Tuesday, November 20, 2007
I have decided to offer the book in a serialized version for periodicals. I will provide 22 articles of approximately 2500 words each or 11 articles of about 5000 words each. If you would like to see The Ghosts of November serialized in your hometown newspaper, please contact me and I will try to arrange it.
If you are an editor and want to use the serialization of my book, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, August 4, 2007
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Scott Butki has written an excellent review of Stanley Nelson's documentary, Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple. The film also has been nominated for an Academy Award. While there has been fairly consistent interest in the massacre that took place in Jonestown 29 years ago this November, as we approach the 30th anniversary of the horrific event, I think it is safe to say, curiousity in what happened at that jungle enclave before many of the people reading this posting was born, has never been higher.
My book, The Ghosts of November: Memoirs of an Outsider Who Witnessed the Carnage at Jonestown, Guyana, originally published in 1998, is the only account written by a member of the task force sent to Guyana to recover the remains of the 914 Americans who perished there. I have meticulously revised it, included footnotes and an index and more than 20 photographs.
November 18, 2008 marks the 30th anniversary of the massacre, an appropriate time for my revision to be published. As of yet, I have been unable to find an agent or editor interested in doing that. I will self-publish it as I did the first edition, if I must. However, I would prefer the more traditional route to publication this time.
If you know an agent or publisher who may be interested in this project, please have him or her contact me.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
November 18, 2008 will be the 30th anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre. Dr. Jynona Norwood, lost family members that day and has been working toward the construction of a permanent memorial to the children that were murdered. Here is her story:
My name is Jynona Norwood, CEO of Cherishing the Children/Guyana Tribute Foundation. I am writing you today regarding the 913 American citizens who perished in the Jonestown Massacre. Although, I was never a member of Peoples Temple, we lost 27 family members in the Jonestown Massacre and 17 were youths. Among them were my loving mother, Fairy Norwood and a 3-month-old cousin, Charles Henderson, Jr. I rescued/kidnapped, my son from my family as they were raising him while I traveled and preached as an evangelist. These loving people were the kindest and bravest most selfless people you would have ever wanted to meet. Our loved ones were deceived! They were held in captivity by Jim Jones and we now need your help in remembering them.
We need your support and presence to erect the Cherishing the Children Healing Memorial Wall in memory of the 276 children, their families, Congressman Leo Ryan and the UPI news crew who perished in this incredible act of violence. The survivors and surviving families of Jonestown have resolved, with the public's help, to erect this memorial. The monument will be placed in the Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, California where 406 bodies lay in a mass grave who are mostly children. In the spirit of those who honored the tragic passing of their loved ones in events such as the Jewish Holocaust, the Columbine shooting, the Vietnam War and most recently, the tragedy of 9/11, we envision the erection of this wall in memorial to the Jonestown Massacre. The children in the photographs at the top of this letter perished in Jonestown without a fighting chance and we must say "Never again........gone but not forgotten."
We are not a part of any other groups who are collecting monies for any type of memorial in the name of the Jonestown victims. The staff remains vigilant in their efforts to erect the wall, which will have a three-fold purpose: To honor the sanctity of the innocent lives that were lost; to raise public awareness that you never give up your ability to think for yourself; and to question everyone and everything!
I implore you by making two requests:
1) To help us erect this Historical Memorial Wall by making a donation.
2) Contact your friends, business owners, corporations to make a donation of granite, inscribers or a contribution. We are 501(c)3 tax-deductible.
A percentage of the funds will be donated to students in building their future by giving scholarships to college or technical school. Jacque Behar is our scholarship director. You can send all donations to: KAIPERM (FCU) 2101 BROADWAY ST., OAKLAND, CA. 94612 attn: SHARON or you can send all letters with your sentiments about the victims with or without your donation to DR. NORWOOD, PO BOX 3330, HOLLYWOOD, CA. 90078.
Check out Dr. Norwood's website and give a donation. Let's get this done before the 30th anniversary is history.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Sunday, July 1, 2007
The cult is authoritarian in its power structure. The leader is regarded as the supreme authority. He or she may delegate certain power to a few subordinates for the purpose of seeing that members adhere to the leader's wishes and roles. There is no appeal outside of his or her system to greater systems of justice. For example, if a school teacher feels unjustly treated by a principal, appeals can be made. In a cult, the leader claims to have the only and final ruling on all matters.
The cult's leaders tend to be charismatic, determined, and domineering. They persuade followers to drop their families, jobs, careers, and friends to follow them. They (not the individual) then take over control of their followers' possessions, money, lives.
The cult's leaders are self-appointed, messianic persons who claim to have a special mission in life. For example, the flying saucer cult leaders claim that people from outer space have commissioned them to lead people to special places to await a space ship.
The cult's leaders center the veneration of members upon themselves. Priests, rabbis, ministers, democratic leaders, and leaders of genuinely altruistic movements keep the veneration of adherents focused on God, abstract principles, and group purposes. Cult leaders, in contrast, keep the focus of love, devotion, and allegiance on themselves.
The cult tends to be totalitarian in its control of the behavior of its members. Cults are likely to dictate in great detail what members wear, eat, when and where they work, sleep, and bathe-as well as what to believe, think, and say.
The cult tends to have a double set of ethics. Members are urged to be open and honest within the group, and confess all to the leaders. On the other hand, they are encouraged to deceive and manipulate outsiders or nonmembers. Established religions teach members to be honest and truthful to all, and to abide by one set of ethics.
The cult has basically only two purposes, recruiting new members and fund-raising. Established religions and altruistic movements may also recruit and raise funds. However, their sole purpose is not to grow larger; such groups have the goals to better the lives of their members
and mankind in general. The cults may claim to make social contributions, but in actuality these remain mere claims, or gestures. Their focus is always dominated by recruiting new members and fund-raising.
