Cult Massacre: One Day in Jonestown (2024) s01e03 Episode Script

Paradise Lost

[helicopter blades whirring]
[ominous music playing]
[pilot] [on radio]
There's been some kind of a shooting.
[woman] [on radio]
It's some kind of a shooting?
[pilot] Yes.
Can't confirm that being true or not.
[Charles Krause]
I really did think I was gonna die.
And it was frightening. I mean, it was.
But I escaped death.
This story just into our newsroom,
California Congressman Leo Ryan
has been shot.
Congressman Leo Ryan
of California is dead,
shot along with four other Americans.
Right now we go to Floyd Kalber
for the latest details
on that continuing
and bizarre story in Guyana.
All of a sudden, it was
the biggest story in the world.
You know, boom.
We now have pictures
that were just flown out,
fed to us by satellite.
The shooting started right there.
The shooting, see the gunmen right there?
The wounded are being flown
to Washington tonight
aboard an Air Force
medical evacuation plane.
Among the several people
wounded in the shootings
were Jacqueline Speier,
the legislative aide
to Congressman Ryan and Steven
[Jackie Speier]
My first image was the words
"The United States of America" on it.
I felt like I was wrapped
with the American flag.
There's no reason why I didn't die
except it wasn't in the plan.
I should have died on that airstrip.
[newscaster] The Government
of Guyana reports this morning
that mass suicides have
swept through that jungle camp
of a California religious sect,
the Peoples Temple.
There's no question that Jim Jones
was a maniacal, evil human being.
How was it people had been,
uh, so ensnared in Jim Jones' world?
[symphonic theme music playing]
[inaudible dialogue]
[music continues]
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[inaudible dialogue]
[music continues]
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[inaudible dialogue]
[music continues]
[Tom Reston]
Alright, ladies and gentlemen,
first of all, let me
apologize for being late.
I have a statement to read here,
part of which has been handed out to you
but part of which has not.
The Department of State is shocked
and deeply sorrowed
by yesterday's tragic events
at Port Kaituma, Guyana,
which resulted in the deaths
of Congressman Leo Ryan
of the State of California
and several others in his party.
[overlapping chatter]
Uh, now, just a minute, please.
In addition, there are reports,
as yet unconfirmed that members
of the Peoples Temple community in Guyana
are perhaps engaging in mass suicides.
The full investigation
is going to have to be
carried out by the Security Forces,
which are on their way to Jonestown.
[David Netterville]
I was 27 years old at the time,
an Air Force Special Operations sergeant.
We were going into Jonestown, Guyana.
The only thing we knew, uh,
estimated 900 to 1,000 people
there in this commune.
And the people there
are armed and dangerous.
We were told, your main job is to go in
and recon and find Jim Jones.
Uh, we got the standard photo
of Jim Jones,
so we'd recognize
who he was when we saw him.
Well, he looked like
a very charismatic type person.
I was very apprehensive.
We didn't know what was to be expected.
[Krause] They said they were
gonna allow one journalist
and one photographer to go in
and represent the world's press.
And I was the first journalist
to be able to actually go back
and see what had happened.
The story wasn't over.
We didn't know how many people
in Jonestown were still alive.
[Netterville] As we're
flying in from a distance,
about three, four miles out,
it looked like clothes
laying on the ground.
See all those multicolors?
Got to sink down a little lower.
[Krause] There was the pavilion
and there was all these bright colors
you know, around it.
To me, it looked like confetti.
[ominous music playing]
But each one of those pieces of confetti
was the shirt or, or dress
of a, of a dead person.
You know, it was just
senseless in a way.
[Netterville] Terrible, just terrible.
I was just totally shocked
at the number of bodies
that were laying on the ground.
I will never forget.
We were directed to count casualties,
see if there were any people
that were still left alive
and find Jim Jones.
I, I'll be honest with ya, I was, um,
I was actually, I was pretty scared.
Uh, I did keep my weapon
right next to me all the time.
I was prepared
to defend myself if I had to.
