Friday, April 12, 2013

CNN's 21st Century Rewrite, Hosted by a Soulless Organic Portal Named Soledad O'Brien

September 2, 1999, CNN /, Like Jonestown in slow motion,
November 18, 2003,, Jonestown survivors recall fateful day,

November 9, 2008,, Jonestown massacre full audio,
Listen to audio of the worst mass suicide in American history recorded by Rev. Jim Jones.

November 11, 2008,, Jones plotted cyanide deaths years before Jonestown, by Jim Polk,

November 12, 2008,, Jones plotted cyanide deaths years before Jonestown,
November 12, 2008,, Inside the Jonestown massacre,
November 12, 2008,, Survivors of the Jonestown tragedy,
November 12, 2008,, 'Slavery of Faith': Survivor recounts escape from Jonestown,

November 13, 2008,, CNN Presents: Escape from Jonestown credits,
CNN special correspondent Soledad O'Brien reported on their untold stories in "CNN Presents: Escape from Jonestown."
November 13, 2008,, Mom and baby flee Jonestown, Leslie Wilson made a 30-mile trek through the jungle to freedom with her 3-year-old son on her back,
November 13, 2008,, Jones stockpiled cyanide, []
November 13, 2008,, Kids first to die at Jonestown,
November 13, 2008,, Jim Jones' followers enthralled by his skills as a speaker, by David M. Matthews,

December 16, 2008,, 'Escape from Jonestown',
A survivor tells CNN's Soledad O'Brien about his escape from Jonestown. Watch 'Escape from Jonestown, CNN 9 PM ET.
December 16, 2008,, Jonestown: Lost in the Jungle,
A girl who fled into the jungle after her mother was gunned down returns to the scene with CNN's Soledad O'Brien.


September 2, 1999, / CNN, Like Jonestown in slow motion, by Laura Miller,

Caroline Fraser, author of "God's Perfect Child," talks about the casualties of Christian Science's belief in the power of prayer and the media's soft spot for the church.

September 2, 1999
Web posted at: 5:31 p.m. EDT (2131 GMT)

(SALON) -- Caroline Fraser's "God's Perfect Child" tells the remarkable, sometimes outrageous story of the Christian Science Church's journey from suspect sect to squeaky-clean personification of mid-century American religious do-it-yourself-ism to faltering faith whose aging leaders would like to tap into the current mania for spiritual healing. Her account is an enjoyably dishy story of mismanaged funds, trendy celebrity adherents and internecine warfare, but it has a darker side: the still-mounting body count the church has left in its wake, children who have died as a result of the faith's prohibition against the use of medical care.
Salon Books interviewed Fraser, who lives in Santa Fe, N.M., via e-mail.

Your book describes many past examples of how the Christian Science Church energetically attempted to squelch the publication, dissemination and sale of books that are unflattering to Mary Baker Eddy or the church itself. Were you or "God's Perfect Child" the object of similar tactics?

So far, there's been little interference with my book coming from the church. I did hear recently that an editor at the Christian Science Monitor (whom I've never met) approached one of my publisher's representatives at a book fair and informed her that I was "troubled." This is a regrettably common ploy: A previous manager of the church's Committee on Publication (its office of propaganda and press relations) once told a journalist that Tom Simmons, author of a memoir about his Christian Science childhood ("The Unseen Shore"), was an unreliable source on the religion because his life was "falling apart."

The Committee on Publication called my editor at the Atlantic Monthly just before my article about Christian Science was published in 1995, expressing various concerns, and Scientists sent outraged letters after it appeared, many of them detailing healings they'd experienced and one of them going so far as to suggest that I'd nailed the last nails in Christ's hands. Although I'm grateful that the Christian Science Church is not as aggressive in policing its reputation as, say, the Church of Scientology, Christian Scientists, particularly those who work for the Mother Church (headquarters of the movement), are masters of the passive-aggressive style, and I'm sure I haven't heard the last from them.

It also sounds like the church is disabled enough by its recent decline in fortune and membership that it can't really mount the sort of intensive campaign against your book that it did against others several decades ago. Did anyone in your family or personal life who is also a church member attempt to dissuade you from writing either the Atlantic article or this book?

I think it's true that the church has far less influence now over publishers and editors than it did a few decades ago, in part because of the decline of the Monitor and in part because the cachet of Christian Science has largely vanished. Oddly, however, the church continues to retain significant political power. There are currently five members of the U.S. House of Representatives who are practicing Scientists, and the church has convinced Sens. Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy to fight for Medicare coverage for Christian Science "nursing" services, which are essentially religious.