The cult appears to be innovative and exclusive. The leader claims to be breaking with tradition, offering something novel, and instituting the only viable system for change that will solve life's problems or the world's ills. While claiming this, the cult then surreptitiously uses systems of psychological coercion on its members to inhibit their ability to examine the actual validity of the claims of the leader and the cult.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
One of the reasons I wrote and have revised The Ghosts of November was to warn people about the proliferation of dangerous doomsday cults and alternative religions, like the Peoples Temple. Jim Jones had a sign over his throne in the Jonestown pavilion from which he directed the deaths of 913 of his followers and their children. It read "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it."
I believe it is imperative the members of Mike Peters' Churches around the country are made aware of what happened in Jonestown Guyana 29 years ago. Please make this your priority as well. You may be saving lives.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Koresh had sex with many of the women in his sect. He often complained that it was a real chore and sacrifice for him. Some of his wives were 16 years of age and younger.
Mike Peters obviously has some sexual issues, especially when it comes to intimate relations between the husbands and wives of his group. Like Koresh and Jones before him, one of Peters' main games is to have the wives degrade their husbands. Often Peters takes trips accompanied by some of the wives, never by their husbands, apparently.
Messiahs are nothing new. The Christian church was hardly a few hundred years old before they began coming out of the woodwork. Mike Peters appears to be only the latest version of these frequently mentally disturbed men, and sometimes women, who have become self-proclaimed representatives for God, and often say they are God himself.
I have received some emails and comments from former members of Peters' Church in Indianapolis. Most fear him and many feel he may be the next cult leader to order his followers into oblivion a la the drinking of Flavor-Ade as they did in Jonestown 29 years ago.
Anyone contemplating being led by or following Mike Peters to their own deaths really should read Rogue Messiahs. It may just pop their cult bubble and make them realize how foolish they have been.
One last note to the Peterites who may be reading this post. Although I am not a Christian, at one time, I was a BTC (if you are one you will know what it means). Consider Mike's order that his followers not associate with non Peterites because they are pagans. Is this what Jesus did? Did he only associate with those who believed in him? Of course not. He went where the sinners were so they could be saved. Mike Peters doesn't want his followers to do the same because then he will be exposed for the fraud he is.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Indianapolis Magazine has an interesting article in this month's edition. It is the story of Mike Peters and the Church in Indianapolis, a controversial and fairly secretive alternative religion that has been in the city for some time.
Some former members who have left the organization say the leader of the organization is dictatorial and controlling. They have a website that allows dissident members to give testimony to their experiences in the group. http://www.indianapoliscult.com/allatmikesfeet/welcome.aspx
This website warns visitors that home churches or house churches, traditional church meetings, fellowship groups, bible studies, and home schooling groups across the country are falling into cult-like teachings. The leaders in these cult are buying up domain names like housechurch.com and others to draw people to themselves.
I read the magazine article a couple of days ago as I sat in a dentist office waiting for my wife. It was an excellent piece of journalism that was made difficult to write due to the apparent phobia all the church's leadership and members have towards the media.
I hope everyone considering joining a nontraditional church or religious group will read the website listed above. To be fair, here is the Church in Indianapolis (CII) website: http://www.allathisfeet.com/index.html
What do you say, reader? Is CII a cult?
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Alleged Guyanese terrorists were arrested last week for conspiracy to blow up JFK Airport. This may be met with some degree of contempt if not outright hostility in some and perhaps many instances.Already 140,000 to 200,000 Guyanese live in the New York City area. Richmond Hills, Queens is called "Little Guyana." That's about a quarter of the South American nation's population of 775,000.
Guyana is experiencing serious economic woes and many flee the crime that has become rampant in that country. We live in a climate where immigrants are vilified as intruders here to take away jobs and other economic benefits that some Americans think only a few should be entitled to. Anti-immigrant sentiments have increased, especially after the WTC horrors and just as being Muslim has taken on a certain kind of onerousness, so now being an immigrant is rapidly becoming something many do not wish to be known as.
The alarming thing about this alleged plot is that, if it had managed to be carried through, it would have killed not only Americans (bad enough) but also so many other people including Guyanese from all over the world.
This would have been a most incomprehensible act made even more disturbing to Guyanese people because of the involvement of their own countrymen. Although the plot, thanks to the good work of the FBI, was never allowed to see the light of day, the mere thought of planning such a thing is horrible, crazy, stupid, and shameful.
Not since Jonestown, I think has Guyana been catapulted so ignominiously into the international spotlight. United States Congressman John Murtha expressed the thought on the George Stephanalous Sunday morning TV program that this kind of "home grown" terrorist plot comes as a result of US involvement in Iraq.
Whether that is true or not, I don't think it would be an overstatement to say that the Guyanese people involved have to a degree disgraced the name of Guyana and may well have, at least for now, hurt the honor and pride many Guyanese around the world feel to hail from that land.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
The topic of the essays shall be "Cults and Religious Freedom." Essays must be no less than 500 words and no longer than 1000 words. Spelling and grammar do count and the winning entry will be judged by Rebecca Bibbs, author of The Nubian Codex and award winning professional journalist.
Other rules of the writing contest include:
1. The grand prizewinning entry will be published on this blog in November 2008.
2. You must be age 16 or over to enter.
3. Your entry must be an unpublished work by you, and be on the topic "Religious Freedom and Cults." All entries become the property of The Ghosts of November Blog and may be posted on the blog.
4. Entries must be typed and double-spaced. They are to be placed into the body of an email sent to email@example.com. The subject of the email must be "Writing Contest Entry."
