Last week, enshrouded in joyous political triumphs like President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and sinister CIA assassinations like that of the infamous President JFK by future Nixon/Watergate puppet, E. Howard Hunt, marked the thirty-fifth anniversary of nearly one-thousand forgotten American deaths at a makeshift encampment in the bowels of Guyana. It was a horrific incident that rocked the world. The newspapers and television reports caked their stories with the open and shut case, focusing on the masses instead of the individual, and therefore denying the dead the right to have their voices- and their stories- heard. Shrouded in mystery from start to finish, inconsistencies surrounding the official version of events will continue to haunt the survivors of what has become known as the Jonestown massacre.
The sun rose over the Guyanese jungle, outstretched rays of light and warmth kissing the ground beneath the rotting bodies of 909 former Peoples Temple members. The days before had come and gone with a certain heir of fear, much as the rest had under the leadership of the Reverend James Warren “Jim” Jones. But now with the death of the power hungry tyrant, after hours upon hours of unrest and despair, screams and terror, devotion and murder… there was peace. Bodies lay grouped together around the remote compound, families and friends, mothers and children, lay face down in the dirt, arms wrapped around each other in one final embrace. Scattered amongst the corpses were the empty syringes and Dixie cups that had been filled with a deadly concoction of phenergen, chloral hydrate, Valium and cyanide laced Flavor-Aid- which contrary to the name, did nothing to disguise the bitterness that was swallowed.
The event became primarily known as “Jonestown”, a pseudonym for the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project and a constant reminder of the mastermind behind the tragedy that unfolded there on that fateful Autumn evening. But was the Peoples Temple merely a smoke screen for a much more sinister plot that has yet to be realized? Was it an experimental society of guinea pigs in which the people were constantly drugged during their daily physicals in an attempt to program their minds into doing exactly what was asked of them as with the CIA’s MK-Ultra?
“The [Guyanese] people there knew that this was a slave labor camp, a concentration camp. They were drugged day in and day out. There were enough drugs on site, after the massacre, to drug the entire population of Georgetown, Guyana, a city of over 100,000, for more than a year. Being used on a population of 1200 people. In one footlocker alone, there were 11,000 doses of Thorazine. The other drugs that were named on the site were the exact drugs that I have been following all through my research of CIA MK-ULTRA and MK-DELTA and MK-NAOMI. They were the mind control drugs.” -John Judge, Fourth Reich in America conference, San Fransisco, 1988
Or was it an attempt to dismember a peaceful community that advocated social change, erasing any evidence of a government extermination similar to the FBI’s COINTELPRO or the CIA’s Operation CHAOS, both being conducted at that time?
“We are only one of a large number of progressive groups who have been targeted for destruction because we are uniting poor and working class people across racial lines giving them power over their own lives and doing it non-violently… They have sent out aides to bribe people to lie about us; who have the devices and “dirty trick” methods of COINTELPRO that have been used repeatedly to harass other progressive organizations.”
-Open Statement by Members of Peoples Temple, May 10, 1978 [FBI File RYMUR 89-4286-1-1, pp. 239-242, Jonestown Institute]
Subtle suggestions of the U.S. government’s roll in the upcoming, seemingly unrelated events of the Jonestown massacre, continue to be ignored, washed out by the widely publicized Cult Of Death theory; a theory which indefinitely described the growing population of the Peoples Temple as malleable, credulous servants, willing to follow their “messiah” into the darkest depths of Hell, sacrificing their infants and committing “Revolutionary Suicide” for the common goal.