Aside from the Committee on Publication guys, who certainly tried to convince me not to write about Christian Science, no one in my own circle of family or friends has. The only remaining Scientists in my family are my parents; my brother and sister left the faith long ago, as I did. After the Atlantic article, I heard that old friends and acquaintances from my Mercer Island, Wash., church were disappointed by it, but you have to remember how circumspect Scientists generally are; indeed, Mary Baker Eddy's Church Manual forbids members of the church from "unauthorized debating" about the religion. And Scientists believe that talking about illness or misfortune of any kind makes it real, so they tend to be pretty close-mouthed about the things that bother them. I got a letter from my longtime piano teacher, for instance, which gently remonstrated with me, but, like most Scientists, she attempted to persuade me to her point of view by telling me about the healings she's experienced. Another woman from our church told my sister that everyone there still loves me.
Next page | Is the "power of prayer" pure bunk?

Like Jonestown in slow motion | page 1, 2, 3

It's striking that your own personal experience growing up in the church is an important part of the beginning of the book, but that by the end the book you're a more traditionally removed third-person narrator. I can't help but be curious about your progression from youthful disillusionment to the kind of sustained concern that it takes to write a book like "God's Perfect Child." Can you tell me how you decided on this project and how your feelings about the church may have changed in the writing of it?

The progression in my book from the first person to a wider angle parallels my own progress, I think. As a child, my knowledge about Mary Baker Eddy and the church as an institution was so severely limited that all I really knew about them was what I read in "Science and Health" (Eddy's book) and overheard in the church lobby. I distinctly remember, however, that one day after Sunday school, my teacher took me aside and told me, apropos of nothing, that Mrs. Eddy had never taken morphine and that I shouldn't believe any rumors I might hear. (I now suspect that his remark was inspired by Scribner's 1970 paperback reprinting of Edwin Franden Dakin's critical biography of Eddy, which discusses her morphine use.) Of course, the remark fascinated me, and I ran right out to the public library and tried to find anything that might explain it. I failed then, but my curiosity was reawakened in the early 1990s, long after I thought I'd left Christian Science behind, when reports about dissension in the church began appearing in the national press, in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, on "60 Minutes." I was astonished to discover that my own personal experience of a Sunday School classmate dying was not an isolated instance, that Christian Science children were dying all over the country and their parents were being prosecuted.

And the more I learned about the history of the church, its rigidity and inflexibility, the more I began to discount the received wisdom it gives out, particularly the argument that Christian Scientists, with their healing "system," are giving their children "the best possible care." They're not. If there's a villain in the book, it's the church itself, and the people who unthinkingly tend and obey it, like bees with their queen. On the other hand, I grew to admire the Christian Science dissidents who at least think for themselves.

Another inspiration for taking on the project was the maddening phenomenon of people like Larry Dossey and Herbert Benson rising up in the '90s and simplistically touting the "power of prayer." Dossey and Benson, along with others of their ilk, have embraced Christian Science while knowing next to nothing about it, and their ignorance of the history of what they're promoting could have real consequences in peoples' lives.

Your comments about Larry Dossey and Herbert Benson raise an interesting point. Is your objection to the "power of prayer" philosophy that it provides too much cover for the dangerous doctrines of the Christian Scientists, or do you have larger objections to the very principles of that movement? After all, not all of the power-of-prayer crowd advocate renouncing standard medical care, and it seems like the peril in Christian Science is its insistence that you can't use both.

My problem is not with prayer itself but with the marketing of prayer. It's true that folks like Dossey, Benson and Andrew Weil commonly deliver caveats suggesting that patients shouldn't throw out traditional medicine (I think it's Dale Matthews, another power-of-prayer doc, who advises "prayer and Prozac"). But their willingness to use their authority as medical doctors to promote prayer as a form of treatment is troubling. So is their uncritical acceptance of things like Christian Science (which discourages the use of all what they call "materia medica," as many of these doctors seem to have forgotten). Larry Dossey admiringly cites the "research," if I can even call it that, of two Scientists in Oregon who prayed over some petri dishes and were so disturbed by the Christian Science Church's rejection of their "evidence" that they subsequently killed themselves. The power-of-prayer movement is so amorphous -- driven largely by bestselling self-improvement books -- that it's doubtful that it has any well-defined principles, or standards, at all. I suspect that the main goal of many of those involved is simply to make money.

I certainly don't mean to mock or belittle prayer. As I argue in the book, it may have wondrous effects for many people, but it is intangible and unquantifiable, so it doesn't lend itself to scientific study. Indeed, many of the studies that have been done suggesting that there's a link between prayer or church-going and improved health have been bankrolled by a single organization, the Templeton Foundation, which is devoted to promoting "spiritual information through science," a fact that calls into question the objectivity of its findings. Fortunately, most religious people accept medicine as a gift from God and reap the benefits of both realms.

Next page | Diane Sawyer defends Christian Science
Like Jonestown in slow motion | page 1, 2, 3

The similarities between the histories of Christian Science and Scientology are striking.

