This is another post about Jim's health, but instead of a general look at his health problems (as covered in info post part 3) this one will specifically focus on cancer speculations. This is not an attempt at a diagnosis, it will only present some of the symptoms he experienced and how they match with cancer symptoms. Plus, I will cover his overall risk factor, as well as individual risks.
The biggest overall risk factor for all types of cancer would be his weight. Being overweight or obese can give a higher risk, and Jim was both of those things throughout his adult life. I wrote a long post all about his weight (see info post part 4) but as it's relevant to this subject, I will briefly mention a few details about it again. For the majority of his life his body fat percentage was over 30, in the 35 to 40+ range (a man's body fat should be under 25%) and his BMI was over 30. Calculating his weight from the age of 21 to 47, he was overweight for 30% of his adult life (8 years) but various stages of obese for 70% of his adult life (18 years). His highest BMI was 40.1, which I wanted to make a point of highlighting on this post. On info post part 4, I listed his weight of 250 pounds as a BMI of 37, and his highest weight range of 265 pounds as a BMI of 39.5. But I accidentally calculated those BMIs for a man of 5' 9", so I wanted to correct the inaccuracies. For Jim's height of 5' 8", the calculations for those weights would be higher BMIs of 37.8 and 40.1. All of this does not prove he had cancer or would ever have it, only that his risk could be increased.
The first time he supposedly had the disease was in 1953, aged 22. He mentioned this on a couple of occasions. The story goes that a doctor in hospital scanned his body to reveal his stomach acid had completely disappeared, with tumours in its place. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer and did not have much time to live. But when he returned to the hospital for treatment, the tumours had vanished and the stomach acid had returned. He claimed he had cured himself, as he often "cured" many other people by the power of his healing. Looking at the age range for stomach cancer, it is more common in much older men, not men in their early twenties. The story could have been exaggerated or made up, or even a genuine cancer diagnosis that unusually went into spontaneous remission. But either way, it seemed to be the start of a fixation on the disease.
In the 1960s he was paranoid about moles on his neck becoming cancerous, so he had them removed.
Throughout the 1970s, he claimed to heal more and more people and would speak about cancer a lot on audios, so the thoughts of it would easily become a focus in his already paranoid mind.
During a certain point in Jonestown, Edith Roller mentioned in her diary that a tumour on his pancreas was causing an insulin leak. Although it was later reported as benign and returned to normal, he did experience some symptoms of a malignant tumour, such as dark coloured urine and difficulty controlling his diabetes/blood sugar. Jim's specific risks for pancreatic cancer include eating large amounts of red meat, having a history of pancreatitis, stomach ulcers, and being diabetic.
Early newspaper reports after the massacre and a suggestion by his son Stephan lead to speculations that Jim may have had a brain tumour. Symptoms include headaches, mood swings, seizures and black-outs, temporary blindness, personality changes and increasingly erratic behaviour, slurred speech, unsteadiness when balancing, walking or coordinating, and problems with writing. Jim experienced these symptoms at various moments during the later stages of Jonestown. No specific risks can be identified, but there is a tumour which is most common in people at a high weight.
One of the most talked about ailments at the end of Jim's life is probably the lung condition, diagnosed by Dr. Carlton Goodlett as valley fever. Jim was convinced it was terminal lung cancer, even proving it by sending out a tissue sample (which was later said to be from a woman in Jonestown who died of the illness). He addressed his diagnosis very seriously and convincingly on an audio, stating he may have to step down from his leadership for two years while he has treatment. Jim experienced a high fever at the end. Late stage lung cancer can cause a high fever (particularly if it has spread somewhere else like the liver), along with a cough (which for Jim was said to be the valley fever or even emphysema). No specific risk factor can be identified.
Edema which he experienced briefly in his cabin at the end of October 1978 can be a sign of advanced or terminal cancer (and sometimes heart failure) but it quickly cleared up by the beginning of November. He also randomly lost up to 30 pounds in the last two weeks of his life.
