Jonestown was a small town that emerged after one self-proclaimed ‘man of God,’ Jim Jones moved his followers to in an attempt to build a perfect communist utopia. He wanted his followers to have a community away from civilization where there would be no racial discrimination, no rich or poor and a society where the property was owned communally. Jim Jones used the ideology of communism to easily win the hearts of minority groups like the African-Americans who were facing racial discrimination at that time. While growing up, Jones drew inspirations from Hitler, Mao, Marx, Gandhi, and Starlin. He carefully studied their leadership and drew inspirations from their strengths and noted their weaknesses. He later figured out how he would execute his plans as a Marxist leader and thought the only way out was through the church. Jones established the Peoples Temple and used his manipulative ways to attract members. Being the famous preacher, Jones earned the up ladder in the political scene. He was first appointed in 1960 as a director of human rights commission. He used the opportunity to seize more power to himself.
Jones would shift his temple’s headquarters from place to place to avert to constant criticism and scrutiny by the media. Finally, he settled with his congregation in Guyana, California. He named the new settlement ‘Peoples Temple Agricultural Project.’ At Guyana, Jones exercised his full power and had complete control of his followers. The congregation would toil hard in the fields during the day and attended unending sermons during the nights delivered by Jones. A tip-off from one of the cult members prompted congressman Leo Ryan to schedule a visit to the small isolated town. His visits angered Jones who ordered his guns men to hunt down Leo and his delegates. Leo with his deputies and estranged cult members were shot dead at the Port Kaituma Air Strip. This was the genesis of one of the biggest single Civilians murder of November 18, 1978, where more than 900 cult members lost their lives under the orders of Jim Jones. Below are the gruesome facts about the Jonestown Massacre.
1 Cult Members Practiced Murder Exercises Occasionally
Even though the cult members were subjected to inhumane sufferings like being beaten occasionally and being forced to sign off their properties to the doomsday cult, Jones went ahead to have them practice their deaths in preparation of the day they would die. After a family in the United States won a child custody case involving Jim Jones, the cult leader became more paranoid and was in fear of losing his power over the temple and its members. His paranoia prompted him to inculcate what was known as “white nights” where the congregation would practice mass suicide. No member would disobey their leader.
They followed his commands including forging death in what Jones saw as the only way out of their sufferings. The white nights were conducted after the day’s work. Jones would give the congregation four options on how to win the war against their attackers. He told them to stay in Jonestown and fight the enemy, run to the jungle and hide, seek refuge at the Soviet Union or commit suicide. When practicing mass suicide, the members were given a drink to take and were told they would die in forty-five minutes. They practiced showing solidarity to their cult leader.
2 Kids Were Killed First
Children’s dying first is the saddest part of the Jonestown massacre. The parents fed the children with cyanide-laced drinks. This is evident in the audiotape recorded by Jones. In the tape, the children are heard crying helplessly as their parents fed them with the poisonous drink. One woman tried to ask Jim Jones to spare the kids confidently, but the cult leader replied saying that the kids had no reason to live and suffer in the hands of their enemies and become dummies. The parents watched their kids die in their own hands. Soon after consuming the drink, the kids began convulsing, and blood oozed through their mouths. Children who resisted the poison were forcefully injected using syringes.
3 An Unknown Cult Member Tried to Protest
In the audiotape recorded during the incident, a woman is heard from behind the scenes confidently asking the cult leader to at least spare the innocent souls who deserved to live. The woman who was identified as Christine challenged the cult leader and asked him to consider other means like fleeing to Russia for safety. The cult leader would hear none of it and also voices from the background are heard shouting at the woman to stop being a coward and follow the leader’s instructions. Jones went ahead in the tape to urge the confused parents to continue giving the poisoned drink to their children. He also said that they deserve to die in peace and dignity.
4 Jim Jones Recorded the Whole Massacre Process
Once a charismatic church minister, Jim Jones was too proud to give in to the government’s and press’s pressure to scrutinize his cult movement. His fear of losing the peoples temple forced him to take down the lives of his whole congregation by giving them cyanide-laced drinks. To prove that his movement was right all along, Jones audio-recorded all the process to show the entire world that they were protesting against what he described as an inhumane world.