It was frightening.
I mean it, it was.
I don't think anyone
could have really imagined it.
[soft eerie music playing]
The damnedest thing I've ever seen.
Oh, as I walked through,
one of the first things
that I saw was a table.
And it was covered
with syringes and bottles,
cyanide poison.
Right off to the side was a 55-gallon drum
that had been cut in half.
They'd mixed up cyanide along with
what they call Kool-Aid
to poison the people.
-Right here.
-Right here.
And as I looked around,
this is maybe five yards away
I found him.
I saw Jim Jones.
Jim Jones was laying on the ground
just outside the pavilion, on the ground.
Right behind his quote, "throne."
He was wearing khaki pants
and a bright red shirt.
Uh, he had been shot in the head.
I got the initial count
and we called back on HF radio.
We told them, uh, casualty count's 450.
"Say again?" "Roger. 450."
"Are you saying 450? Four-five-zero?"
"That's affirmative."
He goes, "Roger.
We'll get back to you. Out."
[Krause] The army count,
that still didn't account for
half the people who were there.
That meant there were
nearly 500 people missing.
Where were they?
The army believed
that a lot of these people
had fled into the jungle.
for survivors of the Jonestown
suicide-murders goes on.
Nobody really knows how many people
are out there in the Guyana jungle
but they do know
that it is deadly difficult
to survive out there
for more than a day or two.
[reporter] Here at police headquarters
and elsewhere,
it's become virtually impossible
to find out more about possible survivors
of the Jonestown tragedy.
[Stephan Jones]
The night of November 18th,
I was in Georgetown.
Understandably people had an eye on me.
Jim Jones was my dad.
At that time, I was so afraid
and, you know, just nervous about
what was going to happen.
[indistinct chatter]
Steve, how many of
your members are being detained?
I think all of us that are here
are being detained.
We're in Georgetown
when this happened,
and it's about 46, I guess.
[Krause] How many, 46 people
in the Georgetown house?
There I was, face-to-face
with Stephan Jones, right?
The world wanted answers.
People wanted to know who was there,
who were these people.
Was there a tendency to violence
among any of the members?
[Krause] Stephan Jones
was the heir apparent
and did do this press conference.
[indistinct chatter]
And I asked a lot of questions.
Steve, isn't it true
that anyone who tried to leave
was caught and brought back
and put on drugs?
I can't say.
But, Steve, wasn't it true
that people were forced
to sit up half the night
and if they fell asleep
the security guards would come over
and poke them with a gun?
Isn't it true that
some people from Jonestown
would kill the certain people who were
on a list of enemies of the church?
No. I mean No.
You never heard that?
That that's not true.
How many guns were there altogether?
Were you familiar
with the term White Night?
[Stephan Jones] It felt to me
like the entire outside world
was against me.
Could you explain
why your father was so upset
with the possibility of members leaving?
People thought there was
an underlying mission
to do harm to others,
and that's just not the case.
But I can assure you, sir, I do not
I was not in on what happened here.
I'm doing the best I can.
And I understand your
I understand your problem.
[Krause] Look, he might have thought
I was confronting him,
but, really, I just wanted some answers.
I had the distinct feeling
that he knew much more
than he was willing to say.
[Stephan Jones]
You know, I don't want
I, I don't wanna be associated
with what's happened.
You know, I've never dreamed of,
uh, committing murder
or, you know, hurting anyone.
I'm amazed that I could even
talk to anybody at that time.
I was very ashamed.
[exhales deeply]
And terrified.
You know, I, I can almost
say that I, I hate this man
for doing what he's done
because he has destroyed
everything I've lived for.
[present day]
What the outside world didn't know
was that I hated my father.
[slow dramatic music playing]
Looking back
my mother was very nurturing and loving.
I didn't get a lot
of attention from my dad
but definitely had dad moments,
you know, playful moments with him.
My family, the immediate family,
all of whom are adopted but me,
I felt loved, I felt like
a little bit of a trophy.
It wasn't long before I realized
it was all about my father.