After death, there was no proof of a cancerous condition. His body was unfortunately embalmed before the autopsy, meaning the results were inconclusive. Plus, the amount of decomposition by the time the autopsy took place was severe. This can remove any evidence of cancer. His brain was almost impossible to examine in a semi-liquid state. The rest of the decomposed organs showed no sign of abnormalities. The only health related problems to be found was intimal thickening (atheroma) in his arteries which can be related to excess weight, and an intra-alveolar hemorrhage in his lungs, which can be related to cardiac problems, even a heart attack. He did have heart problems (most likely angina among others, as he was taking nitroglycerin since the early 70s) and the hemorrhage would fit with the narrative that he suffered a heart attack in the couple of weeks before the massacre. A heart attack could also explain the edema and any weight loss during that short time.
The truth may never be known about the speculations. It seems likely he had cancer when looking at one side of the analysis, but it can also be thought of as something else, like drug abuse side effects or another diagnosis that has similar symptoms. Although the collection of symptoms do come together, without the autopsy evidence or another reliable source, having cancer will forever be thought of as a scheme for attention. But Jim did experience a real illness and it was one of many reasons to go ahead with the mass suicide plan.
Comment: Jim was solely responsible for the Jonestown tragedy
Fact: Members of his inner circle were also responsible
It is easy to put all of the blame on Jim Jones. There is no denying his major responsibility for the deaths, but he had many willing accomplices. Their involvement should be acknowledged. He was in charge, but the inner circle had their own power. They helped with planning and were able to set the plans into motion. Deciding on an ideal way for everyone to die, studying and ordering the poison, mixing it and finally, administering it, was down to them. Jim spoke on the death tape, encouraging the deaths with his persuasive way of speaking, but nurses and other helpers were the ones to inject the children. Sometimes even the parents were the ones to do it. Guards were surrounding the area, another way of guiding the situation in Jim's favour. While he was very much in control, his instability became worse over time, so collectively the inner circle seemed more rational with decision making. He was able to act out his fantasy of "revolutionary suicide" because the ones close to him enabled his behaviour, joined in, or were drawn in, and allowed it to happen. It could be argued that each one of them was a perpetrator and a victim in their own way; Jim included.
Comment: Jim's ashes were buried next to his parents' grave or Marceline's grave
Fact: Jim's ashes were scattered over the Atlantic Ocean
Rumours about Jim's ashes being buried next to his parents' or Marceline's grave are still believed by some people today. The rumour possibly started because an early newspaper reported that he would likely be laid to rest in Indiana, but eventually the authorities decided against it because the grave would either turn into a shrine or become vandalised. It seems that it became a "local legend" for some people and they believe Jim's ashes were buried secretly to avoid any unwanted attention. But what really happened; on 19th December 1978, a silver hearse carried Jim's body from the funeral home to be cremated just before 11am. And in April 1979, his "pure white ashes weighing ten pounds" were placed in a large, water-soluble envelope and scattered from a plane into the Atlantic Ocean. Seven separate envelopes containing other ashes were also scattered. Funeral director Bill Torbert remembered this happening a mile off of Bethany Beach, Delaware (pictured above).
Comment: Marceline was eleven years older than Jim
Fact: Marceline was four years older than Jim
Jim was just eighteen when he married twenty two year old Marceline Baldwin in 1949. Most people are aware of their four year age difference, but I've seen it reported as eleven years a few times. The confusion probably happened because Marceline was eleven years older than her sister, Sharon.
Comment: As a child, Jim killed several cats and held funerals for them
Fact: He held funerals for many different animals, and there is a rumour he killed one cat, not several
A friend of Jim's from childhood said they heard a rumour that he stabbed a cat to death before holding a funeral for it. This has lead to posts online stating he killed cats on a regular basis. These posts have clearly stemmed from that one comment and have become exaggerated over time. He held funerals for animals, but it is generally documented that they were already dead when he picked them up. He cared about animals, possibly seeing them as his only friends at the time. He said he felt suicidal when his dog died. It's likely the comment about stabbing a cat is just a rumour, but even if it was true, it was still an isolated incident. It is misleading to say he "killed several." There is no evidence of him doing that regularly to any type of animal.