In the beginning, the People’s Temple was an organization geared for political and social change, led by self proclaimed communist and ordained minister, Reverend James Warren Jones. At a time when integration was frowned upon, Jim, a “Marxist” in his own right saw an opportunity to help along a new, up and coming social movement. The Reverend began his reign of terror in 1954, after opening his first church in a small, rented building in Indiana. He called it “Community Unity”. Upon attending several religious conventions in the surrounding areas and witnessing numerous healings, Jones set a goal of becoming a healer as well. He began doing background checks on people, calling out their phone numbers, social security numbers, ailments and names for added effect- a trick that most have stated “private detectives could do”. He placed one large hand on the ailers forehead, sending a jolt of his “God-like” energy through their bodies. Word traveled fast about the up and coming Reverend and many black congregants who had seen him perform the unimaginable feats, followed him back to his Methodist church in Beech Grove. However, blossoming in a predominately white neighborhood with minimal tolerance for integration seemed impossible. It appeared that the lower class neighborhoods that had already begun desegregating, would be more profitable. By 1956, with the numbers of his flock swelling with each revival, Jones had purchased a larger church and renamed it “Wings of Deliverance” which was almost immediately changed to Peoples Temple. Jones obtained a steady following, the numbers rapidly multiplying, and it held a plethora of varying races. People of the temple were asked to attend in casual clothing so the less fortunate would not feel uncomfortable and they organized soup kitchens and offered shelter to the needy. Jones’ socialist ideals, initially swept under the rug to attract a large following, began to seep through the cheesecloth. In a cleverly thought out plan, Jim began to press his Marxist views on his denomination, comparing Communist quotations to the similarly worded views of biblical apostles.
By 1960, the church, whose membership had become more than fifty percent black, joined forces with the Disciples of Christ, another integrated church in the mid-west led by Reverend Ross Case, and was renamed the Peoples Temple Christian Church Full Gospel. This technique soon proved fruitful as more and more people were bewitched by the growing socialist movement. Members of the Disciples of Christ Christian church supported all political views and Peoples Temple members were only asked to take communion and be baptized. This sudden affiliation with a church that followed the teachings of Christ yet did not discriminate against its congregation and held political views, would aide the deception of the Temple’s underlying Communism. During the course of that year, Jim Jones was proudly ordained a minister.
According to first hand accounts, a prophetic dream came to Jim in which Chicago became the victim of a nuclear attack and Indiana would be demolished in the process. He urged the people to search for a safer place to carry out the mission. According to an article published in 1962 in Esquire Magazine entitled The Nine Safest Places In The World To Escape Thermonuclear Blasts And Fallout, Belo Horizonte, Brazil was the safest place to be in the event of a nuclear holocaust. In early February, Jones had his passport, #0111788, issued in order to travel to Brazil in search of a safer area for his congregation in the event that his prophecy came true. However, against the law in the United States, Jones already had an active passport issued to him in June of 1960, passport #22898751. Some have used this information to point out that Jones may have had a body double, which throughout the life and death of Peoples Temple, has proved to be more likely than not. Following Jones’ appointment to the Indianapolis Human Rights Commission and negative media attention when he tried to integrate businesses, Jim used his passport and flew his family to South America, seeking a safe-haven for his temple outside of American dominance. On April 11, 1962, Jones and his family arrived in San Paolo, Brazil on a commercial airliner. The family checked into the Hotel Financial, before moving into their 203 Maraba Avenue home in Belo Horizonte, not far from C.I.A. headquarters.
