Date Of Birth:
13 May 1931
Date Of Death:
18 November 1978
Place Of Birth:
Best Known As:
Christian preacher who led 908 followers to their deaths
Jim Jones caused the deaths of 909 members of his own cult-like church, the People's Temple, in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978. Jim Jones was an untrained preacher in Indiana when in 1956 he founded The People's Temple Full Gospel Church, an offshoot of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). At first a prominent figure in the community, Jones became increasingly unhinged; in 1964 he moved his congregation to Northern California for safety in what he believed would be a coming nuclear war. As it grew more cult-like, Jones's church came under increasing scrutiny by newspapers and the government, and in 1977 he decamped to a compound in Guyana known as Jonestown. In November of 1978, U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan visited Jonestown to investigate allegations of human rights abuses. Ryan and his group were murdered at Jonestown as they tried to leave, and on November 18, 1978 Jim Jones and his followers -- 909 in all -- committed suicide or were murdered. Initial reports said the members drank Kool-Aid laced with cyanide, but a report from the Guyanese coroner said that hundreds of the bodies showed needle marks, indicating foul play. The U.S. government has not released all the documents pertinent to their investigation of the incident, further complicating the long-held conspiracy theory that Jonestown was a mind-control experiment conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency.
The deaths at Jonestown are the origin of the phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid” — that is, becoming a true believer in a group that may be less than safe or savory.
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