Jim Jones

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Jim Jones
Rev. Jim Jones, 1977 (cropped)2.jpg
Jones in 1977
James Warren Jones

(1931-05-13)May 13, 1931
DiedNovember 18, 1978(1978-11-18) (aged 47)
Jonestown, Guyana
Cause of deathSuicide by gunshot
Known forLeader of Peoples Temple
Marceline Baldwin
(m. 1949)

James Warren Jones (May 13, 1931 – November 18, 1978) was an American cult leader, political activist, preacher and faith healer who led the Peoples Temple, a new religious organization which existed between 1955 and 1978. Jones and his inner circle orchestrated a mass murder–suicide in his remote jungle commune at Jonestown, Guyana, on November 18, 1978.

Jones founded the organization that would become the Peoples Temple in Indianapolis, in 1955. Jones distinguished himself with his civil rights activism, founding the Temple as a fully integrated congregation. In 1965, he moved the Temple to California, where the group established its headquarters in San Francisco and became heavily involved in left-wing politics through the 1970s. Jones then left the United States and established Jonestown in Guyana, compelling many of his followers to live there with him.

By 1978, media reports had surfaced of human rights abuses at Jonestown. Deciding to investigate these reports, U.S. Representative Leo Ryan led a delegation to the commune in November of that year. While boarding a return flight with some former Temple members who had wished to leave, Ryan and four others were murdered by gunmen dispatched from Jonestown. Jones then ordered and likely coerced a mass murder-suicide that claimed the lives of 918 commune members, 304 of them children, almost all by drinking Flavor Aid laced with cyanide.

Early life[edit]

James Warren Jones was born on May 13, 1931, in a rural area of Crete, Indiana,[1][2] to James Thurman Jones, a World War I veteran, and Lynetta Putnam.[3][4] Jones was of Irish and Welsh descent;[5] he later claimed partial Cherokee ancestry through his mother, but his maternal second cousin said this was untrue.[5][note 1] In 1934, the economic difficulties during the Great Depression forced the family to move to the nearby town of Lynn, where Jones grew up in a shack without plumbing.[6][7]

Jones was a voracious reader who studied Joseph Stalin, Karl Marx, Mao Zedong, Mahatma Gandhi, and Adolf Hitler.[8] He also developed an intense interest in religion. One writer suggests this was primarily because he found it difficult to make friends.[5] Childhood acquaintances recalled Jones as a "really weird kid" who was obsessed with religion and death, alleging that he frequently held funerals for small animals on his parents' property and that he had stabbed a cat to death.[9] One childhood acquaintance noted that, after German prisoners-of-war arrived in Lynn during World War II, one patted young Jones on the back of the head, to which he responded by giving the Nazi salute and shouting "Heil Hitler!"[10]

Jones and a childhood friend both claimed his father was associated with the Ku Klux Klan, which had become very popular in Depression-era Indiana.[7] Jones recounted how he and his father argued on the issue of race, and how he did not speak with his father for "many, many years" after he refused to allow one of Jones's black friends into his house. Jones's parents separated, and Jones relocated with his mother to Richmond, Indiana.[11] In December 1948, he graduated from Richmond High School early with honors.[12]

To support himself, Jones worked as an orderly at Richmond's Reid Hospital and was well-regarded by the senior management. However, staff members later recalled Jones exhibiting disturbing behavior; one former co-worker of Jones, with whom he had been childhood friends, recalled an incident where Jones manhandled a patient in traction while dry shaving him, resulting in the patient's injury with a straight razor, and then gave a menacing look at the co-worker.[13] It was at Reid Hospital where Jones met nurse Marceline Baldwin, whom he married in 1949. She would die with him at Jonestown.[9]

Jones and his wife relocated to Bloomington, Indiana, where he attended Indiana University Bloomington. There he was impressed with a speech by Eleanor Roosevelt about the plight of African-Americans.[9] In 1951, the couple relocated to Indianapolis. Jones attended Indiana University for two years and then took night classes at Butler University, earning a degree in secondary education in 1961—ten years after enrolling.[14]

