Peoples Temple

James Warren Jones was an American crypto-Communist cult leader, preacher and self-professed faith healer who conspired with his inner circle to direct a mass murder-suicide of himself and his followers in his jungle commune at Jonestown, Guyana on November 18, 1978. He launched the People’s Temple in Indiana during the 1950s.

Jim Jones

James Warren Jones was an American preacher, political activist, and mass murderer. He led the Peoples Temple, a new religious movement, between 1955 and 1978. Beginning in the late 1960s, reports of abuse began to surface as Jones became increasingly vocal in his rejection of traditional Christianity and began promoting a form of communism he called "Apostolic Socialism" and making claims of his own divinity.

Rev. Jim Jones pastor of the Christian Assembly of God Church Sept. 9, 1954. Jones began a monkey importing project as part of a fund-raising project for his congregation.
Rev. Jim Jones pastor of the Christian Assembly of God Church Sept. 9, 1954. Jones began a monkey importing project as part of a fund-raising project for his congregation.

Jones was of Irish and Welsh descent; he and his mother both claimed to also have some Cherokee ancestry, but there is no evidence of this. Jones's father was a disabled World War I veteran who suffered from severe breathing difficulties due to injuries which he sustained in a chemical weapons attack.

Commenting on his childhood, Jones stated:

“I was ready to kill by the end of the third grade. I mean, I was so aggressive and hostile, I was ready to kill. Nobody gave me love, any understanding. In those days a parent was supposed to go with a child to school functions. There was some kind of school performance, and everybody's parent was there but mine. I'm standing there, alone. Always was alone.”

Jones developed an intense interest in religion and social doctrines. He became a voracious reader who studied Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Karl Marx, Mao Zedong and Mahatma Gandhi.

“Jones would tell his future wife Marceline that Mao Tse-tung was his hero.”

Rev. Jim Jones received the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award in January 1977. Jones and his wife were avid race mixers having adopted several non-white children, referring to the household as his “rainbow family,” and stating: “Integration is a more personal thing with me now. It’s a question of my son’s future.” He also portrayed the Temple as a “rainbow family.”.

Humanitarian Award
Jones receiving the Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award, January 1977.

Jones hosted local political figures, including Angela Davis, at his San Francisco apartment for discussions. He spoke with publisher Carlton Goodlett about his remorse over not being able to travel to socialist countries such as China and the Soviet Union, speculating that he could be Chief Dairyman of the U.S.S.R Jones established the Peoples Temple as a model communist community, adding that the Temple comprised “the purest communists there are”; but Jones did not permit members to leave the settlement.

“If you’re born in capitalist America, racist America, fascist America, then you’re born in sin. But if you’re born in socialism, you’re not born in sin”

Jones encouraged Temple members to race mix by adopting orphans from war-ravaged Korea. He was also critical of U.S. opposition to communist leader Kim Il-sung’s 1950 invasion of South Korea, calling it the “war of liberation” and stating that South Korea “is a living example of all that socialism in the north has overcome.”.

Nation of Islam
Jim Jones and the Nation of Islam (N.O.I).

In Brazil Jones was careful not to portray himself as a communist in a foreign territory and so spoke of an apostolic communal lifestyle rather than of Castro or Marx. By the early 1970s, Jones began deriding Christianity as “fly away religion,” rejecting the Bible as being a tool to oppress women and non-whites, and denouncing a “Sky God” who was no God at all. Jones also began preaching that he was the reincarnation of Gandhi, Father Divine, Jesus, Gautama Buddha, and Vladimir Lenin.

Humanitarian Award
Rev. Jim Jones (May 13, 1931 – November 18, 1978)

“What you need to believe in is what you can see.… If you see me as your friend, I’ll be your friend. As you see me as your father, I’ll be your father, for those of you that don’t have a father.… If you see me as your saviour, I’ll be your saviour. If you see me as your God, I’ll be your God”

In a 1976 phone conversation with John Maher, Jones alternately said he was an agnostic and an atheist. Marceline Jones admitted in a 1977 New York Times interview that Jones was trying to promote Marxism in the U.S. by mobilizing people through religion, citing Mao Zedong as his inspiration: “Jim used religion to try to get some people out of the opiate of religion.” He had slammed the Bible on the table, yelling “I’ve got to destroy this paper idol!”.