Yes, the parallels between Christian Science and Scientology are fascinating. While the Christian Science Church was never as litigious as the Church of Scientology, Christian Science was once terrifically controversial, just as Scientology is today. Mary Baker Eddy was a notorious figure, and she and her teachings were the target of contemptuous books and articles by Mark Twain and others. A century ago, Christian Science was as scandalous as Scientology is now, but, largely through the influence of its newspaper, the Monitor, Scientists managed to calm society's fears and grow ever more respectable. Christian Science also managed to impress people with its own celebrities and millionaires: George Getty, the founder of the Getty fortune, was a Scientist, as was Lady Astor. As I discuss in the book, Christian Science became hugely popular in Hollywood in the 1930s and '40s.

It strikes me that Scientology's reputation is now roughly at the juncture where Christian Science found itself during the latter part of Eddy's lifetime. It still remains troubling to the public, but it's successfully legitimizing itself. A street in Hollywood has been renamed L. Ron Hubbard Boulevard. And Scientology won its epic battle for tax-exempt status with the IRS. So it's halfway to respectability, but it remains to be seen if its celebrity associations with stars like John Travolta and Tom Cruise can carry it further.

What about the child cases? They seem to me to be more damning to the Christian Science Church than anything, really, that Scientology has done. How do you think Christian Science's public image now stands as a result of those hugely publicized cases?

Of course the child cases are damning, but you're so right that it's other groups, including Scientology, that are seen as the real threats. A prosecutor in California who handled one of the child cases told reporters that Christian Science is like Jonestown in slow motion, and he was right. But the American public is so conflicted about parental rights, the rights of children and the issue of religious freedom that it tends to be queasy about the spectacle of faith-healing parents on trial, particularly Christian Scientists, who are usually white, middle- to upper-class and prominent members of their communities with no prior criminal records. Americans are squeamish about anything that seems to punish people for their religious beliefs. Of course, I don't think these trials were about the parents' First Amendment rights to religious freedom; I think they were about the violation of their children's rights to life itself.

And the church has done everything it can, with some success, to reinforce the notion that the parents (rather than the kids who lost their lives) were the real victims, running full page ads in the Boston Globe during the manslaughter trial of the Twitchells (for the death of their 2-year-old son Robyn) announcing that prayer was being prosecuted in Boston. Just as Congress has accepted the church's number of published testimonials as scientific fact, so some journalists have accepted the church's argument that its parents do the best they can for their children. Earlier this month, for example, Diane Sawyer, on "20/20," introduced a segment on a faith-healing sect in Oregon that, in the last 35 years, has buried 78 kids, many of whom would have lived with medical intervention. Sawyer issued a specific apologia for Scientists, saying, "In serious situations, many [faith healers], most notably Christian Scientists, will seek outside help," an observation that isn't at all accurate but indicates how confused journalists have become about Christian Science, largely because of misinformation proceeding from the church.

Philip Zaleski's review of "God's Perfect Child" in the Aug. 22 New York Times Book Review contains a line that I can imagine you found irksome: "The Christian Science archives contain over 50,000 testimonials of spiritual cures; horrific tales of child deaths cannot explain away these apparent successes." This seems like a deliberate misreading of your book, which does criticize the testimonials, but not on the grounds of the child cases. Can you respond to that?

I was astonished at that sentence. To suggest that I was using details of the suffering and deaths of Christian Science children to "explain away" anything seems a perverse misrepresentation. But I'm almost more troubled by the blithe acceptance of 50,000 Christian Science testimonies as "apparent successes." Do sheer numbers imply moral authority or scientific accuracy? If millions of people believe they've been abducted by aliens, does that mean such abductions really happened? Zaleski also ignores my analysis of the testimonies and the reasons why they're unreliable as scientific evidence or even, in some instances, verifiable anecdotes.

Could you review, briefly, your arguments challenging the testimonials, that is, the accounts of healings that the Christian Science Church uses to bolster claims for the legitimacy of its treatment? Zaleski is not the first to accept the church's statement that they've been "corroborated."

Christian Science testimonies that are published in the church periodicals are "corroborated" (or "verified," in the church's words) only by three other friends or family members (usually Scientists themselves) "who can vouch for the integrity of the testifier or know of the healing." As sociologists have noted, these testimonies are brief, anecdotal accounts, often of "healings" that took place years, if not decades, ago. (And some healings, significantly, are reported to have taken a long time, sometimes years.) Many of the healings are of self-diagnosed conditions that undoubtedly corrected themselves on their own (warts, bumps, scratches, pains, minor burns, relationship problems, job problems, etc.). Some contain allusions to diagnoses by medical professionals, but no medical or hospital records, physicians' names or specific data accompany the published testimonies, so it is impossible to verify them independently. Some testimonies contain misleading or false information.