While in Brazil, Jones met up with Dan Mitrione, a childhood acquaintance. Mitrione was a police officer in Richmond, Indiana and joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1959, three years after the FBI began individual operations under their Counter Intelligence Program or COINTELPRO. The purpose of COINTELPRO was to inflitrate and discredit domestic politcal groups, using illegal methods to stifle social and communist organizations. The Counter Intelligence Program had been known for it’s usage of psychological warfare, planting forged documents, harassment, wrongful imprisonment, extensive media coverage on false accusations and assassination, independent from the ongoing covert CIA project of nearly identical nature, Operation CHAOS. In 1960, Mitrione was assigned to the State Department’s International Cooperation Administration, traveling to South America to teach “advanced counterinsurgency techniques”. There, he joined the Brazilian Police Force in Belo Horizonte and later, Rio De Janeiro, becoming an informant for the Central Intelligence Agency. At around the same time, a classified CIA 201 file, was created in Jim Jones’s name, though Jones denied their rendezvous. No one knows what Jim Jones learned while he was in South America but a Cuban Double Agent, Manuel Hevia Concullela, who worked closely with Mitrione in his upcoming years in Uruguay, observed a sound proof room in his basement where multiple victims were tortured to death by electro-shock therapy, a technique that Mitrione was teaching police agents to perform on uncooperative inmates for the Cold War. Homeless people were used as guinea pigs, electric shocks administered to their mouths and genitals followed by the vagabonds extermination. After Manuel witnessed the unlawful interrogations, Mitrione was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by “Tupermaro guerillas”. Although it is fathomable that Jones participated in many of Mitrione’s barbaric interrogations during his frequent visits (if he wasn’t a victim of the electroshock therapy’s reprogramming himself) it remains speculation. File 201 was deleted by the CIA.
But the CIA wasn’t the only ones suspicious of Jones. He drew the attention of one of his neighbors, Sebastiaco Carlos Rocha. When interviewed after the massacre, Rocha remembered Jones in great detail. He said:
“He lived like a rich man. Most days, he would leave the house with a suitcase at about 6 a.m. and return at around 6 or 7 p.m. He never said where he went… During the few conversations that we had, Mr. Jones told me he was a retired U.S. Navy captain and was in Brazil to ‘recuperate from the Korean War.’… Some people here believed he was an agent for the American CIA. I never saw him drink or smoke. He said he received a monthly payment from the U.S. government for his military service but he did not say how much.” [Sebastiaco Carlos Rocha, San Jose Mercury News, November 27, 1978, pp. 17a]
The fact that he had left his new “family” in the United States during such a pivotal point of the Civil Rights Movement, haunted his mind, painting it with salted images of the prophecy he had foretold, compounded, perhaps, by his closeness with the United States CIA provocation of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. He began reading books about military hardware, eventually becoming obsessed with the idea of Nuclear War and mankind’s unforeseen implosion. Jim felt isolated and insignificant in the Spanish speaking country, his inner anguish worn on his sleeve, visible to the passerbys who witnessed him walking down the street, lost in thought each evening. The Beams, members of the Peoples Temple in Indiana, falsified their passports, indicating that they were affiliated with the Disciples of Christ Missionaries, to join Jim on his lonely quest in 1963.
Because Belo Horizonte was writhing in economic despair, it seemed unreasonable for the temple to thrive there. The families relocated to a less poverty stricken area of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro. They resided at 154 Rua Seandor Vigueiro in the Flamengo neighborhood.
A detective in the ID-4 section of the Brazilian Police Department approached Marco Aurelio, the Brazilian boyfriend of Jack Beam’s daughter, Joyce. He probed him for information on Jones. He ordered Marco to watch the reverend because he was certain that he had ties with the CIA. Before the investigation could be completed, the detective died under mysterious circumstances. A local newspaper columnist caught wind of the oddities surrounding the case and printed a story, fingering Jones as a CIA agent. Things began to heat up in Brazil and the Jones/Beam parties flew home.
Upon his return to American soil, Jones received a sum of ten thousand dollars from an anonymous source (some have suggested that it came from Dan Mitrione and the Central Intelligence Agency but that theory cannot be proven) and decided to move his Temple out of the segregated, discriminatory life of bigotry and oppression that accompanied the local Bible Belt communities and into a more open minded, multicultural area of the world. Jones had been enlightened by his recent trip to South America, changing his entire attitude to one of suspicion and control. There was only one place that his Temple would be safe from the prejudices that the 1960’s held.
