Anomalies in the official Jonestown story
The anomalies in the Jonestown story go far beyond the common misnomer that Kool-Aid was drunk. The anomalies put in doubt the “mass suicide” claims at the heart of the popular Jonestown story, Kool-Aid or no Kool-Aid. The best evidence suggests that, although a number of people undoubtedly did commit suicide, the majority of people were actually murdered. This was the finding of medical examinations carried out on the scene and is supported by the testimony of the few survivors who escaped. But this is rarely mentioned or understood; instead “mass suicide” has been burned into history. Why?
The CIA Mass Suicide Report
The first report of the deaths at Jonestown came from the CIA, before any Guyanese or US officials had seen evidence of the massacre. In the dark early hours of 19 November 1978, the CIA issued an alert on its National Operations and Intelligence Watch Officers Network (NOIWON) that “mass suicide” had occurred at Jonestown. The Guyanese Defence Force personnel, who were the first authorities to visit the scene and discover the carnage, would not reach there and learn that mass deaths had occurred until mid-morning, hours after the CIA issued its report. Thus the CIA reported “mass suicide” before anyone had laid sight on the tragedy.
The CIA Chief of Staff in Guyana at the time was reportedly James Adkins, who would later be implicated in the illegal arms-smuggling black project known as the Iran-Contra Affair. He learned of the deaths at Jonestown from the Temple member Odell Rhodes who had escaped the encampment. Rhodes has said there were armed guards with rifles and crossbows who had formed a cordon around the complex to prevent members escaping the complex when the “suicide” order had been given. He had escaped on a pretext. Rhodes reached a police outpost that night, where he was put in radio contact with Adkins, and informed him of murders and suicides taking place at Jonestown. Rhodes’ report of armed guards preventing escape was also reported by other survivors, as was the sound of screams and gunshots ringing out at Jonestown that night, heard by survivors hiding in the jungle. Despite reporting murders to Adkins, the CIA Chief inexplicably sounded an alert only about mass suicides.
Evidence of Murder
Reports by survivors of probable murder were also supported by the Guyana coroner, Dr Mootoo, who was the first medical officer on the scene. In the stifling jungle heat in the days following the tragedy, he closely examined the bodies of 100 adults, and concluded 83 of them had been murdered. They had been injected with poison by a third party behind their shoulder – in a place they could not have reached themselves. He surmised they were held down and injected against their will. He also noted numerous cyanide-filled syringes littering the place, presumably squirted into the mouths of those who did not “voluntarily” drink poison at gunpoint. In addition, massive quantities of psychoactive drugs were found stored in the encampment.
Scenes of murder were also reported by US military personnel who arrived later. As reported by Freedom magazine:
Charles Huff, a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces in Panama, was one of the seven Green Berets who were the first American troops on the scene following the massacre. He told Freedom, “We saw many bullet wounds as well as wounds from crossbow bolts.”
Huff noted that those with fatal bullet or bolt wounds appeared to have been running toward the jungle that surrounded Jonestown. Corroborating the information from Dr. Mootoo, Huff said that the adults who had not been shot had been killed by injections between the shoulder blades. The killers escaped before the arrival of Huff and his team.
Others noted how many of the bodies appeared to be arranged in neat rows, with drag marks indicating they had been moved, meaning someone moved them into such positions after they had died. Was this an attempt to make it appear that people had died willingly without a struggle?
Based on his observations, Dr Mootoo later surmised that at least 700 of the deaths were murders. This conclusion was supported by the Guyana legal system, in contrast to the mass suicide narrative that prevailed in the media. A Grand Jury later investigating the case in Guyana found that murder occurred in all but two cases, committed by “persons unknown”.
After examining the dead on the scene, Dr Mootoo passed his findings and evidence to the US embassy in Guyana, apparently expecting it would be passed on to US government pathologists, but his evidence mysteriously vanished without a trace. The evidence and records the Guyanese government held on Jonestown were also later torched in a fire deliberately lit by Guyana officials.
The Multiplying Body Count
The US government took over the recovery operation. As it progressed through the week, there was a major discrepancy with the body count. Early reports said 363, later 408, had been found dead at the scene, many of them children, and around 700 had fled into the jungle (it was known the community numbered 1100-1200). Indeed, military search parties were sent out to find the missing members. Over subsequent days the body-count rose dramatically, finally exceeding 900, more than doubling after nearly a week.