5. Please include the title of your piece on top of the piece.
6. Your essay should be no less than 500 and no more than 1000 words.
7. Send as many entries as you like.
8. Include the following on your entry email:
- Title of the entry
- Snail mail address
- Email address
- Biographical facts
i.e. If you're a student: your birthdate; what grade you are going into; the school you attend; your major, if applicable; hobbies; a photo of yourself (no Polaroids or color copies).
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
As for a regular time for me to be available in the chat room, how does Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 8:00 AM New York time suit you? I'll be in the room for at least an hour, maybe longer if there are hoards of people present and interesting conversation.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
I first came to this West African enigma in 1995 was run by an oppressive military government under the dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. By 1999, Nigeria was a democracy and this year, for the first time in its history, a democratically elected government was replaced by admittedly flawed democratic elections. Believe it or not, this represents a great achievement for this fragile country.
I've been working here for 26 months this time, 28 days on and then 28 days back home in Indiana. The changes I have noticed the past two years and two months have been monumental. From the airport which is modern with all of its airconditioning and people movers working, to the people who work for the Nigerian government I deal with on a regular basis.
What I will miss most about this nation are her people. I have made many good friends here, from oil field workers to journalists and writers, to immigrations and customs officers. I shall miss them all.
I have high hopes for this country if it can ever free itself from the greed and tyranny that is implicit with fraudulently run state and federal elections. If the government can start treating those who have nothing in a gentler and more just manner, there is nothing the people of this country can't accomplish.
Farewell Nigeria, if and when I am able to conquer a few of my health problems, I definitely plan to land at this airport again.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Note: What follows is Chapter 8 of The Ghosts of November from the first edition. In the rewriting of the revision, significant changes have been made.
"Wait Until They Open This One in Dover"
Guyana is located on the northeast shoulder of South America. It covers about 83,000 square miles (216 square kilometers) and is bordered by the countries of Venezuela to the northwest, Brazil on the west and south and by Surinam on the east. Its northern border is the Atlantic Ocean.
All but about 30 percent of Guyana is made up of tropical rain forest. The country is located just north of the equator. It rains 80 to 100 inches a year and the temperatures are usually in the high 80s and 90s during the day.
Guyana is said to be one of the most beautiful countries in South America, with many rivers and waterfalls. But for most of the Americans taking part in this mission, beauty is not what they will remember about Guyana. If the jungle area around Jonestown was rich in exotic wildlife and flora, none of us noticed it because we were too overwhelmed by the ugliness that accompanies mass death. Grossly bloated bodies, deformed by so many hours of exposure to the heat of the tropical sun that they burst and deposited copious amounts of their putrid foul-smelling contents onto the earth, have a way of striking one blind to anything lovely.
As soon as the rest of the GRREG team joined the advance party and they all received a briefing from Colonel Gordon, the preliminary work of trying to identify the remains they were preparing to evacuate began. Jonestown was divided into sections and the remains found in each section were catalogued and tagged.
For the newly arrived mortuary affairs specialists who were now fanning out in to all areas of the clearing that made up the commune, the full extent of the carnage was quickly becoming apparent, as was the thought that on this unique mission, the identification process alone would be next to impossible. Only a comparatively few of the 914 bodies bore the handmade ID bracelets many family members attached to their wrists before taking the poison and even fewer had been identified by Odell Rhodes and his team of Jonestown survivor volunteers.
The condition of the bodies at this point in time, four days after the mass murder/suicide, made further visual identification impossible except for a very few like the Reverend Jim Jones himself who was among the first to be catalogued, tagged and bagged by the GRREG personnel. This was very disconcerting to some of these troops whose lives were dedicated to the business of processing the remains of human beings after catastrophic events and who prided themselves on being able to identify most of the remains they dealt with.
In a wartime situation, the ID tags worn by soldiers almost always provide positive proof of death and help to identify remains. In airplane crashes and natural disasters that involve the loss of many lives, wallets and jewelry can often be used to place a name to the victim.
But the remains of the residents of Jonestown posed problems that the GRREG team members had never encountered before in such huge numbers. Very few of the dead carried wallets or wore jewelry. By Tuesday, the bodies were badly bloated with heads resembling those of hydrocephalic children. They were in such an advanced state of decomposition, recognition was not possible. The color of almost every victim was a dark blue-black, making it difficult to determine even the ethnicity of a corpse.
The fact that nearly everyone who perished, be they Caucasian or Black, now shared the same color was a strange irony because the man they followed to their death, Jim Jones, was recognizably Caucasian. It was as if the members of the People's Temple had finally achieved a form of equality in death and the evil person who led them to their eternal end did not share this attribute.
There were name tags sewn into most of the clothing worn by the residents of Jonestown. Unfortunately, the communal lifestyle makes for the sharing of wardrobes, so many corpses wore clothes bearing two or three different names, none of which were actually their own.
The task of identifying the bodies was fouler than the process of placing the remains into the body bags. During the identification process, bodies had to be individually checked, pockets turned inside-out and ID bracelets read and recorded. This meant touching and handling the quickly decomposing remains, many of which were already displaying the eggs lain by the millions of flies drawn to the town. Maggots dotted the entire area where the bodies were.
One common form of life usually found wherever death in the tropics occurs was conspicuously missing from Jonestown and its sky. One can only speculate about the absence of buzzards, these scavenger birds that are as common in the warmer climes as cardinals are in Missouri. Perhaps these birds that feed off carrion and keep the environment clean, realized the men, women and children of Jonestown died from the ingestion of a deadly poison. I really do not know what caused the buzzards to stay away, but as an old tropical hand and a long time resident of South Texas where the birds are common, their absence in Jonestown added to the unrealness of the occasion.
By Tuesday morning, when the identification process was well under way by some of the members of the GRREG team, other began the arduous task of placing the remains in body bags.
