Mass Suicide In Guyana
Jim Jones and The People's Temple
This was a Christian destructive, doomsday cult founded and led by James Warren Jones (1931-1978). Jim Jones held degrees from Indiana University and Butler University. He was not a Fundamentalist pastor as many reports in the media and the anti-cult movement claim. He belonged to a mainline Christian denomination, having been ordained in the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ. (At the time of his ordination, the DoC allowed a local congregation to select and ordain a minister on their own. However, ordinations conducted without denominational endorsement were not considered valid within the rest of the church.)
Some of the Church Members In San Francisco
The Peoples Temple was initially structured as an inter-racial mission for the sick, homeless and jobless. He assembled a large following of over 900 members in Indianapolis IN during the 1950's. "He preached a 'social gospel' of human freedom, equality, and love, which required helping the least and the lowliest of society's members. Later on, however, this gospel became explicitly socialistic, or communistic in Jones' own view, and the hypocrisy of white Christianity was ridiculed while 'apostolic socialism' was preached." 1 It was an interracial congregation -- almost unheard of in Indiana at the time. When a government investigation began into his cures for cancer, heart disease and arthritis, he decided to move the group to Ukiah in Northern California. He preached the imminent end of the world in a nuclear war; Ukiah was judged to be as safe as any when war broke out.
They later moved to San Francisco and Los Angeles. After an expose during the mid 1970's in the magazine New West raised suspicions of illegal activities within the Temple, he moved some of the Temple membership to Jonestown, Guyana. The Temple had leased almost 4,000 acres of dense jungle from the government. They established an agricultural cooperative there, called the "Peoples Temple Agricultural Project." They raised animals for food, and assorted tropical fruits and vegetables for consumption and sale.
Governor Jerry Brown with The Good Reverend
Jones developed a belief called Translation in which he and his
followers would all die together, and would move to another planet for a life of
bliss. Mass suicides were practiced in which his followers pretended to drink
poison and fell to the ground.
During the late 1970's, Jones had been abusing prescription drugs and appears to have become increasingly paranoid. Rumors of human rights abuses circulated. As in most high-intensity religious groups, there was a considerable flow of people joining and leaving the group. Tim Stoen, the Temple attorney and right-hand man to Jones left to form Concerned Relatives who claimed that Jonestown was being run like a concentration camp, and that people were being held there against their will. This motivated Leo Ryan, a Congressman, to visit Jonestown in 1978-NOV for a personal inspection. At first, the visit went well.
Uganda - Famous Carnage
Later, on NOV-18, about 16 Temple members decided that they wanted to leave Jonestown with the visitors. This came as quite a blow to both Jones and the rest of the project. While Ryan and the others were waiting at Port Kiatuma airfield, the local airstrip, some heavily armed members of the Temple's security guards arrived and started shooting. Congressman Ryan and four others were killed; three were members of the press; the other was a person from Jonestown who wanted to leave. 11 were wounded. Fearing retribution, the project members discuss their options. They reach a consensus to commit group suicide.
The Man With The Plan
914 died: 638 adults and 276 children. Some sources say 911
died. Most appear to have committed suicide by drinking a grape drink laced with
cyanide and a number of sedatives, including liquid Valium, Penegram and chloral
hydrate. Some sources say it was Kool-Aid; others say FlaVor-AidŽ. Other victims
appear to have been murdered by poison injection. The Guyanese coroner said that
hundreds of bodies showed needle marks, indicating foul play. Still other
victims were shot. A very few fled into the jungle and survived. The bodies were
in a state of extensive decay when the authorities arrived. There was no time to
conduct a thorough investigation.
The Peoples Temple organization did not survive the mass suicide/murder in Guyana. Their former headquarters building in San Francisco was demolished by the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989.
Much more on this famous incident coming soon. Developing...
Timeline of the Peoples Temple
1956 - Peoples Temple founded
in Indianapolis as an integrated church combining evangelical, enthusiastic
religion and loosely socialist politics. Jim Jones, the founder and pastor of
the church, preformed healings which attracted many members. The congregation
was predominately black.
1960 - Jim Jones was appointed director of the Indianapolis human rights commission.
1961 - The Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church, as it came to be called, became a part of the Disciples of Christ. Jones was ordained by that faith in 1964.
1965 - Jones moved the Temple's headquarters to Ukiah, California, a city near San Francisco which he thought would be a safe haven in case of a nuclear war.
The Peoples Temple attracted more members and much favorable coverage in the press and from the political establishment as Jones himself and the Temple in general became more active in the community. Jones was even appointed to the San Francisco Housing Authority.
It was also during this time that some questions were raised by people outside of the group as to possible human rights violations within the group. the organization of concerned relatives was formed in response to reports of beatings and other punishments afflicted on members by Jones and the Temple's leaders.
It was also during this time that Jones decided to move his congregation to Guyana.
1978 - By the end of 1977, more than 900 Temple members were in residence at the commune in Guyana. At the end of the day, November 18, 1978, 913 members had committed suicide. At the end of the day, Jones apparently killed himself with a gunshot to the head, bringing the total dead to 914.
Some Other Mass Suicides In Recent History
March 26, 1997 -- The Heaven's Gate Cult - 39 people eat poison pudding in a mansion in a San Diego, CA suburb.
March 23, 1997 -- The charred bodies of three women and two
men were found inside a house in Saint Casimir, Quebec. All
were members of the Solar Temple, an international sect that
believes ritualized suicide leads to rebirth on a planet
December 1995 -- Sixteen Solar Temple members were found dead in a burned house outside Grenoble, in the French Alps.
October 1994 -- The burned bodies of 48 Solar Temple members were discovered in a farmhouse and three chalets in Switzerland. At the same time, five bodies, including that of an infant, were found in a chalet north of Montreal.
October 1993 -- Fifty-three hill Vietnamese tribe villagers committed mass suicide with flintlock guns and other primitive weapons in the belief they would go straight to heaven. Officials said they were the victims of a scam by a man who received cash donations for promising a speedy road to paradise.
December 1991 -- Mexican minister Ramon Morales Almazan and 29 followers suffocated after he told them to keep praying and ignore toxic fumes filling their church.
December 13, 1990 -- Twelve people died in a religious ritual in Tijuana, Mexico, apparently after drinking fruit punch tainted by industrial alcohol.