“Jones equated love with socialism asserting he was a savior sent by the true God, to rescue humanity from their sufferings. Jones increasingly promoted the idea of his own divinity, going so far as to tell his congregation that “I am come as God Socialist.”. Jones created his own baptismal formula, baptizing his converts “in the holy name of Socialism”. Drawing on a prophecy in the Book of Revelation, he taught that American capitalist culture was irredeemable “Babylon”.”

In September 1976, California assemblyman Willie Brown served as master of ceremonies at a large testimonial dinner for Jones attended by Governor Jerry Brown and Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally. At that dinner, Brown touted Jones as “what you should see every day when you look in the mirror” and said he was a combination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Angela Davis, Albert Einstein, and Mao Tse-tung (Mao Zedong). Harvey Milk spoke to audiences during political rallies held at the Temple, and he wrote to Jones after one such visit:

“Rev Jim, It may take me many a day to come back down from the high that I reach today. I found something dear today. I found a sense of being that makes up for all the hours and energy placed in a fight. I found what you wanted me to find. I shall be back. For I can never leave!”.

Jones spoke with publisher Carlton Goodlett of the San Francisco Sun-Reporter about his remorse over not being able to travel to socialist countries such as the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union, speculating that he could be Chief Dairyman of the U.S.S.R. In the summer of 1977, Jones and several hundred Temple members abruptly decided to move to the Temple’s compound in Guyana after they learned the contents of a newspaper article written by Chronicle reporter Marshall Kilduff, his exposé story appearing in the New West magazine included allegations by former Temple members that they were physically, emotionally, and sexually abused. Jones named the settlement “Jonestown” after himself.

Mass instigated Suicide and Murder
Mass instigated suicide and murder, multicultural utopian deliverance by socialist reaper Rev. Jim Jones

909 inhabitants of Jonestown, 304 of them children, died of apparent cyanide poisoning, mostly in and around the settlement’s main pavilion. Some time after the slaughter, the FBI later recovered a 45-minute audio recording of the suicide in progress. On that tape, Jones tells Temple members that the Soviet Union, with whom the Temple had been negotiating a potential exodus for months, would not take them after the airstrip murders. Jones professed conspiracy theories of intelligence organizations allegedly conspiring against the Temple that men would “parachute in here on us,” “shoot some of our innocent babies,” and “they’ll torture our children, they’ll torture some of our people here, they’ll torture our seniors.”.

Jones made frequent addresses to Temple members regarding Jonestown’s safety, including statements that the CIA and other intelligence agencies were conspiring with “capitalist pigs” to destroy the settlement and harm its inhabitants. After work, when purported emergencies arose, the Temple sometimes conducted what Jones referred to as “White Nights”.

“Victims of Jonestown would be awoken with bright floodlights at unearthly hours, with a triggered repetition of “White Night, White Night” delivered by megaphone speakers surrounding his fenced and guarded compound.”

During such events, Jones would sometimes give the Jonestown members four options: attempt to flee to the Soviet Union, commit “revolutionary suicide”, stay in Jonestown and fight the purported attackers, or flee into the jungle.

Mass instigated Suicide and Murder
Reconnaissance Picture of Jonestown taken by FBI Plane

Three high-ranking Temple survivors claimed they were given an assignment and thereby escaped death. Tim Carter and his brother Mike, aged 30 and 20, and Mike Prokes, 31, were given luggage containing $550,000 in U.S. currency, $130,000 in Guyanese currency, and an envelope, which they were told to deliver to the Soviet embassy in Georgetown. The envelope contained two passports and three instructional letters, the first of which was to Timofeyev, stating:

Jones Death Tape recording contains an uncredited excerpt from one of Jim Jones 'White Night' rehearsal speeches, followed by the complete recording of Jim Jones final speech (FBI tape no Q 042) recorded during the mass murder/suicide in Jonestown on the night of November 18th 1978.

“Dear Comrade Timofeyev, The following is a letter of instructions regarding all of our assets that we want to leave to the Communist Party of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Enclosed in this letter are letters which instruct the banks to send the cashiers checks to you. I am doing this on behalf of People’s Temple because we, as communists, want our money to be of benefit for help to oppressed peoples all over the world, or in any way that your decision-making body sees fit”.

The letters included listed accounts with balances totalling in excess of $7.3 million to be transferred to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Prokes and the Carter brothers soon ditched most of the money and were apprehended heading for a Temple boat at Port Kaituma. The brothers were given the task before the suicides began, and soon abandoned it when they realized what was about to happen; Tim Carter desperately tried to search for his wife and son, discovering his son in time to witness him being poisoned, and his wife killing herself in despair. At this point, Carter had a nervous breakdown, and was pulled away from the village by his equally distraught brother.

