Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

LISTEN: The Jonestown Death Tape

On┬áNovember 18, 1978, over 900 members of the People’s Temple Agricultural Project committed suicide by ingesting Kool-Aid poisoned with cyanide. Before the mass suicide, cult leader Jim Jones addressed his followers. The recording below, known as FBI File No. Q042, captures Jones’s speech and the final moments of hundreds of people who took their own lives and the lives of their children at the Jonestown settlement in Guyana.

Knowing that authorities are drawing near to put an end to Jonestown, Jones urges his followers to commit “revolutionary suicide.” He says they must poison their children first and then themselves, promising that if the children are left to live, they will be “butchered.” Instead of facing the destruction he says will be brought upon the settlers if they stay alive, he says they must “step over quietly.”

When Jones asks if anyone has a dissenting opinion, follower Christine Miller speaks up. She says she is not afraid to die but thinks the children deserve to live, and inquires about taking an “airlift to Russia” where the cult may be offered refuge from American authorities. Jones says the Russians won’t take them, and when Miller continues to protest says “Without me, life has no meaning. I am the best friend you will ever have.” As Jones strikes down Miller’s concerns, the crowd claps and cheers.

In the final minutes of the tape, the crying of children is heard. According a surviving eyewitnesse, once people saw the poison taking effect on others, they “showed a reluctance to die.”

The Jonestown Massacre

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