Speculation reported as a fact: Annie Moore shot Jim
Fact: No one knows for sure
Despite a lot of evidence pointing towards Jim's death being self-inflicted, Annie Moore as Jim's killer seems to be the final verdict for many people. That theory is often reported as a fact, but has never been proven. It should always be stated as speculation. Some people believe Jim was attempting to overdose on pentobarbital, and Annie Moore used the gun to assist him with his death, making it quicker. Others just believe the gun was used without the overdose aspect. Convincing someone else to shoot him would also be his final way to assert power and authority. The autopsy report is inconclusive, but is more in favour of suicide, despite the lack of evidence due to decomposition. On viewing his body on the first death photo, his left hand is positioned as if he had been holding a gun to his head. It is close to where the entrance wound was and held in a way that could suggest it was at an upside down angle when he fired it. Being right handed with a left handed bullet wound would not necessarily go against the suicide idea. Personally I've heard of more than one incident where a right handed person used their left hand to pull the trigger on themselves. The hard contact entrance wound was also larger than the exit wound, which can be found in suicide incidents. Where the gun was found is also a debate. Some sources state it was found 20 or even 200 feet away from Jim's body. A report by an early responder states the gun was resting on Jim's chest when they first set eyes on the scene. Jim's controlling nature over everything in life would surely extend to being in control of his own death. While many people accept that Annie shot Jim and then herself, an early theory suggested the opposite; Annie was shot by another person, assumed to be Jim, then he took his own life. So, information and ideas can be gathered to back up both causes of his death, but suicide seems most likely. The opinion of some people is that Jim was "too much of a coward" to shoot himself, but that alone is not enough evidence to prove he didn't commit suicide.
Misconception: Soviet Embassy representative Feodor Timofeyev visited Jonestown in December 1977 and March 1978
Fact: He visited Jonestown in early October 1978
These photos are just a few that were taken during Feodor Timofeyev's visit to Jonestown. Some people were uncertain about the date because of his meetings with Jim's aides in Georgetown in December 1977 and March 1978. But the only time he visited Jonestown itself was early October 1978. It is mentioned in the book Raven and there is an audio tape on the pavilion from that moment which confirms it. I've also noticed photos of his visit are sometimes uploaded with other wrong dates; either November 1977 or 18th November 1978, even 1975, which are clearly just random guesses.
Misconception: Jim would wear a religious collar on a regular basis
Fact: Jim appears to have worn the collar for one event in his whole life
I've noticed several people under the impression that Jim wore a religious collar on a regular basis because of a certain set of photos. The only evidence we have of him wearing the collar are the photos taken in January 1977 during a protest outside the International Hotel. Not only does it seem to be the only event when he did wear it, it also appears to be a priest collar.
Comment: Jim died on 28th November, ten days after everyone else
Fact: Jim died on 18th November, just like everyone else
I'm not sure who came up with this idea and I know the majority of people did not think it was true, but I wanted to mention it because I found it to be unusual. It was posted on a true crime website and several people were confused. I'm not sure why they said Jim waited ten days to shoot himself in Jonestown - bearing in mind Guyana officials showed up the next day to find everyone dead. Jim was one of the last people to die on the night of 18th November. On a similar note, the audio recording made on the 19th was said by conspiracy theorists to be proof Jim survived until the next morning, but that tape has been debunked. It would make no sense for Jim to stay alive so long anyway, considering he'd be aware the authorities were entering Jonestown at some point. The six shots heard by survivors late at night on the 18th matched Annie Moore's gunshot wound, the wounds on two dogs, two wounds on Mr Muggs and of course, Jim's gunshot wound.
INACCURACIES VS FACTS PART 7: KOOL AID/FLAVOR AID.
Myth: Kool Aid was used on the final day in Jonestown
Fact: It was a similar brand called Flavor Aid
"Don't drink the Kool Aid" is an infamous saying associated with Jonestown and people often debate over it. The brand name of a drink might seem irrelevant considering cyanide was the main ingredient of the Jonestown "cocktail", but for historical purposes the specific brand name is important and it was Flavor Aid that was mixed with the cyanide. Boxes of it were found after the massacre. It's worth mentioning that Kool Aid was present in Jonestown at one time. Jim is seen opening a crate of it in March 1976 when footage was being filmed during one of his promotional visits. It was also used during the suicide practices. Jim and the congregation would drink it in normal situations as well, like at parties. I've read speculations of it being a mix of both brands on the final day, but even if that was the case, the majority was definitely Flavor Aid. Regardless, the Kool Aid man will always be a morbid symbol of the tragedy.
