What You Were Told About Jonestown
The Temple rose in a vacuum of leadership at the end of an era. The political confrontations of the 60s were almost over, and religious cults and "personal transformation" were on the rise. Those who had preached a similar message on the political soap box were gone, burnt out, discredited, or dead. The counter-culture had apparently degenerated into drugs and violence. Charlie Manson was the only visible image of the period. Suddenly, religion seemed to offer a last hope.
Even before they left for the Jonestown site, the People's Temple members were subjects of local scandal in the news. Jim Jones claimed these expos´s were attacks on their newly-found religion, and used them as an excuse to move most of the members to Guyana. But disturbing reports continued to surround Jones, and soon came to the attention of congressional members like Leo Ryan. Stories of beatings, kidnapping, sexual abuse and mysterious deaths leaked out in the press. Ryan decided to go to Guyana and investigate the situation for himself. The nightmare began.
Isolated on the tiny airstrip at Port Kaituma, Ryan and several reporters in his group were murdered. Then came the almost unbelievable "White Night," a mass suicide pact of the Jonestown camp. A community made up mostly of Blacks and women drank cyanide from paper cups of purple Kool-Aid, adults and children alike died and fell around the main pavilion. Jones himself was shot in the head, an apparent suicide. For days, the body count mounted, from 400 to nearly 1,000. The bodies were flown to the United States and later cremated or buried in mass graves.
Jonestown became a cultural cliché for mindless cults that drove members to commit suicide and served as a vivid warning against blind faith and charismatic leaders.
But there was more to Jonestown than was first reported. Something more evil than a cult or even a demented leader was being covered up and, when it was finally revealed, it would receive less publicity than the sterilized version of the truth most people were fed.
What REALLY Happened: The Truth Is In The Numbers
The first headlines the day of the massacre read: "Cult Dies in South American Jungle: 400 Die in Mass Suicide, 700 Flee into Jungle." By all accounts in the press, as well as People's Temple statements there were at least 1,100 people at Jonestown. There were 809 adult passports found there, and reports of 300 children (276 found among the dead, and 210 never identified). The headline figures from the first day add to the same number: 1,100.The original body count done by the Guyanese was 408, and this figure was initially agreed to by U.S. Army authorities on site. However, over the next few days, the total of reported dead began to rise quickly. The Army made a series of misleading and openly false statements about the discrepancy. The new total, which was the official final count, was given almost a week later by American authorities as 913. A total of 16 survivors were reported to have returned to the U.S.
Members of Jonestown were mostly black adults, the elderly and children who were apparently selected to reflect a cross section of the American public.
Where were the others cult members?
At their first press conference, the Americans claimed that the Guyanese "could not count." These local people had carried out the gruesome job of counting the bodies, and later assisted American troops in the process of poking holes in the flesh lest they explode from the gasses of decay. Then the Americans proposed another theory -- they had missed seeing a pile of bodies at the back of the pavilion. The structure was the size of a small house, and they had been at the scene for days. Finally, we were given the official reason for the discrepancy -- bodies had fallen on top of other bodies, adults covering children.
It was a simple, if morbid, arithmetic that led to the first suspicions. The 408 bodies discovered at first count would have to be able to cover 505 bodies for a total of 913. In addition, those who first worked on the bodies would have been unlikely to miss bodies lying beneath each other since each body had to be punctured. Eighty-two of the bodies first found were those of children, reducing the number that could have been hidden below others. A search of nearly 150 photographs, aerial and close-up, fails to show even one body lying under another, much less 500.
It seemed the first reports were true, 400 had died, and 700 had fled to the jungle. The American authorities claimed to have searched for people who had escaped, but found no evidence of any in the surrounding area. At least a hundred Guyanese troops were among the first to arrive, and they were ordered to search the jungle for survivors. In the area, at the same time, British Black Watch troops were on "training exercises," with nearly 600 of their best-trained commandos. Soon, American Green Berets were on site as well. The presence of these soldiers, specially trained in covert killing operations, may explain the increasing numbers of bodies that appeared.
How did the other cult members die?
Most of the photographs show the bodies in neat rows, face down. There are few exceptions. Close shots indicate drag marks, as though the bodies were positioned by someone after death. Is it possible that the 700 who fled were rounded up by these troops, brought back to Jonestown and added to the body count?
If so, the bodies would indicate the cause of death. A new word was coined by the media, "suicide-murder." But which was it? Autopsies and forensic science are a developing art. The detectives of death use a variety of scientific methods and clues to determine how people die, when they expire, and the specific cause of death. Dr. Mootoo, the top Guyanese pathologist, was at Jonestown within hours after the massacre. Refusing the assistance of U.S. pathologists, he accompanied the teams that counted the dead, examined the bodies, and worked to identify the deceased. While the American press screamed about the "Kool-Aid Suicides," Dr. Mootoo was reaching a much different opinion.