[inaudible dialogue]
What he had done to my mother
was what really broke it for me.
I remember when he
introduced me to his mistress.
He had taken me and basically tried to
force a relationship
between me and his mistress.
And I was going to lie
to my mother about that.
Only to find out that he had told her
everything about it in great detail.
And that's when it really
something ruptured in me.
And I was angry.
It was harming my mother
who was a wonderful person.
A lovely partner to him.
I had become openly resistant to him.
Really quite rebellious.
And we had rageful exchanges
in front of a lot of people
on multiple occasions.
I was whipped publicly.
I thought he was drugging me at one point.
The Temple was my entire life
but I did everything I could to try
and get away from him.
And he needed to manage my rebellion.
He was concerned about how that looked.
My rebellion, it was threatening to him.
He's thinking, if people see
that my own son is against me,
that may feed something in them,
um, in their own rebellion.
So all of those things that had gone on
for as long as I could remember
and now were all reasons for me to
[exhales deeply]
despise my father.
It was completely unheard of
for US government
and the press to come into Jonestown.
Everyone knew that could not end up well
for Jonestown, for my father.
You'd have to understand, I didn't know
he might completely lose his mind.
It was terrible to not be there.
To stop what happened.
So, of course, you hold out onto hope
that the people dearest to you
had survived somehow.
Not everyone could be dead.
[ominous music playing]
The bodies were deteriorating terribly.
Just terrible sights.
I mean, to tell you, it was just awful.
You know, we were trained
for military operations
which this became
a rescue and recovery operation.
Found bodies, uh, in some of the houses.
There were people that had, uh,
syringes stuck in the back of their neck.
Right in the center of their neck,
along the spinal cord.
And they just let 'em
drop right there and die.
Ptew, dead body.
And they, they moved onto the next person.
I found a lot of people
that you could tell
they had been held down
and had been forced to either drink it
or had been hit with a syringe
in the back of the neck.
They killed a lot of these people.
They didn't commit suicide.
And I look out over the horizon,
there comes two helicopters.
[inaudible dialogue]
A few correspondents each aircraft.
They were from NBC, ABC, CBS,
all the major networks.
Just going crazy.
First words out of everyone's mouth,
"I wanna see the Kool-Aid.
I wanna see where Jim Jones was."
[Fred Francis] When the poison
was being passed out,
men were around this auditorium area
here with crossbows.
They were acting as guards.
They're snapping, uh, pictures.
And they were asking
500 million questions.
Were you here when all this occurred?
No, no.
[newscaster] No one knows
how many people escaped
into the jungle, escaped the mass suicide.
One witness said about a dozen,
others believe there are
hundreds out there.
[Tim Carter] I'd been
in the jungle for a long time.
When we finally arrived at Port Kaituma,
as soon as we walked down
the clearing, it was "Halt."
You know, "Put your hands up."
What's your name?
My name's Tim Carter,
but I don't really wanna talk right now.
[reporter] Tim, please,
this is very important.
I lost two friends here too.
I lost my wife and my son.
I don't wanna talk right now.
[present day]
I was beside myself.
I was just blubbering.
"They murdered my son
they murdered my son,
they murdered my son."
The pain was just too much.
It was just darkness.
I really didn't give a
about anybody or anything.
You know, I was broken.
I was completely broken.
[newscaster 1]
About 30 including six children
came out of the jungle,
but nobody knows how many more
are lost in this treacherous
and very dangerous part of South America.
[helicopter blades whirring]
[newscaster 2]
Survivors of the mass suicide
remain in Guyana.
Those survivors are
in a hotel in Georgetown.
When we got back to Georgetown,
the onslaught started.
[reporter 1]
Can you tell us what you saw?
I don't feel like talking.
[reporter 2]
Knowing you were armed
and other people were dying back there,
did it ever occur to you to go back?
You could have saved people.
I know there's a lot of
very rational questions that arise,
but you have to remember,
they're very irrational circumstances.
It was a feeding frenzy.