The US government initially explained the body count discrepancy was because the Guyanese could not count. Then they said they had missed a pile of bodies lying outside, despite numerous people having been scouring the camp for a few days by that time. Finally it was said that 500+ bodies had been concealed lying underneath other bodies which they hadn’t noticed before, and the bodies of adults had concealed children.
These explanations have long raised suspicions, because large numbers of the children were counted among the dead from the very beginning, and many consider it implausible that around 400 bodies could conceal, for nearly a week, more than 500 bodies in a concentrated area swarming with search personnel.
Bodies Stripped of Identification, Autopsies “Botched”
The mystery surrounding the deceased did not end with the body count. As the recovery dragged on, there were delays in evacuating the bodies from the scene. This meant the dead were left lying in the tropical sun, and rapidly decomposed in the jungle heat. Members of the People’s Temple had identity wristbands, provided within the community, which are visible in some of the earliest news pictures of the dead. The US military inexplicably removed them before sending the bodies back to a military base in the US. Since the bodies had severely deteriorated, vast numbers could not be identified. The bodies were also embalmed to prevent further decomposition before they were sent to Dover Air Force Base. This also made complete autopsies impossible.
A month after the embalming, behind closed doors on a military base, the military examiners – who were not informed of Dr Mootoo’s murder findings – undertook a mere seven autopsies on the 913 people who died in circumstances that, it is an understatement to say, warranted a thorough investigation. Of those seven, the cause of death was confirmed in just two due to the poor condition of the bodies and the length of time that had transpired. One of those was Jim Jones, who died of a gunshot wound to the head. It is still unknown who pulled the trigger; whether it was murder or suicide. The gun had been found several feet from his body. As for everyone else, an army spokesman declared, “No autopsies are needed. The cause of death is not an issue here.”
Professional civilian medical examiners heavily criticised the military’s handling of the bodies as “inept” and “badly botched”. The only civilian doctor allowed to take part in the autopsies stated that he “shuddered about the degree of ineptness”. Decomposed, stripped of identification and embalmed, many of the bodies were never identified. Six months after the tragedy, only a third had been. Many were eventually cremated by the military, while media and state coroners were barred access to the deceased, with New Jersey officials complaining the cremations were taking place illegally. 412 anonymous bodies were buried in a mass grave in Oakland. Another three were found stacked, apparently forgotten, in a storage facility eight years later. As late as August 2014, the cremated remains of nine more were found stashed away in a Delaware funeral home.
More Jonestown-linked Murders
There were rumours and reports that 100+ Jonestown “assassins” were at large following the massacre. A congressional aide was quoted in the Associated Press saying, “There are 120 white, brainwashed assassins out from Jonestown awaiting the trigger word to pick up their hit.” It was not specified who was providing the “trigger”. However, a number of people linked to the Peoples Temple did die violently in the US in the wake of Jonestown’s demise.
Ex-members Jeanne and Al Mills were found bound and shot in their home. Another member was shot dead in Detroit. Their killers were never identified. Yet another former member took part in a mass murder. Temple member Michael Prokes held a press conference where he declared he was an FBI informant, and that the FBI were withholding an audiotape of the massacre. Then he went to the bathroom and never came out: he had apparently committed suicide.
San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were shot dead by the disgruntled Dan White who was described as being in a “zombie state”. Moscone and Milk had received financial backing from Jim Jones when he was in the Bay Area, and were being investigated for missing Peoples Temple funds, until they were assassinated.
Jonestown reportedly had an elite group of armed men who provided security, and controlled who could enter and leave the encampment. They were reportedly better fed, and worked less than other members. In contrast to the rest of the community, they were said to be mostly white and could come and go as they pleased. These are presumed to be the men who formed an armed perimeter when the death sentence was declared, to prevent anyone escaping. The killers on the airstrip who have never been positively identified are also presumed to have been part of this group. The airstrip shooters were described by survivors as “mechanically-walking zombies” who were “looking through you, not at you”.
There was said to be at least 1100 people living in the Jonestown community, possibly 1200. The figure of 1200 is actually referred to in the community’s final audio recording. 913 members died on 18 November 1978. There were 87 survivors in Guyana: a total of 1000. Many wondered who and where the 100-200 others were that remained unaccounted for, and why no one seemed to be interested in their whereabouts, especially if they may have been complicit in the murder of more than a thousand people.
Meanwhile large amounts of Peoples Temple money apparently just “disappeared”. Estimates range from $26 million to $2 billion.
It became apparent to some that there was a lot more to this story than meets the eye, as we shall see in the next section.