“Jim Jones: Mystery Man, Mystery Trip” by Will Savive
(Article featured in the 2008 Jonestown Report, published by San Diego State University)
The focus of this article deals strictly with Jim Jones and his mysterious trip to Brazil. This article is an attempt to help bring clarity to some of the misconceptions of this time period made by Jones’ main biographers. Although a portion of Tim Reiterman’s account is challenged in this piece, no one has lent more towards the clarity and veracity of this case than the book Raven, which he co-authored with John Jacobs.
Thirty years have now passed since 918 Americans died in the jungle of South America. November 18, 1978, was one of the worst tragedies in American history. Unfortunately the even bigger tragedy lies within the unsolved mysteries behind the life and death of Peoples Temple, the investigation that followed, and the 30-year cover-up that has stonewalled the public from ever knowing the real truth. Regardless of the dubious efforts of some, much evidence exists that paints an entirely different picture than the “official version.”
Perhaps a good place to start to get a picture of the true nature of Jim Jones and Jonestown is to look at the years from 1961 to 1963. In these years, the first evidence arises that Jones is not who he appears to be. It was reported that Jim Jones suffered seizures late in 1961, and his health was in jeopardy. Since Jones had a black doctor, they placed him in the ward with black patients, which inadvertently gave him the opportunity to integrate the hospital. Jones’ hospital stay was for treatment of an ulcer.
According to Jones’ main biographer, Tim Reiterman, in early October of 1961, the Temple leader told his associate pastor, Archie Ijames, that he heard voices from “extraterrestrial beings,” and that he had a vision of a nuclear explosion in Chicago of apocalyptic proportions. Because of this vision, Jones announced to his closest confidants that he wanted to move the church to a safe zone to avoid nuclear fallout. This excuse is said to have been the reason for Jones resigning as Director of the Indianapolis Human Rights Commission, and traveling abroad. However, at first, Jones did not act as if he took his own idea very seriously. One day from the pulpit, Jones shifted the blame for needing to move the church onto others, “while shooting a grin at his two assistants.”
Although Tim Reiterman is by far Jones’ best biographer, even he made errors in documenting these mysterious years. Reiterman writes that Jones left for Hawaii by himself in late October of 1961, and later sent for his family. Escaping a nuclear holocaust by going to Hawaii would have been a ridiculous notion, considering the number military installations there, including Pearl Harbor. It’s doubtful that Jones was not well aware of this fact prior to his supposed trip there.
According to Reiterman’s chronology, Jones stayed in Hawaii the remainder of 1961 and into 1962. He was there when he read an Esquire magazine article about “The nine safest places in the world to escape thermonuclear blasts and fallout.” One of the places listed in the article was Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Soon after the article was published, according to Reiterman, Jones stopped over in California, and then told Ijames to meet him in Mexico City to brief him on Temple activities in his absence, before going to Georgetown, Guyana. However, this is not possible. The Guyana Graphic newspaper published a page seven article on October 25, 1961, which covers Jones’ anti-communist speeches in Georgetown just days earlier.
A more accurate chronology may be seen as this: After traveling to Guyana in late October of 1961, Jones disappeared from public record altogether for about six months. Anthropologist, Kathleen Adams, claims that Jones spent time as a missionary in the Northwest District of Guyana at some point. Although Adams does not indicate dates, it’s safe to assume that it was during this six-month period for Jones. A close friend of the Jones family, Bonnie Malmin Thielman, claimed to have seen a picture of Jim and Marceline with Fidel Castro, which was allegedly taken during the winter of 1961-62, about six months after Jones’ anti-communist speeches in Guyana, on his way to Brazil. The fact that Jones received a Cuban visa and met Fidel Castro after recently giving well-publicized anti-communist speeches raises many questions in and of itself, particularly in light of the Bay of Pigs incident in 1961, in the the U.S. – and more specifically, the CIA – launched an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Cuban government.
Jim Jones had passport # 22898751 that was issued to him on June 28, 1960 in Chicago. The passport was still valid when another passport (#0111788) was issued to him on January 30, 1962, in Indianapolis. Why he was issued another passport when he already had a valid one is puzzling. Also, if Jones was already overseas, then who picked up the second passport in Indianapolis? Furthermore, the second passport has a lower number than the first. Researcher Jim Hougan believes that this is because Jim Jones had a double that was used to travel at the same time that he did—for unknown, covert reasons. Hougan believes that this is what caused confusion for Reiterman and others when trying to document these lost years.
Jones’ Life of Luxury
According to Brazilian authorities, Jim, his wife Marceline, and their four children arrived at Sao Paulo, Brazil’s financial capitol on a commercial airliner on April 11, 1962. It’s well known that Jim Jones came from a very poor family. It is also well known that Jones and his family lived in virtual squalor up to this point. However, the family initially checked into the expensive Financial Hotel. Later, the family moved into a large house at 203 Maraba Avenue, in the city’s well-to-do Santo Antonio section.
