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Jonestown Redux

Guest John Gillespie

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Guest John Gillespie


I am providing a couple of important and fascinating pieces regarding the Jonestown milieu: (1) an essay by Rebecca Moore on 'The Canon Of Jonestown' and (2) an investigative work by Uber Investigator Jim Hougan on 'The Secret Lifeof Jim Jones...' about the machinations of what we have come to know as Jonestown.

Bon Appetit,


I. Moore's Essay


Within weeks of Jonestown, skeptics questioned official accounts of

what had happened. The varying number of bodies proved most

suspicious: first 400, then 650, and then within a few days, 900. The

arrangement of the bodies also seemed odd: is this how people dying of

cyanide poisoning would actually look? Disbelief that people would

voluntarily kill themselves also fueled suspicions that things were not as

they appeared. The fact that so many African Americans had died raised

questions as well. What conspiracy literature attempts to resolve are the

very real inconsistencies that exist in the available narratives.

The first book-length exposé of the government conspiracy to

conduct mind control experiments on black Americans came out in

1988. In Was Jonestown a CIA Medical Experiment? Michael Meiers claims

that a Nazi-CIA axis of scientists—including Dr. Laurence Layton, the

father of both Temple member Larry Layton who was convicted of

conspiracy to murder a congressman and of Deborah Layton who

persuaded Congressman Ryan to go to Guyana—tested drugs in

Jonestown as part of the CIA’s MK-ULTRA program.58 While Jim Jones

pretended to be a communist, he was actually a registered Republican,

“whose ultra-conservative, right-wing politics were reflective of the Ku

Klux Klan or the Nazi Party and are best evidenced by the fascist form of

his Peoples Temple.”59 Meiers links the Peoples Temple experiment to

the Symbionese Liberation Army, the assassinations of George Moscone

and Harvey Milk, the outbreak of the AIDS virus in the United States,

and of course former Nazis from Germany who control the CIA.60 Meiers

further contends that Jones and his leadership group escaped, and “[t]he

Reverend Jim Jones is alive, wealthy, secure and conceivably sipping pina

[sic] coladas on the veranda as he reads this first published account of

his escape from the carnage he created in Jonestown.”61

If one wanted to discredit conspiracy theories, Meiers’ book would

do it. There are factual inaccuracies, wild leaps to conclusions, and

gratuitous speculations. It is sparsely footnoted, with even a few notes

saying “Pending,” indicating that the citation had not yet been located

or verified. But Meiers attempts to address several legitimate questions


Moore: Canon on Jonestown

with his book, particularly the reason for the tremendous supply of

psychotropic drugs found in Jonestown. Jones’ strange political

connections, his trips to Brazil, and his comments about Richard Dwyer,

the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission to Guyana, on the death tape all serve

as grist for the conspiracy mill.

Against Meiers, Nathan Landau asserts in the book Heavenly Deceptor

that Jonestown was a left-wing conspiracy which sought to bring down

the United States by establishing a base of operations in Guyana.62 Jim

Jones planned to escape using the millions of dollars he had stashed in

various banks in the Caribbean and in Europe.

Jones’ escape plan, called

“The Last Stand” according to Landau, was foiled by Teri Buford as well

as by his circle of guards.63 Buford double-crossed Jones by involving

Mark Lane in the plan to spend the money, since she knew the secret

bank account numbers. The guards double-crossed Jones by killing him

at the end and escaping.

Heavenly Deceptor contains almost all the elements required for a

decent conspiracy theory today: sex, drugs, money, Nazis, torture, the

John F. Kennedy assassination, the Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination,

Ayatollah Khomeini and the PLO, and Eva Braun.64 While the book is

ultimately incoherent, it does raise the question of what Jones planned

to do with all of the money hidden away and why it was not used to

improve conditions in Jonestown. It also poses the race question of why

a number of people in the white leadership group escaped at the last

minute.65 Landau sees the deaths of African Americans as evidence of a

racist, perhaps even Nazi, attempt to create a concentration camp in

which people were worked to death rather than exterminated.

While Jeff Brailey’s self-published account of his experience with the

evacuation of the bodies of the Jonestown dead does not fall into the

category of conspiracy literature, The Ghosts of November is sure to fuel

conspiracy theories.66 Brailey, a Licensed Practical Nurse, was a U.S.

Army Master Sergeant with the 601st Medical Company stationed in

Panama which was assigned to participate in the bodylift after 18

November 1978. He derives his account of life in Jonestown primarily

from Deborah Layton [blakey]’s 1978 affidavit which warned of the

potential for suicide, but his most interesting anecdotes come from his

personal experiences of being stationed in Matthews Ridge, Guyana the

week after the deaths.67 He recalls “heading toward a place with more

dead human bodies scattered about than any other place I had ever

been including Vietnam.”68 Brailey claims that he saw Jim Jones lying

dead on the steps of his cabin, not in the pavilion, with his arms in a

different position from that of the famous photograph. He also says

that a lieutenant from the Guyana Defense Force showed him a cabin in

Jonestown with dead Guyanese citizens who had been shot. Brailey

returned from his first visit to Jonestown on 20 November in a helicopter

with a man claiming to work for the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown. The


Nova Religio

official insisted that Brailey shoot anyone who attempted to grab the

large crate of papers he had gathered over the previous twenty-four hours.

Brailey concludes that the man was a CIA “spook,” or operative.69

Brailey attempts to clear up the mystery of the changing body count

with an explanation which may or may not satisfy conspiracy theorists.

He says that bodies had fallen—from youngest and smallest to oldest

and most able-bodied—on top of each other in a depression around

the pavilion. In his words, they fell in an “inverted pyramid.”70 He

provides some useful information about the identification process which

might help researchers determine family groupings. He also notes that

a Criminal Investigation Division of the Army in Panama looked into

charges of theft from Jonestown. This might prove another avenue for

research: military investigations and after-action reports that might allay

conspiracy talk by accounting for discrepancies that appeared in news

coverage of the initial chaos.

Three conspiracy sources take the position that the CIA wanted to

disrupt Jonestown because it was a leftist, interracial, political group. A

cover story in Freedom, the magazine of the Church of Scientology, claims

that the CIA was bent on destroying both Peoples Temple and Leo Ryan,

who had sponsored legislation to curb CIA abuses.71 Quoting former

Green Beret Charles Huff, the article claims that people in Jonestown

did not die willingly. “We saw many bullet wounds as well as wounds

from crossbow bolts,” he said, adding that adults who had not been shot

were injected.72

Dr. Leslie Mootoo, chief medical examiner for Guyana

in 1978, also reiterated his belief—which he first voiced in 1978—that

the majority of people in Jonestown had been murdered, saying that

187 bodies showed signs of injections. Mootoo and his staff did not

complete examinations on all of the dead.

