The Jonestown Massacre
The body of Jones himself was later found with
Hello I'm Milo for About.com and today we're talking about the Jonestown massacre. In 1956, the Reverend Jim Jones founded a religious organization in Indiana called the People's Temple, which was based on racial integration and extreme socialism. By the early 1970s, the Temple was attracting negative attention in the press, partly because of Jones' highly staged healing rituals but also because of the increasingly cult-like aspects of the group. Jones therefore decided to create a closed community outside of US jurisdiction. He chose the South American nation of Guyana - a poor country, where he could effectively “buy” privacy. By 1974, a remote plot of land had been leased and construction of the newly-named Jonestown was soon underway. In 1977, hundreds of Temple members followed Jones to their new home in the jungle, blinded both by their faith and by the promise of a socialist utopia. However, life within the commune turned out to be harsh and nothing like what had been promised. While Temple members were forced to work long hours in the jungle heat, Jones submitted his followers to systematic mind control, broadcasting rambling, paranoid speeches over a speaker system day and night. Supposedly to test his members' loyalty, Jones instigated “white nights,” in which followers were ordered to drink a poisoned liquid. Only afterwards were the members told that there was no poison. White nights were used as a practice drill in case the commune came under attack. In November 1978, under pressure from concerned relatives of Temple members, US Congressman Leo Ryan announced that he would visit Jonestown. At first, Jones attempted to orchestrate an atmosphere of happiness within the commune, so that Ryan would leave assured that all was well. However, during Ryan's visit, a number of Temple members secretly asked Ryan to help them leave. Jones' façade had been ruined. As Ryan and a small group of defectors were waiting to board planes at a local airstrip, a group of Temple loyalists began shooting at the would-be defectors. Congressman Ryan was among those killed. Meanwhile, in the commune itself that same day, Jones urged members to commit the “revolutionary act” of suicide. Cyanide, valium, and grape fruit juice were mixed together in kettles. Parents were ordered to give the liquid to their children before drinking it themselves. Many drank it willingly, whereas others were threatened at gunpoint. Some were even injected with the poison. Over 900 Temple members were led to their deaths that day, November the 18th 1978. The body of Jones himself was later found with a gunshot wound to the head. For more excellent, insightful, and interesting information on the 20th Century, check us out at About.com.