Claim: An autopsy was performed on Jim's body in Jonestown
Fact: His body was examined and embalmed, but the autopsy happened later
A few days after the massacre, Jim's body was dragged outside for examination and embalming, not an autopsy. The incision made through his chest and abdomen only penetrated the adipose tissue, it did not go deeper into the chest cavity or abdominal organs. His body was then embalmed, along with six others. The autopsy took place in the USA in December. Moderate to severe decomposition is noted on the report, understandable considering the exposure to all the heat. That also explains why his body weight was lower after death. The incision where his intestines began to protrude from and the previous embalming are also mentioned.
(Rare photo of his body, scanned by me.)
Claim: Jim wore sunglasses 24/7 and his eyes were bright red and watery
Fact: There are plenty of photos and footage of him without sunglasses and his eyes look fine
In 1971, which is said to be the year Jim's heavy drug addiction began, he started wearing his infamous sunglasses. He did wear them a lot, there is no denying it, but he was said to wear them twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, to hide his red, watery eyes caused by drug use. Really though, there are plenty of photos and footage throughout the 1970s when he is not wearing them. From moments when he is preaching, to candid photos and even as late as Jonestown, his eyes can be seen. From 1976 onwards he wore the tinted sunglasses inbetween the dark ones, so his eyes were still visible even though he was wearing them, and they looked fine. There are a handful of times over the decade when they do look bloodshot and watery, but they are not that way as often or to the extent reported. The idea he never removed his sunglasses because he was hiding his eyes is reported in many places, including reliable books and documentaries.
Conspiracy theory: Jim had a chest tattoo
Fact: Jim did not have any tattoos
This is not really a misconception, it's just a conspiracy theory. I'm not sure how or why it started but a conspiracy theorist tried to convince me that he had a large cross tattooed all over his chest when he was eighteen, which is odd in itself considering he was never a believer in religion. And even more bizarre considering no reliable sources have referenced it. There is nothing to back up that claim at all, as usual with conspiracies. For some reason the theorist uses it as "proof" that he faked his death, which is ridiculous. It is not a believable theory anyway, but his autopsy report which states "no scars or tattoos are identified" and the death photos are more than enough to prove he did not have any tattoos.
Misconception: Amphetamines and methamphetamine are the same drug
Fact: They are different drugs, the names are not interchangeable
All reliable sources report Jim's amphetamine addiction, but I've also seen people confuse amphetamines (speed) with methamphetamine (meth). Although they are from the same family, they are different drugs and Jim was not a user of meth.
Misconception: Messages For the Total Man record features the voice of Jim Jones
Fact: The preacher on the record is a man named Jim Jones, but not the Jim Jones of Peoples Temple
You only have to hear the first few seconds of the man's voice on this record to realise it is not the infamous Jim Jones we all know, and he was not part of the Christian Crusades, but some people seem to think it is him. I could not find a lot of info on the preacher featured on this recording, but I did read he was based in North Carolina. There is even a photo of him on an accompanying leaflet which is extra proof he is not Jim Jones of Peoples Temple.
Misquote: Death is not a fearful thing, it's living that's cursed.
Actual quote: Death is not a fearful thing, it's living that's treacherous.
I'm not sure why this particular part of the Jonestown death tape has been misquoted so frequently. Jim is very clearly saying, "it's living that's treacherous." The amount of times I've seen the "cursed" version of this quote, on art pieces and even a tattoo, is unreal. I've had debates with people, even linking them to the tape for them to hear for themselves because they would not accept what he was actually saying. It was used at the beginning of Go Outside by Cults, so if it will take too long to find on the death tape, it's easy to hear Jim speak those words in the song.