California became the political and social voice for African Americans during the mid to late sixties. The forming of the Black Panthers in Oakland, California by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale on October 15, 1966 continued the socialist movement which occurred during the police brutality of Watts Riot during 1965. Members of the Black Panther party, though unrealized by Jones, had been targeted and assassinated as part of the FBI’s covert operation, COINTELPRO. Nestled amidst the multiracial, anti-political leftist hippie culture, Jones was finally able to attract the type of attention to his Temple that he desired. The Intelligence Agencies, now known to have dominated California during the 1960’s with their illegal experimentation, also took notice of the up-and-coming socialist organization, as the Temple began to open soup kitchens, retirement homes and homeless shelters to attract new congregants around Ukiah. Jones began consolidating elderly members of his church into retirement villages such as “Happy Haven’s Rest Home”, providing all of their needs, asking nothing in return except that they turn all of their worldly possessions- including social security checks and pensions- over to the Temple.
“I represent divine principal, total equality, a society where people own all things in common. Where there is no rich or poor. Where there are no races. Wherever there is people struggling for justice and righteousness, there I am.” [Jim Jones]
“We turned our paychecks over every time we got paid. And then we got an allowance- five dollars a week.” [Neva Sly Hargrave, former Temple member, PBS The Life and Death of People’s Temple]
The number of Temple members skyrocketed to nearly 20,000, many of whom were former drug addicts seeking repentance and homeless in need of shelter. Jones, surrounded by so many new and unfamiliar faces, began suspecting that his peaceful, socialist movement was being infiltrated by someone wishing to start a smear campaign against the Temple. He was right. A young heroin addict, Deborah Layton, became “enchanted” with the People’s Temple. Layton was the daughter of a prominent California doctor, Lawerence Layton Senior. Lawerence Layton was in charge of the Army’s Research and Development Program at Dugway Proving Ground. Dugway was one of the top biological/chemical warfare research centers in the country. Deborah was also married to a contract agent for the United States CIA’s SHALOM PROJECT (1973-1975) in which the Central Intelligence Agency had supplied over two hundred ex- Green Beret Special Forces experts- operatives of UNITA- to train African American merceneries for psychological warfare in Angola.
The Temple, a tax exempt, non-profit organization, was strictly prohibited from participating in political elections, rallies and protests, however, did so illegally. Jim quickly became chummy with several politicians including Rosalynn Carter, wife of future president, Jimmy Carter, Carter’s vice presidential candidate, Walter Mondale, and Richard Nixon, all of whom used the People’s Temple masses to win elections. Jim was invited to private meetings, and the politicians confided in him. Many of the Peoples Temple Children were once wards of the state of California. They had been turned over to Jim Jones, in numerous incidents, by California judges with pull from his new-found political brethren. However, some mothers who noticed the blemish-free facade of Peoples Temple, signed their children over willingly. These children were used as campaign workers.
The Temple’s head quarters was moved to San Francisco in an effort to expand the outreach program. George Moscone, the mayor of San Francisco, welcomed Jim’s presence, having also capitalized on his Peoples Temple to win the election, and appointed him to several prominent positions including chairman of the San Francisco Housing Commission, extending Jones the power that he desired over the California people. More temples were opened in Los Angeles, Bakersield, Fresno, Sacramento and Santa Rosa, spreading the news like wildfire. Grey Hound buses traveled across the United States, carrying people who longed to hear Jones preach and join the growing socialist movement. Jones traveled with the entourage of buses, on bus number seven which had been equipped with armed guards and a bullet proof section, where he was always seated, demonstrating his early onset of paranoia and indicating that he was preparing himself for something unexpected.
“In 1965, we decided to move to California. We had small children of different racial backgrounds and we thought that California was the most progressive state. The harassment continued. Our children were taunted, animals killed, Jim’s life threatened. A bomb was placed under the bus where he and I were sleeping on one occasion.”
