Last night I viewed CNN”s segment titled Escape from Jonestown hosted by Soledad O’Brien. The segment was about cult leader Jim Jones and the horrific event that took place November 18, 1978 in Jonestown, Guyana in which Jim Jones convinced his followers to drink a punch like drink that was heavily laced with cyanide. On that day 909 followers of Jones’ Peoples Temple died; some died willingly while others who weren’t so willing were murdered. Escape from Jonestown gave a brief history of Jim Jones’ teaching/preaching, and included in-depth interviews with three of the surviving 33 people of the Jonestown Massacre.
For many years I have heard bits and pieces of information concerning cult leader Jim Jones and the massacre that took place in Jonestown. I knew that it has gone down in history as the worst mass suicide in American history. I had heard of the poisoned punch that his followers willingly drank to end their lives and I was even knowledgeable that Jones himself was one of the people found dead that day in Jonestown, Guyana.
What I have never known nor understood was why? Even with the information documented by CNN and the many stories that I have read or heard, I am still bewildered as to why anyone would take their own life because of Jim Jones and his teachings. What could Jones have possibly been saying that was so convincing, so miraculous and believable that 1,000 people were willing to leave their homes, their families and everything else behind to embark on this journey with Jim Jones, only to land in a place that there was no return from. Even with this obvious ability to sway others into beliefs they may have generally disbelieved or been reluctant to follow, it is hard to believe that just saying that you are God and that you can give people eternal peace and a life of joy and harmony could convince so many people to effortlessly follow Jones to death. One of the few survivors that spoke with O’brien stated that Jones had made the remark when they reached Guyana that Jonestown was a place with an entrance but no exit. This tells of Jones’ premeditated plans of death for his followers.
The event that took place November 18,1978 in Jonestown, Guyana under the leadership of Jim Jones is grossly horrific and shocking, starting with the babies being the first to be murdered. Survivors speak of witnessing babies being orally given a substance in syringes. These witnesses also remember hearing the cries of agony and pain of the babies and children as the poison was released throughout their bodies causing unbearable pain and convulsions. Of the 909 people killed in the massacre over three hundred were children ranging from infants to teenagers.
Some of the survivors escaped by hiding in the jungles of Guyana after the murders began at the airport. These eleven people fled through the jungle hoping to be rescued, but afraid to draw any attention to themselves for fear that they would be caught and murdered by Jones. Only four people who were actually present when Jim Jones gave his last speech survived the massacre. Jim Jones himself did not drink the deadly punch which he convinced followers would give them peace like they had now and would be painless. Jones was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head.
For more information on Jim Jones and the Jonestown Massacre click here