Moreover, and perhaps most damningly, the church keeps no records of the deaths of Christian Scientists, children or adults, and it publishes no testimonies about Christian Science failures (some of which are documented in my book), so the church's loss rate is impossible to calculate. And it has never allowed any independent researcher to study Christian Science. So, from a scientific point of view, these anecdotal, self-selected and self-reported accounts are meaningless. As I say in the book, they are testimonies of faith, of religious belief. They are not evidence.

How would you prefer to see the illnesses of Christian Science children handled? Would you favor government intervention, and to what degree?

What I'd like to see is the removal of religious exemption laws from all state statutes. This special class of laws protecting faith-healers from the consequences of their actions endangers children and seems to be a clear violation of the First Amendment. I see no reason why a system similar to those in place in Canada, England and other European countries wouldn't work here. In those countries, parents are required to provide their kids with routine medical care, and, from what I hear, doctors have been quite flexible in working with parents to provide the least aggressive or intrusive forms of care.

No one, including me, is arguing that Scientists should stop taking their kids to Sunday school or teaching them about their religious heritage or beliefs. They absolutely have a right to do that. But they don't have the right to martyr their kids. The church's refusal to consider any kind of compromise or to engage in discussion about the rights of their children seems deeply unreasonable to me. I once asked a Christian Scientist who had worked for the Committee on Publication why American Scientists are so vehemently opposed to any system that would require medical care for children. He said it was because Christian Science branch churches in countries with such requirements had been weakened by them. His answer, and the church's policies over the past century, indicate that Scientists value the health of their church over the health of their children. In my view, if Christian Scientists really want to practice the love that they preach, they should reconsider their position on this.

Laura Miller is an editor of Salon.

November 18, 2003,, Jonestown survivors recall fateful day,
Threat from cults still exists, they say

OAKLAND, California (CNN) --A memorial service Tuesday at a mass grave will mark the 25th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre, in which 913 men, women and children died in the worst mass murder-suicide in recent history.

They had followed their charismatic leader Jim Jones from San Francisco to a jungle settlement in the South American nation of Guyana in 1978, believing he was leading them to a utopia of racial harmony and social justice.

"We really had a structure in place that would make us a successful community, living there with people of all different races and backgrounds, which really would have been a promised land or heaven on Earth," survivor Laura Kohl said Monday.

But on November 18, 1978, that idealistic dream became a hell on Earth.

Jones' followers were ordered or forced to drink cyanide-laced punch.

The 227 children in the "Peoples Temple" were poisoned first. Syringes were used to squirt the poison in the mouths of babies.

Then it was the adults' turn. Some drank willingly. Most of those who protested were shot by armed guards ringing the camp. A few managed to escape into the jungle.

Kohl, who had been away from the compound buying supplies, said she still doesn't know whether she would have willingly drank the poison.

"I do know that if I had seen my adopted family of 913 -- people all dying around me -- it would have been a very tough decision not to," Kohl said.

Jones was found with a bullet in his brain. It is not known who shot him, or whether he shot himself.

'What could the babies do?'

Jynona Norwood, a California pastor, will lead the memorial service in Oakland.

Norwood had distrusted Jones and didn't follow him to South America. But her family paid an enormous price.

"Twenty-seven people in my family died at Jonestown, including my mother. The youngest person in our family who died was three months old," Norwood said. "What could the babies do?"

Reports of trouble in the jungle utopia prompted U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan to lead a delegation of family members of Jonestown residents and journalists to the compound to investigate claims that followers were being imprisoned and abused.

Ryan and his party were ambushed on the airstrip as they were loading the plane with Jones' followers who wanted to leave.

"The shots rang out," recalled Jackie Speier. "People ran into the brush, some under the plane. I ran under the plane along with congressman Ryan, trying to hide by a wheel and pretend I was dead."

Speier, now a California state senator, was shot five times. Ryan and four others were killed.

Speier believes the likelihood of another Jonestown occurring "is just as great today as it was 25 years ago."

"There are still over 1,000 cults operating in the United States and around the world," she said. "And we -- in terms of the government -- have always looked the other way because of our great appreciation of the First Amendment and freedom of religion we have allowed many of these cults to operate outside the law."

Norwood agrees that the threat still exists.

"I don't think we have really learned anything from the massacre of Jonestown," she said, "because the Wacos are still happening. Heaven's Gate is still happening, September 11th is still happening."

The bodies of followers who drank a cyanide-laced drink are strewn around the Peoples Temple in Jonestown, Guyana.

The Rev. Ed Norwood stands with his mother, Jynona, at the headstone of a mass grave for victims in Oakland, California, in this 1995 photo.

November 9, 2008,, Jonestown massacre full audio,
Listen to audio of the worst mass suicide in American history recorded by Rev. Jim Jones.