-Jim Jones wife, Marceline [“To Whom It May Concern”, Jonestown Institute]
In order to manage the outrageous numbers, Jones appointed several young, educated, white women, including Deborah Layton Blakey, to assist him. They became his advisers, part of his inner circle. These women began to coach the members regarding what should be said about the Peoples Temple. Armed guards, led by Security Chief Jim McElvane, Bill McCoy and Archie Ijames, began to patrol the doors around Peoples Temple. However, this precautionary measure proved futile. Revelations of the government’s involvement in slandering and stifling the Temple became more apparent when the San Francisco Temple was set ablaze by an “unknown arsonist”. Suddenly, Jones was unhappy. Jones preached that the United States was the Antichrist and capitalism was “Antichrist’s system”, in which he was the only antidote, a manifestation of “Christ the Revolution”.
In 1971, with the help of George Philip Blakey, Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple leased a 3,824 acre plot of jungle in Guyana, South America. Three years later, as the CIA was using it for their training tactics, twenty-six Temple members cut their way through the Guyanese forest, burned the brush and set up camp in a clearing, building their future throughout the toiling, hot day and night. Eventually, the People’s Temple Agricultural Project had neared completion and the camp was ready for some of the congregants relocation. The goal was for the mass exodus to be completed within a ten year span, allowing them to expand as needed. Jones continued to travel from the “Promised Land” to San Francisco, showing footage of the prospering site.
“I am preparing a Promised Land for you in Jonestown. When you get there all your tribulations will be over. There will be no need for discipline when you get away from the capitalistic society of America. There you will be able to love and be loved. My black seniors will finally have a place where they will never again go hungry or be forced to work.” [Reverend Jim Jones, Six Years With God, Jeannie Mills]
However, deterred by his charismatic control, eight defectors made reports to the San Francisco Police Department and contacted the Governor, the Mayor and the district attorney- all of whom had become closely affiliated with Jones during his stay in San Francisco. Many of their complaints went unheard. Rumors began circulating with speculation that the Peoples Temple had become like a prison. Preceding an articles publication by New West Magazine containing interviews with “the gang of eight” alleging that fear mongering and death, signing of blank documents for Jones’ future use, explicit child abuse, extortion, physical, mental and emotional harassment were among the tactics used within. Jones made the final decision. In a matter of days, hundreds of temple members left for Guyana, abandoning their families. In a prepared speech, the temple spokesman, addressed the eight conspirators:
“Finally, we would like to address ourselves to the affect that we prefer to resist harassment and persecution, even if it means death… We affirm before we will submit quietly to the interminable plotting and persecution of this politically motivated conspiracy, we will resist actively putting our lives on the line if it comes to that… We choose as our model, not those who walked submissively into the gas ovens but the valiant heroes of the Warsaw ghetto.”[Archival, Jonestown Institute]
Inmates arrived in Jonestown by the droves. They became self-sufficient, growing their own food and raising chickens. According to official account, Jones became dependant on the use of barbiturates, though, he publicly accused the nurses at the medical facility in Jonestown of giving him the wrong medications. The sudden, unintended influx of people in Jonestown had become cause for concern. The cabins were extremely overcrowded with an estimated fourteen people per 10′ x 12′ room. The congregants were given rations that consisted of two spoonfuls of rice.
The horrors of conspiracy that had begun in the States, continued. When the United States government refused to send social security checks to the denomination and their mail was trifled through religiously, Jones implemented his conspiratorial scare tactics. He began claiming that all U.S. Federal Services- not only the CIA and FBI- were involved in the harassment and defamation of Peoples Temple benefactors. Jones removed his mask and began ruling with an iron fist. He practiced random “White Knights”, waking his congregants from a much needed sleep and traumatizing the children by screaming falsities of impending U.S. military invasion and murder over the camp’s loudspeaker, threatening to shoot his flock with the camp’s hidden artillery. He began implementing the idea of mass suicide into his sermons on a regular basis. Jones adopted Black Panther’s founder, Huey Newton’s phrase, “Revolutionary Suicide”, using the scare tactics of concentration camps, influencing a nobody-can-be-trusted mentality. Everyone was told that there would be people roaming the compound, appointed by himself to discover defectors. If someone was approached, even if it was by a member of their family, they were to immediately inform Jones, reporting back the details.