Founding of the Peoples Temple[edit]

Beginnings in Indianapolis, Indiana[edit]

Jones's first church in Indianapolis, Indiana

In 1951, 20-year-old Jones began attending gatherings of the Communist Party USA in Indianapolis.[15] He became flustered with harassment during the McCarthy Hearings,[15] particularly regarding an event that he attended with his mother focusing on Paul Robeson, after which she was harassed by FBI agents in front of her co-workers for attending.[16] Jones also became frustrated with the persecution of open and accused communists in the U.S., especially during the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.[17] Jones said he asked himself, "How can I demonstrate my Marxism? The thought was, infiltrate the church."[15][16]

Jones was surprised when a Methodist district superintendent helped him get a start in the church, even though he knew Jones to be a communist.[17] In 1952, he became a student pastor at the Sommerset Southside Methodist Church, but later claimed he left the church because its leaders forbade him from integrating blacks into his congregation.[15] Around this time, Jones witnessed a faith-healing service at a Seventh Day Baptist Church.[15] He observed that it attracted people and their money, and concluded that he could accomplish his social goals with financial resources from such services.[15]

Jones organized a religious convention to take place June 11–15, 1956, in Indianapolis's Cadle Tabernacle. Needing a well-known religious figure to draw crowds, he arranged to share the pulpit with Rev. William M. Branham, a healing evangelist and Pentecostal leader who was as highly revered as Oral Roberts at the time. Branham was known to tell supplicants their name, address, and what they had come for prayer for, before pronouncing them healed.[4] Jones and Branham's joint meetings were very successful and attracted an audience of 11,000. Jones was enamored with Branham's methods and began performing the same feats, telling the supplicants their names, addresses, and pronouncing them healed. This led many to believe Jones had a supernatural gift and drew many followers.[18] Jones was able to begin his own church after the convention, which had various names until it became the Peoples Temple Christian Church Full Gospel, later shortened to the Peoples Temple.[15] He was ordained as a minister in 1957 by the Independent Assemblies of God. Jones claimed to be a follower and promoter of William Branham's message during the late 1950s. Branham was a major influence on Jones, who adopted many of Branham's methods, doctrines, and styles and adapted them for his own purposes. Like Branham, Jones would later claim to be a return of Elijah the Prophet and to be the voice of God, and promote the belief that the end of the world was imminent.[19][20] Jones and his church hosted an international Pentecostal convention again in 1957 which was again headlined by Branham. With the support of Branham and Joseph Mattsson-Boze, Jones was elected as President of the Worldwide Pentecostal Convention Board that year helping Jones secure connections throughout the Pentecostal movement. In 1964, Jones was ordained by the Disciples of Christ.[note 2]

Jones was known to regularly study Adolf Hitler and Father Divine to learn how to manipulate members of the Peoples Temple. Divine told Jones personally to "find an enemy" and "to make sure they know who the enemy is" as it will unify those in the group and make them subservient to him.[23]

Racial integrationist[edit]

Jones receives a Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award from Pastor Cecil Williams, 1977

The New York Times reported that, in 1953:[24]

[D]eclaring that he was outraged at what he perceived as racial discrimination in his white congregation, Mr. Jones established his own church and pointedly opened it to all ethnic groups. To raise money, he imported monkeys and sold them door to door as pets.

