follows is a work in progress about Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple.
In so far as it has a central thesis, it is that Jones initiated the 1978
massacre at Jonestown, Guyana because he feared that Congressman Leo Ryan's
investigation would disgrace him. Specifically, Jones was afraid that
Ryan and the press would uncover evidence that the leftist founder of the
Peoples Temple was for many years an asset of the FBI and the CIA.
This fear was, I believe, mirrored in various precincts of the U.S. intelligence
community, which worried that Ryan's investigation would embarrass the
CIA by linking Jones to some of the Agency's most volatile programs---including
"mind-control studies" and operations such as MK-ULTRA.
This is, I
believe, why Jones's 201-file was purged by the CIA immediately after
Jones's case-officer, Dan Mitrione, was murdered in Montevideo, Uruguay.
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 around---enough, perhaps,
to stimulate further investigation by others.
that, it should be added 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.
This is a view
that 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 respectable Edwin Mellen Press has gone so far as to publish a book
on the subject. And
professional conspiracists such as John Judge have embraced the thesis
In my view, they're probably mistaken. The
truth is darker, the evil more banal.
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.
that effect had been received from a number of sources, including Temple
"defectors," relatives of those in Jonestown, and investigative journalists.
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 presented itself 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.
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.
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 Jones and spoke with many of the organization's
rank-and-file. Speeches and entertainment went on until late in the
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 under the congressman's protection.
It was then, as Ryan and his cohort were preparing to depart, that the
congressman 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.
Driven to the
airstrip at nearby Port Kaituma, where two small planes waited, Ryan and
his party were ambushed by a contingent of Templars, driven to the scene
on the back of a tractor. When the shooting ended, five people, including
the congressman, lay dead on the tarmac. Nearby, and in the surrounding
jungle, survivors of the congressional delegation, having fled from the
shooting, hid from sight, tending each other's wounds. Meanwhile,
the death-squad returned to Jonestown as one of the small planes, its engine
damaged, took off for the capital carrying both flight crews and news of
As night descended
on western Guyana, both the wounded and the well concealed themselves
in a rum shop at Port Kaituma, awaiting evacuation in the morning.
Five miles away, unknown to anyone in Port Kaituma, a holocaust unfolded
forces arrived at the airstrip the next morning, shortly after dawn.
Securing the runway, the troops turned toward Jonestown, marching down
the long, rough road to the commune. They reached the settlement
at mid-morning, and were horrified to find a field of cadavers---men,
women and children lying in an arc around the settlement's central pavilion.
bodies were quickly counted, but the numbers of dead climbed ever higher
in 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.
It seems fair to say, then, 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 should have been more than 600 from the
very first day.
But it wasn't.
conditions were primitive, and the circumstances ghastly. Mistakes
were inevitable. Even so, 789 American passports had been found
at Jonestown within a few hours of the troops' arrival. 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 earch the surrounding forest.
incredibly, the dead lay in plain sight---nearly a
thousand of them in an area the size of a football field.
It was a 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.
and from its inception, "Jonestown" did not make sense. Something
was wrong with the reports from the very first day.
I.1 RYAN AND THE NUMBERS
I.2 THE CAUSE AND MANNER OF DEATH
More than 900
men, women and children were suddenly, violently dead under circumstances
that, even at this late date, remain mind-boggling.
view, as it emerged in newspapers and instant-books, was that upwards of 1000 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. It was as simple as that, the public was told.
Jonestown was proof-positive of the effectiveness of "brainwashing," and
of the dangers inherent in the new religions.
what was presented as news was only a theory and, as it turned out, an
inaccurate one. Viz.:
after the massacre, the New England Journal of Medicine commented
on the handling of the bodies at Jonestown. Citing the criticisms of forensic experts and
organizations,  the
Journal noted that:
after the massacre, only one-third of the bodies at Jonestown had been
no death certificates
had been obtained for any of the people 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, 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
This was unfortunate,
to say the least.
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." 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." 