The article also states that, “One source told Freedom the actual killers

had been planted in the Peoples Temple.”73 That source, unidentified

in the article, undoubtedly is Laurie Efrein Kahalas, a Peoples Temple

loyalist who in 1998 published Snake Dance, her own version of events,

and who maintains a website at <http://www.jonestown.com>.74 She

writes that the CIA had a contingency plan to exterminate the

community. CIA sharpshooters, not Temple members, conducted a

professional hit on Leo Ryan and the media in order to eliminate the

congressman and to discredit Jim Jones. The community then had little

choice but to take their own lives, she argues, quoting Jones from the

final tape: “We have no choice now. Either we do it or they do it.”75

Kahalas presents the Peoples Temple perspective on events prior to 18

November 1978 faithfully, if uncritically. She goes further, however, and

labels any account at variance with her own as “disinformation.”

Nevertheless, her book is a valuable look at what Peoples Temple

members thought about a major and on-going child custody battle, about

the Concerned Relatives, and about Ryan’s visit. Moreover, Kahalas raises


Moore: Canon on Jonestown

interesting questions about the hit squad which assassinated Ryan and

the others: where is NBC’s raw, unedited footage of the event, she


The third and most credible example of leftist conspiracy literature

comes from Jim Hougan, a freelance writer and novelist who has

documented and footnoted his research investigating alleged

connections between Jim Jones and the CIA.76 Hougan makes a

compelling argument for tying Jones to Dan Mitrione, a CIA agent

murdered by Uruguay’s Tupamaros in 1970.77 He looks closely at Jones’

mysterious years in South America between 1960 and 1963, including

his trip to Cuba and a trip to Guyana when he supposedly was in Hawaii.78

Hougan’s most important contribution is his emphasis of the fact that it

was the CIA that first described the deaths in Jonestown as mass suicide.79

In other words, very early in the reporting the deaths were identified as

suicide rather than murder, even though Guyana’s chief medical

examiner called them murder. Hougan believes that most residents of

Jonestown were forcibly injected and therefore were in fact murdered.

He bases this belief on the forensic work of Guyana’s medical examiner,

Dr. Leslie Mootoo, and on the eyewitness account of Stanley Clayton,

arguing that these reports are the closest thing we have to an official

judgment on the matter.

The reason for the murders: Jones wanted to

hide the imminent disclosure of his former ties to Mitrione and to U.S.

intelligence agencies.

The magnitude of the Jonestown event itself probably means that in

some respects no account will ever completely satisfy everyone. In an email

message to me Hougan wrote that “if it is in fact the case that the

CIA was in some sense ‘responsible’ for Jim Jones, then the Agency must

also have a responsibility—moral and legal—for those who died at


The Freedom article concludes by saying that “nearly two

decades after the death of Congressman Leo Ryan, America is still owed

a definitive explanation for the many unresolved questions surrounding

the tragedy.”81 It is clear that conspiracy theorists will continue to spin

their tales as long as government documents remain classified.


Jonestown—as a myth, a word, a concept—has entered common

parlance and is visible everywhere. During the threatened strike by major

league baseball umpires in August 1999, one umpire said the strike “is

like the Jonestown, Koolaid thing. But not everybody was going to be

that stupid.”82 A novel by Wilson Harris is titled Jonestown, but has little

to do with the original Jonestown,83 nor does Frank Zappa’s Jonestown

album or the group called Jonestown Massacre. An extremely interesting

popular analysis of Jonestown appears in Daniel Quinn’s novel My


Nova Religio

Ishmael.84 A textbook by Lorne Dawson attempts to present a “sympathetic

understanding” of new religious movements, and does look at Peoples

Temple in a scholarly way.85 But such thoughtful efforts are balanced by

throwaway references to Jonestown in popular culture, such as the

promotion for an episode of the television program Law and Order which

compared an abusive father to Jonestown.

A body of scholarly literature has grown upon the foundations laid

in the first ten years after Jonestown. That first decade saw instant

paperbacks and sensationalistic accounts as well as thoughtful and

thorough investigations into the meaning and reality of Peoples Temple.

The last decade of the twentieth century viewed Peoples Temple through

the lenses of Waco and other violent events involving religious

communities, comparing groups, beliefs, and actions. It also examined

unexplored facets of life within the Temple, from the perspectives of

both women and African Americans. At the same time, however, a canon

exists which seems unassailable by scholars attempting to modify, nuance,

or enlarge that canon.

Will historians and religion scholars be able to amend the existing

Jonestown canon? Right now the odds do not look very good. Although

scholars know that we need more information and more research before

declaring the canon closed, they appear to have little say in the matter.

Moreover, conspiracy theorists may find greater acceptance with the

public in the future, just as they have with alternative accounts of the

John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinations. I hope that

this paper sounds the alarm for the pressing need to communicate

scholarly findings with the general public so that one hundred years

from now the canon on Jonestown will reflect information and analysis

that occurred in the decades after November 1978. I also hope this article

points to the urgency of acting quickly to obtain all available documents

about Peoples Temple and Jonestown, and to talk with all living witnesses,

before they are irretrievably lost. No matter how closed it looks today,

the canon on Jonestown remains open as long as government records

and first-person accounts are excluded; as long as the stories of African

Americans and women are neglected; as long as the role of apostates is

ignored; and as long as the questions raised by conspiracy theorists

continue to go unanswered. Absent the insights garnered through twenty

years of research, the canon by definition must stay open.

Special thanks go to Fielding M. McGehee, III for editorial assistance on this

article. My appreciation is also extended to the reviewers at Nova Religio whose

comments sharpened my analysis.


II. Hougan's Piece

"The Secret Life of Jim Jones: A Parapolitical Fugue" by Jim Hougan

What follows is an interim report about Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. In so far as it has a central thesis, it is that the "mass-suicide" that took place at Jonestown in 1978 was, in reality, a massacre. It seems to me that this much can be proven by reference to the medical evidence---particularly the evidence collected by the Guyanese pathologist, Dr. Leslie Mootoo.

The importance of this conclusion should be obvious. To suggest that hundreds of members of the Peoples Temple murdered their children and killed themselves is, in this writer's view, a blood libel on those who died there. Indeed, it seems comparable to contending that because Jews worked in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, and walked to their deaths in gas-chambers, they, too, committed "suicide."

