One of the least examined aspects of Peoples Temple’s history was its relationship with the Federal Commiunications Commission (FCC). The relationship was also an important one: Jonestown’s only medium of direct and immediate communication with the outside world was through its HAM amateur radio; the Concerned Relatives oppositional group knew of the Temple’s use of its HAM radio – and of its misuses as well, such as conducting Temple business on its bandwidths – and alerted the FCC of the violations; and HAM operators around the US started reporting their own experiences with communications from Jonestown. With all these considerations in mind, history student and HAM operator Josef Dieckman launched a website to document all aspects of Jonestown radio. The site was active for several years in the first decade of the 2000s before going offline. This website has restored as much of the site as has been possible to do, and has archived it below.
Some of the links within these articles are no longer operational and have been disabled.
|Hams Recall QSOs|
|Many hams who QSO'd with Jonestown tell a very similar story, that of a cookie-cutter style contact. However, there are hams out there that have rather unique stories of their Guyana contact. Below you can read a sampling of reflections from hams across America. I have not edited any of these narratives except to remove callsigns and email addy's so as to protect their privacy.|
I had a QSO with the People's Temple via HF years ago. According to my log book, on June 8, 1978 (Sunday - I believe), at 12:30pm (EDT) on a frequency of 14.338 MHz, I spoke with Amateur Radio station, WB6MID/8R1. As I recall, the nature of the QSO consisted of health and welfare traffic. Apparently, a child had broken a bone after falling from a height. The attending physician present requested an orthopedic consult via Amateur Radio because the fracture was too complex for him to repair without additional information. Since I work in a hospital, I offered to bring one of my orthopedic surgeon friends up on frequency via phone patch. WB6MID/8R1 and I scheduled another contact for later that afternoon after I'd reached one of my physician friends. "Al" was the name of the Amateur Radio operator with whom I had this QSO. According to my log, we ended our contact at 12:40pm (EDT). Later that afternoon, when I tried to make contact with him again on our agreed frequency and time, I was not able to hear him on frequency. Either the medical consult was no longer required -or the propagation conditions had changed.
The equipment that I used for the QSO was a Swan 350 transceiver and a Telrex 3 element beam up 25 feet.
During our short QSO I asked him for his QSL information. After my failed attempt at trying to make contact with him with the orthopedic consult at the ready via phone patch, I prepared a QSL card to the address that "Al" had given me: Jonestown, WB6MID/8R1, Box 893, Georgetown, Guyana, South American. I never received a return QSL.
I made this QSO using my earlier callsign of edited for privacy.
Received your letter today concerning The Peoples Temple.
I unwittingly made a number of ham radio phone patches between WB6MID/8R3 and their headquarters in California, especially in the days just preceding the mass suicide. I have the contacts logged but no tape recording of those contacts. I have made phone patches for thousands of overseas hams over the years but remember that there was so much noise in the background from the Guyana location that I had to interrupt once or twice and have the people in the background quiet down so the patch could continue: I never had to do that before on any
phone patch. People in the background were very animated about something - I had no idea at the time who they were or what was about to happen. When I found out after the mass suicide I called the FBI and notified them that I had made phone patches for the group. They never called me back for any detailed info.
That was the last I ever heard about the matter.
Would be curious to know how you found out that I was a ham contact with this
group. The web site you listed of McGehee has texts of ham contacts but not the
call-signs of the hams involved. Would be interested in the source since I was
involved. I find the remembrance of this very interesting!
If there is any other way I can be of help to you, let me know.
- Wm. Davis-
|The first time I had a Q with WB6MID/8R was when she answered my CQ. Of course, a rare DX op answering my CQ floored me at the time, since I was only using a wire antenna, and hadn't been hamming that long. During the Q, the nurse mentioned that she liked to hand out DX Qs as a way of ensuring hams would help run traffic to the USA for them, especially medical traffic.
I remember talking with Mary(?) a few more times before she killed herself. I was sad to hear that Mary killed herself, along with all of the rest of the people there. It was eerie to watch TV pictures, and see stories about the people in Jonestown, since I had talked with one of the people in the Jonestown compound. I found out Mary killed herself via an INDEXA net on 20 meters.
My call at the time was, edited for privacy. I lived in Becket, MA.
I noticed your request for info in the latest issue of the LongPath, the newsletter of the N. Ala. DX Club. I worked "Sarah" at the Jonestown station on Mar. 2, 1978 at 0640Z on 20M SSB. I have a QSL from "Sarah and Al". I recall that Sarah (the op) seemed quite unfamiliar with ham jargon and procedures; so much so, that I mentally questioned whether she was really licensed or had just been given permission to use the station anyway (higher powers trumping secular regulations). It's surprising that we tend to remember details like that from events that predate their notoriety, but there was a strangeness to the whole thing: something just didn't seem "right" about the QSO, and my subliminal discomfort must have tagged the details to be sent to 'archival storage'. I certainly could not recall such detail from any but a select few DX contacts over nearly 50 years of hamming.
Please let me know if you need any more info...
Chuck edited for privacy
|Joey, I saw your request for info on the People's Temple group. I worked a fellow named Mike on 02/20/78 at 0540 UTC on 14.317 Mhz. I was and am mostly a dxer and this qso was for the purpose of working a new one. I didn't know anything about these people but did send for the qsl. When I got the qsl card, I thought it was interesting that the call, WB6MNH was
for Paula Adams. So, Mike was not the amateur, or at least, he wasn't using his call. I figure he was not a ham. Both he and she signed the qsl card. Years later, after seeing something on TV about Jonestown, I pulled the card out and looked that call up. It was not listed. I then wondered
it Paula and Mike died there with the others. The card says "thanks for the qsl. This is a very beautiful country, and they are so friendly to the USA, but they do need all the help and encouragement they can get. Best wishes to u and to ur family. CUL 73's". This is a two sided card, sort of yellow. I'm sure you have seen many of these by now. That is the story of my only contact with this tragic group. Also, if you have any knowledge of what happened to Paula, I would like to know. I hope this is helpful to you. edited for privacy
LLOYD edited for privacy
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