In 1960, Indianapolis Mayor Charles Boswell appointed Jones director of the local Human Rights Commission.[25] Jones ignored Boswell's advice to keep a low profile, however, finding new outlets for his views on local radio and television programs.[25] The mayor and other commissioners asked him to curtail his public actions, but he resisted. Jones was wildly cheered at a meeting of the NAACP and Urban League when he yelled for his audience to be more militant, and then climaxed with, "Let my people go!".[26]

During this time, Jones also helped to racially integrate churches, restaurants, the telephone company, the Indianapolis Police Department, a theater, an amusement park, and the Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital.[15] Swastikas were painted on the homes of two black families, and Jones walked through the neighborhood comforting the local black community and counseling white families not to move.[27] He also set up sting operations to catch restaurants refusing to serve black customers[27] and wrote to American Nazi Party leaders, passing their responses to the media.[28] Jones was accidentally placed in the black ward of a hospital after a collapse in 1961, but refused to be moved; he began to make the beds and empty the bedpans of black patients. Political pressures resulting from Jones's actions caused hospital officials to desegregate the wards.[29]

Jones received considerable criticism in Indiana for his integrationist views.[15] Likewise, white-owned businesses and locals were critical of him.[27] Among other incidents, a swastika was placed on the Temple, a stick of dynamite was left in a Temple coal pile, and a dead cat was thrown at Jones's house after a threatening phone call.[28]

"Rainbow Family"[edit]

Jones and his wife adopted several non-white children, referring to the household as his "rainbow family",[30] and stating: "Integration is a more personal thing with me now. It's a question of my son's future."[9] He also portrayed the Temple as a "rainbow family".

In 1954 the Joneses adopted Agnes, who was part Native American.[9][15][31] In 1959, they adopted three Korean-American children named Lew, Stephanie, and Suzanne, the latter of whom was adopted at age six,[31] and encouraged Temple members to adopt orphans from war-ravaged Korea.[32] Jones was critical of U.S. opposition to North Korean leader Kim Il-sung, calling the Korean War a "war of liberation" and stating that South Korea "is a living example of all that socialism in the north has overcome."[33]

In June 1959 Jones and his wife had their only biological child, naming him Stephan Gandhi.[15] In 1961, they became the first white couple in Indiana to adopt a black child, naming him Jim Jones Jr. (or James Warren Jones Jr.).[34] They also adopted a white son, originally named Timothy Glen Tupper (shortened to Tim),[15] whose birth mother was a member of the Temple.[9]

Travel to Brazil[edit]

Jim Jones is located in Brazil
Belo Horizonte
Belo Horizonte
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Jones's Brazilian locations

Jones traveled with his family to Belo Horizonte, Brazil, with the idea of setting up a new Temple location, after preaching at the Temple about the fears of nuclear war and reading an article in the January 1962 issue of Esquire magazine which listed the city as a safe harbor in the event of an atomic exchange.[35] Like other followers of William Branham, Jones may have been influenced to make the decision to move to South America based on prophesies made by William Branham in 1961 at the time predicting the imminent destruction of the United States in a nuclear exchange.[36] On his way to Brazil, Jones made his first trip to Guyana, which at the time was still a British colony.[37]

Jones's family rented a modest three-bedroom home in Belo Horizonte.[38] Jones studied the local economy and receptiveness of racial minorities to his message, although language remained a barrier.[39] He also explored local Brazilian syncretistic religions.[40] Careful not to portray himself as a communist in a foreign territory, he spoke of an apostolic communal lifestyle rather than of Castro or Marx.[41] Ultimately, the lack of resources in Belo Horizonte led the family to move to Rio de Janeiro in mid-1963,[42] where they worked with the poor in the favelas.[42]

Jones became plagued by guilt for effectively abandoning the civil rights struggle in Indiana and possibly losing what he had tried to build there.[42] His associate preachers in Indiana told him the Temple was about to collapse without him, so he returned.[43]

Move to California[edit]

Jim Jones is located in California
Los Angeles
Los Angeles
San Francisco
San Francisco
Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa
Some of the Peoples Temple's California locations

Jones returned from Brazil in December 1963[44] and told his Indiana congregation that the world would be engulfed by nuclear war on July 15, 1967, leading to a new socialist Eden on Earth, and that the Temple had to move to Northern California for safety.[15][24] Accordingly, the Temple began moving to Redwood Valley, California, near the city of Ukiah.[15]

According to religious studies professor Catherine Wessinger, Jones always spoke of the Social Gospel's virtues, but chose to conceal that his gospel was actually communism until the late 1960s.[15] By that time, he began partially revealing the details of his "Apostolic Socialism" concept in Temple sermons.[15] Jones also taught that "those who remained drugged with the opiate of religion had to be brought to enlightenment—socialism."[45] He often mixed these ideas, once preaching:[46]

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.

