Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Lasting Legacy of Jim Jones

By: Menschenleer

“Nobody Joins a Cult, Nobody Joins Something They Think Is Going to Hurt Them.”

Survivors tell the story; the lucky bunch, so to speak. It rained all morning and afternoon, and restless members of this tyrannical cult felt the unease in the air as if their beating hearts mimiced the falling rain outside the huts. Something was going to happen today- something spectacularly evil and vile- something nobody would soon forget. A People's Temple member himself said of that day, “Evil itself had blown into Jonestown.”

November 18, 1978 could have been one of the many days that dragged on like any other. There was food that needed to be harvested in the vast gardens surrounding the little town, children to be changed and fed, work to be done, and of course, the endless droning on the loudspeaker like the voice of God. And there wasn't any other God to turn to that frightening and impossibly hot summer. Any memories of real safety and true sanity were blocked out by a sweating and paranoid morphine addict known as Jim Jones.

The heavy foreboding rain was not the only sign of discomfort in Jonestown that ominous day in history. Congressman Leo Ryan was visiting for the first time, eager to see the amazing and beautiful little town Jim Jones had placed in the middle of Guyana. Stories of unrest and fear by former members of Jonestown had sent Ryan to the lush “heavenly place”. Someone had to make sure Guyana was indeed safe. A majestic place in which hundreds of people might collect and praise the Lord in any way they chose.

It seemed harmless enough. The People's Temple members kept to themselves, brought up whole families in the cozy little huts encompassing the land all over Guyana, held fast the idea of socialism, and fell at Jim Jones feet each night a sermon was given.

A jubilant devotee of Jonestown could not stop himself from exclaiming brightly, “I've never been so totally happy or fulfilled in my life. I can't begin to describe it. You could sit and talk all day long and no words could describe the peace, the beauty, the sense of accomplishment and responsibility; the commraderie that's here. It's overwhelming, it really is. You can't describe it!”

Congressman Leo Ryan was certain Jonestown was a pleasant and beautiful community rich with love and life from the beginning of the town to the very end of it. But there had been rumors surfacing in San Francisco that Jim Jones, the man so loved by his congregation he was virtually worshiped without a doubt; something was wrong. Like looking through a dirty pair of goggles, things seemed just a little off- messy and disturbing to those members of the People's Temple who wanted out and could not get away from the ruling hand of Jim Jones. Ryan and a film crew decided to fly from California to Guyana to make sure Jonestown was exactly as it seemed- exuberant and lovely, a cornucopia of joyful followers of the People's Temple.

Jim Jones, believer in the pentecostal church and many other ideals, was charismatic, almost magical, and truly arresting to his many followers. He knew how to win hearts, cleanse souls, identify evil, and purify those bound to wheelchairs- those blind and those battling inner demons. Jim Jones was the savior to all he met with. He conquered all and did so with quiet decency and unaffected normalcy. It was as if he were the true God, and that's how many of his followers came to see him. Jim Jones famously said, “If you see me as your friend, I'll be your friend. If you see me as your father, I'll be your father. If you see me as your God, I'll be your God.” And that's the beginning of the legacy of Jim Jones. He was everything anybody wanted him to be, and he wanted to be Somebody.

There was a lot of Jim Jones that many of his followers did not know when they joined the People's Temple. They did not know that their new savior was a molester of young girls, a greedy man with no sense to stop what he had begun, a sodomite, a liar, and a psychotic man on the verge of ending his life with the rest of his congregation. Jim Jones looked the part of the savior anybody could identify with in the late 1970's. With darkened sunglasses, a half grin and his spiritual demeanor, people ran to become a part of his flock, believing that the new way to pray was with this new awesome deity. Jim Jones, the deity that understood all and never discriminated against any skin color or disability.

Guyana was gorgeous, full of rich soil and the promise of a new life. Everybody wanted to go there, and many did. Emptying their whole bank accounts and saying a quick goodbye to puzzled family members, hundreds boarded a one way ticket to Guyana without looking back. There, they would lay their roots down on a fresh speck of land which was soon known as Jonestown.

Though Jim Jones could always be found on the pulpit of his church, Jim found another way to reach his People's Temple members..... via loudspeaker. On this cruedly made contraption placed all over the town, Jim would speak loudly in his morphine assisted slurs, “ I make my stand clear. Give us our liberty, or give us death.” While many ignored this strange sounding new Pastor, others became concerned at the constant rambling messages Jones passed to his followers day by day. Something was wrong with this man and it was becoming apparent.

When his members in 1978 began to openly cry out to be taken back to their homes all over the United States, Jim was adamant that his flock stay with him. He told stories- stories about how the world outside of Jonestown was falling apart. How could his members leave if the world was crumbling all around Guyana? There was nowhere else they would be able to flee to. When a pleading member would speak up of leaving Jonestown, Jim told them quite curtly, “You can't know how much of a conspiracy there is in the US these days. Maybe it's economics? Who knows what it is? I'm not able to say..... But I do know it's real.”
Jim also took these prayers of leaving Guyana as a personal attack against himself.

Conversation recorded between a People's Temple member and Jim Jones:

Jim Jones: “It's blasphemy! It's blasphemy to talk about going back when you're not given approval! Do you want to go home?”

Unknown member: “No.”

Jim Jones: “Well then be seated and shut your mouth and don't be in my face anymore!”