November 11, 2008,, Jones plotted cyanide deaths years before Jonestown, by Jim Polk,

JONESTOWN, Guyana (CNN) -- Cyanide was being bought and shipped to the Rev. Jim Jones' jungle compound in South America for at least two years before 900 Americans died there at the command of their cult leader, CNN has learned.

Sources in Guyana said the Jonestown camp began obtaining shipments of cyanide -- about a quarter to a half-pound of the deadly poison each month -- as early as 1976, well before most of Jones' followers made the move there.

CNN's Soledad O'Brien tells the story of the last hours of Jonestown -- and the few who did survive out of desperation and daring -- as CNN Presents "Escape from Jonestown."

Jones led his followers to their death after his gunmen killed a visiting congressman, Rep. Leo Ryan, and four others, including an NBC News correspondent and his cameraman, on November 18, 1978.

Jones told the members of his Peoples Temple church that the Guyanese Army would invade their settlement after the murders. He demanded that parents kill their children first, then take their own lives, rather than face the authorities because of what Jones had done.

Of the 909 who died, 303 were children -- from teens to toddlers. Many were killed by Jones' loyalists, who used syringes to squirt cyanide down their throats.

CNN was told Jones obtained a jeweler's license to buy cyanide. The chemical can be used to clean gold. But there was no jeweler's operation in Jonestown.

Six months before Ryan arrived on a one-man investigative mission, the settlement's doctor wrote in a memo to Jones:

"Cyanide is one of the most rapidly acting poisons. ... I would like to give about two grams to a large pig to see how effective our batch is."

The purchases are "strong evidence that the Rev. Jim Jones had been plotting the death of his followers long before that fateful day," O'Brien reports.

Ryan, the only U.S. representative assassinated in office, was shot at a nearby airstrip as he tried to leave with 15 church members who told him Jones was holding people captive in the remote jungle encampment.

"That was literally a jungle prison," said Gerald Parks, whose wife, Patricia, was shot to death in the airport attack. How did he escape death? »
Four other members of his family survived, including two young daughters who were lost in the jungle for three days after running away from the airstrip to hide from the killers. Survivor Leslie Wilson returns to murder scene »

"It was a dictatorship," said Vernon Gosney, who was badly wounded in the airport shootings. "It was supposed to be socialism, but it really was fascism."

Jones was a phony faith healer who moved his Indiana church to northern California in the mid-'60s in search of a safe place to survive the possibility of nuclear warfare. In the mid-'70s, when a magazine raised questions about church beatings and financial abuses, Jones moved his flock to Guyana, in South America, to the jungle settlement he called his "beautiful promised land."

"It was a slave camp run by a madman," said Leslie Wilson, a young mother then only 21, who began walking away from Jonestown early on the day that ended in the suicides and murder.

She and 10 others trudged almost 30 miles through the jungle to another town. Wilson carried her 3-year-old son on her back. "It was a freedom walk," she said. "It was a walk to freedom."

Tim Carter, a Jones aide, stayed in the camp almost to the end and saw his wife and his 1-year-old son die before he was sent away on an errand.

Authorities made him return two days later to help identify bodies. Carter saw Jones lying with a bullet hole in the side of his head.

"I remember thinking the son-of-a-bitch didn't even die the way everybody else died," Carter said.

November 12, 2008,, Inside the Jonestown massacre,

(CNN) -- Thirty years ago, 909 Americans were led to their death by the Rev. Jim Jones in a mass murder-suicide pact in a South American jungle, shortly after Jones' gunmen killed a visiting U.S. congressman and four others at a nearby airstrip.
Rev. Jim Jones with children

One-third of the victims were children. Many were killed by Jones' aides, who squirted cyanide down their throats.

Of the nearly 1,000 church members who began the day in Jonestown, a cult commune, only 33 survived to see the next day.

The following is a thumbnail history of the Jonestown tragedy on Nov. 18, 1978:

What happened? More than 900 Americans died in a South American jungle upon the orders of Rev. Jim Jones, who had tried to create a socialist paradise that survivors called a slave camp.

What led up to this? When California Rep. Leo Ryan arrived on a one-man investigative mission, bringing along a TV camera crew and various reporters, 15 church members asked to leave with him. Jones sent gunmen to a nearby airstrip, where they killed Ryan, an NBC correspondent and his cameraman, a newspaper photographer and one of the departing family members.

Who was Jim Jones? He was a self-appointed minister from a small town in the Midwest, who first led his flock to California, where he hoped to avoid fallout from a possible nuclear war. He then moved his people to Guyana when he came under criticism for church beatings and financial abuses.

Where did the money come from? Jones was a phony faith healer, and much of his money came in mail-order donations from the desperate. Elderly members handed over their Social Security checks, working adults gave 25 percent of their wages to the church and some signed over all their property. Government investigators would later find at least $10 million in Swiss banks, mainly in Panama. Another $1 million in cash was recovered in Jonestown.