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.[15] He wrote a booklet titled "The Letter Killeth", criticizing the King James Bible.[47] Jones also began preaching that he was the reincarnation of Father Divine, Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus, Gautama Buddha, and Vladimir Lenin. Former Temple member Hue Fortson Jr. quoted him as saying:[9]

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 savior, I'll be your savior. 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.[48] Marceline 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."[24] He had slammed the Bible on the table yelling "I've got to destroy this paper idol!"[24] In one sermon, Jones said:[49]

You're gonna help yourself, or you'll get no help! There's only one hope of glory; that's within you! Nobody's gonna come out of the sky! There's no heaven up there! We'll have to make heaven down here!

Focus on San Francisco[edit]

Peoples Temple members attend an anti-eviction rally at the International Hotel, San Francisco, in January 1977

Within five years of moving to California, the Temple experienced a period of exponential growth and opened branches in cities including San Fernando, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. By the early 1970s, Jones began shifting his focus to major cities across California because of limited expansion opportunities in Ukiah. He eventually moved the Temple's headquarters to San Francisco, which was a major center for radical protest movements. Jones and the Temple soon became influential in city politics, culminating in the Temple's instrumental role in George Moscone's election as mayor in 1975. Moscone subsequently appointed Jones as the chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission.[9]

Jones was able to gain contact with prominent politicians at the local and national level. For example, he and Moscone met privately with vice presidential candidate Walter Mondale on his campaign plane days before the 1976 election, leading Mondale to publicly praise the Temple.[50][51] First Lady Rosalynn Carter also met with Jones on multiple occasions, corresponded with him about Cuba, and spoke with him at the grand opening of the San Francisco headquarters—where he received louder applause than she did.[50][52][53]

In September 1976, 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.[54] 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 Zedong].[55] Harvey Milk spoke to audiences during political rallies held at the Temple,[56] and he wrote to Jones after one such visit:[57][58]

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 hosted local political figures, including Davis, at his San Francisco apartment for discussions.[59] He spoke with publisher Carlton Goodlett of the Sun-Reporter newspaper 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.[60] Jones's criticisms led to increased tensions with the Nation of Islam, so he spoke at a large rally in the Los Angeles Convention Center that was attended by many of his closest political acquaintances, hoping to close the rift between the two groups.[61]

Jones also forged alliances with key columnists and others at the San Francisco Chronicle and other press outlets,[62] although the move to San Francisco also brought increasing media scrutiny. Encountering resistance by his editors to publishing an investigative piece about the Temple, Chronicle reporter Marshall Kilduff brought his story to New West magazine.[63] In the summer of 1977, Jones and several hundred followers abruptly decided to move to the Temple's communal settlement in Guyana – officially called the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, but informally known as "Jonestown" – after they learned the contents of Kilduff's article, which included allegations by Temple defectors of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.[53][64]

Formation and operation of Jonestown[edit]

Jim Jones is located in Guyana
Peoples Temple Agricultural Project ("Jonestown", Guyana)

Jones had started building Jonestown several years before the New West article was published. It was promoted as a means to create both a "socialist paradise" and a "sanctuary" from the media scrutiny in San Francisco.[65] Jones purported to establish it as a model communist community, adding that the Temple comprised "the purest communists there are".[66] Jones did not permit members to leave the settlement.[67]

