This article will be covering the tragic deaths linked to Jim Jones and Jonestown, where nearly a thousand Americans died in the name of the sinister Peoples Temple…
The Revolutionary Suicide
On the 18th of November, 1978, an event took place in the middle of Guyana, in South America, that shook the whole world.
The remains of 912 people were discovered in a commune-style settlement – many of these bodies belonged to women and children.
The horrific news broke hours after another shocking incident had hit the headlines in the same area – US Congressman Leo Ryan and his entourage had been murdered at a small airport in the area, trying to escape.
In 1956, Jim Jones created the idea of The Peoples Temple. It was to be a racially integrated religion with strong communist links and viewpoints. The first settlement of his new church was to be in Indianapolis.
In 1966, Jones opted to move the church to Redwood Valley, California. Here he decided that his church members would be granted the freedom to do as they wished – he hated the democratic angles of the US government, and aimed to create a community where the US Government had no say.
After a few hard months of negotiation, Jones managed to arrange a deal that got his church over 3,000 acres of land in a remote area in the middle of a jungle in Guyana.
He then sent 50 of his best followers over to the area, to prepare the land for the arrival of his church community. The purchased area was heavily overgrown, and construction there was slow and painful.
Although far from complete, several hundred members of Peoples Temple flew to Guyana overnight.
They had got wind of a statement that was about to be released by the US government – a statement that contained damning evidence on their leader Jim Jones.
The information had apparently been put together but ex-members of the church.
So the Guyana camp was completely overcrowded, and conditions were not exactly perfect. The followers of the church worked hard all day to complete buildings, but were unable to sleep at night due to Jim Jones’s propaganda being blasted out of camp speakers.
US Congressman Leo Ryan made the brave decision to visit the settlement in November, 1978. He had heard numerous disturbing rumors coming out of the area, and was keen on finding out if the people living there were alright.
He flew into Jonestown, and set about meeting as many members as possible.
Ryan discovered a happy community full of people satisfied with their lot. Jim Jones seemed to be a friendly leader who was well loved by his followers, and generous in nature.
Ryan was about to fly home and tell the world that the Guyana settlement was a historic success…when someone slipped him a note containing the names of church members who were desperate to flee.
After talking to numerous members on the list, Ryan made a public announcement to the settlement in which he stated that anyone who wanted to leave, could do so with him the following day.
Several members of the community took up this offer, and jumped in trucks and headed for the airstrip. Ryan hung around a bit longer to make sure there was nobody else wanting to leave…
Then there was an attempt on his life!
He jumped in the final truck and headed for the local airstrip. Unfortunately, when he arrived the planes were not ready for take off…
While they were waiting, trucks and tractors drove up to the planes on the strip and opened fire. Five people were killed in the attack…including US Congressman Leo Ryan.
This incident seemed to push Jones over the edge, and he immediately told his followers that he had experienced a vision in which the Congressman died, and that the US government were going to parachute in and torture and kill them all.
He must have been convincing, because his whole congregation agreed to commit suicide with him.
Large bath tubs were filled with a mixture of grape juice, valium and cyanide…and family after family began to consume the deadly drink.
A few tried to escape when it came to them drinking the poison, but they were shot before they could get too far.
The body of Jim Jones was found with a bullet hole in it’s head – nobody knows if he killed himself…or somebody killed him.
It’s worth noting that there were 1100 people in the compound at the time of the mass suicide – only 912 died from poisoning.
If you have any thoughts or opinions on the subject of Jim Jones and Jonestown, please leave them in the comment section below.