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Friday, March 28, 2008

38 Years Ago Today: Temple Cult Assassins Devour Their First Victim--In California

The very first victim of Jim Jones's brand of "revolutionary suicide" didn't have her life snuffed out with a force-feeding of cynanide punch. No, turned out it was a hangman's noose.

Daniel remembers that terrible moment being woken up in the middle of the night in his home in Talmage, California. It was March 28, 1970, more than eight years before the cult's mass slaughter in a South American jungle. Maxine Harpe's young son and two daughters discovered their mother's lifeless body in the garage of their house. Their nightmare as cult captives would now go into overdrive.

The Temple's squad of enforcers made certain to conceal all the evidence, so the very cooperative local powers-that-be conveniently glossed it over as a "suicide." There would be five other killings to follow in the cult's "Golden California Years" that proceeded the mass flight to Guyana in 1977.

Like Maxine Harpe, the others all had suspicious deaths. The kind that have "unsolved murder" written all over. Ones which our sterling film maker Stanley Nelson just didn't care a damn about investigating.

Daniel Harpe today remembers life in that "loving church," recalling: "At temple meetings, we were not allowed to talk, go to the bathroom, or fall asleep. Jones said if you got caught chewing gum at a meeting, you were to be automatically thrown into the pool. One day a black man wearing a suit got caught and he got thrown into the pool....There were these men walking around, keeping people awake, and moving people who where talking.

These men also wore guns on their sides....These meetings would go on all night. With locked doors, no one in, no one out. Several nights a week. I saw a grown man pass out and piss all over himself. I would be like a zombie in school each following day--totally out of it."

That wasn't all, either. Daniel was forced to undergo the cult's "kids' survival training", chock-full of generous servings of mental and physical abuse. Surely Daniel is not the sole child survivor today, either. But somehow, that amazing Nelson "documentary" flew blindfolded right over all these details. He just couldn't be bothered with the trivial matter of all the abused and battered children, like Daniel, who managed to survive the horror.

Then again, one has to understand that Nelson is a true believer in achieving a sparkling whitewash of any and all unsavory, incompatible realities that would stunt his landmark docuganda.

But don't worry, Stan. We'll be happy to address all the ever-widening chasms in your credibility. Coming up next time is more about Daniel's ordeal and the brutality carried out against his doomed mother.

Maybe one day Mr. and Mrs. Nelson (his writer) will offer up confessions on why so many film makers behave no different than the armada of morally bankrupt politicians currently running this country into ruin.


Rose said...

Tom, I look forward to your next post. Daniel, your story is so important, I am glad you are telling it!

I started following this whole thing when Tim Stoen was running for office - and a woman, who had been a teacher, probably in a school you were in, interrupted a meeting, and told us all the reasons not to vote for Tim Stoen. She told of kids who fell asleep in class because of what was going on in the church... perhaps she will add her voice to yours here to help complete the record.

Then, Tim Stoen (who lost his race) was hired by the DA here in Humboldt County, and we found that he hadn't changed much. He is finally gone, but he is back in Mendocino.

My heart breaks for your Mom, Daniel, and for you. What happened is a rift in the universe that cannot be healed, and must be remembered. We all know why.

Tom Kinsolving said...

The Maxine Harpe story was no less tragic and senseless than the fate of all the other victims of this deadly cult. The time has come for the public to start asking questions of the California authorities--how could they cover this up, and all the rest of the corrupt, brutal deeds by this "peoples temple". Enough! It is time for some accountability. The fact that Tim Stoen would be reinstated in the Mendocino D.A.'s office--from where he had once helped orchestrate Jones's criminal enterprise--is beyond belief. Has Stoen has ever made amends to the Harpe family for his role in sealing Maxine's fate? Unlikely.

Anonymous said...

This "Yearning for Zion" sect down in Texas is a prime example of how this sort of criminal (and just plain evil) behavior is tolerated in the United States of America.

Pedophilia and blatant child abuse hiding behind a religious banner - and nobody does ANYTHING to stop it for decades. For decades!

Turns out Santayana was right.

Anonymous said...

Now that something is finally being done to "help" those four hundred plus children in Texas, the question that must be addressed now is: "Is the cure worse than the disease?"

Is the mindless, blunt instrument of the state - often a cult in it's own right - the way to rescue the few abused children from the mass of brainwashed parishiners and the abusers that operate freely in their midst?

Certainly there is trauma being inflicted on those children with the storm trooper tactics by a mob of social workers who mostly can't find their own ass with both hands.

Certainly there are families that are being blown apart and children being hurt by a state that always seems to do more harm than good in these situations.

Don't forget that the state gave juvenille wards of California to Jones so he could syphon off their support payments before he killed them.

Do the Jim Jones's of the world basically have all the power?

Tom Kinsolving is powerless to stop them. (No offense.) They have bought and paid for the religious academics. The state is a blunt instrument of utter incompetence. Rick Ross and Steve Hassan report the truth, but are largely ignored and operate powerlessly, and pretty much in a vacuum.

We the people go with the flow.

And the Jim Jones's prosper.

Rose said...

I guess we imagine that if someone did this to us, there would be people who would stand up for us, and seek vengeance, and justice. That the killer would be sought out and prosecuted and jailed.

That this got covered up so well and so long is just as bad as the act itself.

That it happened by supposedly god fearing holy men and church members - it's just another one of those things that is part of a rift ion the universe that can never be healed. Massive evil.

Anonymous said...

I was born in 1978, and until very recently my knowledge of Jonestown was limited to a crude outline of what happened there Nov. 18. I knew that a madman had led nearly 1,000 of his followers to their deaths in South America, but beyond Kool-Aid and stock photos of bloated corpses, I was ignorant of any details. In the past year, I've read numerous accounts of People's Temple and their Guyana settlement (including nearly every post on your blog), but what sparked my interest in investigating was watching "Rise & Fall" on PBS last spring. As has been said on this website, the film raises more questions than it answers. With a topic as complex and multifaceted as I've realized People's Temple to be, voicing every viewpoint in the space of one documentary would be next to impossible. Nelson's film was the first time I saw Temple members as people I could actually understand (if not identify with), and not faceless zombies whose motives and actions I could never fathom. If I had not seen Nelson's interviews with the surviving members, I never would have wanted to fill in the blanks that the film left. Despite your take on the film's bias, I was never under the impression (while I viewed it or after) that life in the Temple was anything other than Hell on Earth; and, as seen in "Life & Death," Jim Jones in the flesh is far scarier than any dramatized re-enactment.

Anonymous said...

Hey Pamela. I guess you can think about this as sort of like poisoned popsicles that a PR firm actively sold to unsuspecting children, and 900 of the children died as a result. There are still plenty of miffed people around that recognize the popsicles were poison - all the way to the core of their little wooden paddles. We the Miffed (to paraphrase Ayn Rand) want some accountablity by the PR spokespeople. (They knew, plain as day that what they were selling was poison.) Why did they sell it like they did? It was not merely persuasive advertising, or even wide-eyed utopian wishful thinking. It was not communist bluster. Or the infantacide of Suzanne Jones Cartmell. It wasn't a silly girl calling the crazy bastard who forced a four-year-old child to eat his own vomit "the most honest, loving, caring concerned person whom I ever met and knew."

It was murder.