Reiterman seems to struggle with the affluence that Jones became accustomed to while in Brazil: “Uncharacteristically, the Jones family wound up living in one of Rio’s most prestigious neighborhoods, in a rented seventh-story apartment three blocks from Copacabana Beach.” Reiterman explains that Jones maintained this lifestyle of living with the rich by taking on a job as a “part-time English instructor at a university.”
It was well documented that his church back home was not doing well financially. The congregation that had once drawn nearly two thousand people had dwindled down to under one hundred, and the pastors were having a hard time trying to generate the same interest that Jones had. The congregation as a whole felt abandoned by Jones, and they did not know if he was going to return. Despite Jones’ pleas, they could barely support themselves, much less their traveling pastor.
Reiterman claims that Jones supplemented his income by becoming a “gigolo.” Jones claimed that he had sex with women in exchange for donations to an orphanage where he worked. One woman allegedly donated a staggering $5,000 for Jones’ sexual services, which would equate to an astounding $36,000 by 2008 standards. All this was said to have occurred with the consent of his wife Marceline. This would later appear to be validated when Jones made his many affairs—with both men and women—public, saying that he was doing it for the “cause.” Marceline did, however, voice her discontent over Jones’ extramarital affairs. This scenario that Reiterman gives for this time period appears to come mainly from Jones’ own account of his stay in Brazil. Reiterman may well have been mocking the time period as explained by Jones for lack of more accurate information. There is no evidence that Jones was a gigolo in Brazil, other than the word of him and his wife. Realistically, Marceline had told much bigger lies to cover for her husband over the years. There is evidence of other, even less savory explanations for the source of Jones’ wealth.
Sebastiaco Carlos Rocha, a man who lived across the street from Jones, said that Jones would leave every morning at 6:00 a.m. with a leather briefcase, and return home around 7:00 p.m. Rocha and his family had many interactions with the Jones family. Rocha said that Jones told him that he was a retired U.S. Naval captain recuperating from the Korean War and that he was receiving monthly checks from the U.S. government for his military service. Several neighbors, including Rocha, said that they often witnessed a U.S. Consulate car in front of Jones’ home. Many also said that they witnessed the person in the car regularly delivering groceries to the family. Rocha said that Jones “enjoyed a very expensive lifestyle.”
The Rochas’ teenage daughter, Maria, said that she spoke to Marceline, who gave a very different story for their stay in Brazil. Marceline told Maria that they were in Brazil because she was suffering from a lung abnormality and her doctor recommended a better climate for her. The Jones’ daughter, Suzanne, told other neighbors that they were there to establish a branch of Peoples Temple. But Jones’ real job may have been something else. Rocha’s wife, Elza, a lawyer in Belo Horizonte who sometimes interpreted for Jones, recalled that her new neighbor told her that he had a job in Belo Horizonte proper, at Eureka Laundries. Sebastian Dias de Magalhaes—head of Industrial Relations for Eureka in 1962—said that Jones was not an employee of Eureka. Furthermore, Dias and two other Eureka employees said that “Jones lied in order to conceal what they believe was his work for the CIA.”
Another Brazilian resident, Marco Aurelio, said that he was “absolutely certain that Jones was a spy.” At the time, Marco was supposedly dating Joyce Beam, the daughter of Jack Beam, who himself was one of Jones’ top lieutenants. Jack and his daughter had reportedly traveled to Brazil with the Joneses. Marco claimed that a detective in the ID-4 section of the local Brazilian PD ordered him to keep an eye on Jones. The detective was certain that Jones was CIA, according to Marco. However, the detective mysteriously died before the investigation could be completed. Jones left the country not long afterwards.
Perhaps the most mysterious and dubious connection that Jim Jones had was his childhood friend, Dan Mitrione. The two met back in Richmond, Indiana, when Jones was a young boy preaching on street corners in a black neighborhood, and Mitrione was a Richmond Police Officer. Although Mitrione was a few years older, he took Jones under his wing. Mitrione later became Chief of the Richmond PD, and some say that he was the only reason that Jones did not get arrested and run out of town. Mitrione was later was recruited into the CIA, under State Department cover, in May of 1960, and was trained in counter-insurgency and torture techniques. Coincidentally, Mitrione had traveled to Brazil as an OPS adviser at the U.S. Consulate not long before Jones had arrived. A CIA file (201) was opened on Jim Jones at about that time. Although Jones later denied having any contact with Mitrione in Brazil, he did admit that he sought him out and actually met with Mitrione’s family while there.
Manuel Hevia Conculluela worked for the CIA in Uruguay’s police program. In 1970, his duties brought him in contact with Dan Mitrione in Montevideo. In his book, Passporte 11333: Eight Years With the CIA, which chronicles his CIA exploitations, Manuel wrote of the many pointers Mitrione gave him on how to torture and interrogate subjects.