The first attempts to pick up the bodies by grasping their heads and limbs and lifting them in to the bags more often than not, caused a limb or two or a head to become detached from its bloated liquid-filled torso. When this happened, a foul thick serous fluid would stream from the body part being held by a hapless soldier and an even larger amount would flow from the torso as it landed back down on the ground. Because the bodies were in such close proximity to one another, it wasn't long before the soil in Jonestown became a muddy mix of dirt and smelly human borne liquid.
As the first bodies were being bagged, I was sitting in our aid station in Matthews Ridge, breathing the air that was not fouled by the bodies in Jonestown. Fourteen miles is a long way for an odor to travel and being south of the commune, in an area where the prevailing winds flow east and west, we had little to fear that our atmosphere would become like that of Jonestown.
I knew the process occurring in Jonestown that morning involved the bodies being tagged and bagged where they lay, then they were loaded onto a trailer towed by the commune's tractor and driven to the edge of the landing zone built at the edge of the soccer field. The body bags would be placed directly on the Jolly Green Giants from the trailer and then flown 350 miles to Tameri Airport in Georgetown, where they would be placed in aluminum coffins that were marked with the occupant's identity, if it was known.
Every hour, the U.S. Air Force communications man in Jonestown would radio his body count report for us to relay to Georgetown. During the first hour after the operation to evacuate the bodies began, less than 10 of the dead had been bagged. An equally small number was called in after the second hour. Then, before it was time for the next hourly radio transmission, we received a rather odd request from Jonestown.
"Tell HQ we need snow shovels." was the curt statement that came across the airwaves. Snow shovels? Guyana is a tropical country that has never seen snow. How would we be able to procure snow shovels for Jonestown and why did they need them?
The call for the unusual cold weather implements was dutifully relayed to the Task Force Headquarters at Tameri Airport and from there to the U.S. Air Force Base at Charleston, South Carolina. Within six hours, three dozen snow shovels arrived in Jonestown for use by the GRREG personnel.
With the arrival of these simple tools so alien to this region of the world, the process of placing the rotting remains in body bags was streamlined greatly. Usually, six or eight soldiers, three or four on each side of the very fragile body, would lift it in unison, a foot or so off the ground. Two other soldiers would then slide an open body bag under the suspended snow shovels and the remains would be gently deposited inside.
This procedure sounds simple, but it wasn't always as successful as the GRREG team members hoped it would be. The body juices continued to flow freely from orifices and breaks in the skin, creating a slippery, gooey mess. Sometimes a heavy head, two times its normal size, would slip from the shovel and fall to the earth below with a thud after it became severed from the fragile neck.
But, for the most part, the bagging process was made much more efficient by the unconventional use of the snow shovels. A definite increase in the GRREG team's productivity was noted when the hourly reports were called in. We maintained a running cumulative total of the bodies bagged. By the end of the first day, nearly 100 bodies had been evacuated from Jonestown to Tameri Airport.
Wednesday found more than three times that number had been processed with the cumulative total reaching over 400. Those of us in Matthews Ridge, away from the actual gruesome scene being played out in Jonestown, found that figure curious because initially it had been reported by the GDF that around 400 Americans had perished on November 18. Now, here it was five days later and the body count continued to mount.
But in Jonestown, there was no mystery. After evacuating the remains of nearly 450 adult Americans who died in the massacre, it had become obvious the bulk of the residents had lain themselves atop one another, in layers if you will, after ingesting the cyanide-laced Flavor-Ade.
When the audio tape of Jones urging his flock to participate in the ritual suicide is studied and one is able to view the topography of the land, it appears the infants and babies who had the poison forced down their tiny throats by their mothers using needle-less syringes, were placed at the bottom of a slight and wide concave area near the pavilion. The toddlers represented the second wave of surely uncooperative victims to be killed and they were placed on top of the babies. Next came the pre-adolescents, then the adolescents, then the young teens, all taking their last drinks on earth in turn, or having the poison forced upon them, then taking their places on top of younger siblings who preceded them in death.
The senior citizens of Jonestown were the next to go, along with some of the mothers who were grieving because of the remorse they felt at having murdered their own children moments before. These people, young and old, all became part of the pile that appeared flat because of the lay of the land. Finally, able-bodied adult residents of the commune, either voluntarily or by force, drank the cyanide-filled fruit drink and became the final layer of what looked like 400 victims, but as actually an inverted pyramid of more than twice that number of dead.
Thursday November 23, 1978 was Thanksgiving Day, perhaps the most miserable one ever spent by the 100 or so American troops who had journeyed to Jonestown to retrieve the remains of their countrymen who died there. By now, the evacuation process had become old hat and harmless diversions were practiced by the GRREG personnel to make their hard tedious work under the hot sun seem to go by faster. One team of baggers would race another to see how many bags each could manage to fill in an hour. Grape Kool-Ade jokes were composed, repeated, embellished and memorized for repeating when they arrived back home, forever falsely stigmatizing the beverage as the drink of choice at the Jonestown Massacre. One graves registration specialist with a musical inclination composed a song about Jonestown in his precious spare time.
But even the jokes, races and songs could not take the minds of the American troops off of the football games they were missing and the parades and the home style turkey dinners that even the mess halls in Panama and the States were serving on this day. The troops in Jonestown did enjoy their first hot meal since arriving in Guyana on this day, however, in the form of Swanson's Roast Turkey TV Dinners that had been heated up at Tameri Airport and flown in by helicopter.
By Friday, November 24, the routine in Jonestown continued and the body count had increased to nearly 650. An absence of body bags had slowed down the progress considerably, but more were being flown in from the United States. Most of the adult victims of the massacre had been removed from Jonestown by this day and even the GREG troops were horrified to find most of the remains that were left were those of pre-teens and babies. A total of 270 children had been murdered in Jonestown on November 18, 1978. Many were never identified.
