Time Magazine cover of Jonestown Massacre
Aerial view of the bodies from Jonestown
I read a book a while back called Seductive Poison by Deborah Layton, one of the survivors of the Jonestown Massacre. The book was fascinating and really gave me some insight into the tragedy that took place.
If you don’t know much about The People’s Temple or the Jonestown Massacre, you should definitely look into it. Of course, by now, you know that I am interested in true crime. The story of Jim Jones and The People’s Temple is one that even I find hard to grasp.
Jim Jones was a church leader in charge of The People’s Temple in San Francisco, CA. Over the years, Jones gained a large following of many people, including African Americans. This was rare at the time, in the 1970s for a church to be of mixed races. Jones preached all about love and how we should all get along.
Little did some of his followers know, but he was having affairs with many of the church members at the time, even though he was married. As the “church” continued to grow, it reached cult status fairly quickly. Jones became very controlling, brainwashing many of his followers. He wanted them to go to Guyana to set up The People’s Temple where no outside influences could bother them.
The People’s temple set up a commune in the Guyanese jungle and several went over to live in what they thought would be a perfect world. It didn’t turn out that way. There was little or no food, members were forced to get up at all hours of the night with Jim Jones screaming “white night!” warning members that they were going to battle. Many wanted to leave after they got there but felt trapped. Jones actually had armed guards who monitored the premises.
When many members family members began worrying about their loved ones, Congressman Leo Ryan decided to investigate. He took a trip with some of his staff to Guyana to check out the scene. What happened on that visit became a great tragedy to all those involved.
When Ryan got to Guyana some of the members expressed interest in leaving with him and his staff. They no longer wanted to stay in Guyana and feared Jones. Jones started having a meltdown and things began to get out of control quickly. Congressman Ryan and members of the temple decided to leave, but when they got to the airport, they were gunned down by Jones’s guards.
After these deaths, Jones convinced his remaining members to “drink the kool aid.” They were all given a drink laced with poison and were forced to take place in a mass suicide. 909 People died in Jonestown that day. There were more across town in Georgetown as well. Up until 9/11 this was considered the largest civilian non-natural disaster America had experienced.
What are your thoughts on the Jonestown massacre? Anyone remember your reaction at the time?