A second argument put forward in these pages is that Jones instigated the massacre because he feared that Congressman Leo Ryan's investigation would disgrace him. Specifically, Jones appears to have been terrified that Ryan and the press would uncover information that the leftist founder of the Peoples Temple was for many years a witting stooge, or agent, of the FBI and the CIA. This concern was, I believe, mirrored in various precincts of the U.S. intelligence community, where it was feared that Ryan's investigation would embarrass the CIA by linking Jones to some of the Agency's most volatile programs and operations.

This may be why the cult-leader's 201-file was purged by the CIA immediately after Jones's friend, and suspected case-officer, Dan Mitrione, died. [1] And it may also be why Congressman Ryan's contingent was escorted to Jonestown by the CIA's undercover chief-of-station in Guyana, Richard Dwyer. [2]

What I believe and what I can prove are, in some instances, two different things. There is no smoking gun in the pages that follow. But I think the reader will agree that there are certainly a great many empty cartridges lying about---enough, perhaps, to stimulate further investigation by others.

That said, it must also be said that I am hardly the first to suggest that the Jonestown massacre was the outcome of someone's secret machinations. The affair is inherently mysterious, and conspiracy theories abound---the most prominent among them that "Jonestown" was a CIA mind-control experiment.

The view has been put forward in a number of venues. Congressman Ryan's close friend and chief-of-staff, Joe Holsinger, is persuaded of it. The Edwin Mellen Press has even published a book on the subject, answering its titular question---Was Jonestown a CIA Medical Experiment?---in the affirmative. [3] By no means, finally, there is the work of well-intentioned conspiracists such as John Judge, one of the first writers to approach the story with as much skepticism as horror.


In the Fall of 1978, with Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, Congressman Leo Ryan (D-CA) flew to Georgetown, Guyana accompanied by a contingent of "concerned relatives" and members of the press. The purpose of the trip was at once simple and difficult: to determine whether or not American citizens were being abused or held against their will at the Peoples Temple agricultural settlement in Jonestown.

Reports to that effect had been received from a number of sources, including former members of the Temple, their relatives and the press. Whether those reports should be believed was a separate matter. An American-based political organization that used the trappings of religion to attract members and avoid taxes, the Temple was a controversial institution---a personality cult that put itself forward as a vehicle of "apostolic socialism." Though its membership was predominantly black, the group was run by a white matriarchy that was, in turn, under the spell of a Bible-hating, charismatic sadist named Jim Jones [4]

Escorted by Richard Dwyer, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy, Congressman Ryan and a part of his contingent visited the remote commune on the afternoon of November 17, a Friday.

Though the visit was an unwelcome one, and filled with tension, Temple attorneys Charles Garry and Mark Lane arranged for the delegation to be given a tour of the settlement, food and a place to sleep. Accordingly, members of the Ryan party met with the Temple's leader, Jim Jones, and spoke with many of the organization's rank-and-file. Speeches and entertainment went on until late at night.

By Saturday afternoon, November 18, though Ryan himself had spoken favorably about several aspects of the settlement, a number of "defectors" had declared themselves, saying that they wanted to leave. It was then, as the congressman and his company were preparing to depart, that Ryan was suddenly, freakishly, attacked by a knife-wielding man. Though the scuffle was quickly broken up, and Ryan uninjured, the provocation put an end to the uneasy truce that both sides had cultivated. [5]

Driven to the airstrip at Port Kaituma, where two small planes waited for them, Ryan and his party were ambushed as they prepared to embark. When the shooting ended, five people, including the congressman, lay dead on the tarmac. Nearby, and in the surrounding jungle, survivors of the delegation, having fled from the shooting, hid from sight, tending each other's wounds. Meanwhile, as the death-squad returned to Jonestown, one of the small planes, its engine damaged, took off for Georgetown, transporting both flight crews and all the bad news it could carry.

As night fell, both the wounded and the well concealed themselves in a rum shop at Port Kaituma, awaiting evacuation in the morning. Meanwhile, some five miles away, and unknown to anyone in Port Kaituma, a holocaust was unfolding in Jonestown.

Guyanese defense forces arrived at the airstrip shortly after dawn that Sunday morning. Securing the runway, the troops turned toward Jonestown, marching down the long, rough road to the commune. Arriving there at mid-morning, they were horrified to find a field of cadavers: men, women and children lying in an arc around the settlement's central pavilion.

Some two-hundred bodies were quickly counted, but the numbers of dead continued to climb throughout the days that followed. Revisions to the toll were continual, and sickening: 363, 405, 775, 800, 869, 910, 912, 913... To newspaper readers and watchers of the evening news, it seemed almost as if the slaughter was on-going, rather than a fait accompli.

Amid the confusion and horror, the escalating body-count provoked suspicions, though explanations abounded. It was said, for example, that the count was consistently low because the bodies of children lay unseen beneath the corpses of adults. Skeptics, however, pointed out that some of the earliest reports listed 82 children among 363 dead. [6] Baltimore Sun, November 21, 1978. A subsequent report, by the Associated Press on November 25, listed 180 children among 775 cadavers. The final count, recorded by the Miami Herald on December 17, reported that 260 children were among the dead.» It seemed fair to say, therefore, that the children's presence was known from the beginning, and ought to have been taken into account. Moreover, even if the dead had been counted from the air, and even if one assumed that all of the children had been hidden from sight---which, as photos attest, was not the case---the body-count ought to have been more than 600 from the very first day.

But it wasn't. Of course, conditions were primitive, and the circumstances ghastly. Mistakes were inevitable. Nevertheless, 789 American passports had been found at Jonestown within a few hours of the troops' arrival. [7] This discovery, coupled with the low body-count, had somehow caused those at the scene to believe that hundreds of "cultists" were "missing." Indeed, it was to find these supposedly missing Templars that military search-parties were sent by foot, plane and helicopter to comb the surrounding area.

And meanwhile, incredibly, the dead lay in plain sight---nearly a thousand of them in an area the size of a football field.

It was a almost a week, then, before the body-count stabilized at 913 and, when it did, skeptics wondered how it was possible that 363 bodies had concealed 550---particularly when 82 of the 363 were said to have been small children.

Even mathematically, and from its inception, "Jonestown" did not make sense. Something was wrong with the reports from the very first day.