The loving and charming pastor his members had always known had begun to change. Maybe it was the morphine he took for his supposedly diseased kidneys, or maybe it was sheer madness at all the power he had begun to accumulate over the years. Maybe Jim knew and understood that his flock could be scared so easily with a wicked comment. Or perhaps, the most reasonable explanation can be stated as Jim's paranoia rose deeply and thickly like the kudzu growing wildly just outside of Guyana.

The day Leo Ryan and his film crew arrived at Jonestown was a hot and smothering muggy day. Warned explicitly by Jim Jones, members of the church were told not to say anything to the press coming into their little town. They were warned again and again not to say anything to the reporters, “They're all liars,” Jim said the day before Ryan was greeted at Guyana with much joy and happiness.

But the agitation from Jim Jones did not scare everyone away. Several members of the church came forward begging to go home. They couldn't stand the tyrannical rule of Jim Jones and felt something was certainly wrong. The messiah would not scare its members, hurt them, or threaten them. Jim Jones as the messiah wasn't right anymore. He was frightening and mean- sufferer of some mental disease. The power had gotten Jim Jones in a euphoric imaginary state. The morphine in Jim Jones veins was unhealthy with insane plots and strange ideas. It is unknown how many people understood this, but the ones that picked up on it firmly wanted to go home- to their real homes in the states.


These were just a few of the notes Leo Ryan received the afternoon of his departure, all delivered by children or non-nonchalant adults walking by the reporters. The fact that nobody would admit to writing the notes perplexed the senator and made him think twice before leaving. Had he seen a congregation of people praising Jim Jones or the members of a cult begging to be let go? Jonestown had seemed like a virtual paradise, with a kindly young man articulating love for his members. Now it was revealed that perhaps people were being held against their will.

Leo Ryan, realizing what was truly going on, rushed to his private plane only to be followed by vigilante members of the People's Temple. Ryan, only able to approach the outside of the plane, was shot by the vigilantes, killing him at only age 53.

By this time, Jim Jones had accumulated over 900 of his members of his church and made them all meet at the pavilion in the middle of Jonestown. More and more of his members began to voice their wish to leave Guyana to go home. With more of his congregation voting to leave, Jones became desperate. He couldn't let his flock go – wouldn't let his flock go at all.

“You can't leave,” Jim Jones cried out in horror and anger, ”You're my people. Why do you want to leave?” This was Jim Jones wail for infinite comfort. He wanted all of his people, all of them.

The only choice was burdened onto Jim Jones, and that was one of treachery and desperate yearning. “If we can't live in peace, let us die in peace,” Jim said, nearly a whisper; but this whisper resonated louder than he had ever said over a loudspeaker.

If Jim couldn't get his followers into the idea of coming to the Divine Light of God, he would make sure they got there any way possible, “Is there any way for it to taste less bitter?” Jim asked his aid. Stocked in the enormous cabinets of the kitchen were Kool-Aid canisters- enough for hundreds of people. Kool-Aid just might work to drown out the taste of the cyanide.

On the afternoon of the terrible storm on November 18, 1978, the only remnants were muddy pathways and damp huts. Everybody stood at the pavilion waiting for Jim Jones to tell them what to do now that the congressman was dead, dead at their own hands. There was only one choice at this moment, and that was to drink Jim's special concoction, a sleeping pill that would last for eternity.

What did these people have to live for? Their government had fallen, their lives were over according to Jim. And who had been at their side from the beginning? Jim Jones. He took care of them, their paychecks, their entire lives. Jim Jones was certainly a savior in these trying times. He knew all and took good care of his flock. They were safe in his arms. They had to be.

It was heard over the loudspeaker Jim's slurring voice,

And so it was. 909 members of The People's Temple all committed suicide that fateful day, expecting to visit the Lord or perhaps Jim Jones as they passed in grotesque rows of people all along the pavilion. All of them laid down for Jones that afternoon, promised exquisite eternity in the end. All believing that they were meant for a better world, a world Jim Jones had dedicated to them as the cyanide riddled their bodies with poison.

“I looked to my right and I saw my wife with our son in her arms and poison being injected into his mouth. And my son was dead and he was frothing at the mouth. You know Cyanide makes people froth at the mouth?” - Tim Carter (Survivor)

No other cult has taken so many lives.

“Never heard a man speak like this man before
never hear a man speak like this man before
All the days of my life, ever since I been born
I never heard a man speak like this man before.”
- People's Temple church song.


  1. Hey there, You have done an incredible job. I will certainly digg it and personally
    suggest to my friends. I'm confident they'll be benefited from this site.
    Also visit my web blog :: Click Here

  2. Hurrah! After all I got a blog from where I be able to truly get valuable information regarding my
    study and knowledge.
    Look at my page - MyWebsite

  3. I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
    Did you create this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?
    Plz respond as I'm looking to design my own blog and would like to know where u got this from. thanks a lot
    My web site > Free Sexy Porn

  4. Very interesting. As a writer of mystery stories and a serial killer stories I follow such cases. Thanks for sharing. Amazing job ;)

  5. An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a co-worker who had
    been doing a little research on this. And he
    actually bought me dinner simply because I found it
    for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thank YOU for the
    meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending some time
    to discuss this topic here on your web page.

    Also visit my web blog; online casinos

  6. Hey I am a budding storywriter and work for a famous magazine as intern. I have to write two stories on serial killers today, and your post helped me a lot in giving shape to my stories.