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The Jonestown Massacre

The Jonestown Massacre is remembered as one of the most tragic cult events in history. The incident happened on the 18th of November, 1978, and it involved the mass suicide of more than 900 members of a cult group.

  • CNN: An article that contains comprehensive information about the Jonestown Massacre
  • TruTV: A detailed account of the events that led to the Jonestown Massacre
  • TIME: A collection of interesting photos that are related to the Jonestown Massacre

Jonestown was a cult commune that was established by Rev. Jim Jones, the leader of a cult group called the People's Temple. It was located in the northwestern part of Guyana, and it covered a total area of more than 3,000 acres. After Jones had finalized immigration terms with the Guyanese government in 1977, he convinced a few hundred Temple members to travel to Guyana to join the Jonestown community. In just one year, the population of Jonestown had grown to over 900.

  • Guyana: An analysis of the Jonestown community. Includes FBI files
  • Owlnet of Rice University: A detailed examination of Jonestown and the People's Temple

Jim Jones was a very charismatic leader, and it is said that he had the power to brain-wash his cult members into doing anything he asked of them. He was born in Crete, Indiana, and he developed an obsession with religion as well as socialist idealisms when he was growing up. He found that the best way to turn his idealisms into reality was to start a church, and therefore, he established the People's Temple in the 1950s. Soon after he founded his church, Jones began to gain public attention as he spoke about his idealisms in rallies and various media presentations, and he was highly respected by his followers for his generous contributions to the welfare of the society.

  • CAIC: Complete information on the histories of Jim Jones and the People's Temple
  • Jonestown Research: Maps, member names, businesses and housing in Joneston Guyana.

In 1975, he relocated the headquarters of the People's Temple to San Francisco, where his activities led to intense media scrutiny. It was revealed to the public that Jones exercised totalitarian authority over his followers, and he demanded them to follow his orders with unquestioning obedience. He sexually abused some of his followers and subjected them to a variety of punishments, which included deprivation of food and sleep, and also beatings. To escape the tension that he was facing in San Francisco, he decided to relocate to Guyana, where he could create a socialist paradise.

For a short time after the members of the People's Temple arrived in Jonestown, they believed that they were indeed living in a paradise. However, problems such as overcrowding, unhealthy living conditions, and food shortage began to surface later on, and things did not seem to be so perfect after all. Jones himself became increasingly paranoid, and he was constantly worried that the FBI and CIA would come to destroy his commune. He started holding "white nights" sessions with his followers to rehearse revolutionary mass suicide.

  • Why Suicide?: A look into why people commited suicide because of the influence of one man.
  • Biography of Jim Jones: A look into the twisted mind of leader Jim Jones.

Jones was convinced that he had failed in his attempt to create a paradise for his followers. As a result, he ordered them to commit mass suicide on the 18th of November, 1978. At around 5.00 pm on that day, all the mothers in the community were told to feed their children with a poison drink, which was a mixture of Kool Aid and cyanide. After their children had drunk the concoction, they drank it themselves. Those who showed reluctance to drink the poison were forced to do so by armed members of the cult. Jim Jones did not consume the poison; he died from a gun shot to his head. A total of 913 members died on that tragic day.

  • Jonestown Memorial: Images of members of the People's Temple who committed suicide in Jonestown
  • YouTube: A documentary about Jim Jones and the Jonestown Massacre

After the massacre, various speculations were made concerning the reasons that led to the tragedy. One of the most unsettling speculations is that Jonestown was an experiment that was carried out by the CIA to develop a better understanding of mind-control. The House Select Committee on Intelligence claimed that the CIA had no prior knowledge of the massacre, but their claim remains doubtable as more than 5,000 pages of report on the incident were not disclosed to the public. Another interesting speculation is that Jones did not kill himself. Although it is commonly believed that he took his own life by shooting himself in the head, there is no clear evidence that he was the one who pulled the trigger. It is possible that he was killed by government agents who were posting as Temple members.

  • Spiritually Smart: Interesting information on possible link between Jim Jones and the CIA. Includes images and videos
  • Ratical: The untold story of the Jonestown Massacre

Many investigators from various criminal justice schools have tried to find out the truth behind the Jonestown massacre, but up to today, it remains a mystery that is waiting to be solved.