More than 900 men, women and children were suddenly, violently dead under circumstances that, even at this late date, remain mind-boggling. The mounting body-count, as well as the subsequent handling of the bodies, threatened to make conspiracy-theorists of even the most gullible.

It was alleged, of course, in newspapers and instant-books, [8] that upwards of a thousand brainwashed religious fanatics committed suicide in the jungle because their leader, Jim Jones, told them to. One by one, they'd come forward without protest to drink cyanide-laced "Kool-Aid" from a vat. [9] It was as simple as that. Jonestown was proof-positive of the effectiveness of brainwashing, and of the dangers inherent in the new religions.

As it happened, however, this was only a theory and, as it turned out, an inaccurate one. Viz.:

Seven months after the massacre, the New England Journal of Medicine commented on the handling of the bodies at Jonestown. [10] Citing the criticisms of forensic experts and organizations, [11] the Journal noted that:

only one-third of the bodies at Jonestown had been positively identified more than six months after the massacre;

no death certificates had been obtained on any of those who'd died in Guyana;

a medicolegal autopsy ought to have been performed on every body to establish the cause and manner of death in each case.

In fact, however, only seven autopsies were carried out among the 913 victims---an appalling figure. (As one forensic expert, Dr. Cyril Wecht, remarked: every American who dies under suspicious circumstances has a right to an autopsy.) Even then, the autopsies that were carried out were hardly conclusive: all of the bodies had been embalmed in Guyana, using a procedure that "ripped up" the internal organs, almost a month before the autopsies were conducted. [12]

This was unfortunate, to say the least. [13] Indeed, six leading medical examiners described the handling of the bodies (by the military and others) as "inept," "incompetent" "embarrassing," and a case of "doing it backwards.". [14] Dr. Rudiger Breitenecker, who assisted at the seven autopsies, agreed. There had been "a series of errors," he said. "We shuddered about the degree of ineptness." [15]

Despite the difficulties, "probable cyanide poisoning" was listed as the cause of death in five of the seven autopsy reports---though, as it happened, only one of the five bodies, that of Maria Katsaris, showed any traces of cyanide ("although carefully searched for..."). [16]

Still, the suspicion of cyanide poisoning in the absence of cyanide itself is not as strange as it may at first seem. As one of the examining physicians pointed out, cyanide is unstable in "the postmortem interval." Perhaps, then, it broke down in the victims' tissues. In any case, the "relevant body fluids" may have been contaminated by the embalming process itself or, in the course of that procedure, the fluids may have been diluted or discarded. The fact that Diphenhydramine was found in the stomachs of several victims and in the "poison-vat" as well, suggested that the victims had drunk from the vat's contents. That the contents of the vat included cyanide could not, however, be proven from an examination of the vat itself---which, upon study, betrayed no traces of the poison. [17] (The explanation was offered that the vat had an acid pH at which cyanide is unstable. The assumption, then, was that the poison broke down in the days after the massacre.)

"Probable cyanide poisoning" was, therefore, a conclusion based upon circumstantial evidence: i.e., reports, including press reports, from the scene. These accounts noted the presence of cyanide salts in the inventory of Jonestown's medical dispensary; and, also, the discovery of cyanide in syringes and bottles in the area around the pavilion. Finally, there was the account of Dr. Leslie Mootoo, chief medical examiner and senior bacteriologist for Guyana, who examined scores of bodies within a day or two of the disaster. According to Dr. Mootoo, who labored long and hard, taking specimens and samples from many of the dead, cyanide was present in the stomachs of most of those whom he examined. Unfortunately, evidence of his findings disappeared soon after it was collected. According to Dr. Mootoo, his specimens and samples were given to "a representative of the American Embassy in Georgetown, expecting that they would be forwarded to American forensic pathologists." They weren't. No one knows what happened to them.

Of the two remaining bodies that were autopsied, Jim Jones was found to have been killed by a gunshot wound to the head. As for Temple member Ann Moore, her death was attributed to two causes because it was impossible to say which came first. She had been shot in the head; and, unlike the others, a massive quantity of cyanide was found in her body's tissues. (Why the poison should have broken down in the bodies of the other victims, but not in the body of Ann Moore, is unknown.)

All in all, physicians were able to determine the cause of death in only two of the more than 900 cases---though Dr. Mootoo's field-work lent considerable weight to the conclusion that most had died of cyanide-poisoning.

As for the manner of death, whether suicide or homicide, the best evidence was again Dr. Mootoo's. The Guyanese physician, trained in London and Vienna, concluded that more than 700 of the victims had been murdered. This conclusion was based on several observations. In the case of the 260 children, for example, they could hardly be held responsible for their own deaths. They'd been killed by others. As for the adults, Dr. Mootoo reported that 83 of the 100 bodies that he examined had needle-punctures on the backs of their shoulders---suggesting that they had been forcibly held down and injected against their will. [18] (A second possiblity is that they may have given coup de grace injections, perhaps after feigning death.) Moreover, Dr. Mootoo noted, syringes containing cyanide, but lacking needles, lay everywhere on the ground at Jonestown---a circumstance which led him to conclude that the syringes had been used to squirt poison into the mouths of those (children and others) who'd refused to drink. Still others seem to have duped into thinking that they were taking tranquilizers: bottles containing potassium cyanide, but labelled "Valium," were scattered on the ground around the pavilion. [19] Based upon this evidence, a conservative estimate would be that as many as 700, and possibly more, of Jonestown's victims were murdered.

No other conclusion seems reasonable. Once Dr. Mootoo's findings are accepted with respect to the cause of death, cyanide poisoning, we have little choice than to accept his judgment upon the manner in which the vast majority of the victims died. As the only physician to gather evidence at the scene and to examine the dead where they lay, Dr. Mootoo based his findings upon the best (and, sometimes, the only) evidence that was available.

An eye-witness account would help to answer many of the lingering questions, but none would appear to be forthcoming. Those who survived the massacre---Charles Garry, Mark Lane, the Carter brothers, Michael Prokes, Odell Rhodes and others---did so because they fled the scene. [20] The only exceptions to this were an elderly woman named Hyacinth Thrush, who slept through the massacre and remembered nothing of it; a man named Johnny Cobb, who hid through the night in a tree; [21] and a third person whose identity will be discussed subsequently.

Just as the cause and manner of death were to be obscured by the decision to embalm the corpses before they could be autopsied, identities of those who died were also encrypted. Why this was so is a mystery in its own right.