“Every night, at some point, his voice would come over the loudspeaker and he’d say, ‘I’m sending someone out tonight, somebody you know, somebody you trust and they’re going to act like they want to leave. But this is a loyalty test and you need to turn them in.” [Deborah Layton, Author of Seductive Poison, PBS Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple]
The members of People’s Temple that had come to the church for racial and religious freedom, were suddenly transformed into opinionated bigots who demonstrated prejudice against their neighbor. Public beatings became a nightly ritual, encouraged by the Reverends laughter, prompted by the masses.
Eventually, rumors that had begun to filter through the Guyanese cracks, traveled back to the United States concerning the on-goings inside the concentration camp. A group of “concerned relatives and citizens”, including the temple’s ex-attorney,Timothy Stoen, contacted higher authority with hopes of an intervention. Timothy and his wife, Grace Stoen, allegedly signed an affidavit declaring paternity to Reverend Jim Jones, binding their son, John Victor Stoen to the church. When the couple defected in 1976, they did not take young “John John” because their lives were threatened and they feared for him. The “concerned relatives and citizens”, working alongside many defectors whose families were still entrapped in the encampment, organized rallies and protests against the temple, gaining much media attention. Most members of the U.S. government failed to heed the “concerned relatives” intuitive warnings. Congressman Leo Ryan of the eleventh congressional district for the state of California became increasingly intrigued. Ryan had been a thorn in the CIA’s side since he co-authored the Hughes-Ryan amendment alongside Senator Harold E. Hughes in 1974. This act demanded that all CIA related covert operations be reported to one or more members of the congressional committee.
On November 13, 1977, Congressman Leo Ryan read an article entitled “Scared Too Long” which had been printed by the San Francisco Examiner. The article focused on Sam Houston’s son, Bob, and his defection from the Peoples Temple in October, 1976. One day after Bob had announced his decision to leave the church, he was found crushed to death at the Southern Pacific railroad yards in the Potrero Hills of San Fransisco beneath the wheels of a runaway train car. Though, the coroners report stated accidental death, it appeared as though foul play had been involved and this peaked Congressman Ryan’s interest in the Reverend Jim Jones. In the months that ensued, Ryan met with many of the “concerned relatives and citizens”, listening intently to their stories of the internment camp that had entrapped their loved ones in Guyana. After an unlikely escape from Jonestown, Deborah Layton Blakey, the CIA’s pawn, commenced Operation CHAOS. On Thursday, June 15, 1978, the San Fransisco Chronicle published excerpts from a sworn affidavit written by the newly defected Debbie Layton Blakey. This article detailed the prison-like atmosphere and mass suicide rehearsals that had taken place at the compound and lured the anti-CIA politician, Leo Ryan, into a long awaited trap.
“The Peoples Temple jungle outpost in South America was portrayed yesterday as a remote realm where the church leader, Rev. Jim Jones, orders public beatings, maintains a squad of 50 armed guards and has involved his 1100 followers in a threat of mass suicide… The temple fields are patrolled by two rings of khaki-uniformed armed guards, men and women members of “security alert teams” who have access to 200 to 300 rifles, 25 pistols and a homemade bazooka.” [San Francisco Chronicle, Grim Report From Jungle, Marshall Kilduff, 6/15/1978]
By September of that year, Ryan met with officials from the State Department to discuss a visit to Jonestown to investigate the validity of the accusations. Soon, Ryan was granted permission and began making arrangements for the trip to take place during the second week of November. A substantial number of “concerned relatives” and media sought out to accompany Ryan on his trip into the assumed Guyanese Hell. He contacted Jones via telegraph through the US Embassy in Guyana to discuss his upcoming visit. Jones agreed as long as they followed the conditions that he deemed necessary to change the light in which his Peoples Temple had been perceived. On November 14, 1978, Ryan left for Jonestown with his contingent consisting of 18 delegates to represent the “concerned relatives”, nine media personnel and two members of Ryan’s codel.