Religious scholar Mary McCormick Maaga argues that Jones's authority decreased after the exodus to Jonestown because he was not needed for recruitment and he could not hide his drug addiction from rank-and-file members.[68] In spite of the allegations prior to Jones's departure, he was still respected by some for setting up a racially integrated church which helped the disadvantaged; 68% of Jonestown residents were black.[69] Jones began to propagate his belief in what he termed "Translation" once his followers settled in Jonestown, claiming that he and his followers would all die together, move to another planet, and live blissfully.[70]

New children[edit]

Jones claimed he was the biological father of a child named John Victor Stoen, though the birth certificate listed Temple attorney Timothy Stoen and his wife Grace as the parents of the child.[71] The Temple repeatedly claimed that Jones fathered the child in 1971 when Stoen had requested that Jones have sex with Grace to keep her from defecting.[72] Grace left the Temple in 1976 and began divorce proceedings the following year. Jones ordered Stoen to take the boy to Guyana in February 1977 in order to avoid a custody dispute with Grace.[73] After Stoen himself defected in June 1977, the Temple kept the child in Jonestown.[74] Jones also fathered Jim Jon (Kimo) with Temple member Carolyn Layton.[75]

Pressure and waning political support[edit]

Rev. Cecil Williams and Jones protest evictions at the International Hotel in San Francisco, January 1977

In the autumn of 1977, Timothy Stoen and other Temple defectors formed a "Concerned Relatives" group because they had family members remaining in Jonestown.[76] Stoen traveled to Washington, D.C., in January 1978 to visit with State Department officials and members of Congress, and wrote a white paper detailing his grievances against Jones and the Temple.[77] His efforts aroused the curiosity of California Congressman Leo Ryan, who wrote a letter on Stoen's behalf to Guyanese Prime Minister Forbes Burnham.[78] The Concerned Relatives also began a legal battle with the Temple over the custody of Stoen's son.[79]

Most of Jones's political allies broke ties after his departure,[80] though some did not. Willie Brown spoke out against enemies[who?] at a rally that was attended by Harvey Milk and Assemblyman Art Agnos.[81] On February 19, 1978, Milk wrote a letter to U.S. President Jimmy Carter defending Jones as "a man of the highest character", and claimed that Temple defectors were trying to "damage Rev. Jones's reputation" with "apparent bold-faced lies".[82] Mayor Moscone's office issued a press release saying Jones had broken no laws.[83]

On April 11, 1978, the Concerned Relatives distributed a packet of documents, letters, and affidavits to the Peoples Temple, members of the press, and members of Congress which they titled an "Accusation of Human Rights Violations by Rev. James Warren Jones".[84] In June 1978, escaped Temple member Deborah Layton provided the group with a further affidavit detailing crimes by the Temple and substandard living conditions in Jonestown.[85]

Jones was facing increasing scrutiny in the summer of 1978 when he hired JFK assassination conspiracy theorists Mark Lane and Donald Freed to help make the case of a "grand conspiracy" against the Temple by U.S. intelligence agencies. Jones told Lane that he wanted to "pull an Eldridge Cleaver", referring to a fugitive member of the Black Panthers who was able to return to the U.S. after rebuilding his reputation.[86]

Visit by Congressman Ryan and mass murder at Jonestown[edit]

Congressman Leo Ryan was shot and killed on Jones's orders as he and others attempted to leave Jonestown in November 1978.

In November 1978, Congressman Ryan led a fact-finding mission to Jonestown to investigate allegations of human-rights abuses.[87] His delegation included relatives of Temple members, an NBC camera crew, and reporters for various newspapers.[88] The group arrived in the Guyanese capital of Georgetown on November 15.[87] Two days later, they traveled by airplane to Port Kaituma, then were transported to Jonestown in a tractor transporter.[89] Jones hosted a reception for the delegation that evening at the central pavilion in Jonestown, during which Temple member Vernon Gosney passed a note meant for Ryan to NBC reporter Don Harris, requesting assistance for himself and another Temple member, Monica Bagby, in leaving the settlement.