"Lots of people had identification tags on their wrists, usually their right one," said Frank Johnston, an American magazine photographer who toured the commune shortly after the massacre. [22] Some of these tags were hand-made, apparently by the communards themselves, while others were issued by the medical clinic at Jonestown. Still other victims had been identified on the ground by Ms. Thrush and others who'd known them. These bodies had then been tagged by the military. Relatives of the dead, including Johnny Cobb, saw the tags. So did anyone who glanced at the Newsweek cover to the issue in which the massacre was reported.

Inexplicably, however, the wrist-identification bracelets and tags were removed prior to the bodies' return to the United States.

In a real sense, therefore, the bodies were dis-identified, though no one is able to say why. According to Newsweek, however, the order to remove the tags was issued by Robert Pastor, the National Security Council's staff coordinator for Latin American and Caribbean affairs. Asked about this, Pastor denies that he gave such an order, adding that it would have been senseless for him to have done so. He's right, of course, but the mystery remains: why were the tags removed?

A great deal more could be said about the mishandling of the bodies. It may be enough, though, to call attention to news reports published as recently as last year. According to UPI and the Los Angeles Times, three of the Jonestown dead were discovered in January, 1986 stacked in caskets inside a Storage-R-Us facility in Southern California. [23] They'd been forgotten, and were still awaiting burial.


As Dr. Mootoo's best evidence established, most of the people at Jonestown were murdered. How is it, then, that Jonestown has become synonymous with "mass suicide"? An "After Action Report" of the Joint Chiefs of Staff helps to establish the chronology of the myth.

According to the Pentagon, which took responsibility for transporting the dead back to the United States, the National Military Command Center (NMCC) was first notified of a disaster in Guyana at 7:18 P.M. on Saturday, November 18. [24] This information, apparently based upon the reports brought back from Port Kaituma by the escaping small plane, was that Congressman Ryan had been shot at the jungle airstrip.

At 8:15 P.M., a Department of Defense MEDEVAC was requested by the State Department. Its mission: to evacuate the wounded from Port Kaituma, and to return the bodies of those who had been killed at the airstrip. [25]

At 8:49 P.M., the State department relayed a request from the Prime Minister of Guyana, Forbes Burnham, asking that a pathologist accompany the MEDEVAC. Why Burnham should have requested a pathologist from the U.S. is, under the circumstances, a considerable mystery. The information available to him at that time would seem to have been restricted to the news that Congressman Ryan and others had been ambushed by small-arms fire. At the very least, therefore, it may be said that Burnham's request demonstrated remarkable prudence---if not prescience.

At 3:04 A.M. on November 19, the C-141 MEDEVAC left Charleston, N.C. for Guyana.

Twenty-five minutes later, at 3:29 A.M., the JCS chronology indicates that "CIA NOIWON reports mass suicides at Jonestown." [26]

All entries in the JCS chronology are Eastern Standard Time. In Guyana, however, it was one hour and fifteen minutes later than it was in Washington, D.C.---which means that the CIA notified the Defense Department of the "mass suicides" at 4:44 A.M. (Guyana-time).

This is clearly one of the most important mysteries in the entire affair. How did the CIA know that anyone was dead in Jonestown---let alone so many as to justify the notion of "mass suicides"? And how could it be so mistakenly certain of the manner in which the dead had died: i.e., suicide as opposed to murder?

Obviously, the CIA somehow learned of the massacre in Guyana prior to 4:44 A.M. Which is to say, while it was still dark, and hours before Guyanese Defense Forces arrived at the commune.

How the Agency was able to do this is uncertain---the matter remains classified nine years after the events. Satellite imagery is only the most remote possibility, given the darkness and the low-priority of Guyana as a surveillance site. Radio intercepts are a second, more likely, possibility; at present, however, it is unknown if there were transmissions from Jonestown that would have permitted an eavesdropper to report the occurrence of "mass suicides." A third possibility, and the one that seems most likely, is the existence of a CIA officer or agent in Jonestown at the time of the massacre.

We'll return to this third possibility momentarily. Before we do so, however, it is worth quoting from the "narrative summary" of the JCS report:

At approximately 1800 that same evening (November 18), Reverend James Warren Jones, the founder and leader of the Peoples Temple cult, held a meeting of all members. He convinced them that they and their children would have to die. The members of the cult lined up and began receiving a poison drink. Guards were stationed around the compound to insure that no one left the camp..." [27]

While we do not know the extent to which the military's perspective was shaped by the press reports that followed, it may be assumed that the CIA's early notification, alleging mass suicides even before the bodies had been discovered by the Guyanese, must have affected the way in which the tragedy came to be seen and reported.

But how did the CIA learn of the deaths? Who was its witness?

There is only a single candidate. And that is the Deputy Chief of Mission, Richard Dwyer, who accompanied Ryan to Jonestown and the Port Kaituma airstrip.


Dwyer's background is that of a sheepdipped CIA officer whose State Department cover had long ago worn thin. After graduating from Princeton in 1957, he'd gone to work at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research until February, 1959. In the years that followed, he was posted to Damascus (1960-63), Cairo (1963-66), Washington (1966-68), and Sofia, Bulgaria (1970-72). [28] After returning home in 1972, he was subsequently shifted to Chad until, in 1977, he was brought home again to become part of the State Department's Inspection Corps. In that role, he traveled throughout much of western South America: Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Ecuador. Finally, on April 14, 1978 he arrived in Georgetown, Guyana to take up his responsibilities as Deputy Chief of Mission.

That Dwyer was a deep-cover CIA officer is apparent. Dr. Julius Mader, an East German author with ties to the Stasi intelligence service, alleged as much in a book that he'd written ten years prior to Jonestown: Who's Who in the CIA. Joseph Holsinger, Leo Ryan's best friend and chief of staff, echoes the charge, citing congressional sources. Not finally, the same allegation is made by the defense attorney for Larry Layton, recently convicted for his role in the assassination of Congressman Ryan. [29] Unfortunately, Justice Department attorneys (representing Dwyer) and the judge (who presided over the Layton case) [30] refused to let Layton's defense attorney question Dwyer about his work for the CIA. [31]

The information that a CIA agent (or officer) was at the scene of the Port Kaituma ambush was given to Joe Holsinger by a Washington colleague whom Holsinger regards as an unimpeachable source. Despite the efforts of Layton's defense attorney, this evidence was not admitted in court. Nevertheless, it's clear that the CIA man was present at both the ambush and the massacre.

A tape-recording found at the scene of the massacre was transcribed by the FBI. This is the so-called "Last Tape" that Jones recorded while urging his followers to commit suicide. [32] Against a background of wailing and screams, one hears

JONES: "And what comes, folks, what comes now?"