Since body bags were in short supply and since the remains of the children were unidentifiable, the ingenious GREG personnel decided they would put the bodies of two or more children into one body bag. By this time, the job was becoming an exhausting one and even the most rabid of mortuary specialists were ready to clean up and go home.
On Sunday, November 26, by the time the last Jolly Green Giant helicopter of the day lifted from the Jonestown soccer field, all but about 50 of the massacre victims had been airlifted out. The next time these big choppers would take off from Jonestown, it would be carrying body number 914, the last American People's Temple member to leave the commune.
Monday, November 27 marked our last day in Guyana and the official end of the mission that brought 200 American soldiers to this tropical country. I was standing on the hot tarmac at Tameri Airport, thinking of how this country I had never heard of before would be remembered by most of my generation as the place where the Jonestown Massacre happened.
I was watching as the last helicopter that left Jonestown with bodies touched down. I observed as a group of extremely tired and thoroughly stressed out young American soldiers who had spent the last seven days of their lives removing the remains of dead Americans from helicopters did so for the final time.
As I noted the robot-like movements of these men as they repeated the process of picking a body bag up from the helicopter, walking to the tailgate of a waiting truck and depositing their burden on the truck, I saw that their faces were mask-like, completely devoid of any emotion. Their Army uniforms were soaked beyond cleaning with the sweat of their own skin and fluids from the bodies of the dead they had been carrying.
As I gazed upon this depressing scene, Colonel Gordon, the gruff, no-nonsense Joint Task Force commander approached me. "Brailey," he barked, "Did y'all bring any psyche techs with you from Panama?"
"No sir," I answered, "Why?"
"They were tryin' to put that dead go-rilla into a body bag," said Gordon.
Jim Jones had a huge chimpanzee that was kept in a cage near his cottage.
Jones called it "Mr. Muggs." It is rumored that small children were put into the cage with the old chimp as a form of punishment.
During my first tour of Jonestown the week before, I saw poor Mr. Muggs. He had been shot to death. That dead chimpanzee smelled much worse than any of the human remains did.
Gordon went on, "They kept tryin' to push that big go-rilla's shoulders into the body bag, but they just couldn't get it to zip up. I watched 'em for a few minutes until one of them graves registration guys was gonna hack its shoulders off with a machete."
"Hold it!' I commanded," said Colonel Gordon in his loud voice, "Why are you gonna hack that go-rilla up?"
"Because he won't fit into the body bag, sir," was the respectful reply of the ringleader of the GRREG soldiers.
"Why are you puttin' that go-rilla into the body bag anyway?" asked the tired and confused Joint Task Force commander.
"Why, sir? WHY? Just wait until they open this one up in Dover!" was the devilish reply of the leering GRREG soldier.
Gordon told me he said to the practical joker, "Now look son, I don't mind you playin' a joke on them folks up in Dover, but I won't allow you to mutilate that poor go-rilla just to fit him into the bag."
He took the machete away from the soldier and stood back watching. This group of six graves registration specialists who had just spent more than week bagging the remains of 914 dead American human beings worked for more than 30 minutes trying to maneuver the dead chimpanzee into the body bag. As the last Jolly Green Giant lifted off from the soccer field with the last sets of human remains from the massacre on November 18, the tireless GRREG troopers were still working hard to pull off their macabre joke.
Like most of the 914 Americans returning home to the United States through the Air Force Base at Dover, Delaware, Mr. Muggs had come to Jonestown from San Francisco. Unlike them, he never returned.
Friday, May 25, 2007
The play begins in a library with a white-gloved archivist lifting a choir robe from a box. It ends in a jungle enclave in Guyana called Jonestown.
Fondakowski used interviews with survivors and copious amounts of audiotapes that were found in Jonestown as well as letters and other archival written materials as sources for the verbatim dialog of the play. This method of writing the play allowed the true feelings of those who lived the Jonestown trauma to come through.
Her writing methods are very similar to those of another play The People's Temple is sometimes compared with, "The Laramie Project." Moises Kauffman and his Tectonic Theater Project used interview transcripts to craft their powerful account of the reaction to the homophobic murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. The play has been performed in venues across the country and was turned into a well-received HBO movie.
The People's temple has only played to audiences in Berkeley and at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota as far as I can tell. However, the artistic director of the Denver Theater Company, coincidentally, where The Laramie Project premiered, has said he hopes his theater will perform it in 2008. Hopefully The People's Temple will play to many more theaters across the country in 2008 since it is the 30th anniversary year of the Jonestown Massacre.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
It's a month to the day that the blog received its first visitor and we have received much more traffic than I had hoped for. We are enjoying an average of 19 unique visits a day (blue). Ten visits each day are from first time visitors and nine are from returning visitors (orange). On an average day, 41 pages are accessed.
The most visitors have naturally come from the USA, with more than 850 visits this first 30 days. France had the second largest number of visits with 29 and the United Kingdom had 14. Canada had a total of 12 visitors, the Netherlands nine, and Nigeria four. China, Brazil and Australia each had three visitors and Spain and Senegal had two each. Ten other nations each had one visitor, making a total of 21 nations that had people see the site.
We appreciate the continued interest people are showing The Ghosts of November. Readers from as far away as Bahrain and as close as North Carolina have said they want to read it. I am looking forward to getting it published and meeting with a lot of future readers as I go around the country marketing it.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Last night, a fellow from Great Britain told me he looked up The Ghosts of November on Amazon.com UK.
The Ghosts of November at Amazon.com in the United Kingdom
He surprised me when he told me what the book dealer was asking for it - £238 or almost $500. That's about 25 times the original retail price of $19.95. On May 31, it was listed at £120, still much higher than in the USA.
On the USA's version of Amazon.com, the book is going for $120. Frankly, I can't imagine anyone paying that much for it.