There are certain signs that show the types of poisons that lead to the end of life. Cyanide blocks the messages from the brain to the muscles by changing body chemistry in the central nervous system. Even the "involuntary" functions like breathing and heartbeat get mixed neural signals. It is a painful death, breath coming in spurts. The other muscles spasm, limbs twist and contort. The facial muscles draw back into a deadly grin, called "cyanide rictus." All these telling signs were absent in the Jonestown dead. Limbs were limp and relaxed, and the few visible faces showed no sign of distortion.
Instead, Dr. Mootoo found fresh needle marks at the back of the left shoulder blades of 80-90% of the victims. Others had been shot or strangled and a majority showed signs of being held down or restrained prior to injection.
One survivor reported that those who resisted were forced by armed guards. The gun that reportedly shot Jim Jones was lying nearly 200 feet from his body, not a likely suicide weapon. As Chief Medical Examiner, Mootoo's testimony to the Guyanese grand jury investigating Jonestown led to their conclusion that all but three of the people were murdered by "persons unknown." Only two had committed suicide they said. Several pictures show the gun-shot wounds on the bodies as well. The U.S. Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Schuler, said, "No autopsies are needed. The cause of death is not an issue here." The forensic doctors who later did autopsies at Dover, Delaware, were never made aware of Dr. Mootoo's findings.
A Cover-Up. But Of What?
There are other indications that the Guyanese government participated with American authorities in the extermination of the cult members and then covered-up the real story. One good example was Guyanese Police Chief Lloyd Barker, who interfered with investigations, helped "recover" 2.5 million for the Guyanese government, and was often the first to officially announce the cover stories relating to suicide, body counts and survivors. Among the first to the scene were the wife of Guyanese Prime Minister Forbes Burnham and his Deputy Prime Minister, Ptolemy Reid. They returned from the massacre site with nearly $1 million in cash, gold and jewelry taken from the buildings and from the dead. Inexplicably, one of Burnham's political party secretaries had visited the site of the massacre only hours before it occurred. When Shirley Field Ridley, Guyanese Minister of Information, announced the change in the body count to the shocked Guyanese parliament, she refused to answer further questions. Other representatives began to point a finger of shame at Ridley and the Burnham government, and the local press dubbed the scandal "Templegate." All accused them of taking a ghoulish payoff.
Perhaps more significantly, the Americans brought in 16 huge C-131 cargo planes, but claimed they could only carry 36 caskets in each one. These aircraft can carry tanks, trucks, troops and ammunition all in one load. At the scene, bodies were stripped of identification, including the medical wrist tags visible in many early photos. Dust-off operations during Vietnam clearly demonstrated that the military is capable of moving hundreds of bodies in a short period. Instead, they took nearly a week to bring back the Jonestown dead, bringing in the majority at the end of the period. The corpses, rotting in the heat, made autopsy impossible. At one point, the remains of 183 people arrived in 82 caskets. Although the Guyanese had identified 174 bodies at the site, only 17 (later 46) were tentatively identified at the massive military mortuary in Dover, Delaware.
[Above: Jones is handed a note by Ryan that was passed to him by members seeking to leave with the Congressman. This upsets Jones who then apparently gives orders for the murder to supress the truth of what was really going on in Jonestown.]
In December, the President of the National Association of Medical Examiners complained in an open letter to the U.S. military that they "badly botched" procedures, and that a simple fluid autopsy was never performed at the point of discovery. Decomposition, embalming and cremation made further forensic work impossible. The long delay made it impossible to reconstruct the event. As noted, these military doctors were unaware of Dr. Mootoo's conclusions. Several civilian pathology experts said they "shuddered at the ineptness" of the military, and that their autopsy method was "doing it backwards." But in official statements, the U.S. attempted to discredit the Guyanese grand jury findings, saying they had uncovered "few facts."
Guyanese troops, who had arrived with American Embassy officiala and CIA operative, Richard Dwyer, also failed to defend Congressman Leo Ryan and others who came to Guyana with him when they were shot down in cold blood at the Port Kaituma airstrip, even though the troops were nearby with machine guns at the ready. Witnesses described the murderers as "zombies," walking mechanically, without emotion, and "looking through you, not at you" as they murdered. Only certain people were killed, and the selection was clearly planned. Certain wounded people, like Ryan's aide Jackie Speiers, were not harmed further, but the killers made sure that Ryan and the newsmen were dead. In some cases they shot people, already wounded, directly in the head.
Richard Dwyer was a known CIA agent who accompanied Ryan on his fact finding trip. He is seen [Above] in a film of Ryan's departure securing his boarding pass. Later [Above] he can be seen accompanying Ryan to the small plane before the murders of Ryan and other members of the team. He mysteriously parts from the group just before the shooting begins.
