Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Mother Mother Was Not Marceline

On the Death Tape recording of the 1978 mass murder-suicide in Jonestown, Jim Jones repeatedly implores the parents to poison their children without hysterics. At 36m45s he nearly shouts:

Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, please. Mother, please, please, please. Don’t– don’t do this. Don’t do this. Lay down your life with your child. But don’t do this.

Notable survivors of Peoples Temple speculate that he was rebuking his wife, Marceline Jones. Their only biological child, Stephan Carter, was not in Jonestown that day, but is convinced it must have been his mother. Tim Carter was in Jonestown for the beginning of the poisonings, and saw his wife and infant son die. He points out that in Peoples Temple only Jim Jones could be called "Father", and that only Marceline was called "Mother". In at least one recent interview (2018 Terror In The Jungle), Carter says that Marceline was screaming "stop this!" However, the documentary does not give any details about when or how Carter heard this. There is no corroboration for these assertions in either the Death Tape or in the published eyewitness accounts. Instead, we know this:

  • Moments before the revolutionary suicide meeting, as the assembled crowd awaited their fate in the pavilion, Marceline was conferring mere steps away with the JT leadership: JJ, Beam, McElvane, Katsaris, Johnny Jones, Harriet Tropp. Tim Carter noticed Dick Tropp arguing alone against suicide, with no support from Marceline. Instead, Harriet chides her brother as "just afraid to die".
  • During the meeting, mere minutes before the poisoning begins, Marceline calmly helps shame and bully Christine Miller for arguing against mass suicide. Marceline does this after hearing Jones announce that the departing Ryan delegation has been targeted for murder: "some have stolen children from others, and they are in pursuit right now to kill them". She knows that this White Night is not a drill.
  • Children were already being poisoned when Tim Carter sees his son and wife get poisoned. This is at least 20 minutes before Carter on his way out of Jonestown distantly hears Jones say "mother, mother, mother" over the PA. Carter thinks this was Marceline opposing the poisoning of children. But Carter was on the pavilion stage with 10 to 15 children's bodies already on the ground, and in no interview has he reported any opposition by Marceline specifically at this time -- the only time he was present at the poisonings.
  • While Maria Katsaris is on the PA trying to speed up the poisoning of the children, JJ calmly says "Marceline, they've got forty minutes". There's no sound on the tape here indicating opposition from Marceline.
  • Survivor Odell Rhodes was probably still at the pavilion during "mother, mother", and survivor Stanley Clayton definitely was, because he stayed until only 100-200 were left alive. They both reported people resisting poisoning e.g. spitting it out. They surely would have noticed and later reported it if Marceline was dissenting strongly enough for Father to passionately rebuke her over the P.A.
  • During the "mother, mother" rebuke, a woman is screaming -- most likely the very woman Jones is rebuking. Jones tells the mother: "Lay down your life with your child."  Marceline's children in Jonestown were all adults. Son Lew died with the elite leaders in Jones' cabin. Security leader Johnny Brown wouldn't have taken poison early, with the children. And daughter Agnes was 35. There was no "child" of Marceline's present to lay down her life with. Her body was not next to any of her children.
  • The recording pauses after the "mother, mother" rebuke, and the very next thing on the tape is Marceline calmly saying "--want the children out of S.C.U. [Special Care Unit]". She apparently was helping make sure that no children survived.
  • Jones was continually pausing and resuming the tape, trying to control what got recorded for posterity. On multiple occasions toward the end, he briefly turned on the recording to sternly shame and rebuke the parents of screaming children. But if a PT leader as prominent as Marceline were suddenly opposing the suicides, he surely wouldn't have recorded that embarrassing dissent.
  • In "Awake in a Nightmare" (Feinsod, 1981), Marceline consoles Odell Rhodes at a point after the "mother, mother" scolding, as the two of them comfort dying chidlren. In this detailed recounting of Rhodes' story, there is no hint that Marceline had just been scolded -- nor that she spoke up for the children.
Marceline Jones is widely treated as a sympathetic figure among survivors and researchers of Peoples Temple. She indeed worked frantically a year earlier in Sept. 1977 to avert a mass-suicide ultimatum that Jim Jones had issued. She surely would have preferred that Jonestown not die. But when the oft-rehearsed mass suicide finally became reality, we have no evidence that she spoke up against it. Instead, we hear her shame the one woman who did.