Fear of abandonment was a big problem for Jim throughout his life. It most likely stemmed from his difficult childhood, the neglect and isolation he felt from his parents. He claimed his father nearly killed him and he felt verbally and emotionally abused by his mother. She would praise and criticise him in equal measure. Even before he was born she believed he would be the most powerful man on earth. But by the 1970s when he had achieved a powerful status, she said it was far from an achievement to be “followed by sheep.” She even laughed when his wife Marceline showed concern about his drug addiction.
The first time Jim wanted to commit suicide was at the age of ten, after he saw his dog die. He did not follow through with it because he thought the people and animals in the neighborhood needed him. It was an obsessive thought until the end; my people need me.
The death of daughter Stephanie in 1959 seemed to affect him deeply. He began self-medicating with Darvon the same year. When asked about her death eighteen years later he still found it difficult to talk about.
He began to show signs of paranoia in 1962 when he talked about the end of the world. He also claimed God had spoken to him on a train and he heard “signals” from another planet. There is a rumour he was hospitalised for exhaustion and possibly a small mental breakdown. He saw a psychiatrist around this time and again in the early 1970s.
Jim’s paranoia increased when his drug use turned into an addiction in 1971. Amphetamines in particular heightened the paranoid thoughts. The inner circle acquired the drugs and along with the congregation, they played their part in enabling him. They helped to fuel his ego, instability and megalomania.
He always longed for satisfaction and tried to fill his emptiness with many addictions; drugs, sex, food, power, money, and more. His sons Stephan and Jimmy said those addictions were strong but his main addiction was the desire for adulation and attention. Although he often appeared more relaxed around animals and children because there was no need to impress them.
He preached about suicide, infamously “revolutionary suicide.” It seemed to be a projection of his personal self-destructive thoughts and tendencies. He said he should never have been born, or he wished he could go back and do things differently. Towards the end he mentioned his fantasy of the “orgasm of the grave.” Ironically he had made a speech against suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge in May 1977, the same year he admitted that he had lived with depression for many years.
Jim acted like the most powerful, fearless person in existence and he felt pressure to live up to the messianic role his people helped to put him in. But Stephan said he always was a scared and vulnerable man underneath; lonely and heartbroken.
The White Nights in Jonestown became more erratic and he injected more medication for depression and anxiety during the final months. He confided in people, telling them he had failed. He was seen crying several times, which was also reported in his young years. Contrary to the belief that he was emotionless, he actually was a very emotional person all through his life, most likely to the point of being unable to deal with his emotions. He said men should be able to express their feelings without shame or embarrassment.
On the last day when a handful of his followers wanted to leave, he took the defection as a personal betrayal, possibly feeling abandoned once again. It is more than likely that Jim was one of the few people who truly wanted to die that day. Some people believe his nurse shot him, but the evidence is more consistent with the gunshot being self-inflicted. As controlling as Jim was in life, it would make sense for him to have control over his own death which he had longed for most of all.
Something I wanted to mention is when certain people in books and documentaries, like Jeff Guinn and Julia Scheeres, have talked about Jim’s weight as if he was never overweight before Jonestown. They said their comments as if he was fat for only the last 17 months of his life while he lived there, but that is obviously untrue. It was not rare for him to be fat. No delving or researching is needed, you only have to see him for yourself to know, that’s why I found their comments strange, like: “He grew fat in Jonestown.” “He blew up when he got to Jonestown.” “He was the only one getting fat in Jonestown.” *Grew* fat? *Getting* fat? Have they not looked at all the photos and footage of him before he moved to Jonestown? Well they surely have, so they should know his weight was not just a random occurrence at the end of his life. He clearly became fatter when he was living in Jonestown permanently, but it’s easy to see he was fat before Jonestown as well. Referencing his weight and weight gain at any point is expected because it’s an obvious thing about him, but they did not say their comments in a way to acknowledge his heaviness before Jonestown. They said their comments as if he was fat because of the downfall of the Temple, as if it was unusual for him and he had “let himself go” isolated in the jungle. But he was very much overweight from when he started in the 1950s and 1960s, and also at the height of his power as a "godlike leader" throughout the 1970s, not only during the downfall. It’s more accurate to say, in Jonestown he got fatter than he already was. Edema affected him briefly when he was ill in his cabin in late 1978, but that had nothing to do with his continuous weight gain. He was still very much overweight when the edema had disappeared and obviously before he was affected by it. The weight he was prone to gaining and what he had gained over the months and years was certainly fat. There have been no photos revealed from the moment when edema was affecting him, so the extra weight you see on all of his photos and footage is his fatness. It’s also interesting to note that on two documentaries while making their comments, video clips in Jonestown were shown, like they were an example of how much weight he gained while he lived there. But the clips were actually from promotional videos when he was visiting Jonestown. He was still living in the US at that time, quite a while before the permanent move and I don’t think they realised that.