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..."). 
suspicion of cyanide poisoning in the absence of cyanide itself is not
as strange as it sounds. 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 partaken of 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.
 (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
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
on the ground 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 in situ 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 seems
to know what happened to them.
Of the two
remaining bodies (of the seven) 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.)
In the end,
physicians were able to certify 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 of the victims had been poisoned.
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 dead 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. So 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. (A second possiblity
is that they may have been given coup de grace injections, perhaps
to guard against the possibility that some of the victims might have feigned
death in hopes of escape.) 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 other victims seem to have been duped into thinking
that they were taking tranquilizers: bottles containing potassium cyanide,
but labelled "Valium," were scattered on the ground around the pavilion.
 Based upon this
evidence, Mootoo concluded 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.
account would help to answer some of the lingering questions, but few
witnesses survived. Those who did survive---Charles Garry, Mark Lane,
Mike and Tim Carter, Michael Prokes, Odell Rhodes, and Stanley Clayton---did
so because they were able to flee the scene. The only exceptions to this were an elderly woman named
Hyacinth Thrush, who slept through the massacre and remembered nothing
of it; and a man named Johnny Cobb, who hid through the night in a tree.
Just as the
cause and manner of death were obscured by the decision to embalm the
corpses before they could be autopsied, the 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.  Some of these tags were hand-made, apparently
by the communards themselves, while others had been issued by the medical
clinic at Jonestown. Still other victims were identified on the ground
by Hyacinth Thrush and others who'd known them. Once identifications
were made, the military tagged the bodies. Relatives of the dead,
including Johnny Cobb, saw the tags. So did anyone who glanced at the
cover of Newsweek, in which the massacre was reported.
But then the
tags and i.d. bracelets were removed, prior to the bodies' return to the
In a real sense,
therefore, the bodies were dis-identified, though no one seems 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...there
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 nearly
a decade after the massacre. 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.
 They'd been forgotten,
and were still awaiting burial.
I.3 THE NOIWON ALERT
As Dr. Mootoo's
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.
the Pentagon, which took responsibility for transporting the dead back
to the United States, the National Military Command Center (NMCC) was first
notified of an incident in Guyana at 7:18 P.M. on Saturday, November 18.
 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
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.
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 uncertain.
The information available to him at the time would seem to have been restricted
to the news that Congressman Ryan and others had been ambushed by small-arms
Six hours later,
at 3:04 A.M. on November 19, the C-141 MEDEVAC left Charleston, N.C.,
bound for Guyana.
Barely 25 minutes
afterward, at 3:29 A.M., the JCS chronology indicates that "CIA NOIWON
reports mass suicides at Jonestown." 
in the JCS chronology are Eastern Standard Time. In Guyana, however,
it was one hour and fifteen minutes later than in Washington, D.C.---which
means that the CIA notified the Defense Department of the "mass suicides"
at 4:44 A.M. (Guyana-time).
But how did
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 the CIA
be so mistakenly certain of the manner in which the dead had died:
that is to say, suicide rather than murder?
Agency learned of the mass deaths while it was still dark, hours before
the Guyanese Defense Forces arrived at the commune. According to
the "narrative summary" of the JCS report:
But how did they
This has been
a mystery for than 25 years. Until recently, I was of the opinion
that the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy, Richard Dwyer, had
returned to Jonestown after the ambush at Port Kaituma. What made
me think so was an excerpt from the so-called "Last Tape" that Jim Jones
made, while sitting on the dais at the pavillion in Jonestown, cajoling
his followers to kill themselves.  Against a background of wailing and screams, we
hear the following: one hears
what comes, folks, what comes now?"
UNMAN  [in background]: "Everybody...hold
it! Sit down right here..." [loud background noises, agitated]
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."
"Everybody be quiet, please!"
you got some respect for our lives." 
me sit down, sit down, sit down."
know... (Jones begins to hum, or keen.) "I tried so very very
hard... Get Dwyer out of here before something happens to him."
not talking about Jjara, I said Dwyer."