UNMAN [33] [in background]: "Everybody...hold it! Sit down right here..." [loud background noises, agitated]

JONES: "Say peace, say peace, say peace, say peace...what comes, don't let...take Dwyer on down to the middle (?) of the East House. Take Dwyer on down."

UNWOMAN: "Everybody be quiet, please!"

UNMAN: "Show you got some respect for our lives." [34]

UNMAN: "Let me sit down, sit down, sit down."

JONES: "I know... (Jones begins to hum, or keen.) "I tried so very very hard... Get Dwyer out of here before something happens to him."

UNMAN: "Jjara?"

JONES: "I'm not talking about Jjara, I said Dwyer."

The Last Tape is anything but indistinct, and there would seem to be only one way of making sense out of it: that is to say, it means what it says. Jones is giving orders to his followers to protect "Dwyer" by taking him to East House (a part of the Jonestown encampment from which attorneys Charles Garry and Mark Lane had already escaped). There is no other "Dwyer" associated with the Peoples Temple, so it would seem fair to conclude that it was Richard Dwyer whom Jones intended to protect. Why Jones should have wanted to protect a CIA agent is an interesting and important question. So, too, it seems important to ask whether or not Dwyer's appointment to the Embassy post in Guyana was in any way connected to the presence of the Peoples Temple in that country. And, also, whether it was a coincidence that Congressman Ryan's tour-guide at Jonestown was, secretly, the CIA's Chief of Station in the country?

Here, however, we are concerned, not with Jones's motives and relationships, but with tracking down the origins of reports about the supposed "mass suicides."

According to Richard Dwyer, he did not leave Port Kaituma that evening. On the contrary, he says, he tended the wounded throughout the night. If few people noticed his presence, as some have remarked, then it must be because he was moving back and forth between the two locations at which the wounded were being kept.

"What reasons people may have had for saying these things, I don't know," Dwyer has testified. "I was not present in the tavern, obviously, when I was at the tent. I wasn't present in the tent when I was in the tavern. But that's it." [35] One would like to enlighten Dwyer about the reasons why people felt that he had left Port Kaituma that night but, unfortunately, the Last Tape was not admitted into evidence in the Layton trial---which meant that no questions were asked about its contents.

We might speculate about the means by which the CIA was notified of the supposed "mass suicides." A burst-transmitter, concealed in an attache-case, has been suggested, but there is no way of knowing for certain if Dwyer carried such a device.


The CIA's relationship to Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, and therefore to the Jonestown massacre, is an important issue that will be discussed in subsequent pages.

Here, however, we are concerned with the initial reports of the massacre. And, in particular with those responsible for labeling the disaster a "mass suicide"---contrary to the evidence being gathered by Dr. Mootoo. And while the CIA report was undoubtedly a significant source of misinformation, an even more important source of spin was a psychiatrist named Dr. Hardat Sukhdeo.

Dr. Sukhdeo is, or was then, "an anti-cult activist" whose principal interests (as per an autobiographical note) are "homicide, suicide, and the behavior of animals in electro-magnetic fields." His arrival in Georgetown on November 27, 1978 came only three weeks after he had been named as a defendant in a controversial "deprogramming" case. [36] It is not entirely surprising, then, that within hours of his arrival in the capital, Dr. Sukhdeo began giving interviews to the press, including the New York Times, "explaining" what had happened.

Jim Jones, he said, "was a genius of mind control, a master. He knew exactly what he was doing. I have never seen anything like this...but the jungle, the isolation, gave him absolute control." Just what Dr. Sukhdeo had been able to see in his few minutes in Georgetown is unclear. But his importance in shaping the story is undoubted: he was one of the few civilian professionals at the scene, and his task was, quite simply, to help the press make sense of what had happened and to console those who had survived. He was widely quoted, and what he had to say was immediately echoed by colleagues back in the States.

That Sukhdeo's opinions were preconceived, rather than based upon evidence, seems obvious. Nevertheless, it is clear that he was aware of the work that Dr. Mootoo had done---which, as we have seen, contradicted Sukhdeo's statements about "mass suicides." In an interview with Time, Sukhdeo refers to an "autopsy" that had been performed on Jim Jones in Guyana. This can only have been a reference to Dr. Mootoo's somewhat cursory examination, in which Jones was slit open on the ground. It is difficult to understand how Sukhdeo could have been aware of that procedure's having been conducted without also knowing of Mootoo's finding that most of the victims had been murdered.

Dr. Sukhdeo was himself a native of Guyana, though a resident of the United States. He claimed at the time that he'd come to Georgetown at his own expense to counsel and study those who had survived. But that is in dispute.

According to his own attorney, Robert Bockelman, the psychiatrist retained him to prevent his having to testify at the Larry Layton trial in San Francisco. Dr. Sukhdeo's primary concern, according to Bockelman, was that it should not be revealed that the State Department had paid his way to Guyana. You see the problem: was Sukhdeo there to help the survivors---or to debrief them on behalf of some other person or agency? [37]

Nor was this all. Prior to retaining counsel in San Francisco, Dr. Sukhdeo had himself been retained by Larry Layton's defense attorneys and family. (Indeed, he testified in Layton's trial in Guyana, where "most of his testimony concerned cults in general and observations about conditions at Jonestown.") [38] And, during the time that he was helping Layton's defense, Dr. Sukhdeo was meeting---surreptitiously, according to his own lawyer---with FBI agents. Asked about this, Sukhdeo says that at no time during these meetings did he disclose any confidential communicatins between himself and Layton. [39] Ibid.»

The suggestion that Dr. Sukhdeo may have secretly "debriefed" Jonestown's survivors on behalf of the State Department (or some other government agency) may seem unduly suspicious. On the other hand, a certain amount of suspicion would seem to prudent when discussing the unsolved deaths of more than 900 Americans who, in the weeks before they died, were preparing to defect en masse to the Soviet Union. The government's interest in this matter would logically have been intense. [40]

It is true, of course, that not every psychiatrist agreed with Dr. Sukhdeo's analysis. Dr. Stephen P. Hersh, then assistant director of the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), commented that "The charges of brainwashing are clearly exaggerated. The concept of 'thought control' by cult leaders is elusive, difficult to define and even more difficult to prove. Because cult converts adopt beliefs that seem bizarre to their families and friends, it does not follow that their choices are being dictated by cult leaders."