The Ghosts of November at Amazon.com in the USA
I am seeking a literary agent to represent the revision of the book with publishers. The new and improved Ghosts has so much more than the first edition, I don't know why I can't find an agent interested in pitching it to a publisher.
When I send book queries and proposals out, I include the URL to this blog. Perhaps some agent out there will see this and kindly explain to me why, with the first edition selling for almost its weight in gold, why they feel this book is not for them?
The Ghosts of November on Ebay Half.com
Sunday, May 20, 2007
The Ghosts of November: Memoirs of an Outsider who Witnessed the Carnage at Jonestown, Guyana.
San Antonio: J & J Publishers, 1998.
Salvation and suicide: an interpretation of Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple, and Jonestown
Bloomington : Indiana University Press, c1988
Awake in a Nightmare: Jonestown: The Only Eyewitness Account.
New York: W. W. Norton, 1981
Hall, John R.
Gone from the promised land: Jonestown in American cultural history
New Brunswick, U.S.A. : Transaction Books, c1987
Kahalas, Laurie Efrein
Snake Dance: Unravelling the Mysteries of Jonestown.
New York: Red Robin Press, 1998
Kern, Phil and Doug Wead.
People’s Temple, People’s Tomb.
Plainfield N.J.: Logos International, 1979.
The suicide cult : the inside story of the Peoples Temple sect and the massacre in Guyana
New York : Bantam Books, 1978
The cult that died : the tragedy of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple
New York : Putnam, c1980
Krause, Charles A.
Guyana massacre : the eyewitness account
New York : Berkley Publishing Corporation, c1978
The Strongest Poison.
New York: Hawthorn, 1980
Seductive poison: a Jonestown survivor's story of life and death in the Peoples Temple.
New York : Anchor Books, 1998
Violence and Religious Commitment: Implications of Jim Jones's Peoples Temple Movement. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1982
Maaga, Mary McCormick.
Hearing the voices of Jonestown
Syracuse, N.Y. : Syracuse University Press, 1998
Melton, J. Gordon
Peoples Temple and Jim Jones: Broadening Our Perspective.
New York: Garland, 1990.
Six years with God : life inside Reverend Jim Jones' Peoples Temple
New York : A & W Publishers, 
A Sympathetic History of Jonestown: The Moore Family Involvement in Peoples Temple. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1985
The Jonestown Letters: Correspondence of the Moore Family 1970-1985.
Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1986
In Defense of Peoples Temple.
Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1988.
Moore, Rebecca, Anthony B. Pinn and Mary R. Sawyer, eds. Nugent, John Peer
Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America.
Bloomington: University of Indiana, 2004
New York: Rawson, Wade Publishers, 1979
Nugent, John Peer
Jonestown and Other Madness.
Ithaca, N.Y.: Firebrand Books, 1985
Raven : the untold story of the Rev. Jim Jones and his people
New York : Dutton, c1982
Reston, James, Jr.
Our Father Who Art in Hell.
New York: Times Books, 1981
Jesus and Jim Jones: Behind Jonestown.
New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1979.
Dear People: Remembering Jonestown.
Berkeley: Heyday Books, 2005.
The broken god
Elgin, Ill. : D. C. Cook, c1979
The onliest one alive: surviving Jonestown, Guyana
Indianapolis, Ind. : M. Towne, 1995
U.S. Committee on Foreign Affairs
The Assassination of Representative Leo J. Ryan and the Jonestown, Guyana Tragedy. U.S. House of Representatives, 96th Congress, First Session. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1979
U.S. Committee on Foreign Affairs Hearing
The Death of Representative Leo J. Ryan, Peoples Temple, and Jonestown: Understanding a Tragedy. U.S. House of Representatives, 96th Congress, First Session. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1979
How the Millennium Comes Violently.
Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1998
Wessinger, Catherine Lowman.
How the millennium comes violently: from Jonestown to Heaven's Gate.
New York : Seven Bridges Press, c2000.
The children of Jonestown
New York : McGraw-Hill, c1981
Yee, Min S.
In my father's house : the story of the Layton family and the Reverend Jim Jones
New York : Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, c1981
Friday, May 18, 2007
I'll wait three months after submitting the postal proposals to see if I receive any positive replies, then I'll look for a printer to self-publish with again. Whatever route I finally take, I will get The Ghosts of November printed by June 2008.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
If the agent sent me a run-of-the mill rejection (i.e. too busy, not right for us, not the type of book we represent, not taking on any new clients right now,, etc.) I wouldn't have minded. But this?
Dear Mr. Brailey,
I had to respond to this clueless agent and here is what I said:
I am going to respectfully disagree with XYZ's assessment of my book. There is no other book that describes what happened in Jonestown after the massacre. Interest in this subject is as high as its ever been, evidenced by the hits I am receiving on my blogsite (http://novemberghosts.blogspot,com) and the emails I get on a regular basis from scholars and conspiracy buffs and all kinds of people in between.
I self-published the book in 1998 and did very well marketing the 5000 copies printed on radio talk shows. If I have to do it again, I will. I am committed to the success of my book and will do what I need to to get the revision published.
Thank you for your reply. I am confident Mr. Z. will wish he represented me next year when I hit the speaking trail with other members of the Jonestown Institute's speakers bureau. I usually don't reply to the replies of agents, but you are so very wrong about the market for my book I was compelled to in this case.
I originally sent the following query letter along with my book proposal, which you can find on another page of this blog:
My book proposal follows. I do have two more nonfiction book ideas to pitch to publishers. One is a memoir of my life as a derelict and the other a nonfiction narrative about cults in the 21st century.
What do you think dear blog reader? Did I do the right thing or should I have left the clueless agent alone?