The tape is
anything but indistinct, and there would seem to be only one way of making
sense out of it. Dwyer, however, always denied that he returned to
Jonestown that night---and one would like to believe him.
But there has
always been reason to doubt Dwyer's veracity (though not his courage---he
behaved heroically at the Port Kaituma airstrip). According to Dr.
Julius Mader, an East German academician with ties to the Stasi intelligence
service, Dwyer was actually a CIA officer.  This opinion would appear to have been based
on analysis of Dwyer's background, which included his enlistment in the
State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, followed by service
in the fly-blown capitals of Syria, Egypt, Bulgaria and Chad.
In other words,
Dwyer looked like a spook. And Mader wasn't the only one who thought
so. Kit Nascimento, Guyana's Minister of Information at the time,
has stated flatly that Richard Dwyer was the CIA's Chief of Station in Guyana
when the Jonestown massacre occurred.
But Mader and
Nascimento were mistaken.
CIA station chief was a colleague of Dwyer's who worked with him under
State Department cover in the American embassy. Upon learning of
the ambush at Port Kaituma, and of the deaths of two children and their
mother at the Temple's Georgetown headquarters, it was this person who
got on the radio---and stayed on the radio into the early morning hours
of the next day. 
Desperate for information, he eventually tuned in a transmission from
the police station at Matthews Ridge, a few miles from Jonestown.
The man at the other end was Odell Rhodes, who'd just escaped from the
settlement. It was Rhodes who got out the news that Jonestown was
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..." 
1. As we'll see, Mitrione was, first,
a policeman in Indiana, and then a counter-insurgency expert in South America.
Click here to return.
2. Was Jonestown a CIA Medical Experiment?,
by Michael Meiers, Studies in American Religion, Volume 35, Edwin Mellen
Press, 1988. Meiers answers the question affirmatively, relying upon
circumstantial evidence that is not entirely convincing. Click here to return.
3. My description of Jones is intended
without rancor. That he was charismatic is obvious to any who have
ever heard him. That he was a sadist is apparent from his mistreatment
of dissenters at Jonestown, and from the homosexual attacks that he so
often carried out upon his followers. That Jones was Bible-hating,
as well as Bible-thumping, is clear from his instruction that the Good
Book should be used as toilet paper. Other evidence of Jones's hatred
for the Bible abounds in a Journal found at Jonestown. In its pages,
the anonymous diarist quotes Jones as saying that "The Bible will be used
to put you back into slavery." "...the white man used the Bible to
keep blacks in slavery." "That God up there doesn't look after the
good people down here.... If Harriet Tubman hadn't torn it up, we'd
still be in slavery. We've got to get rid of the Bible or the white
man will use it to lead us back into slavery." On the same page, the
writer notes that "Jim claimed superiority to Jesus." Elsewhere,
we are told that "Jim led the congregation in singing, 'The Old Bullshit
Religion Ain't What It Used to Be.'" And, by no means finally, the
writer quotes Jones to the effect that "Religion is the opiate of the people....Jim
told of God's creation of Lucifer, who led away one-third of the angels.
God fouled up. 'Some of you get nervous when I say that.' He
said religion was used by the ruling class to control us. 'They"
steal, 'they' lie, but they tell us niggers, 'Nigger, don't lie.'
They kill all the time, but 'thou shalt not kill.'" Click here to return.
4. Credit for stopping the attack is
usually given to the attorneys. In fact, it seems that one of the
Templars, Tim Carter, was the first to intervene. Interestingly,
Carter reports that Don Sly's attack on Ryan, was most, best half-hearted.
"It was like he wanted to be stopped," Carter said. The implication
is that Sly's attack was a command performance that Sly himself hoped would
fail.Click here to return.
5. 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. Click here to return.
6. Los Angeles Times, November
24, 1978. Click here to return.
7. It is literally true that, even before
the dead could be buried, both the San Francisco Chronicle and the
Washington Post had published books about the massacre.