When the group arrived in the capital of Guyana, they were greeted by the Deputy Chief of Missions for the US Embassy whose name appeared in the 1968 edition of Who’s Who In The CIA, Richard Dwyer. Upon traveling to the Pegasus Hotel, the party discovered that despite their confirmed reservations, as if by sheer coincidence, there were no rooms available for them. The group was forced to sleep in the lobby. Over the next two days, Ryan contacted Embassy personel and arranged a meeting with Peoples Temple representatives at their headquarters in Georgetown. When negotiations reguarding the party’s entry into the compound went South, the congressman postponed the descent into Jonestown until November 17 at 2:30 PM.
“I do not know if we will receive any guests tomorrow or not. I’m not so inclined to, um, be told when to receive guests. We came 6,000 miles to establish ourselves here with certain amount of autonomy, and uh, we have received, (stumbles over words) as of today and yesterday, the backing of the PPP [People’s Progressive Party] in our stance against reactionary right wing (pause) congressperson coming in… I see no reason why we should, uh, allow people to push us from our position… I’ll fight no more forever, and if we- if this is the kind of commitment we have, to just keep on letting folk come in when they want to come and doing what they want to do with us, that isn’t my kind of lifestyle… Son of a bitch. You got something to say to him, you want to talk to him? (Crowd: No!) Anybody here want to see him? (Crowd: No!)” [Reverend Jim Jones, Tape Q050, Jonestown Institute]
The flight left as scheduled. The passengers included the temple lawyers, Mark Lane and Charles Garry, the Central Intelligence Agency’s covert spy, Richard Dwyer, and Neville Annibourne, a designee of the Guyanese government. When the plane landed at the airstrip in Port Kaituma, the investigators were greeted by the Guyanese Regional Officer of the Northwest district, Corporal Rudder. He had received instructions from Jonestown that Lane and Garry were the only two people that had been granted access to the compound. However, after Ryan attempted negotiations with Jonestown representatives that had arrived at Port Kaituma, the party was allowed to enter, with the exception of one NBC consultant, Gordon Lindsay, who had written an article opposing the Peoples Temple. Lindsay agreed to stay behind.
As the selected arrived in Jonestown, they passed under a large beautiful sign that read: The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project. It had grown into the facade of a beautiful community with a medical clinic, school and daycare facility. The party was received warmly. As evening approached, they were entertained with a reception in the congressman’s honor. The congressman gave a speech:
“I’m very glad to be here. This is a congressional inquiry. I think that all of you know that I’m here to find out more about uh, questions that’ve been raised about your operation here, but I can tell you right now that, from the few conversations I’ve had with some of the folks here already this evening, that uh, whatever the comments are, there are some people here who believe this is the best thing that ever happened to them in there whole life.” [Congressman Leo Ryan, Tape Q048 transcript, Jonestown Institute]
The crowd cheered, but the facade had been just that. After a note was handed to Richard Dwyer and it became known that atleast two people wished to leave that evening, the merriment that had lingered in the air was replaced by the stench of forodement. As morning approached, several more members of the Peoples Temple came forward, expressing their unwaning desire to leave their Hell. Because of the rising number of defectors, a second plane, a six passenger Cessna, was ordered. One of the temple dump trucks began to load the ex-temple members including Jones’s right hand man, Larry Layton (Deborah Layton Blakey’s brother), as Don “Ujara” Sly, wielding a knife, perpetrated the first attack on the congressman. Instead of staying behind in the agricultural project as had been initially proposed Leo Ryan, persuaded and accompanied by Richard Dwyer, made the fateful decision to join the defectors on their trek to the airstrip.