And when we said, "We don't want to talk,"
they wouldn't leave us alone.
This is all private.
Stay back.
Stay back.
[reporter] This interview
is with Leslie, L-E-S-L-I-E
Wilson, W-I-L-S-O-N
of San Francisco
and her three-year-old son Jakari.
Oh, I put my shell in there.
Why did you leave that day?
I'd been planning on trying
to get out for a long time.
For a while.
[Leslie Wagner-Wilson]
I was 21.
I was in the Peoples Temple
since I was 13.
[reporter] Leslie,
tell me what the distinction
is that Jakari enjoys?
Uh, he's, he's free.
[present day] We had escaped.
I had decided that I wanted
to leave Jonestown months before.
I didn't see a future
for myself or my son.
Back in Jonestown,
there was always
a sense of fear in the camp.
Jim Jones demanded loyalty.
He controlled everything.
He had us trapped.
We had no way out of Jonestown.
He would say,
"You'll die before you leave here."
There were 11 of us that wanted to escape.
The congressman being there
was actually a distraction
on the morning of the 18th.
Our escape route was walking over 30 miles
in the jungle to another town.
I had Jakari tied to a sheet on my back.
As we trekked up this hill,
I was waiting for this bullet.
Because I thought we have to be seen.
How could they not,
how could they not see us?
We were totally exposed.
And I didn't look back.
I was scared to look back.
I thought I was gonna feel
the heat of a bullet.
All I could think about was saving my son.
I was prepared to die and told my group,
"If you see me shot dead,
to take my son and run."
While we were walking to freedom,
we had no idea what
was happening in Jonestown.
I had no idea that I've
gotten away at the right time.
[reporter] If you had
not left that morning
you would have been in Jonestown
at the time that Reverend Jones
told everybody to commit suicide.
[reporter] Had you been there,
would you have given poison to the child?
Definitely not.
[reporter] Why not?
If you would have been out
there that day, really,
surrounded by all your friends
holding your child,
Jim Jones brewing the poison, really,
you would have probably taken it too.
I don't think so.
And you would have probably
given it to Jakari.
Just like the other mothers did.
I wouldn't.
[present day] The reporter
was very unsympathetic.
All I could think about was
my mom and my family.
I was praying that my family,
someone from my family had escaped.
[ominous music playing]
[Bernard Shaw]
Here at the American Embassy,
the flag at half-mast best symbolizes
how most people are reacting to this
still unexplained act of horror.
Bernard Shaw, ABC News,
Georgetown, Guyana.
[Douglas Ellice]
Everyone was in crisis mode,
trying to figure out what was happening.
We were trying to figure out
who was doing what to whom.
It wasn't clear if there were
good guys and bad guys.
There was murder in the air.
We were very nervous.
A team came back from Jonestown
and had a reel-to-reel tape
that had been on the tape recorder
next to Jim Jones' body.
[Jim Jones speaking]
[Ellice] We listened to the last hour
of the Peoples Temple.
And it was the spookiest
moment of my life.
Uh [stammers]
Everyone in, in the room
was just shattered
by what they heard Jones saying.
[Jim Jones speaking]
Jones, he was encouraging people
who might be hesitating to commit murder,
to calm down, be quiet, stop crying
and poison themselves and their children.
[Jim Jones playing]
[Temple members clamor]
These people never had a chance.
And they've been victims of racism,
they're victims of poverty.
[inaudible singing]
Jim Jones came along
and offered them something.
They trusted him and they believed him.
They thought they were changing the world,
or at least they thought
they were changing their lives.
But he was a crazy son of a bitch.
And he was willing to see them all die.
I don't know why he needed
to destroy these people
but he he, he did.
[Jim Jones speaking]
[baby crying]
Hundreds of Americans
who escaped last Saturday's
orgy of suicide and murder
are still missing
after more than 72 hours.
[John Cobb]
I am 18 years old at that time.
I was born into the Peoples Temple,
so it's all I knew.
The government, they asked us
if anyone would be willing
to go back and identify bodies.