It is believed that Dwyer was aware of the impending massacre and had a special relationship with Jones. A tape found at the camp recorded the voice of Jones telling his guards, "Get Dwyer out of here before something happens to him." Later, a radio transmission on a special CIA frequency reported the massacre -- a transmission believed made by Dwyer after he terminated Jones.
Who Was Jim Jones?
In order to understand the strange events surrounding Jonestown, we must begin with a history of the people involved. The official story of a religious fanatic and his idealist followers doesn't make sense in light of the evidence of murders, armed killers and autopsy cover-ups. If it happened the way we were told, there should be no reason to try to hide the facts from the public, and full investigation into the deaths at Jonestown, and the murder of Leo Ryan would have been welcomed. What did happen is something else again. Why?
Jim Jones grew up in Lynn, in southern Indiana. His father was an active member of the local Ku Klux Klan that infest that area. His friends found him a little strange, and he was interested in preaching the Bible and religious rituals. Perhaps more important was his boyhood friendship with Dan Mitrione, confirmed by local residents. In the early 50s, Jones set out to be a religious minister, and was ordained at one point by a Christian denomination in Indianapolis. It was during this period that he met and married his lifelong mate, Marceline. He also had a small business selling monkeys, purchased from the research department at Indiana State University in Bloomington.
A Bible-thumper and faith healer, Jones put on revivalist tent shows in the area, and worked close to Richmond, Indiana. Mitrione, his friend, worked as chief of police there, and kept him from being arrested or run out of town. According to those close to him, he used wet chicken livers as evidence of "cancers" he was removing by "divine powers." His landlady called him "a gangster who used a Bible instead of a gun."
Dan Mitrione, Jones' friend, moved on to the CIA-financed International Police Academy, where police were trained in counter-insurgency and torture techniques from around the world. Jones, a poor, itinerant preacher, suddenly had money in 1961 for a trip to "minister" in Brazil, and he took his family with him. His neighbors in Brazil distrusted him. Although he didn't speak Portugese or have any visible job, he maintained a large apartment and lived well. He told them he worked with U.S. Navy Intelligence. His transportation and groceries were being provided by the U.S. Embassy as was the large house he lived in. His son, Stephan, commented that he made regular trips to Belo Horizonte, site of the CIA headquarters in Brazil. In reality, Jones was known to be studying the mind control techniques of Voodoo cults and religions such as Santa Ria, which controlled and manipulated their followers with drugs, exotic rituals, fake miracles, fear and magic. An American police advisor, working closely with the CIA at that point, Dan Mitrione was there as well.Mitrione had risen in the ranks quickly, and was busy training foreign police in torture and assassination methods. He was later kidnapped by Tupermaro guerillas in Uruguay, interrogated and murdered. Jones returned to the United States in 1963, with $10,000 in his pocket.
With his new wealth, Jones was able to travel to California and establish the first People's Temple in Ukiah, California, in 1965. Guarded by dogs, electric fences and guard towers, he set up Happy Havens Rest Home. Despite a lack of trained personnel, or proper licensing, Jones drew in many people at the camp. He had elderly, prisoners, people from psychiatric institutions, and 150 foster children, often transferred to care at Happy Havens by court orders. He systematically assembled a large population of people with few attachments that would represent a cross-section of society and would be under his control. But for what?
After his arrival in Ukiah, his methods were visible to those who took the time to investigate. His armed guards wore black uniforms and leather jackboots. His approach was one of deception, and if that wore off, then manipulation and threats. Loyalty to his church included signing blank sheets of paper, later filled in with "confessions' and used for blackmail purposes, or to extort funds. Yet the vast membership he was extorting often owned little, and he tried to milk them for everything, from personal funds to land deeds. Illegal activities were regularly reported during this period, but either not investigated or unresolved. He clearly had the cooperation of local police. Years later, evidence would come out of charges of sexual solicitation, mysteriously dropped.
Although the new Temple had no guards or fences to restrict members, few had other places to live, and many had given over all they owned to Jones. They felt trapped inside this community that preached love, but practiced hatred.
What Was Jonestown... Really?
According to one story, Jones was seeking a place on earth that would survive the effects of nuclear war, relying only on an article in Esquire magazine for his list. The real reason for his locations in Brazil, California, Guyana and elsewhere deserve more scrutiny. At one point Jones wanted to set up in Grenada, and he invited then-Prime Minister Sir Eric Gairy to visit the Temple in San Francisco. He invested $200,000 in the Grenada National Bank in 1977 to pave the way, and some $76,000 was still there after the massacre. His final choice, the Matthew's Ridge section in Guyana is an interesting one. It was originally the site of a Union Carbide bauxite and manganese mine, and Jones used the dock they left behind. At an earlier point, it had been one of seven possible sites chosen for the relocation of the Jews after World War II.
