Jonestown's Medicine Man

A young Houston physician designed a lethal cocktail that killed more than 900 men, women, children and babies at a place that was supposed to be a paradise but is better known as Jonestown.

Rhodes was standing by the table that held the vat and syringes, so he was close enough to Schacht that the doctor told him he needed a stethoscope from the nurses' office, apparently so he could later make sure that people were indeed dead. He may have started this process as soon as people collapsed, hence his being too occupied to be heard on the death tape.

One thing's for sure, though: Schacht would have known that an aide of Jones's was lying when she tried to reassure the parents who hesitated in coming up to the table after hearing the anguished screams of the first children to ingest the poison.

"They're not crying from pain," Maria Katsaris said over the children's wailing. "It's just a little bitter-tasting."

Survivors say Schacht credited Jones with turning his life around by sending him to medical school.
Peoples Temple Collection, California Historical Society, MSP 3800.35.0822
Survivors say Schacht credited Jones with turning his life around by sending him to medical school.
Larry Schacht (center) told Jim Jones (right) he wanted to first test the cyanide on one of Jonestown's pigs.
Peoples Temple Collection, California Historical Society, PC 010.07.0740
Larry Schacht (center) told Jim Jones (right) he wanted to first test the cyanide on one of Jonestown's pigs.

A similar lie came from Peoples Temple lawyer Mark Lane when, after the world heard the news, he was contacted by Ezra Schacht. Only this time it was meant as a token of mercy for a bewildered father. According to an FBI memo, Ezra "called Lane from Houston and asked...if Lane believed his son was a poisoner, adding that he (the father) was very shaken by the press coverage his son had received in Houston, Texas. Lane tried to put his son in the best possible light by advising Schacht's father that his son was possibly engaged in mercy killing to prevent more painful deaths in view of the presence of armed guards."

At the time, Schacht's fate was unknown; his body had not yet been identified. Danny Schacht, then 33, told the Associated Press that he doubted his brother would have killed ­himself.

"I don't see how a person who has invested so much time and effort in himself would be likely to throw it away," he was quoted as ­saying.

Apparently, Ezra had trouble seeing that as well. According to Jonestown researcher Fielding McGehee III, Ezra — ever distrustful of the government — believed the whole thing was a conspiracy. An exceptionally bright, detail-­oriented man, Ezra created a complex "triptych" mapping out what he believed was a CIA connection to ­Jonestown.

According to McGehee, Ezra remained convinced Jonestown was a conspiracy right through the time he was killed in a car accident in Kemah in 2010. He was 91.

His obituary in Houston's Jewish Herald-Voice stated that he was survived by his son, daughter and second wife. There is no mention of a son preceding him in death.

In a way, the absence of Ezra's youngest son from his memorial is fitting. After all, at the time of Larry Schacht's death, he was calling another man "father."

craig.malisow@houstonpress.com

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
All
 
My Voice Nation Help
4 comments
Gorgo Aleksandr
Gorgo Aleksandr

I read this article last night, precisely. It is absolute madness what our ludacris beliefs can make us do =(

Judy Ohr
Judy Ohr

Stick to posting recipes! What a horror to relive that terrible time.

 
Houston Concert Tickets
Loading...