Did anyone survive? Thirty-three people who began that day in Jonestown escaped with their lives. There were two main groups of survivors. Eleven people, four of them small children, walked almost 30 miles through the jungle to another town. Fourteen departing church members lived through the airport ambush -- five of them youngsters who were lost for three days when they ran into the jungle to hide. See list of survivors

What happened to the killers? All but one of the airport gunmen died in the mass suicide. Larry Layton, who posed as a defector, was captured after badly wounding two people inside a plane trying to take off. He was not paroled from an American prison until 2002.

How did Jones die? He did not drink the cyanide. He was shot in the head, probably by a trusted aide, at the very end. His body was among the first to be identified -- through fingerprints that had been taken after a vice squad arrest five years earlier in the men's room of a Los Angeles movie theater.

What is left of Jonestown today?Nothing. The settlement has disappeared, the buildings dismantled and carried away by native Indians. Jungle weeds and trees have overgrown the area again. The only notable relic left to be found are the remains of one small rusting garden tractor. What persists is simply silence.

November 12, 2008,, Survivors of the Jonestown tragedy,

(CNN) -- On November 18, 1978, more than 900 people died in a mass murder-suicide at Jonestown, a cult commune in Guyana.

Its leader, the Rev. Jim Jones, called himself God. He persuaded followers to kill their children first and then drink fruit punch laced with cyanide. Of the nearly 1,000 church members who were present at the start of that day, only 33 survived.

Eleven people fled through the jungle:
Richard Clark, age 42
Julius Evans, 30
Sandra Evans, 30
Sonya Evans, 11
Sharla Evans, 7
Shirelle Evans, 5
Johnny Franklin, 33
Diane Louie, 26
Robert Paul, 33
Leslie Wilson, 21
Jakari Wilson, 3

Fourteen people lived through airport ambush:
Monica Bagby, 18
Jim Bogue, 36
Edith Bogue, 39
Teena Bogue, 22
Juanita Bogue, 21
Tommy Bogue, 17
Harold Cordell, 42
Vernon Gosney, 25
Chris O'Neal, 20
Edith Parks, 64
Gerald Parks, 45
Dale Parks, 27
Brenda Parks, 18
Tracy Parks, 12

Four people were sent away by Jones or his mistress:
Mike Carter, 20
Tim Carter, 30
Larry Layton, 32
Mike Prokes, 31

Four lived through the mass suicides:
Stanley Clayton, 25
Grover Davis, 79
Odell Rhodes, 36
Hyacinth Thrash, 76
November 12, 2008,, 'Slavery of Faith': Survivor recounts escape from Jonestown, by Leslie Wagner-Wilson,

Editor's Note: On Nov. 18, 1978, a young mother, Leslie Wagner-Wilson, began walking away from Jonestown, carrying her 3-year-old son on a 30-mile trek through the jungle to safety. That very evening, the 900 people left in Jonestown would die in a mass murder-and-suicide pact. This excerpt is taken from the author's forthcoming book, "Slavery of Faith," with her permission.
Leslie Wagner-Wilson

"He was very charismatic," Leslie Wagner-Wilson, a Jonestown survivor, says of the Rev. Jim Jones.
1 of 2

As we began our journey, I was so nervous I could barely keep my footing. One of the women had made Kool-Aid and measured out enough Valium in it to keep the children calm. As we trekked up the side of the banana field, my heart was beating wildly. Someone is going to see us, I kept thinking. I prayed to God to please get me to the top of the hill, and when I put the other foot down on top, sudden warmth engulfed my body from head to toe.

We were running for our lives, for if we got caught we would wish we were dead, because the discipline would be intense. We have to move fast, I thought. Once they find we are missing, they will start the search. We started going deeper into the jungle and our leader, Richard Clark, lost his way. He could not find the markers he had placed in the jungle to help guide our way.

We sat down, gave the children some Kool-Aid and waited while Richard and the other men tried to find the path out. We were so close to the front gate as we could hear the guards talking. "Oh, no," I said. We had to keep the children and ourselves still, not speaking at all; we were so close they would be able to hear us, too. The men came back and motioned to us to move. We did, trying to move silently like cats. Hear Leslie explain how she narrowly escaped »

We came out on a road. Richard said "Port Kaituma is a couple of miles down the way." I told him I did not want to go there, it was too close. He said that Matthews Ridge was 37 miles away. I told him, I'll go that way. I instructed them to take my son, Jakari, if my husband, who was a security guard, caught up with me. If they saw me shot dead, they needed to get my child out.

Jakari was becoming sleepy, so I tied him with a sheet to my back, like a papoose, and carried him as far as I could. The men then took turns. All the children were carried, not walked. The Valium had taken effect and their legs were slower than normal.