A few weight details here:
During some audios, Jim can be heard criticising fat capitalists and was said to mock overweight and obese Temple members, or forced them onto strict diet programs, which was hypocritical of him. Without knowing any weight details, his fatness is obvious by any standards. Calculating a BMI is not appropriate for a muscular person because they are not fat at a heavy weight, but we can see Jim’s extra weight was not muscle mass, it was fat, so calculating his BMI is accurate.
A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is overweight and 30+ is obese. His range was either obese or overweight; never lower than overweight. Working out specific percentages from the age of 21 to 47, he was overweight for 30% of his adult life (which equals to 8 years) and obese for 70% of his adult life (which equals to 18 years). So for the majority of his adult life, he was various stages of obese; more than 35 pounds overweight (which is over 200 pounds, a BMI of 30+ and stage 1 obesity) and more than 70 pounds overweight during even heavier times (which is over 230 pounds, a BMI of 34.5+ and stage 2 obesity). Stage 3 obesity will be discussed a little later.
In the 1950s and 1960s he could be from 205 pounds up to 230 pounds, although he briefly went below 200 during a couple of fluctuations.
He wanted to weigh 165 pounds which would be just within the ideal range for his height, but the lightest he ever weighed was 180 pounds (referenced in 1972) and he still had a noticeable belly. It is a BMI of 27.5 and 15 pounds over the highest weight range for his height of 5' 8".
People around him would talk about him being fat, like his adopted daughter Suzanne as one example. And a couple of examples of him acknowledging his heaviness on audios includes 1974 when he said he “tries to keep his weight down when he gets bigger than a goddamned barrel” and when he calls himself overweight or “Mr. Fats.”
He kept gaining weight as the 1970s progressed, past the 200 mark and at some point he was up to 230 again.
Of course he gained even more weight while he was living in Jonestown permanently, which he mentioned in April 1978. During a couple of White Nights he said to the followers that he cannot eat the fudge or cake being passed around because he is too heavy, yet he was always indulging in those things and a lot more in private, before and during Jonestown.
He was said to be around 250 or most likely 265 at his heaviest. The painted wooden garden chair he used as a "throne" has the appearance of a reinforced seat to make it stronger. Other chairs used by followers did not look like that. The weight limit of wooden garden chairs is 250 pounds, so if Jim's was reinforced, it makes sense that he was more than 250 at his heaviest. 250 and 265 are BMIs of 37 - 39.5. On the charts, a BMI of 40 and over is stage 3 obesity, which is morbidly obese. But morbid obesity can also be diagnosed if a person has a BMI of 35+ along with weight related conditions like high blood pressure. That would be accurate for Jim in Jonestown and any time before Jonestown that he weighed just over 230 pounds. And being 100 pounds overweight is considered morbidly obese, which is also accurate for his heaviest range of 265. If it is ever confirmed that he weighed more than 265, I will add it to the post.
**I recently checked out an additional BMI chart and realised I had made a mistake and calculated those BMIs based on a man of 5' 9". But for Jim's height of 5' 8" they are higher. So 250 pounds is a BMI of 37.8, not 37, and 265 pounds is a BMI of 40.1, not 39.5**
He lost 21 to 30 pounds in the final couple of weeks of his life, not 40 as sometimes reported. But the 175 pounds on his autopsy report, a month after his death, is too low for him. On the final day his face was sharper, but overall he looked heavier than the period in the early 1970s when he weighed 180 - 190. Plus a loss of 30 pounds would mean he weighed 205 prior to that; he was more than 205. The autopsy weight is certainly due to the decomposition his body had gone through while exposed in the jungle heat for several days. The deterioration of his corpse is very obvious on later photos, resulting in a lower body weight than when he was alive. The autopsy report describes his body as “well developed and well nourished.” Moderate atheroma in his coronary arteries is also mentioned, possibly related to excess weight.