Once chosen, the site was leased and worked on by a select crew of Temple members in preparation for the arrival of the body of the church. But if these were idealists seeking a better life, their arrival in "Utopia" was a strange welcome. Piled into busses in San Francisco, they had driven to Florida. From there, Pan American charter planes delivered them to Guyana. When they arrived at the airport, the Blacks were taken off the plane, bound and gagged. The deception had finally been stripped bare of all pretense. The Blacks were so isolated and controlled that neighbors as close as five miles from the site did not know that Blacks lived at Jonestown. The only public representatives seen in Guyana were white. Guyanese children were "bought" also.
According to survivors' reports, they entered a virtual slave labor camp. Worked for 16 to 18 hours daily, they were forced to live in cramped quarters on minimum rations, usually rice, bread and sometimes rancid meat. Kept on a schedule of physical and mental exhaustion, they were also forced to stay awake at night and listen to lectures by Jones. Threats and abuse became more common. The camp medical staff under Dr. Lawrence Schacht was known to perform painful suturing without anaesthetic. They administered drugs, and kept daily medical records.
A Mind Control Experiment Gone Crazy
Jonestown was an experiment, part of a 30-year program called MK-ULTRA, the CIA and military intelligence code name for mind control. A close study of Senator Ervin's 1974 report, Individual Rights and the Government's Role in Behavior Modification, shows that these agencies had certain "target populations" in mind, for both individual and mass control. Blacks, women, prisoners, the elderly, the young, and inmates of psychiatric wards were selected as "potentially violent." There were plans in California at the time for a Center for the Study and Reduction of Violence, expanding on the horrific work of Dr. José Delgado, Drs. Mark and Ervin, and Dr. Jolly West, experts in implantation, psychosurgery, and tranquilizers. The guinea pigs were to be drawn from the ranks of the "target populations," and taken to an isolated military missile base in California. In that same period, Jones began to move his Temple members to Jonestown. They were the exact population selected for such tests. All of the population received daily medical exams and wore medical identification bracelets.
The meticulous daily notes and drug records kept by Larry Schacht, the camp doctor, disappeared, but evidence did not. Jeff Brillie, who helped with the "clean up" operation was asked to guard a metal case containing thousands of files. He was told to shoot anyone who tried to take them from him and that they contained "highly sensitive" information. He later turned the files over to CIA agents who denied that such records existed when questioned by a congressional investigation. The history of MK-ULTRA and its sister programs (MK-DELTA, ARTICHOKE, BLUEBIRD, etc.) records a combination of drugs, drug mixtures, electroshock and torture as methods for control. The desired results ranged from temporary and permanent amnesia, uninhibited confessions, and creation of second personalities, to programmed assassins and preconditioned suicidal urges. One goal was the ability to control mass populations, especially for cheap labor. Dr. Delgado told Congress that he hoped for a future where a technology would control workers in the field and troops at war with electronic remote signals. He found it hard to understand why people would complain about electrodes implanted in their brains to make them "both happy and productive."
The people of the People's Temple were little more than experimental "rats," being drugged and monitored by daily medical exams and miticulous records of their health and behavioral changes. Once the terrible experiment was discovered there was nothing else to do but exterminate them and crush any link to the CIA's experimental mind control program.
On the scene at Jonestown, Guyanese troops discovered a large cache of drugs, enough to drug the entire population of Georgetown, Guyana (well over 200,000) for more than a year. According to survivors, these were being used regularly "to control" a population of only 1,100 people. One footlocker contained 11,000 doses of thorazine, a dangerous tranquilizer. Drugs used in the testing for MK-ULTRA were found in abundance, including sodium pentathol (a truth serum), chloral hydrate (a hypnotic), demerol, thalium (confuses thinking), and many others. Schacht had supplies of haliopareael and largatil as well, two other major tranquilizers. The actual description of life at Jonestown is that of a tightly run concentration camp, complete with medical and psychiatric experimentation. The stresses and isolation of the victims is typical of sophisticated brainwashing techniques. The drugs and special tortures add an additional experimental aspect to the horror. This more clearly explains the medical tags on the bodies, and why they had to be removed. It also suggests an additional motive for frustrating any chemical autopsies, since these drugs would have been found in the system of the dead.
The story of Jonestown is that of a gruesome experiment, not a religious utopian society. One Temple director, Joyce Shaw, described the Jonestown massacre as, "some kind of horrible government experiments, or some sort of sick racial thing, a plan like that of the Germans to exterminate Blacks." If we refuse to look further into this nightmarish event, there will be more Jonestowns to come. They will move from Guyana to our own back yard.
The ultimate victims of mind control at Jonestown are the American people. If we fail to look beyond the constructed images given us by the television and the press, then our consciousness is manipulated, just as well as the Jonestown victims' was. If the discrepancy between the truth of Jonestown and the official version can be so great, what other lies have we been told about other major events?