Former CIA agent John Stockwell wrote a book entitled, The Praetorian Guard in which he explained a particular CIA training session for new recruits. After watching various films and teaching various torture techniques, the recruits were sent out on kidnapping missions. Stockwell identifies Dan Mitrione as the teacher of this training session. According to Stockwell, Mitrione gave almost identical advice on how to torture suspects to his students as he gave to Manuel.
Not long after Mitrione gave advice to Manuel, he was kidnapped by Tupermaro guerillas in Uruguay, interrogated and murdered. He was found dead in the back seat of a stolen car. Mysteriously, Jones’ 201-file was purged by the CIA immediately after Mitrione was kidnapped and murdered in Montevideo, Uruguay. Whether or not Jim Jones was an apprentice of Dan Mitrione is not known, but there is a strong possibility based on the circumstances and their history.
Blame it on Rio
It was reported by some that Jones would make frequent visits to the U.S. Consulate in Belo Horizonte. On October 18, 1962, Vice Consul, Jon Lodeesen, wrote a letter to Jones on Foreign Service stationary:
Dear Mr. Jones: We received a communication and we believe it’s in your interest to come at the consulate at your earliest convenience. Please see me.
The letter also had a picture attached to it of a man with a mustache, who some say looks strikingly similar to Jim Jones. Jim Hougan suggests that the letter had something to do with a second passport being issued to Jones while the first one was still valid. According to Soviet intelligence officers, Londeesen was a CIA agent who taught at the U.S. intelligence school in Garmisch Partenkirchen, West Germany. Coincidentally, Londeesen was recommended for work with a CIA cover in Hawaii, the “refuge” that Jones was said to have visited.
Jones lived in Belo Horizonte for eight months. In mid-December of 1962, Jones moved 250 miles west to Rio de Janeiro, where he and his family resided at #154 Rua Senador Vigueiro in the Flamengo neighborhood. At the same time, Mitrione went to the U.S. on a two month vacation, and then found an apartment in the Botafogo section of Rio de Janeiro. According to Brazilian immigration authorities, Jones left Rio for an unknown country at the end of March of 1963, and never returned.
According to the Brazil Herald on December 24-26, 1978, Jones found a job as an investment salesman in Rio for a company called, Invesco, S.A. The company was American owned, and some have speculated, CIA owned. Jones’ boss at Invesco, who asked the Brazil Herald to remain anonymous, confirmed Jones’ employment with the company: “As a salesman with us, he [Jones] didn’t make it. He was too shy and I don’t remember him selling anything. We hired him on a strictly commission basis and as far as I know, he didn’t sell anything in the three months that he worked for us.” This is a shocking account of a man who sold monkeys door to door, had people refer to him as God, and supposedly talked more than 900 people into committing suicide. Certainly no one else had ever accused Jones of being diffident!
This is not just a simple case of mismatching dates, but also deals with the consistency—or lack thereof—of Jim Jones’ character. Jim Jones did not believe in his own prophecies. He merely used them to coerce and manipulate people. As his son Stephan said in the History Channel’s Jonestown documentary, “My father always knew he was a fraud, even from the beginning.”
To think that 30 years after one of the greatest tragedies in American history, and it may have been perpetrated by a man with secret ties to our own government is almost inconceivable! Most people in the United States have taken the official account of Jonestown at face value, and have dismissed the cultists as deranged fanatics that willingly committed suicide in the Guyanese jungle 30 years ago. This is one reason among many why the incidents of November 18, 1978 have been swept under the rug, dismissed as merely an embarrassing episode in American history. However, with just a brief look into this story, one begins to see that the plethora of evidence in this case shows something far more sinister and almost incomprehensible had taken place.
If Jones had been actively working with the CIA as far back as 1961, then the implications of a 20-year experiment could certainly explain the final result. Unfortunately, this story is like being on a game show with no host: there’s no one there to tell you if you have the right answers or not.
Whatever the case, we must honor and remember the 918 American lives that tragically perished in Guyana that fateful day!
Alejandra, Patar. “Dan Mitrione, Un Maestro De La Tortura.” 9 Feb. 2001. http://www.clarin.com/diario/2001/09/02/i-03101.htm.
Hougan, Jim. “Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple.” http://jimhougan.com/JimJones.html.
“Jones Lived Well, Kept to Himself During Mysterious Brazil Stay.” San Jose Mercury News 27 Nov. 1978: 17A.
Judge, John. The Black Hole of Guyana: the Untold Story of the Jonestown Massacre. Rat Haus Reality Press. 1985. http://www.ratical.org/ratville/JFK/JohnJudge/Jonestown.html.
Langguth, A.J. “Torture’s Teachers.” The New York Times, 11 June 1979.
Reiterman, Tim, and John Jacobs. Raven : The Untold Story of the Reverend Jim Jones and His People. New York: Penguin Group Australia, 1987. pgs. 76-78, 83, 84, 596.
“The Rev. Jones ‘Integrates’ Hospital While a Patient.” Indianapolis Recorder, 7 Oct 1961.