When I think of evil human beings…Jim Jones checks off every box. When people think of Jonestown or the Peoples Temple they probably remember the horrible images and disbelief that blanketed the news from Guyana. Interviews with people who happened to be out of Jonestown that afternoon or one of the very few who escaped (36) who started their day there.
The death toll kept rising daily on the news…200, 400, and then 800 or more. The reason was the bodies were on top of each other and the more they were moved the more they realized some were 3 deep.
918 children and adults died on November 18, 1978, in Jonestown, and most were murdered not suicide. Drink the poisoned Flavor-Aid or get shot or injected right after watching the kids poisoned. According to the Guyanese court which had jurisdiction in the matter, all but three of the deaths in Jonestown were ruled to be the result of murder, not suicide. Source: The New York Times, 12/12/78
The Peoples Temple was a microcosm of society. Some people joined for socialism, religion (ironic since Jones was an atheist) or just to belong somewhere. There were young naive members, elderly vulnerable members, drug addicts, drunks, lawyers, doctors, rich, middle class, poor, black and white.
I always wanted to know more about what happened. There are some good books on this. The best one I’ve read is Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People by Tim Reiterman. Tim was there for two days including the last day when Congressman Leo Ryan was killed…Reiterman was also shot but survived.
The event, of course, inspired the phrase “Don’t Drink The Kool-Aid”…although it was really a cheap knockoff…Flavor-Aid.
The more I read the more I was imagining being held prisoner in that jungle under his totalitarian rule…what a helpless feeling…and I was wanting the impossible to happen…a different ending.
It’s so puzzling that today with all the info we have there are still cult leaders out there playing by the Jim Jones playbook.
A good abbreviated version of Jonestown and Jim Jones can be found here at History Channel website. https://www.history.com/topics/jonestown
A documentary of Jonestown and Peoples Temple.