With all the power he had over his followers, Jones couldn’t stand any disobedient member. He was regarded as the father by the cult members and their children. At the beginning of the audiotape, Jones is heard telling the congregation on how he loved them so much. How he’s devoted his whole life in offering the best experience. At the end of the tape, Jones told the world that they did not commit suicide, but they voluntarily took their lives in solidarity to demonstrate against the inhumane world.
5 Members Who Tried to Resist Were Forcefully Injected
During the wake of the Jonestown massacre, their evidence that some of the cult members tried to resist taking the cyanide-laced drink. Jones also is heard on the audiotape scaring the differing enthusiasts that if they did not die then, they would live and be subjected to brutal solder. He always reminded them that if they didn’t die, the government and the CIA were coming for them. Jones did all this purposely in the hope that he would leave a legacy as a victor who fought for what’s right for all people.
6 The People’s Temple Had Support From Politicians
Jones involvements with politics were one of his strategic ways of executing his Marxism and attract more followers to the people’s temple. Many local politicians supported Jones Temple and his activities in return for reliable support during campaigns and voting. With a considerable number of followers Jones had, politicians were almost certain of victory in elections. The first politician to show solidarity for Jones activities was Burton ally, Willy Brown.
Willy Brown was championing for his friend’s ambition for the mayor’s office. He involved Jones who convinced his loyal Temple of Christ members to vote for George Moscone who was Willy Brown’s friend. Moscone won the election as the mayor in San Francisco all thanks to Jones and his unwavering cult members. The political powers Jones had seen him acquire and establish his own Guyanese utopia without much scrutiny from the Guyanese administration.
7 Jim Jones Ordered the Killing of Leo Ryan and His Delegates
This is another shocking fact about the Jonestown massacre. Following constant complains of relatives to the cult members on how Jones was holding more than one thousand people, hostage, Congressman Leo Ryan saw it fit to visit the utopian community and verify the facts. The Democrats’ member left for Guyana on 14 November 1978. Together with his delegates and members of the press head to Jones town. They received what they perceived as a warm welcome. Also, a small number of concerned relatives were in the company of Ryan.
While at Jonestown one cult member tried to stub Leo Ryan but was stopped by fellow members. Ryan and his delegates did their investigation, and to their utter surprise, the cult members seemed well as no one expressed any form of sufferings. Satisfied with his findings, Ryan and his delegates left for Washington. A small number of cult members requested to go with the delegation. The ‘fleeing’ cult members later turned against the delegates and opened fire at them. During the commotion, a large number of shooters emerged and killed Ryan and his emissaries. One of the gunmen told the delegates that they had been sent by Jones to kill them. Five people died, and nine others were severely wounded.
8 Only 87 Members of the Cult Survived
Eighty-seven members of Jonestown survived the gruesome apocalyptic cult. Some of the members like Hyacinth Thrash slept throughout the process of cheating death while others were defectors. To add, other members had been sent to deliver money to the Soviet Union. Eleven other members had gone to Mathews Ridge. Other cult members who survived were Herbert Newell and Clifford Gieg who had been sent for supplies.
9 Gold Worth $1 Million Was Recovered From the Scene
Following the gruesome murder of more than nine hundred Americans, American authorities recovered gold worth one million dollars. Also recovered from the scene where guns and ammunition which showed clearly how well Jones had structured his control over the sect members. The police also recovered eight hundred United States passports from the bodies.
10 Jim Jones Died From a Gunshot
After seeing his followers drop dead one by one, Jones took his last breath at the altar in the pavilion at Jonestown. He watched what he used to call ‘rainbow family’ die before he committed suicide. His wife died from the effects of cyanide. It is believed that Jones shot himself to show solidarity with his cult members. The autopsy revealed that wound on his head was self-inflicted. Unlike his congregation, Jones never tested the cyanide-laced grape drink.