The massacre, according to Dr. Hersh, was "an isolated thing" and "not something the public should fear from other" groups. "We have no information that...(the new religions)...are vulnerable to this type of extreme behavior," Dr. Hersh said. [41]

That said, there is more at stake here than public perceptions. Investigators of the Guyana tragedy have a responsibility to both the living and the dead: to find out what actually happened, and to make certain that it cannot happen again.


To understand the fate of the Peoples Temple, one must first understand why the intelligence community seemed (against all odds) to ignore the organization for so long---appearing to become interested in it only when Congressman Ryan began his investigation. Consider:

The Peoples Temple was created in the political deep-freeze of the 1950s. From its inception, it was a leftwing ally of black activist groups that were, in many cases, under FBI surveillance. [42] During the 1960s, when the Bureau and the CIA mounted Operations COINTELPRO and CHAOS to infiltrate and disrupt black militant organizations and the Left, the Temple went out of its way to forge alliances with leaders of those same organizations: e.g., with the Black Panthers' Huey Newton and with the Communist Party's Angela Davis. And yet, despite these associations, and its ultra-left orientation, we are told that the Temple was not a target of investigation by either intelligence agency.

In the early 1970s, suspicions began to surface in the press, implicating the Peoples Temple in an array of allegations including gunrunning, drug-smuggling, kidnapping, murder, brainwashing, extortion and torture. Under attack at home, and feeling the pressure abroad, Temple officials undertook secret negotiations with the Soviet Embassy in Georgetown, laying the groundwork for the en masse defection of more than a thousand poor Americans. According to the CIA, it took no interest in these discussions.

Nevertheless, when Congressman Ryan began to scrutinize the Temple in 1978, two things happened. First, according to his aides, he was stonewalled by the State Department. Second, upon arriving in Guyana, he was given an escort who had been identified a decade earlier as a ranking CIA officer. [43]

This second fact would seem to explain how it is that the CIA was the first to learn of the deaths at Jonestown, describing them as "mass suicides"---hours before the bodies were discovered by the Guyanese Defense Forces.

Under the circumstances, only the most naive could fail to be skeptical of the disinterested stance that the FBI and the CIA claim to have taken. But what does it mean? Why would these agencies give a de facto grant of immunity to the Peoples Temple? And why would the CIA maneuver its Chief of Station into position to surveil Congressman Ryan, the co-author of legislation curtailing CIA activities abroad, on his trip to Jonestown?

The answers to those questions are embedded in the contradictions of Jones's past and, in particular, in that most mysterious period in the preacher-man's life: the 1960-64 interregnum that every biographer has preferred to gloss over. As I intend to show, the enigmas of Jones's beginnings do much to explain the bloodshed at the end.


Jim Jones was born in Crete, Ind. in 1931. When he was three, he moved with his family to the town of Lynn.

His father was a partially disabled World War I vet. Embittered by the Depression and unable to find work, he is alleged (without much evidence) to have been a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Jones's mother, on the other hand, was well-liked, a hard-working woman who is universally credited with keeping the family together.

Jones's religious upbringing took place outside his own family. Myrtle Kennedy, a friend of his mother's who lived nearby, saw to it that he went to Sunday School, and gave him instruction in the Bible. While not yet a teenager, Jones began to experiment, attending the services of several churches. [44] Before long, he came under the spell of a "fanatical" woman evangelist, the leader of faith-healing revivals at the Gospel Tabernacle Church on the edge of town. [45] (This was a Pentecostal sect of so-called "Holy Rollers," a charismatic group then believed in faith-healing and speaking in tongues.) Whether there was more to their relationship than that of a priestess and her protege is unknown, but it is a fact that Jones's association with the woman coincided with the onset of nightmares. According to Jones's mother, he was terrorized by dreams in which a snake figured prominently. [46]

Whatever the nature of his relationship to the lady evangelist, Jones soon found himself in the pulpit, dressed in a white sheet, thumping the Bible. The protege was a prodigy and, by all accounts, he loved the attention.

In 1947, 15-years-old and still a resident of Lynn, Jones began preaching in a "sidewalk ministry" on the wrong side of the tracks in Richmond, Ind.---sixteen miles from his home. Why he traveled to Richmond to deliver his message, and why he picked a working-class black neighborhood in which to do it, is uncertain.

What is certain, however, is that, while in Richmond, Jones established a relationship with a man named Dan Mitrione. Like the child evangelist, Mitrione would one day become internationally notorious and, like Jones, his violent death in South America would generate headlines around the world. As Jones told his followers in Guyana,

"There was one guy that I knew growing up in Richmond, a cruel, cruel person, even as a kid, avicious racist---Dan Mitrione." [47]

Myrtle Kennedy has confirmed that the two men knew one another, saying that they were friends. [48]

That Jones knew Mitrione is strange coincidence, but not entirely surprising. A Navy veteran who'd joined the Richmond Police Department in 1945, Mitrione worked his way up through the ranks as a patrolman, a juvenile officer and, finally, chief of police. It is unlikely that he would have overlooked the strange white-boy from Lynn preaching on the sidewalk to blacks in front of a working-class bar on the industrial side of town.

What is surprising about Jones's statement, however, is his description of Mitrione as a "vicious racist." There is nothing anywhere else to suggest that Mitrione held any particular views on the subject of race. Communism, certainly---but race, no. [49]

Which is to say that either Jones was wrong about the Richmond cop, or else he knew something about Dan Mitrione that other people did not.

If Mitrione were to play no further part in Jones's story, there would be little reason to speculate any further about their relationship. But, as we'll see, Jones and Mitrione cross each other's paths repeatedly, and in the most unlikely places. Neither family friends nor playmates (Mitrione was eleven years older than Jones), their relationship must have been based upon something. But what?

Two possibilities suggest themselves: either Mitrione was counseling in Jones in the way policemen sometimes counsel children, or their relationship may have been professional. That is to say, Mitrione may have recruited Jones as an informant within the black community. This second possibility is one to which we'll have reason to return.


Very little research seems to have been carried out by anyone with respect to Jones's early career. It is almost as if his biographers are uninterested in him until he begins to go off the deep end. This is unfortunate---particularly in light of the possibility that Jones may have been a police or FBI informant, gathering "racial intelligence" for the Bureau's files.

What is known about his early career is, therefore, known only in outline.

He graduated from Richmond High School in about January, 1949, and began attending the University of Indiana at Bloomington. [50] He was married to his high school sweetheart, Marceline Baldwin, in June of the same year.