To be sure, there have been a great many positive changes since I first set foot on West African soil some 12 years ago. The airport alone is the first major improvement one notices. Not only is the air conditioning comfortably cool throughout the building, the people movers actually work almost all of the time. The second improvement at the airport is the absence of would-be "helpers," scrambling to carry your bags for tips and there are absolutely no immigrations or customs officials with their hands out asking for dash money.
Until the recent elections, the roads were relatively easy to travel. There were no roadblocks of soldiers and policemen every few kilometers trying to extort money from passing vehicles. Once in 1997, when I was returning from a four-day trip to London, when I had to accompany a very sick American to the Hospital for Tropical Medicine there, my car was stopped when I returned. My driver, liaison and I were summarily removed from our vehicle and our the army lieutenant in charge asked to see my papers.
Unbeknown st to me, the military dictator at the time, General Sani Abacha, had arrested some of his generals a few days earlier and accused them of plotting a coup. Incidentally, the current president, for at least two more weeks, Obasanjo, was one of those generals arrested. At any rate, I was asked if I had returned to Nigeria to destabilize the government. Was I a CIA spy, the lieutenant wanted to know.
As our vehicle and my bags were searched, I tried to explain why I left and returned. Finally, a private pulled a stethoscope out of my bag and showed it to the lieutenant. "You are a doctor?" he asked.
"Yes I am," I answered in a Jon Lovitz tone of voice.
"Sorry for the misunderstanding, you may go," said the suddenly apologetic Nigerian officer.
I have worked very closely with some of the finest people I have ever known in Nigeria. I have been made an honorary chief, been given an Igbo name, and have been made to feel welcome and wanted by almost every regular Nigerian I have come in contact with. I've had the pleasure and honor of meeting Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka and I have had the privilege of working with some very dedicated and proficient Nigerian physicians and safety officers. I wish I could keep working here.
However, a combination of personal health considerations and the increased actions of a militancy I find myself for the most part in total agreement with, have forced me to tender my resignation to the company I am consulting with. It is truly with a heavy heart that I physically take leave of Nigeria on May 31. My soul and spirit will never leave this country though and I hope to return here when their is a more equitable and just government run by statesmen instead of arrogant goons who care only for themselves.
I plan to write a book about my experiences in Nigeria. I am told this book is part of my destiny and it will change the core of how things are done in this country. I don't really know if I have the wherewithal to accomplish this or not. I am no where near the point where I feel I can start such a monumental project. Maybe leaving Nigeria will provide me prospective.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
- Turn a collection of thoughts and ideas into 50,000 to 100,000 words that are formed into sentences, paragraphs and chapters, that are interesting, well-paced, grammatically correct, pieces of information people will find readable, enjoyable, educational, entertaining, informative, satisfying, shocking, funny affirmative and/or new and unique.
- Rewrite and proofread and rewrite and proofread until you can no longer find any problems with syntax, character development, tense, continuity, repetitiveness, and grammatical form.
- Give the manuscript, either a chapter or two at a time or as a whole, to a friend or acquaintance who is the closest thing to a professional writer that you know and ask him or her to edit and proofread all problems with syntax, character development, tense, continuity, repetitiveness, and grammatical form.
- Don't rely on spell-check. Get a human being, preferably one who can proudly complete the Sunday New York Times crossword without using a dictionary or thesaurus to check your manuscript. Then find another friend who says he's a better crossworder than the first and have him/her do it again.
- Join a writer's group and ask its members to critique your work and offer you suggestions. Have very thick skin and be ready to defend your decisions or be ready to make changes in syntax, character development, tense, continuity, repetitiveness, and grammatical form.
- Take your manuscript to a writers conference and bravely read part of the best chapter to a group of fellow authors and would-be authors in the presence of a professional editor from a major publishing house who will critique your work in front of God and everybody.
- While you are at the writer's conference, attend all of the query and pitch session workshops you can and network amongst the literary agents there.
- Come home from the writer's conference and rewrite and proofread and rewrite and proofread until you can no longer find any problems with syntax, character development, tense, continuity, repetitiveness, and grammatical form.
- Study the all the literary agents you find when you google "literary agent" and find 100 agents who say they accept manuscripts of the genre you have written in and construct individual, concise query letters to those agents.
- Repeat steps 5 thru 9 until you are successful and your agent manages to find an editor who is interested in your work, but wants you to make just a few changes...
These are only the minimal things you need to do to get published. You also will need a well-written synopsis of your book, a marketing plan that keys on the contributions you will make toward marketing your book. If you don't discouraged completing steps 1 - 10 over and over until you get published, you should have no problems writing a synopsis and marketing plan.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, a 61-year-old Puerto Rican preacher
who or a few years has been creating himself for several years now, is quickly gaining notoriety as the cult leader most likely to succeed Rev. Jim Jones as the leader of the most dangerous doomsday cult in America.
The strange and apparently charismatic de Jesus Miranda, began his cult activities benignly enough by simply declaring himself "Jesus Christ." This pronouncement didn't exactly stop the presses. It's not like no one has ever done that before. But this time, Jesus Christ accompanied the announcement of his presence with the great news that with his return to earth, Satan has been defeated and for his followers, there is no such thing as sin.
Gullible Latino believers have come to this cult in droves, giving the man who calls himself Jesus money, jewelry, cars, boats, houses and even a multi million dollar business. There are now said to be some 300 congregations across the USA, Central and South America, who believe in de Jesus Miranda. With more Rolexes that one man can wear and his own private jet, the would-be Jesus decided to take his new religion to yet another unbelievable height -- he declared himself the anti Christ and had the number "666" tattooed on his body. That should have sobered up some of his followers drunk on the prospect of an end to sin, right? After all, the anti-Christ, he's muy mal, no?
