“If we can’t live in peace then let’s die in peace. We are not committing suicide-it’s a revolutionary act.”~ Jim Jones
On this day in 1978 was the Jonestown Massacre.
Leader Jim Jones and over 900 of his followers committed suicide in a small part of the jungles of northern Guyana.
In the 1950’s, Jim Jones had walked away from the church that he was a member of based on the fact of racial inequality. He then decided that he was going to begin his own ministry. A ministry that was supposed to be based on love for ALL humans no matter their race.
He called it “The Peoples Temple” which started in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was a marriage of his liberal views and his socialist ideas mixed in with religion, what Jim Jones himself called Apostolic Socialism.
After some years of public criticism, Jones moved his religious group to Redwood City, California. Soon, branches of his organization would span out to Bay View La Romaine, San Fernando, and San Francisco. The headquarters would be established in San Francisco.
But Jones would find himself again under fire of many of his critics. His brute force in his teachings and his practices would capture the attention of non-members. And even allegations of abuse followed. All the while, his charm and his message of a universal love would attract more and more followers.
Jones would be on the run again from his critics. Led by his socialist views, he and his following researched places across the world in which to settle and establish their own place. He claimed that his teachings were the purest form of Communism that existed.
Bordering nations such as Venezuela and Brazil, Jones took his flock to a place in the jungle just outside of Port Kaituma. They called it Jonestown, which is the informal name for The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project.
They were given the promise of an utopia. Several hundred people soon disappeared from the United States when they followed Jones to Guyana.
Concerned and worried relatives soon reached out for help and sought the assistance of many politicians to help find their lost family members. After many years of speculation and alleged reports of Jim Jones abusing his members mentally and physically. Certain members of the U.S. Congress decided to investigate the claims of physical abuse.
Then in November of 1978, U.S. Congressman Ryan went to Guyana into Jonestown where they were met by the followers of Jones. At first, they were welcomed. But when word got out that there was a plot to kill Congressman Ryan with knife by one of the followers, the visit was cut short by one day. The plot had failed.
As the group of politicians began to depart, along with several defectors, tragedy and horror ensued. Members of The Peoples Temple started firing weapons on the airstrip. A few seconds of the attack was caught on video by NBC reporters.
Congressman Ryan, cameraman Bob Brown, photographer Greg Robinson, NBC reporter Don Harris and Temple defector Patricia Parks. Eleven others were injured including Jackie Speier, Steve Sung, Richard Dwyer, Tim Reiterman and Anthony Katsaris.
Suddenly Jim Jones found himself yet again in a very upsetting situation. With the deaths of innocent people, their blood was upon his hands. So on the 18th of November, 1978 he called his followers to worship. There he had told his followers that those people were dead and when news would reach the rest of the world of their deaths, that the followers would also be in danger of losing their lives.
They struggled to find a solution. They could either stand and fight, retreat into the jungle, defect to the USSR, or commit revolutionary suicide. Communist countries such as Cuba, USSR, North Korea, and others were refusing to allow them into their countries and wanted them to stay in Guyana.
The last resort that Jim Jones and his top officials had decided was that death would be their answer.
What they did was mixed a drink that contained grape flavored Flavor Aid, poisoned with Valium, chloral hydrate, cyanide, and Phenergan.
Note: It was NOT Kool-Aid that they had consumed, but Flavor Aid which was a similar brand to it. Thus this is where “Drinking the Kool-Aid” phrase comes from.
Death would occur within five minutes of drinking the poison. This was handed out to everyone there. Men, women, and even children.
It was the largest number of loss to American life, before the attacks that happened on the 11th of September in 2001.
There was however a tape recording of the last hours of Jim Jones and his followers. We don’t know how much of the last meeting is recorded, however we know that this was the plea of Jones to his followers to kill themselves and cross over to the other plane. It is described as the Death Tape. Because as it was recording, many people were dying.
The transcript of the audio recording as well as the audio itself can be found all over the Internet.
Different interpretations of the transcript can be found at:
You can find the audio and listen to it at:
or you can go to:
In my opinion, it is one of the most terrifying and creepiest things that I have ever heard to the point that I have never been able to listen to it all the way through. It lasts just under an hour in length. So please use caution if you decide to either read the transcript or listen to the actual audio which has the voice of Jim Jones pleading to his followers to their deaths.