Serial 27

[Editor’s note: This document was released both as a State Department cable as part of its 1981 FOIA release, and as Serial 27 of the FBI’s RYMUR release.] The text was released at https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1978GEORGE03807_d.html.]

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INFO OCT-01 ISO-00 FBIE-00 CIAE-00 DODE-00 PA-01
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O 201500Z NOV 78
FM AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8090
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 1 OF 2 GEORGETOWN 3807
E.O. 11652: GDS
TAGS: CASC, PINT, GY
SUBJ: INTERVIEW WITH MARK LANE

Mark Lane was contacted in his hotel by embassy officials and he readily agreed to give a statement to them regarding the incident in Jonestown. Lane began his narration by describing the events after the departure of Congressman Ryan his party, and those members of the People’s Temple who chose to go with him.

1. Lane stated that he and his colleague, Charles Gary [Garry], met with Jim Jones after Congressman Ryan’s party left, and attempted to persuade him not to take drastic measures following the departure of some of his sect’s members. The meeting was interrupted by Marie Katsaris who said “it was important.” After a whispered consultation between Jones and Katsaris — according to Lane — Jones told him and Gary to go to the East Cabin because they were in danger. Lane said the [then] Don Sly, whom he had helped to disarm in the first attempt on Ryan’s life, was sent to guard them. Lane said he then heard shouts of “death is a dignity” and “let’s get

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’em now.” At first, Lane said, he thought the threat was aimed at him and Gary, but the people rushed past to another building where they allegedly withdrew guns aand ammunition. Lane stated that some crates appeared to be so heavy that two men could not carry them for more than a few yards at a time. All the people he could see, said Lane, were moving toward a pavilion atop a hill.

2. Lane alleges that two men known to him, named Pancho [Garry “Poncho” Johnson] and Thompson, stopped to speak to him and his colleague. He reported that one of them, Pancho, appeared to be very happy and said “it’s a great thing to die, to die with dignity.” Lane said that he disputed this idea somewhat with Pancho, but that eventually decided to flee the area. He asked for, and received, directions to the road to Port Katuma [Kaituma] from Pancho. Lane said that Thompson at this point shouted that “Jim Jones is the greatest man in the world” as the two attorneys ran from Jonestown.

3. As they were leaving, Lane said, he heard Jim Jones chant what sounded like “mother, mother, mother” over the PA system. When asked if Jim Jones had to be in the pavilion to use the PA system, Lane replied in the negative, but indicated that he felt that Jones was in the pavilion. Lane then alleges that he heard 80 to 90 shots.

4. Lane then backtracked in time, and said that Jones had said prior to the interruption by Marie Katsaris, that the people who had left his organization for Congressman Ryan had done it only because they planned to kill Ryan, and he could predict that they would. Lane alleges that he did not believe the story or the “prophecy” at the time. He further stated that he did not learn of the airport attack until he

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was back in Georgetown.

5. Lane continued with his narrative of his escape. He said that he and Gary had walked along the road, keeping well to the side in order to avoid anyone else. Just as it was getting dark, he said that he spied two men (but said that Gary believed it was a group of three) on the road carrying what appeared to be footlockers. He and Gary sought shelter in the bush along the road to avoid detection and remained in the jungle until early morning. Lane indicated that the seeking of cover had been a tectical mistake because it took them several hours to regain the road. He said that the bush is very thick and the sense of direction thrown way off. At about 7:45 according to Lane, he heard about 15-25 rounds of automatic fire, and they fled the area as fast as possible.

6. In reply to a direct question, Lane said that he had originally thought that Jones had died along with his sect’s members, but that he began having second thoughts after seeing the lockers being carried through the jungle. He know for a fact, he said, that Jones had two or three million dollars in his cabin. He had never seen it, but alleged that he was sure it was there, and even knew who had brought it into Guyana and how. He declined to name the source of his information, but said that he would discuss it with him and perhaps in exchange for immunity, the individual might explain the whys and wherefores.

7. Again in reply to a direct question, he stated that the men carrying the lockers were headed in the general direction of the place where the People’s Temple boat was moored, but admitted that it was also in the general direction of the route he was taking to reach Port Kaituma. He repeatedly disclaimed any knowledge of a contingency plan for Jones’ escape, in the event it became necessary. He said that Jones had talked of sending a delegation to the Soviet Union and

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perhaps of moving the commune there, but had never mentioned any plans involving his own escape.

8. When asked if he had detected any change in the atmosphere in Jonestown during the congressman’s visit, he said not in the community in general. He alleged, however, that he sensed a change in Jim Jones, that he had seemed very calm and that he (Lane) felt that something was going to happen. He then repeated Jones’ “prediction” of trouble for Congressman Ryan and party.

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TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8091
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 2 OF 2 GEORGETOWN 3807

9. Lane characterized the leadership group as a “community of insanity.” Gross paranoia, he stated, seemed to be the badge of the true believer, and the slightest sign that a PT leader did not feel oppressed enough was cause for exclusion from the higher echelon of the organization.

10. Lane said that when he first became involved with the PT he had believed that the applause and responses to Jones’ words were authentic. Several weeks ago, however, he found out it was all arranged. He stated that he had learned of the stage managing from a “highly-placed person” who had left the organization. When asked, then, why he had worked so hard to arrange the fact-finding mission of Congressman Ryan, he stated that he thought he should try to help some of the people leave Jonestown. He went on to state that Don Harris (one of the NBC newsmen killed at the airport attack) had told him that the Guyanese police had reportedly said that there were numerous weapons at Jonestown, including automatic rifles and he had begun to worry.

11. In response to a question regarding the mass suicide idea, Lane described the sense of community felt by members of

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the Temple, by recounting a service he had witnessed at one time in San Francisco where three women had attested to Jones’ remarkable sexual endowment and prowess, and Jones’ statement that his sexual liaison with the women was very distasteful to him personally but that he had done it for the good of the community. Lane stressed that such a bizarre commitment indicated that feelings were very strong. He did not, however, feel that the commiment ran to a suicide pact, and repeated that “revolutionary suicide” was suicide at the point of a gun. He indicated that such true believers could be induced to commit suicide but discounted the idea that there would be mass suicide in other areas. He added, however, that he was surprised at Sharon Amos’ action. Stated that the doctor, named “Larry” [Schacht], and his nurse had brought up an unspecified poison in “a tub”, and were prepared to administer it to the inhabitants of Jonestown. The poison was to be spryaed into the mouths of the children, and those who resisted were to be shot, he alleged. When asked “why spryaed into the mouths”, he replied that he didn’t know, nor did he know the type of poison referred to.

12. Toward the end of the conversation Lane stated that the doctor, Larry, was not allowed to handle any drugs, since he was a former addict. The nurse handled all drugs. He then asked rhetorically if we knew that Jones was taking shots intravaneously for the last several weeks, and said that he was not under medication for his health. Referring back to his description of Pancho’s euphoric state when the guns and ammunition were taken out, one official asked if Pancho and perhaps the other members of the People’s Temple had taken drugs on the eventful day. He replied by saying that he had been warned (time unspecified) never to eat grilled cheese sandwiches or drink milk shakes there. That is what was

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offered for lunch that day, so he didn’t touch it. He mused about the possibliity of the particular foodstuffs hiding other tastes.

Burke [John Burke, U.S. Ambassador to Guyana]

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Originally posted on May 15th, 2018.

Last modified on June 23rd, 2022.
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