Bonus details: Jim's clothing sizes are mentioned in his autopsy report, which means we have an accurate idea of his body measurements on the final day. And that gives a good indication of his measurements during other months and years.
The red Fruit of the Loom shirt he wore on the final day was size Extra Large. The measurement for an Extra Large would be 26 or 26.5 inches pit to pit, to fit a chest of 48 - 52 inches, which can be a size 3XL in men's modern clothing. (I found the details through my own research, but I was informed that some Fruit of the Loom shirts of that size could be even larger, depending on the style of them.) Considering clothes of increasing sizes had to be ordered for him over the months in Jonestown, he would certainly have shirts bigger than Extra Large for the times he was heavier than the final day.
If the measurement of a man's natural waistline is 37 inches or more, it is considered a health risk. The waist of Jim's trousers on the final day was 36 inches, but as always he obviously wore them underneath his belly because it was big, so 36 was not his natural waistline. The measurement around his natural waistline would certainly be 40+, and measurements around both areas would be even more than that during times before.
Gathering the overall details of Jim's weight, BMI, body measurements, and seeing his appearance on photos and footage, it is easy to calculate a good estimate of his body fat percentage. In brief, 24% and under is considered ideal for men. More than 25% is overweight. At his lowest weight range (15 to 25 pounds overweight) it would be accurate to say his body fat percentage was around 29%. Any percentage above that is obese, with the 40% range being the highest. So over 30% to 40%+ body fat would be accurate for the majority of his life when he was the various stages of obese (weighing 200 pounds and over, up to and past the mid 200s).
Jim had several illnesses and ailments over the years, but it is said he would sometimes fake or exaggerate his symptoms in the presence of certain people, for attention or sympathy. In the summer of 1953, he was hospitalised with infectious hepatitis. Although it cleared up rather quickly, it briefly caused anaemia for which he had b12 injections for a period of time. (He would still reference b12 in the 1970s as a cover-up for his drug use.) In 1954 he was diagnosed with high blood pressure and also diabetes around this time. Throughout the 1950s he would grind his teeth, break out in hives and start to have migraines due to stress. In 1961 he was hospitalised with bleeding ulcers and had an operation. At some point in the 1960s he was paranoid that moles on his neck were turning cancerous so he had them removed. In 1967 his blood pressure became so high that he went into shock and collapsed, for which he was hospitalised again. When he was a teacher in 1968, an ex-student reported his pancreatitis and bouts of fainting due to low blood sugar. By the early 1970s Jim was taking nitroglycerin for his heart. He had prostate problems, plus bladder infections. In 1974 he said he is bled every three months because his blood is dark and thick like syrup. He used an oxygen tank which would become more frequent as the 1970s progressed. The exact year he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthiritis is unknown. His blood sugar and blood pressure plagued him throughout the decade as well. In January and March 1975 he spent time in hospital due to a bacterial infection and heart trouble. In January 1976 he was in hospital because he had blood clots and problems with his arthiritis. He moved to Jonestown permanently in June 1977. His illnesses seemed to worsen months towards the end: depression and anxiety, along with his high blood pressure and low blood sugar. He took antibiotics. Arthiritis would flare up. There were references to seizures. He had a very high fever which he tried to alleviate with cold water and sleeping on ice packs, along with trouble urinating for which he had to be catheterised for a certain amount of time. Glucose tablets, indigestion remedies and laxatives were found among his medication and other drugs. His heavy drug dependancy was also part of his ill health; at times he slurred his words or found it hard to walk steadily. There were references to a tumour on his pancreas, and suffering a heart attack and stroke. Other symptoms involving his lungs turned Jim's paranoia into thoughts that he most likely had cancer again, this time terminal. Dr. Goodlett, a doctor he had seen about his diabetes since 1971 and the regular temple doctor until 1976, paid him a visit in Jonestown. It was August 1978 when his health was becoming its worst and Annie Moore became his full time nurse. Goodlett believed Jim's lung problem was a fungal infection. Despite Jim's many complaints, there are plenty of photos and footage of him interacting and looking enthusiastic, along with the countless audios, so his symptoms were being managed until the end. Goodlett was sure that if the massacre had not taken place in November, Jim would have died from natural causes within the month.