In the Summer of 1951, Jones moved to Indianapolis to study law as an undergraduate. While there, he began to attend political meetings of an uncertain kind. Ronnie Baldwin, Marceline's younger cousin, was living with the Joneses at the time. And though he was only eleven years old, Baldwin recalls that Jones sometimes took him to political lectures. On one such outing, Baldwin remembers, he and Jones went to a "churchlike" auditorium where "communism" was under discussion. They didn't stay long, however. Soon after they'd arrived, someone came up to Jones and whispered in his ear---whereupon Jones took his ward by the arm and exited hurriedly. Outside, Jones said "Good evening" to a man whom Baldwin believes was an FBI agent. [51]

It's a peculiar story, and Jones's biographers don't seem to know what to make of it. What sort of meeting could it have been? The assumption is made, in light of Jones's later politics, that it was a leftist soiree of some kind. After all, they were talking about communism. But that makes very little sense. Indianapolis was a very conservative city in 1951. (It still is.) Joe McCarthy was on the horizon, and the Korean War was beginning to take its toll. If "communism" was being discussed in anything other than whispers, or anywhere else than a back-room, the debate was almost certainly one-sided and thumbs-down.

It was at about this same time that Jones gave up the study of law and, to everyone's surprise, decided to become a minister. By 1952, he was a student pastor at the Somerset Methodist Church in Indianapolis and, in 1953, made his "evangelical debut" at a ministerial seminar in Detroit, Michigan.

By 1954, Jones had established the "Community Unity" Church in Indianapolis, while preaching also at the Laurel Tabernacle. To raise money, he began selling monkeys door-to-door. [52]

By 1956, Jones had established the "Wings of Deliverance" Church as a successor to Community Unity. Almost immediately, the Church was christened the Peoples Temple. The inspiration for its new name stemmed from the fact that the church was housed in what was formerly a Jewish synagogue---a "temple" that Jones had purchased, with little or no money down, for $50,000.

Ironically, the man who gave the Peoples Temple its start was the Rabbi Maurice Davis. It was he who sold the synagogue to Jones on such remarkably generous terms. Today, Rabbi Davis is a prominent anti-cult activist, a sometime deprogrammer, and an associate of Dr. Hardat Sukhdeo.


By the late 1950s, the Peoples Temple was a success, with a congregation of more than 2000 people. Still, Jones had even larger ambitions and, to accommodate them, became the improbable protege of an extremely improbable man. This was Father Divine, the Philadelphia-based "black messiah" whose Peace Mission movement attracted tens of thousands of black adherents and the close attention of the FBI, while earning its founder an annual income in seven figures.

For whatever reasons, beginning in about 1956, Jones made repeated pilgrimages to the black evangelist's headquarters, where he literally "sat at the feet" (and at the table) of the great man, professing his devotion. With the exception of Father Divine's wife, Jones may well have been the man's only white adherent.

It was not entirely inconvenient. Living in Indianapolis, Jones could easily arrange to transport members of the Peoples Temple by bus to Philadelphia---where they were housed without charge in Father Divine's hotels, feasted at banquets called "Holy Communions," and treated to endless sermons. [53]

That Jones made a study of Father Divine, emulated him and hoped to succeed him, is clear. The possibility should not be ruled out, however, that Jones was also engaged in collecting "racial intelligence" for a third party.

Whatever else Jones may have picked up from his study of Father Divine, there is reason to believe that it was in the context of his visits to Philadelphia that he was introduced to the subject of mass suicide. Among Jones's personal effects in Guyana was a book that had been checked out of the Indianapolis Public Library in the 1950s, and never returned. In the pages of Father Divine: Holy Husband, the author quotes one of the black evangelist's followers:

"'If Father dies,' she tells you in the

calmest kind of a voice, 'I sure 'nuff

would never be callin' in myself to be

goin' on livin' in this empty ol' world.

I'd be findin' some way of gettin' rid of

the life I never been wantin' before I

found him.'

"If Father Divine were to die, mass suicides

among Negroes in his movement could certainly

result. They would be rooted deep, not alone

in Father's relationship with his followers,

but also in America's relationship with its

Negroe citizens. This would be the shame of

America." (Emphasis added.) [54]


In January, 1959, Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista dictatorship, and seized power in Cuba. Land reforms followed within a few months of the coup, alienating foreign investors and the rich. By Summer, therefore, Cuba was in the midst of a low-intensity counter-revolution, with sabotage operations mounted from within and outside the country.

Within a year of Castro's ascension, by January of 1960, mercenary pilots and anti-Castroites were flying bombing missions against the regime. Meanwhile, in Washington, Vice-President Richard Nixon was lobbying on behalf of the military invasion that the CIA was plotting.

It was against this background, in February of 1960, that Jim Jones suddenly decided to visit Havana.

The news of Jones's visit to Cuba---one is tempted to write "the cover-story for Jones's trip to Cuba"---was first published in the New York Times in March, 1979 (four months after the massacre in Guyana). The story was based upon an interview with a naturalized American named Carlos Foster. A former Cuban cowboy, Baptist Pentecostal minister and sometime night-club singer, Foster showed up at the New York Times four months after the massacre. Without being asked, he volunteered a strange story about meeting Jim Jones in Cuba during the Winter of 1960. (Why Foster went to the newspaper with his story is uncertain: news of his friendship with Jones could hardly have helped his career as a childrens' counselor). [55]

Nevertheless, according to the Times story, the 29-year-old Jones traveled to Cuba to expedite plans to establish a communal organization with settlements in the U.S. and abroad. The immediate goal, Foster said, was to recruit Cuban blacks to live in Indiana.

Foster told the Times that he and Jones met by chance at the Havana Hilton. That is to say, Jones gave the Cuban a big hello, and took him by the arm. He then solicited Foster's help in locating forty families that would be willing to move to the Indianapolis area (at Jones's expense). Tim Reiterman, who repeats the Times' story, adds that the two men discussed the plan in Jones's hotel-room, from 7 in the morning until 8 o'clock at night, for a week. More recently, Foster has elaborated by saying that Jones offered to pay him $50,000 per year to help him establish an archipelago of offshore agricultural communes in Central and South America. Foster said that Jones was an extremely well-traveled man, who knew Latin America well. He had already been to Guyana, and wanted to start a collective there.

After a month in Cuba, Jones returned to the United States (alone). Six months later, Foster followed, on his own initiative, but the immigration scheme went nowhere. [56]

The anomalies in this story are many, and one hardly knows what

Edited by John Gillespie
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