As the defectors and delegation arrived once again at the Port Kaituma airstrip, it was found to be empty. The planes had not arrived as scheduled. As the twin engine otter landed and began to board people, another Peoples Temple dump truck approached and opened fire on the delegation. Larry Layton pulled out a gun, wounding three people aboard before he the gun was wrestled away from him and he was hauled into protective custody. NBC Cameraman, Bob Brown, captured the only known footage of the assassination of Congressman Leo Ryan. He was shot more than twenty times. Richard Dwyer, as if intuitively, can clearly be seen leaving the group, moments before the first shots rang out. Although he was supposedly injured during the ordeal, Dwyer went back to the compound.
Word soon reached the Agricultural compound of the congressman’s death. Jim Jones rounded up his sheeple, delivering the news via one last sermon, surrounded with undertones of revolutionary suicide. Was it another test? Would they be considered unfaithful if they did not comply?
The children were administered the potion first. Jones’s voice, calming and soothing, compared it to sleep. The children’s protesting cries echoed throughout the surrounding jungle, as they were carried to the metal vat, kicking and screaming. Succumbing to their “dad”, parents held their toddlers arms back, plugged their noses and squirted the deadly poison into their mouths through needle-less syringes. Mothers screamed through their tears, haunted by the agonizing sounds protruding from their babies mouths. Rocking them back and forth in an attempt to soothe them, their tiny muscles began to convulse, newly developed hearts racing, as their throats made one last desperate attempt at sound before there was silence.
Jones, through the anguished cries of the children, can clearly be heard saying:
“Get Dwyer out of here before something happens to him.”
Gunman, blocked the people from escaping. Shots rang out as some congregants tried to run. They were drug back to the compound and left to bleed to death. Many protestors were injected in the shoulder blade according to doctors that examined the bodies after death. A man that appeared to be Jim Jones but bore none of the distinguishing tattoos that Jones was alleged to have, was shot. An anonymous transmission from Richard Dwyer’s radio, hours after the massacre had been completed, informed the United States of the events. The United States Army, the much feared CIA, and FBI, aided by Guyanese officials, flew to the scene to make their report and collect the bodies. It was reported that many fled into the jungle as less than half of the actual body count was discovered upon arrival. But the death toll continued to rise. Of all 901 members, only seven, including the reverend, had autopsies performed. The other bodies, nameless from laying in the intense Guyanese sun, were dumped into a mass grave.
Few people survived the massacre, most silenced shortly afterwards. Nine days after the massacre in Guyana, Mayor Mascone and Harvey Milk, who were both advocates for gay rights and other 1960’s counter-culture movements including the Peoples Temple, were assassinated in a purportedly unconnected string of events. Jeannie and her husband, Al. J. Mills, formerly known as Deanna and Elmer Mertle during their voyage with the temple, changed their names after defecting because they thought that temple mercenaries would find them and kill them. After the massacre and the publication of their book, Six Years With God, they were found shot execution style in their apartment. The Mertle’s son, though he claims no recollection of the event, confessed to his parent’s death. Was it the CIA? The FBI? Or remaining temple members sent to silence them?
Larry Layton was the only person prosecuted for the events of the Jonestown massacre and Leo Ryan’s wrongful death. Richard Dwyer was honored with the State Department’s Valor award for his involvement in the aftermath. When quizzed on his CIA involvement and the massacre, Dwyer nonchalantly replied: “no comment”. Deborah Layton Blakey gained fame with her critically acclaimed book, Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor’s Story Of Life And Death In The People’s Temple, which continued the onslaught of negative imaging surrounding the temple. And as for Jim Jones? His whereabouts may never be known for he has anonymity, protection and, undoubtedly, an alias. Many supposed sightings have continued to occur. The only thing that the reader can be certain about is printed in the words behind “Jim Jones” lifeless corpse:
“THOSE WHO DO NOT
REMEMBER THE PAST
TO REPEAT IT”.