The Jonestown Massacre
Warning: This story contains abuse and manipulation, viewer discretion is advised
The Start of a Cult
Jonestown was started by a man called Jim Jones. He started his first peoples temple in the 1950’s in Indianapolis. At the time, Jim Jones was a powerful figure because many people loved him since he was kind and wanted racial justice. This attracted a diverse audience. His temple ran social/medical programs, aid services and drug rehabilitation programs. By 1977, Jones’s church grew to 20,000 people. He opened 2 additional churches in San Francisco and Los Angeles. His church was known for mind reading and healing.
The Beginning of His Greed
Although Jones originally wanted to help people, when he realized how much money and power he had he became greedy. He started to abuse the members of his church by humiliating, beating and blackmailing them. This begs the question; why didn’t they just leave? Members of the church thought that if they left, the government would put them into concentration camps due to Jones’ propaganda. This made them feel like this only option was to stay since they will at least be “safe”.
Jones eventually took hundreds of members to his newest project, Jonestown. Jonestown was located in Guyana and was promised to be a paradise for them. Things took a turn for the worst, unfortunately. The members were forced to work on the fields for extremely long hours and were punished if they started questioning Jones’s intentions. Families were separated and members were not allowed to communicate with anyone besides each other. At the end of their hours, they would go to meetings where Jones would brainwash them. He convinced them that the government was out to get them. He would also pretend to heal them by making them “cough out their illnesses”. In reality, though, he would make them cough while sneakily putting a piece of chicken liver in their mouth. Then he would take it out and tell people it was the illness.
The Sad End to the Nightmare
On November 17, 1978, Journalists came to Jonestown to observe what the members would do daily. At first, everything was fine, but when the journalists were about to leave, some of the members asked the journalists to help them escape. Jones found out about this and was furious. Jones ordered some of the members to kill the journalists. 5 were killed. Jones knew that the police were going to find out what was really going on. He gathered all of his members and ordered them to commit suicide. He called it a revolution. One by one, members would drink a cyanide laced drink. Members who refused to drink were held down as others forced the drink down their throats. The next day, Guyana officials came to Jonestown, finding over 900 bodies. Luckily, a few members were able to escape and are now able to tell their story.