Survivor Heard Cheers After Temple Death Rite
San Francisco Chronicle - Dec. 18, 1978, p. 2
Matthews Ridge, Guyana
Thirty to 45 minutes after the "revolutionary suicide" seemed to have ended and silence had fallen on Jonestown, a survivor hiding in the bush heard what he says sounded like a chorus of cheers from within the commune.
"What I heard, I would say was three cheers," the survivor, Stanley Clayton told a coroner's jury here late Friday. "It sounded like a lot of people. It was just a lot of voices."
The jury is conducting the first formal inquiry into the deaths of more than 900 people in Jonestown.
As he attempted to re-enter the commune on November 18 to recover his passport, Clayton said, he heard five gunshots being fired and dropped back into the jungle. Later, he said, as he pulled the passport from an office file, he heard a sixth shot, snapped off the light, then waited several minutes before slipping out along the main dirt road.
Clayton, a 35-year-old former security guard and kitchen hand, said he saw no one else alive in Jonestown. But he said that as he walked to a police outpost six miles away, at Port Kaituma, he met villagers who told him they had seen others apparently fleeing Jonestown.
Clayton said he had not run into the bush until all but 100 to 200 persons had died. When many men and women seemed reluctant to join in the death ceremony, he said, the Rev. Jim Jones, beseeching and cajoling through a microphone, came down from the stage with a phalanx of security guards and began "pulling people up from their seats saying they must go."
Clayton recalled: "He kept telling them, 'I love you. I love you. It is nothing but a deep sleep. It won't hurt you. It's just like closing your eyes and drifting into a deep sleep.'"
The prosecuting attorney, the magistrate and the five locally selected jurors did not question Clayton about unidentified survivors, the gunshots or the duress that he reported.
At the opening of the inquest four days ago, Guyana's chief criminal pathologist told the court he had found only two victims of gunshot wounds among the Jonestown bodies: Jones and Annie Elisabeth Moore, the cult leader's personal nurse. Each, he said, had been shot once.
Outside the courtroom, Clayton, who has reportedly received several thousand dollars from The National Inquirer for exclusive rights to his story, refused to elaborate on his testimony.
He gave a vivid account of mothers and nurses lifting cups of cyanide-laced, fruit-flavored drinks to the lips of babies and of some women injecting the poison into their children.
"There were mothers and people crying," he said, "and Jim came across on the speakers telling them to 'Shut up. Don't be scaring the babies like that. Make them feel happy.' He was saying they have to die proud with dignity.
At first, Clayton said, it seemed that many in the commune thought they were participating in one of the "white night" drills that Jones conducted, that they were not actually taking poison.
"After mostly the babies were gone, I would say, people began realizing this was really taking place," he testified.
It was at this point, he said, that many men and women seemed reluctant to continue the death ceremony and that Jim Jones stepped into the crowd and began guiding them toward the poison vat. Jones's wife, Marceline, also walked among the followers, Clayton said, hugging them and saying, "I'll see you in your next life."
After watching most of the cultists die, Clayton said, he began trying to find a way out. He said he bumped into several members of the security force. One turned a bow and arrow in his direction, but others gently directed him back toward the pavilion, he said.
Finally he embraced one guard and said he was going to say goodbye to some people in a nearby tent. "I looked back and saw nobody was following me," he said, "and I took off."
New York Times