No, his claim that he is both Christ and anti Christ only increased the fervor of his believers. They began getting "666" tattooed on their bodies.
de Jesus Miranda tells his followers that the Catholic Church, which a good many of them used to belong to, was evil. Proof of that was the fact that celibate priests participate in pedophilia and other sexual perversions. Perversions members of de Jesus Miranda's Growing in Grace cult movement are exempt from -- no more sin, remember.
He encourages his followers to picket and demonstrate outside traditional churches from other religions and they do. They even have been known to disrupt services. De Jesus's tactics are not unlike Jim Jones, who also used his temple members to protest as well as to support politicians, an activity de Jesus has yet to get involved in.
But he obviously exhibits control over his sheep much the same way as Jim Jones did over his Peoples Temple. Could Growing in Grace become the next Peoples Temple? There are many who believe it already has.
Three Central American countries have banned de Jesus from visiting their countries and having meetings there. However the thousands of followers de Jesus has in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras still can see their leader by satellite.
Growing in Grace bears watching. If a cult leader can convince his congregation to get the anti Christ's number tattooed on their bodies, what is keeping him from telling them to whip up some cyanide laced grape ade and partake? Or worse yet, what's stopping him from getting more physical with his actions against traditional churches?
Sunday, May 13, 2007
I've got so many writing projects in the mill, I don't know which one to start next. My latest idea has already resulted in the title story of a book tentatively titled Satan in a Box, A Collection of Nightmares. Here is the title story, for your enjoyment and to critique. Please comment. I want you to give me the good, bad and ugly.
Satan in a Box
By Jeff Brailey
The hotel was 13 floors of dreary unimaginative sameness. Frayed crimson carpeting with green vines and golden floral patterns had Marriott written all over them. Drab brown walls with numbered doors of a darker brown left no question in my mind, although it didn’t say it on the marquee outside, this was a former property of that famous hotel chain.
Actually, there was no floor marked 13, that number being missing from the elevator doors. The floors ran from 1 to 14, with the unlucky 13th skipped altogether. Yet there I was, wandering the elusive the hall of a floor I knew did not exist in this hotel.
Some hotels call the first floor “Ground” or “Lobby,” and number the floors above it 1 through 12, eliminating the stigma of 13 floors. It is not as easy for hotels with 14 floors or more to avoid the dilemma of a 13th floor, so they simply deny its existence.
I don’t know how I arrived on this invisible nonexistent floor. I remember chasing some unknown but eerie entity out of the penthouse on the floor above. Unsure whether my prey was a real person or a ghost, I simply wanted to find him or her to ask what he or she was doing in my hotel suite while I slept.
Suddenly, the being I had barely been keeping up with a moment before, stopped, turned, and grew about two or three times its previous size. Cleverly disguised with heavily platted dreadlocks that literally became slimy snakes, even the aroma of a body too long without a bath could not cover up the acrid odor of sulfur permeating from this evil Rastafarian. The smell instantly identified who he really was – Satan.
As the realization of his identity registered in my mind, I instantly knew the 13th floor was not the place to be. Suddenly, the hunter became the prey as this wild eyed Rastafarian bore down on me. Not a sound passed between us. The silence of the devil’s movement was terrifying enough. I fought the urge to cry out, saving my energy for fleeing instead of futile screaming.
Turning down a perpendicular hallway, I was completely lost. Only the numbers on the doors distinguished this hallway from all of the others. I came to a bank of elevators. As the devil closed in on me, I frantically pushed the “down” button and the car immediately opened. I looked at the numbers on the wall of the elevator. They all read 13.”
A totally pissed off Rasta-Satan blocked the door of the elevator. As I contemplated my next move, the old demon jumped towards me, leaving me no other choice but to dive under him. As he crashed into the far wall of the now-empty car, I opened the door that led to the stairwell.
Sure that the frustrated supernatural Rastafarian was one step behind me, I began running upstairs. My plan was to make it back into my penthouse suite and call hotel security to have my pursuer ejected from the hotel.
The next landing had a square black sign with white letters on the wall. It read “13.” I knew I had left the thirteenth floor a minute ago but the stairway continued to climb so I kept running up it in hopes of finding the fourteenth floor. It never happened.
Out of breath, I finally took a chance and opened the door on yet another landing marked “13.” As I did, a black-robed Rev. Jim Jones handed me a cigar box full of Havana’s finest. I told him it was not legal to have Cuban cigars in the United States. “It’s for the devil,” Jones said with a leer.
“Uh, he wants my soul, I don’t think he really will be placated by a box of stogies, even if they are the best in the world,” I told the Reverend.
“The cigars aren’t for him, the box is,” he shouted, thrusting the decorative container into my hands.
As I took hold of the box, Jones literally faded into nothingness and his form was replaced by Rasta Satan’s. I opened the box and he immediately turned into a rather acrid smoke and joined the cigars. I then quickly closed the box and found myself in the lobby of the hotel.
As I quickly assessed where I was, two ladies walked by. They looked like something out of the 1950s, crisp starched white blouses and navy blue skirts that extended below the knees. They both wore sensible walking shoes and their plain hair was worn in matching buns. Neither woman wore make-up. I recognized them to be Jehovah Witnesses and as they passed me several back issues of the Watchtower, I passed them the cigar box, shouting, “Satan in a box! Satan in a box!”
I then woke up and found my roommate’s overbed light on. “Was I having a nightmare?” I asked.
“You were definitely having a nightmare,” he replied.
“Why didn’t you tell me to wake up?” I asked.
“What and miss the entertainment?”
Editor’s Note: Jeff Brailey is a freelance writer who lives near Indianapolis. He just finished a two year contract working as a safety adviser in Nigeria, West Africa. He takes a medication for Parkinson’s disease that causes him to have vivid and memorable dreams. He attributes this nightmare to having completed reading the book Out of The Cocoon, by Brenda Lee, the story of a child and her mother caught up in the Jehovah Witnesses.