclaimed series Breaking Bad on AMC, will be working with Michelle McLaren, the director of that series, but says he plans to write the entire project on his own. HBO first announced the series in September 2016.

The seventh season of America Horror Story on FX will open with three episodes focusing on “American cults,” including Peoples Temple. According to Ryan Murphy, the creator of the series, the episodes will be the first without any supernatural elements. Evan Peters, who has played multiple roles on the series, will portray Jim Jones, as well as David Koresh and Charles Manson.

Additional stories appeared on in mid-October and early November. An interview with Peters, including his perceptions of Jim Jones, appeared on Decider. Another story appeared on Thrillist. A trailer for the episode evoking images of Peoples Temple appears on Dread Simple.)

Jonestown in Performing Arts

Leigh Fondakowski’s play, The People’s Temple, which premiered at the Berkeley Rep in April 2005 and which has had runs at the Perseverance Theater in Juneau, Alaska and at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, opened the fifth season for the Puzzle Piece Theatre in Detroit, Michigan in October 2017. The play was reviewed by the Detroit Free Press on October 12, 2017.

The playwright herself – who followed up the drama with the nonfiction work, Stories from Jonestown, is currently adapting the book as a feature film with Remstar films.

Jonestown in Music

The first digital release from the album The Rise of Chaos by heavy metal group Accept is a song called “Kool-Aid,” written from the perspective of a fictional character who survived the Jonestown tragedy. (The video also appears on Youtube.) The lyrics of the song appear as headlines and photo captions juxtaposed over newspapers contemporary to the coverage of the events of November 18, 1978. A review of the album on the mxdwn website appears here.

Four minutes and 44 seconds of Peoples Temple video – three minutes of footage from San Francisco and Jonestown, one minute of NBC footage from the final day, and the remainder a reenactment of the deaths – provide the visuals for their song “Stronghold” by the heavy metal band Gatecreeper. The video also appears on the Metal Injection website.

Jonestown,” a 10-minute piece of techno music by EC50, using portions of the so-called Death Tape as the audio, was re-released by Forteana Archives in September 2017. The archive represents a segment of the full-length version of the original, which appeared on Soundcloud nine years ago. A second version of the track, using different portions of the same tape and with slightly different music, also appears on Soundcloud.

Jonestown in Books

Tim Stoen’s 2015 book, Marked For Death: My War with Jim Jones the Devil of Jonestown, described and reviewed in the 2016 edition of the jonestown report, was reissued under the title Love Them to Death: At War with the Devil at Jonestown in March 2017.

Jonestown in Popular Culture

Drinking the Kool-Aid: 38 years of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple massacre in popular culture
by Mike McPadden,, November 18, 2016

From movies to true-crime books to music – even discussing the phrase “Drinking the Kool-Aid” – this article reviews how the Jonestown tragedy has found its way into other news stories and artistic interpretation.