It was just after eleven when the bell began tolling. The loudspeakers played a recording from the San Francisco Temple days, the whole church singing
Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land
Tell ole Pharoah to let my people go
while Father’s voice, urgent yet calm, said the words I’d come to dread these many months here:
White night! White night! Run for your lives!
After Aunt Essie had signed over the Indianapolis house to the Temple, I knew I needed to stay with her.
We’d gone to San Francisco, then to Ukiah, and finally here to Guyana.
At first I’d believed in Father, even thought he could read minds.
He was a powerful preacher and did real good in the community.
But now it was all astray.
He ranted and raved, never slept.
His boys all carried guns.
“We need to go, Auntie,” I said. “He’s lost his mind.”
She shook her head. “Father cares.”
From a survivor’s account of the Jonestown Massacre:
There were loudspeakers all over the compound, and Jim Jones’s voice was on them almost 24/7. He couldn’t be talking all the time, but he’d tape what he said and then play it back all day long. And the rule was that we couldn’t talk when Jim Jones was talking. So on the loudspeakers, he’d suddenly call out, “White Night! White Night! Get to the to the pavilion! Run! Your lives are in danger!” Everyone would rush to the pavilion in middle of the encampment.
Then he would tell us that in the United States, African Americans were being herded into concentration camps, that there was genocide on the streets. They were coming to kill and torture us because we’d chosen what he called the socialist track. He said they were on their way.
We didn’t know this at the time, but he’d set up people who would shoot into the jungle to make us feel as if we were under attack. And there were other people who were set up to run and get shot — with rubber bullets, though we didn’t know it at the time. So there you were, in the middle of the jungle. Shots were being fired, and people were surrounding you with guns.
Then a couple of women brought out these trays of cups of what they said was cyanide-laced Kool-Aid, or Flavor-Aid — whichever they had. Everybody drank it. If we didn’t drink it, we were forced to drink it. If we ran, thought we’d be shot. At the end of it, we were wondering, Why aren’t we dead?
And then Jim would just start laughing and clapping his hands. He’d tell us it was a rehearsal and say, “Now I know I can trust you.” And then, in the weirdest way, he said, “Go home, my darlings! Sleep tight!” We weren’t really in mood for sleeping tight at that point.