That was not so much of
a mission of identifying bodies
as it was more a mission of hope.
That if people weren't there,
they were missing,
that we would know where to go
and look for 'em in the bush.
It was just really, uh
I don't know, it was just a feeling of
I don't know how to really describe it.
It was just a hard scene to look at.
I will never forget it.
We started seeing our relatives
all my family.
All my family.
Some of my younger brother and sisters.
They were together.
So I put a sheet over them.
I lost 11 altogether, between in-laws
and adopted nieces.
Eleven people.
Being a part of Peoples Temple,
you did everything together.
You went to school together,
on vacations together.
We did everything together.
We had hopes and dreams.
[Netterville] Being in
Jonestown was pretty tough.
[inaudible dialogue]
And the hot sun,
well, the smell was overwhelming.
The US Army started moving bodies.
We found bodies in some of the houses
and they, they died in their bed.
So that was probably 35, 40 people
that were in there.
We, we didn't even know about.
And we would count 'em
and take 'em to the helicopters.
It hit my heart hard
to see young children that had died there.
Some of the people that died
were actually holding onto their children
and they were tucked underneath 'em.
That was just
I, I couldn't fathom that.
That-that just tore me up.
[indistinct chatter]
[Captain John Moscatelli]
Okay, this announcement
has been released by the American Embassy.
The original count of persons
found dead at the Jonestown site
has been found to be seriously in error.
It now appears there may be
as many as 780 bodies, total,
[exhales] found at the site.
And more may be expected.
There were larger adults,
they were grouped together
and under their bodies
were found the bodies
of smaller, uh, adults and children.
[newscaster] The Jonestown story
took another quantum leap in horror today.
The known death toll almost doubled
as American troops found
hundreds more decomposing bodies.
The numbers just kept growing.
They just kept growing. It was unreal.
There was 35, 40 bodies
that were put on a trailer
and you look back out there
over the horizon
and there's that many
more bodies still stacked up.
After a while I, I just quit counting.
I, I, I couldn't do it anymore.
Deep down in my heart,
I really felt hate for Jim Jones.
[newscaster] Right now,
let's go to Floyd Kalber
who has details
on that continuing
grim story out of Guyana.
Thank you. Good morning, everyone.
American soldiers are flying out
of Guyana this morning.
They're en route home.
Their gruesome job
at the Jonestown suicide camp ended.
[eerie music playing]
[newscaster 1]
Today, the recovery teams
admitted they had made a big mistake.
[Stephan Jones]
We were listening to the radio.
[newscaster 2] Good evening.
The news from Guyana is even worse
than we thought yesterday.
Another 135 bodies were found today
and authorities now believe
the final death count
will be about 910 people.
Devastated by that,
oh, my God, how, how, how,
how could that have happened?
I just fell over backward
crying and sobbing.
The grief was absolutely devastating.
[Speier] We failed those people.
That was a very painful feeling
because we went there
to help them and to save them
and we didn't succeed.
They lost their lives.
[fast-paced dramatic music playing]
Jonestown survivors returning
to the United States today
from Guyana, South America.
The seven among the 80 cult members
who escaped or somehow missed
that mass poisoning
in their jungle commune.
[music continues]
You're gonna have to move,
you're blocking our door.
It was just devastatingly
traumatic for the survivors.
I saw the survivors as victims
of Jones' imaginings.
Because of the mysterious
aura of death and homicide
around the group,
no airline wanted to board
any of these people.
Pan Am said, "We're not gonna fly
"any of these
potentially homicidal maniacs
uh, without sky marshals on the plane."
I remember flying over New York
and seeing these lights
and I'm just petrified.
This fear engulfed me and the sadness,
I thought "What am I going to do?'"
How do I come back to a society
I was taught to hate?
How, how do we do this?
Because everything that I loved was gone.
And so, it was frightening.
More American survivors
of the mass murder-suicide
ritual in Jonestown
returned to the United States tonight.
Among them, a few men who were members
of the cult's security force.