Tim Carter is pictured with his wife Gloria Carter
Tim Carter is pictured with his wife Gloria Carter, their son Malcolm Carter, his niece Gloria and his sister Terry Carter Jones and her son Chaeoke Jones. Gloria, Malcolm, Gloria, Terry and Chaeoke all died at Jonestown.

The only medical doctor to initially examine the scene at Jonestown was Mootoo, who visually examined over 200 bodies and later told a Guyanese coroner’s jury to have seen needle marks on at least 70. However, no determination was made whether those injections initiated the introduction of poison or whether they were so-called “relief” injections to quicken death and reduce suffering from convulsions from those who had previously taken poison orally.

Jones Cyanide
Jones Cyanide "cool aid" Drum

Mootoo and American pathologist Lynn Crook determined that cyanide was present in some bodies, while analysis of the contents of the vat revealed several tranquillizers as well as potassium cyanide and potassium chloride. Plastic cups, Flavour Aid packets, and syringes, some with needles and some without, littered the area where the bodies were found.

“How can I demonstrate my Marxism? The thought was, infiltrate the church.”

Found near Marceline Jones’ body was a typewritten note, dated November 18, 1978, signed by Marceline and witnessed by Moore and Maria Katsaris, stating:

“I, Marceline Jones, leave all bank assets in my name to the Communist Party of the USSR. The above bank accounts are located in the Bank of Nova Scotia in Nassau, Bahamas. Please be sure that these assets do get to the USSR. I especially request that none of these are allowed to get into the hands of my adopted daughter, Suzanne Jones Cartmell. For anyone who finds this letter, please honour this request as it is most important to myself and my husband James W. Jones”.

On October 2, 1978, Feodor Timofeyev, a Soviet citizen, visited Jonestown for two days and gave a speech. Jones stated before the speech, “For many years, we have let our sympathies be quite publicly known, that the United States government was not our mother, but that the Soviet Union was our spiritual motherland.”

Soviet Embassy representative Feodor Timofeyev visited Jonestown in September 1978 and stayed into early October.
Soviet Embassy representative Feodor Timofeyev visited Jonestown in September 1978 and stayed into early October.

Timofeyev opened the speech stating that the Soviet Union would like to send “our deepest and the most sincere greetings to the people of this first socialist and communist community of the United States of America, in Guyana and in the world”. Both speeches were met by cheers and applause from the crowd in Jonestown. Following the visit, Temple members met almost weekly with Timofeyev to discuss a potential Soviet exodus.

Jones Cyanide

“Jones recorded readings of the news were part of the constant broadcasts over Jonestown’s tower speakers, such that all members could hear them throughout the day and night. Jones’ news readings usually portrayed the U.S. as a “capitalist” and “imperialist” villain, while casting “socialist” leaders, such as Kim Il-sung, Robert Mugabe, and Joseph Stalin in a positive light”.

Jones Cyanide

Although Jonestown contained no dedicated prison and no form of capital punishment, various forms of punishment were used against members considered to have serious disciplinary problems. Methods included imprisonment in a 6 × 4 × 3-foot (1.8 × 1.2 × 0.9m) plywood box and forcing children to spend a night at the bottom of a well, sometimes upside-down. This “torture hole”, along with beatings, became the subject of rumour among local Guyanese. For some members who attempted to escape, drugs such as Thorazine, sodium pentathol, chloral hydrate, Demerol, and Valium were administered in an “extended care unit”. Armed guards patrolled the area day and night to enforce Jonestown’s rules.

Jones Cyanide

“Victims of Jonestown would be awoken with bright floodlights at unearthly hours, with a triggered repetition of “White Night, White Night” delivered by megaphone speakers surrounding his fenced and guarded compound.”

In the early evening of November 18, at the Temple’s headquarters in Georgetown, Temple member Sharon Amos received a radio communication from Jonestown instructing the members at the headquarters to take revenge on the Temple’s enemies and then commit revolutionary suicide. Later, after police arrived at the headquarters, Sharon escorted her children, Liane (21), Christa (11), and Martin (10), into a bathroom. Wielding a kitchen knife, Sharon first killed Christa, and then Martin. Then, Liane assisted Sharon in killing herself with the knife, after which Liane killed herself with the knife.

“The reality is that it was not some giant, ‘Let’s get together and die for Jim Jones moment, It was precisely the opposite. That was my experience. What happened in Jonestown was murder.”.