We heard a loud rumbling noise, a train was coming. We moved off of the tracks, and as the train slowed, the conductor asked us if we needed a ride. We told him no, we were heading the direction from which he came. He waved goodbye with a puzzled look on his face and the train began to move forward. People on the train gathered at the windows to look at us. Dirty by this time, we looked probably like hobos.

How many miles we had covered, I don't know. We had to have been on the road for maybe four or five hours now. We came to a narrowing in the road high above a river. We had to get on the railroad tracks to go across. My fear of heights paralyzed me. I asked one of the brothers to take Jakari across the bridge. On my hands and knees, I crawled across. I was scared I would fall off and my comrades kept saying, "Don't look down." They did not have to worry, my test was to keep breathing. When I finally made it, my knees were scratched, with pebbles stuck in some of the areas.

I sat down for a minute. We all did. After a 10-minute break, we picked up the pace. The day turned to dusk. We did not know how far we had traveled or how far we had to go. We just kept moving. As it got dark, we heard the train coming back. We tried to run as fast as we could to hide, but the train was faster. The conductor stopped and we were waiting for the shots to ring out: "Kill the Defectors!" That's all I could think would happen. When the conductor stuck his head out and asked if we wanted a ride, the men said yes. We climbed on board and sat down.

The town of Matthews Ridge was small, with little houses scattered across in different directions. We followed a man up a road to the police station. As we got closer, we could see that there were guns drawn on us. A voice yelled, "Halt, put your hands up."
He had another officer lead us inside and search us for weapons. They took my knife. Others had an ice pick, knives and a machete. The captain introduced himself and asked us what we were doing. We told him we had escaped from Jonestown and wanted to call the American Embassy. He asked us if we knew about the shootings at Port Kaituma. "What shootings?" we said. He went on to explain that he got a report that people had been shot at the air strip.

The conductor came up and told the police captain that it could not have been us because he saw us so many miles away from the airport and gave the captain the time. That man saved us.

Please visit for more information about Leslie Wagner-Wilson.

November 13, 2008,, CNN Presents: Escape from Jonestown credits, by CNN special correspondent Soledad O'Brien reported on their untold stories in "CNN Presents: Escape from Jonestown."

(CNN) -- On November 18, 1978, 909 Americans were led to their death by the Rev. Jim Jones in a mass murder-suicide pact in a South American jungle. Only 33 people survived.

CNN special correspondent Soledad O'Brien reported on their untold stories in "CNN Presents: Escape from Jonestown."

Soledad O'Brien

Sr. Executive Producer/VP
Mark Nelson

Executive Producer
James Polk

Executive Director
Jody Gottlieb

David Matthews

Senior Editor and Producer/Lead Editor
April Hock

Senior Editors/Producers
Jack Austin
Lee Hughey
Blake Luce
Karen Nolan
Wendy Tennery

Production Assistant
Jack Lyons

Jonathan Schaer
Greg Kilday
David Jenkins
Henry Young
Mike Calloway
David Rust
Ken Day
Mark Biello

Sound Technicians
Kevin Kvicala
Doug Thomas
Jerry Appleman
David Ruff

Post Production Producers
John Cooke
Matt Scheibner

Audio Mixer
Rick Sierra

On Line Editor
Gary Wilkinson

Manager of Production
Amy Jordan
Thelma Paschal

Production Manager
Jamie Hutton

Production Coordinator
Abigail Daniels

November 13, 2008,, Mom and baby flee Jonestown, Leslie Wilson made a 30-mile trek through the jungle to freedom with her 3-year-old son on her back,

November 13, 2008,, Jones stockpiled cyanide, []

November 13, 2008,, Kids first to die at Jonestown,
November 13, 2008,, Jim Jones' followers enthralled by his skills as a speaker, by David M. Matthews,

(CNN) -- The key to understanding the tragedy that was Jonestown lies in the oratory skills of the Peoples Temple founder, Jim Jones.

"He was very charismatic," Leslie Wagner-Wilson, a Jonestown survivor, says of the Rev. Jim Jones.
1 of 2

With the cadence and fervor of a Baptist preacher, the charm and folksiness of a country storyteller and the zeal and fury of a maniacal dictator, Jones exhorted his followers to a fever pitch, audiotapes recovered from Jonestown reveal.

As he spoke, they applauded, shouted, cheered. One follower who survived the "revolutionary suicide" at Jonestown on November 18, 1978, said that Jones was the most dynamic speaker he had ever heard.

Like all powerful speakers, Jones' greatest asset was his ability to determine what listeners wanted to hear and give it to them in simple language that appealed to them on an almost instinctual level.

"He was very charismatic, very charismatic," said Leslie Wilson, who survived that fateful day in Jonestown by walking away from the settlement before the cyanide that killed more than 900 Peoples Temple members was distributed. She was one of 33 people who began the day inJonestown and lived to tell the tale.

