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Facts About What Happened At Jonestown

Updated May 22, 2020 253.3k views10 items

The Peoples Temple has become one of the most notorious cults in history due in part to the November 18, 1978, tragedy - dubbed the "Jonestown Massacre" - during which more than 900 people died at the remote site of Peoples Temple Agricultural Project located in Jonestown, Guyana.

In the decades that have passed since the incident, Jonestown survivors have painted a dark picture of their time in the commune and leader Jim Jones, calling into question the alleged "voluntary" nature of the November 1978 tragedy.

  • Armed Men Surrounded The Compound And Were Required To Stop Anyone Who Tried To Leave 

    Teri Buford O'Shea told The Atlantic about her experience at the Jonestown compound, providing insight into what members of the Jonestown community experienced. She said there was little opportunity to escape: 

    Unless you were one of the lucky ones who happened to sneak off into the jungle, you were dead. They went around with stethoscopes, and if you still had a heartbeat, you'd be shot... 

  • Jim Jones Didn't Drink The Punch

    Neither Jones himself, nor his nurse, Annie Moore, died as a result of poisoning. According to Jones's toxicology report, found Pentobarbital in his system, but no cyanide, so he never actually consumed the punch that doomed his followers. 

    Jones and Moore were both shot, though it is unclear if Jones is responsible for taking his own life. While his autopsy asserts that his wound could indicate he pulled the trigger, “the possibility of homicide cannot be entirely ruled out because of the lack of specific and reliable information.”

  • The Victims Of Jonestown Didn't Actually Drink Kool-Aid

    It is a commonly held belief that the majority of those who perished at Jonestown did so by drinking a cocktail of cyanide and Kool-Aid. In fact the common idiom, "Don't drink the Kool-Aid," which is meant to deter people from participating in dangerous activities due to peer pressure, was inspired by the events at Jonestown and is considered offensive by survivors of this tragedy.

    As it turns out, Kool-Aid was not the mixing agent that Jones used to dose his followers. He used grape-flavored Flavor Aid. The Kool-Aid misnomer is a result of the brand becoming a generic trademark for all flavored powdered drinks.

  • Jim Jones Was Said To Be Heavily Influenced By History's Most Notorious Dictators 

    Jim Jones was the founder of The Peoples Temple at Jonestown, where he used both his charm and his position as a pastor to attract followers. 

    Jones spent a lot of time studying the works of Joseph Stalin, Karl Marx, Mao Zedong, and Adolf Hitler while growing up. According to some childhood friends inverviewd for a PBS special, he was "obsessed with religion... obsessed with death."

    It wasn't until 1955 that a 25-year-old Jones founded his first church in Indianapolis. This church would change names several times until landing on its final moniker: Peoples Temple Christian Church Full Gospel.