[camera shutters clicking]
I lost my brother, 21,
I lost another brother, 24,
I lost my wife.
Our whole foundation
was tore off from underneath us.
Our parents and our families are all gone.
We just felt lost.
The way we were portrayed in the media
caused a lot of people
not to have compassion for us.
Because they thought we deserved it.
We were stigmatized.
Went on for years.
Losing your family. How?
[indistinct chatter]
Because it was so difficult,
I changed my name
and I created this entire person
that didn't exist.
Lived this life of not talking about it.
And that was the dangerous part.
Not talking about it.
For almost 15 years, I did that.
[military spokesman]
The State Department has asked us
to put the word out to any relatives,
if they have any medical records
or dental records
or photographs of the individuals,
we encourage them to send them
to our mortuary officer here
at Dover Air Force Base.
Uh, and we will use them
in the identification process.
[telephone ringing]
Get the phone out
of the background, please.
Take it out of its misery.
Stick the receiver in a glass of Kool-Aid.
[faint laughter]
[Stephan Jones]
I hope folks stop saying
"Drinking the Kool-Aid"
or "You just drunk the Kool-Aid."
It so dehumanizes the people
that died there
and it's so off the mark.
That night was murder.
My father created fear.
He got lost in power and drugs.
[inaudible dialogue]
For Dad, you lose that power,
he'd lose everything.
The temple didn't exist beyond him.
The world didn't exist beyond him
and that played out on that final night.
[newscaster] First of dozens of caskets
were put beneath the surface of the earth.
It's part of the tragic story
that even till now is not over.
[priest] Spirit of the departed
has returned to God.
Everyone I knew at Peoples Temple
are some of the absolute best people
I've ever met in my life.
[priest] Earth to earth,
ashes to ashes and dust to dust.
[Cobb] We never had time to just mourn.
You know, you live with this
every day. Every single day.
There's not a day that goes by
that you don't think of some parts of it.
[Stephan Jones] The guilt
I carried, I buried for years.
I just tried my best to live while
and put up a good front,
um, all the while tortured.
Um, and, and that, that still
rears its head and I,
and it still torments me.
Work in progress.
It was a dark secret. For years.
What I realize is that
in order to move on,
I had to forgive Jim Jones.
Once I forgave Jim Jones,
I started healing.
And I've had a good life.
Of course, I've had
ups and downs like all of us do
but when I stand here today,
when I didn't think
I was gonna live to be 22,
I'm grateful. I'm grateful for it all.
For a long time, I mean,
I literally had people say
take it one day at a time.
I was taking it one hour at a time.
The only person I saw being poisoned
in Jonestown was Malcolm, was my son.
The only one.
And for a long time, I thought
that was my punishment for living.
You know, Malcolm died,
but the universe returned
three beautiful children to me.
And now a grandson whose name is Malcolm.
[voice breaking] And
it was a full-circle moment.
It was just really beautiful
and it was like, uh,
you know, when Malcolm got taken from me
and another Malcolm got returned to me.
Let's deal with this, uh,
so we don't forget.
[Speier] I like to think my life
is a story about resilience.
That you can overcome almost
anything that happens to you.
[archival] I can't bring
those 900 people back to life.
I just wanna see the government work
and create an environment
in Congress and in our government,
so that that kinda thing
won't ever happen again.
[present day]
I was hospitalized for over two months.
But I was alive. I was alive.
I was really given
a second chance at life.
What a gift.
[gavel pounding]
[Nancy Pelosi] Representative elect
will raise her right hand.
Do you solemnly swear or affirm
that you will support and defend
the constitution of the United States
against all enemies,
foreign and domestic
[Speier] It was thrilling to be able
to walk onto that House floor
as a newly elected member of Congress.
-I do.
You are now a member of the
Knowing it was the same seat
that Congressman Ryan
had held decades before.
If you can look death
in the eye and survive,
it gives you the sense that you can do
you can do anything.
And that's what I've tried to do.
[somber music playing]
[music continues]
[music fades]
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