"He could quote scripture and turn around and preach socialism," she said. "He appealed to anyone on any level at any time." Hear Jones declare "I am God" »

Many of his followers were elderly African-Americans drawn to his cause by his soulful delivery and Pentecostal preaching style, including at times speaking in tongues. That hair-raising fervor was perhaps only overshadowed by what he said.

"When I say, I am God, then I feel [faith] well up within my soul. And I see it well up in you, and I see the sick healed, and the blind see, and the dead raised. ... You wanna know how I feel, I never feel so good as when I say I am God," he shouted in a full-throated roar in a 1972 sermon.

Jones further enraptured crowds with faith healings -- laying hands on disabled or sick people who would miraculously be cured of any ailments. Though insiders later revealed that these healings were staged, Jones' mastery of word and presentation left few in attendance with any doubts about his abilities.

He also indoctrinated many young, idealistic liberal white people in progressive 1970s California with the themes of socialism, equality and political activism. And he justified his brand of socialism with the Bible for those recruited from more conservative religious factions, who might have found such left-wing ideas tough to swallow.

"The only ethic by which we can lift mankind today is some form of socialism," he said in another 1972 sermon. "There's a smattering of it in the, in the New Testament. It's very evidently clear on the day of Pentecost that they that believed were together and had all things common."

Socialism, he said, is "older than the Bible by far."

But by the time Jones and many of his followers completed a lengthy relocation from California to Jonestown in Guyana in 1977, he had begun to change as a speaker. His trademark passionate delivery gave way to blind fury and incredible rage. Listen to the rage of Jim Jones »

"I been tired for 25 years," the 47-year-old Jones preached in 1978, his voice rising steadily in pitched anger. "I'm tired of looking at people's faces that don't give a f--- for 25 years, I watch and they don't give a g------. You can lay it out in front of them, and they will not listen. They will not read. They will not do anything, and that's why I have to suffer every day and all night and all through the hours, because I will have nobody but a few that will carry the burden with me. Because you hide yourself away in ignorance."

His rages created a fear that cemented the hold he had on his followers.

He also used a "divide and conquer" method among his followers.

"What Jones did was try to break all ties that were not to him," said former believer Vernon Gosney. "Transfer all that loyalty, all that bonding to him. And so families were broken apart. Relationships were divided."

Such divisions caused family members to spy and report on one another, or friends to turn in friends for various transgressions.

Jones furthered the poisonous atmosphere among his followers by encouraging physical fighting to either solve problems or administer punishment. Audiotapes of such sessions reveal Jones laughing, apparently entertained.

Jones' mastery of the spoken word also enabled his many sexual exploits with both female and male followers. Jones deftly justified his actions to his followers by saying that what he did to them was actually for their own benefit, or the benefit of making the church a stronger, tighter-knit organization.

He preached that many of his male followers were in denial about their homosexuality, conditioning those followers to accept him if he approached with a sexual advance.

And he defused any accusations of sexual perversion on his part by claiming that he gained no personal pleasure from his acts, which he called a "great sacrifice."

"And if the leader is attracted to you, then somehow that cultivates," Jones said during a temple meeting in 1978. "Well, you ought to know I'm attracted to you, I'm ready to die for every one of you, so that means I'm attracted to you. You follow what I'm saying? I'm attracted to all of you. How much more attraction can you have than to be ready to have your eyes plucked out?"

By the end at Jonestown, Jones was more rock star than preacher. His sermons and remarks at meetings were littered with obscenities. He regularly had sex with his followers and he abused drugs. By the last month of Jonestown's existence, Jones was so intoxicated at times that he had great difficulty even reading the news aloud to his followers.

As the end drew near, Jones' tone as a speaker took darker turns. He constantly fed his followers in Guyana a steady diet of fatalism.

"I said, life is a f------ disease," he said. "It's worse than cancer. It's a disease. And there's only one cure for the sonofabitchin' disease. That's death. And socialists can only take one form of death. What is it? Fight a goddamn war, or revolutionary suicide. If you don't believe life's a disease, then you're dumb. Very dumb."

Spurred on by their leader's talk, Peoples Temple members were ready to follow Jones even into death. At his request, they even wrote personal notes to him expressing their willingness to die for their cause. Some followers willing to die »

This was the ultimate test of loyalty, and the absolute testimony to the power of his words. As history shows, Jim Jones the orator was chillingly effective. Listen to final 45 minutes at Jonestown »______________________________________________________________________

December 16, 2008,, 'Escape from Jonestown',
A survivor tells CNN's Soledad O'Brien about his escape from Jonestown. Watch 'Escape from Jonestown, CNN 9 PM ET.

December 16, 2008,, Jonestown: Lost in the Jungle,
A girl who fled into the jungle after her mother was gunned down returns to the scene with CNN's Soledad O'Brien.

No comments: