JONESTOWN SURVIVOR Responds to Australian student studying Jonestown

I was contacted by a student who wrote:
“I am studying Modern History at a Stage Two level for SACE in Australia and am doing a large assessment piece on Jonestown, largely based around the politics and cult aspects. Would it be possible to ask few questions of Ms Kohl over email or any preferred communication way. I understand this is a big ask, so completely understand if this is not possible.


Here are my responses to his questions:

1. In his speeches, conversations etc., did Jim Jones ever mention Communism/Marxism, and if you can recall, in what context? Also, did he make mention of politics in his speeches and addresses to the congregations?

Jim always talked about Socialism – all people having what they need, all people treated with dignity, and a society that was “no respecter of personal and status.” He also quoted Marx and Lenin often. He felt he might have been the reincarnation of Lenin – or that a child in PT was. He often said that he was whatever you wanted him to be – a friend, a father, a minister, Jesus, God – whatever you wanted. He did create a socialist group – for all other than him and his secretaries/mistresses. People were treated equally regardless of profession, income, connections, family, etc. He was always political. He was always espousing an egalitarian community. He talked much more about politics and socialism than religion or any other topic. He always felt racism would never exist in a truly socialist state.

2. It’s been said that over the years, Jim Jones’ health and mental stability deteriorated. Were you able to notice this and how did this change his overall demeanour/interactions with you?

My early years in Peoples Temple, from 1970-1973, were in the rural Redwood Valley, California. Jim lived in Redwood Valley during most of that time. He never showed any signs of mental deterioration – to me – during that time. He did begin to wear his sun glasses more of the time, especially during the frequent services. He seemed to talk about and refer to some sort of urinary tract infection or dysfunction. He drank copious amounts of water and urinated frequently. But, that seemed a short-term and fixable illness. I did not pick up on his Narcissistic Personality Disorder. That was all well hidden by his closest secretaries and mistresses whose relationships were kept under wrap – for the most part – and not clear to me. Many of the activities of Jim acting out with members of PT were only obvious to me after I began researching what really went on, some twenty years after November 18, 1978. Those sexual acts that were made public were also laid at the feet of the victim – with Jim riding in on his horse to “help.”

After mid-1973, Jim moved to San Francisco and I continued living in Redwood Valley for the next four years. I did not learn of or see any additional health issues – mental or physical from that point on.

In Guyana, I spent time in Georgetown for the first year, and went into Jonestown for about ten months. I noticed that Jim was less in the community, and less obvious in all parts of Jonestown except for our nightly meetings or on the loud speaker. I was so delighted with my life in Jonestown that I did not notice Jim’s comings and goings, or his deterioration with all aspects of health. When I saw the tapes of Jim during the last day, I was astonished that he was so obviously incoherent and drugged. I did not see it. Many others were more astute than I was and watched it.

3. Whilst in Jonestown, the followers took part in the ‘White Nights’. Were you a part of these, and if so, what was the experience/atmosphere of it and what was your thought process as it was happening?

There was only one time that Jim had some of us participate in a “White Night” in the USA. At a Planning Commission Meeting in San Francisco (the Planning Commission was a group of about 100 people who were hard workers in PT. We met on a weekly basis in the USA. We only met a few times in Jonestown as Jim had another group of Department Heads and supervisors who met with him.) He had us drink juice, and then, told us it was poison and had folks pretend to fall off chairs. It was not believable to me at the time – I thought it was just Jim being dramatic, and trying to get us to unify and work harder. Obviously – I have a different perspective now. He was getting us used to the idea.

In Jonestown, he would have us gather in a circle around the central part of Jonestown. He told us we were protecting our homes from armed soldiers who would come into Jonestown to arrest us and take us away from our homes. We would stand for several hours, with our scythes and hoes and other agriculture tools. Then we would eat and go to sleep. Towards the end of September, October, and into early November, they were more frequent and longer. One time we stood all night. Jim wanted us to take seriously that people from outside the community were trying to bully us or trespass. He made sure we were saying that we were under threat. That was a big part of his message for the last few months especially.

4. In your opinion, what do you think were the main reasons that led to the massacre itself?

Jim was physically sick and dying. I think the drugs that he was addicted to had added to his mental illness and Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and made him even more paranoid. He had the cyanide in Jonestown for at least 6 months before Congressman Ryan insisted on visiting Jonestown – after hearing from Concerned Relatives and others in the Bay Area. Jim had fallen apart but had given careful instructions to those closest to him. His secretaries/mistresses and others were all infected by his insanity. Once he was unable to function at all, they all took over the final preparations. Jim always refused to allow any others to take his leadership role. He wanted all credit – fame or infamy – to be his. As we know, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” He was absolutely corrupted, mentally and physically ill, and may have believed that people could only live under his leadership. Or, he believed that no one would want to outlive him, or could continue to live in a socialist community without him. The truth is that Jim set up all the details of the murders, and had his secretaries/mistresses actually put out the poison because he was too drugged and out of it to do it himself. They followed his instructions. That is why I say that they were infected by his insanity. At the end, they were as insane as he was. And, they completed all those final tasks.

He came back with a final question:

The question is do you think Jim Jones’ political views had an effect/may have slightly led to the massacre in Guyana?
I don’t think Jim’s political views had anything to do with the massacre. Hitler was a fascist and had many of the same mental issues – personality disorder, outrageous ego, etc. And, around the world, many dictators who have massacred hundreds and thousands of  people were from every political point of view, or religious point of view. So, Jim’s politics had nothing to do with his insanity or drug addiction.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,