This is a post about Jim's food addiction and eating/overeating habits. I was going to mention details about his weight here, but his weight deserves its own analysis, so it will be posted separately. The photo shows an unopened can of Diet Pepsi next to Jim's fridge after the massacre. Sugary drinks were his favourite type of drink. Food was another addiction for Jim, which Stephan confirmed. Jim referenced this during a 1974 audio. He can be heard saying he gets into a "food problem" to keep his mind from thinking too much, and if he ate as much as he felt, he'd weigh 300 pounds within the month. In 1972 he spoke about fasting, but it was only a brief occurence. Even amphetamines which can often cause appetite loss, did not have that effect on Jim. Eating seemed to be a pleasure and a problem for him. All through his life he was never cooperative when it came to diets. In Indiana in the 1950s and 1960s, he saw a hospital dietician named Jane Haldeman for a short time. She confirmed he was not very compliant. When he was preaching throughout the 1970s, temple members would mention the amount of food he had at the pulpit. Meat, like steak as an example, along with some sweet things. There was KFC and cake on his bus number 7. He often spoke about living humbly but contradicted himself when he ate the most expensive food, including more steaks, at restaurants in California. A doctor in Jonestown said he was supposed to consume just 1700 calories, which would also help to manage his blood sugar, but again, he obviously did not do it. He ate fruit and vegetables, but his main daily menu included eggs, potatoes, chicken, pork, beef and a variety of candy, cake and pastries. He took massive amounts of insulin to counteract the effects of the sugary food and drink, which was another way he abused his medication. A cook named Rose Shelton was said to oversalt his food which was bad for his high blood pressure. There are conflicting view points regarding the quality of food for the followers in Jonestown. Some describe near starvation, others describe the food as satisfactory. Either way, Jim was clearly never without it.
Bonus details: In the early 1960s he would visit a Mexican restaurant in Indiana called Acapulco Joe's. Dr. Pepper was another drink he loved. He also drank fruit juice and milk. He also said he could eat eighteen pancakes "without thinking about it."
I will make a separate post about Jim's illnesses and go into more detail about them there. But as I'm discussing all of his drug use, it's worth mentioning some of the medication he was taking for illnesses, like insulin for diabetes since the 1950s and something for high blood pressure. At some point he started taking nitroglycerin for heart problems and he used an oxygen tank (see photo). He had b12 injections after infectious hepatitis and anaemia in 1953. He'd still refer to this in the 1970s. He was self-medicating with painkiller Darvon since 1959, for migraines and possibly rheumatoid arthiritis. The self-medicating increased around 1965. But it is generally accepted that his actual drug addiction began in 1971. That was the year he started wearing sunglasses. He most likely started wearing them due to light sensitivity, not watery bloodshot eyes. His eyes generally look fine throughout his addiction, but they were bloodshot on a handful of photos over the years. The drugs he became addicted to from 1971 onwards - in pill form and injections - included amphetamines (not methamphetamine), quaaludes, liquid valium, morphine, percodan, oxycodone, and pentobarbital. He drank vodka, whiskey and cognac, sometimes with the pills, but his alcohol intake was not as intense as the drug use. He would rely on his oxygen tank a lot more throughout the 1970s. Amphetamines (speed) kept him alert so he was able to preach and rant for hours. They are often used as appetite suppressants but they did not work in that way for Jim, which I will detail more in part two, which will be about his addiction to food. Rumours suggest he may have experimented with cocaine and heroin at some point, most likely in the early days of his drug abuse. In Jonestown he was briefly prescribed antibiotics which he also abused, along with the insulin, which will also be discussed in more detail later. He began injecting elavil and placidyl for depression, in addition to more liquid valium for anxiety as 1978 progressed. The amount of pentobarbital found in his system after death should have killed him, but he had built up such a strong tolerance to it.