Click here to return.
8. In fact, the sweetener used was Fla-Vor-Aid.
Click here to return.
9. New England Journal of Medicine,
"Law-Medicine Notes: The Guyana Mass Suicides: Medicolegal Re-evaluation"
by William J. Curran, J.D., LL.M., S.M. Hyg., June 7, 1979. Click here to return.
10. Among them: the National Association
of Medical Examiners and the Reference Organization in Forensic Medicine
and Sciences. Click here to return.
11. It was Dr. Rudiger Breitenecker
who commented on the procedure used in Guyana (trochar embalming).
Dr. Breitenecker was the only civilian who participated in the seven autopsies
conducted by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology team at Dover Air Force
Base. Those autopsied were: Laurence Schacht; William Castillo; James
Jones; Violatt Dillard; Maria Katsaris; Carolyn (Moore) Layton; and Ann
Moore. Click here to return.
12. But it was also understandable.
The dead were infested and putrefying in Guyana's heat, which made their
handling exceedingly unpleasant, and their identification difficult. Click here to return.
13. "Medical Examiners Find Failings
By Government on Cultist Bodies," by Lawrence K. Altman, New York Times,
Dec. 3, 1978. Click here to return.
14. Op cit., American Medical
News. See also, "Coroner Says 700 in Cult Who Died Were Slain,"
by Timothy McNulty and Michael Sneed (Chicago Tribune Service story), The
Miami Herald, Dec. 17,1978. Click here to return.
15. The quote is taken from the autopsy
report on Carolyn Moore, prepared by Dr. Robert L. Thompson. Click here to return.
16. With respect to the absence of cyanide
in the vat, see page 4 of the autopsy protocol (AFIP #1680274) for Laurence
E. Schacht. Click here to return.
17. American Medical News, "Bungled
Aftermath of Tragedy," by Lawrence Altman, MD, p. 7. Click here to return.
18. "Some in Cult Received Cyanide by
Injection, Guyanese Sources Say," by Nicholas M. Horrock, New York Times,
Dec. 12, 1978. Click here to return.
19. In interviews with this writer,
Clayton and Rhodes emphasized the presence of armed guards, some with rifles
and others with crossbows, who formed a perimeter to prevent people from
escaping the encampment. (The street-smart Clayton and Rhodes escaped
using pretexts.) Click here to return.
20. According to Cobb, he heard screams
and gunshots throughout the night, and saw flashing lights. Click here to return.
21. Miami Herald, "Army to Identify
Bodies of Cultists," 22 Nov., 1978, p.1. Click here
22. Los Angeles Times, 9 January,
1986, I:2:5; UPI, 9 January, 1986, National/Domestic News, PM cycle, Los
Angles. Click here to return.
23. "Guyana Operations," After-Action
Report, 18-27 November, 1978, prepared by the Special Study Group, Operations
Directorate, USMC Directorate, Joint Chiefs of Staff (distributed 31 January,
1979). All times are taken from Appendix B, "Chronology of Events."
Click here to return.
24. Ibid. Click here to return.
25. Ibid. The JCS chronology
cites the following reference: "CIA 191138Z Nov 78". NOIWON is the
National Operations and Intelligence Watch Officers Network. Click here to return.
26. Ibid., p. 6. Click here to return.
27. The tape was obtained from the FBI
under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). I've quoted from the FBI's
transcript of that tape. Click here to return.
28. "Unman" = Unidentified Man. Click here to return.
29. On the tape-recording that I have,
it appears that this is actually Jones's voice, and that he says, "Keep Dwyer
alive!" and then adds, "Sit down, sit down, sit down." Click here to return.
30. Mader is the author of Who's
Who in the CIA. It's in that book that Dwyer is named as a CIA
officer. Click here to return.
31. Because of the circumstances under
which I learned of his identity, I am awaiting the former Chief of Station's
permission to make his identity known. Click here to