Ryan's delegation left hurriedly the afternoon of November 18, after Temple member Don Sly attacked the congressman with a knife, though the attack was thwarted.[90] Ryan and his delegation managed to take along fifteen Temple members who had expressed a wish to leave,[91] and Jones made no attempt to prevent their departure at that time.[92]

Port Kaituma Airstrip shootings[edit]

As members of Ryan's delegation boarded two planes at the Port Kaituma airstrip, Jones's armed guards, called the "Red Brigade" – led by Joe Wilson, Thomas Kice Sr. and Ronnie Dennis – arrived on a tractor and trailer and began shooting at them.[93] The gunmen killed Ryan and four others near a Guyana Airways Twin Otter aircraft.[94] At the same time, one of the supposed defectors, Larry Layton, drew a weapon and began firing on members of the party inside the other plane, a Cessna, which included Gosney and Bagby.[95] NBC cameraman Bob Brown was able to capture footage of the first few seconds of the shooting at the Otter, just before he himself was killed by the gunmen.[94]

The five killed at the airstrip were Ryan; Harris; Brown; San Francisco Examiner photographer Greg Robinson; and Temple member Patricia Parks.[94] Surviving the attack were future Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a Ryan staff member; Richard Dwyer, Deputy Chief of Mission from the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown; Bob Flick, an NBC producer; Steve Sung, an NBC sound engineer; Tim Reiterman, an Examiner reporter; Ron Javers, a Chronicle reporter; Charles Krause, a Washington Post reporter; and several defecting Temple members.[94]

Mass murder-suicide in Jonestown[edit]

Houses in Jonestown, Guyana, the year after the mass murder-suicide, 1979

Later that same day, November 18, 1978, 909 inhabitants of Jonestown,[96] 304 of them children, died of apparent cyanide poisoning, mostly in and around the central pavilion.[97] This resulted in the greatest single loss of American civilian life (murder and suicide, though not on American soil) in a deliberate act until September 11, 2001.[98] The FBI later recovered a 45-minute audio recording of the mass poisoning in progress.[99]

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 give them passage after the airstrip shooting. The reason given by Jones to commit suicide was consistent with his previously stated 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's prior statements that hostile forces would convert captured children to fascism would lead many members, who strongly believed in the Temple's leftist ideology, to view the supposed suicide as valid.[100]

With that reasoning, Jones and several members argued that the group should commit "revolutionary suicide" by drinking cyanide-laced grape-flavored Flavor Aid. Later-released Temple films show Jones opening a storage container full of Kool-Aid in large quantities. However, empty packets of grape Flavor Aid found on the scene show that this is what was used to mix the solution, along with a sedative. Jones had taken large shipments of cyanide into Jonestown for several years prior to November 1978, having obtained a jeweler's license that would allow him to purchase the compound in bulk to purportedly clean gold.[101]

One Temple member, Christine Miller, dissents toward the beginning of the tape.[100] When members apparently cried, Jones counseled, "Stop these hysterics. This is not the way for people who are socialists or communists to die. No way for us to die. We must die with some dignity." Jones can be heard saying, "Don't be afraid to die;" that death is "just stepping over into another plane" and that it's "a friend". Jones's wife Marceline apparently protested killing the children; she was forcibly restrained and then joined the other adults in poisoning herself. At the end of the tape, Jones concludes: "We didn't commit suicide; we committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world."[100]

According to Temple members Odell Rhodes and Stanley Clayton, who escaped the mass poisoning, children were given the Flavor Aid first by their own parents; families were told to lie down together. Rhodes also reported being a close contact to dying children.[102] Mass suicide had been previously discussed in simulated events called "White Nights" on a regular basis.[85][103] During at least one such prior White Night, members drank liquid that Jones falsely told them was poison.[85][103]


Following the mass murder-suicide, Jones was found dead at the stage of the central pavilion; he was resting on a pillow near his deck chair, with a gunshot wound to his head which Guyanese coroner Cyril Mootoo said was consistent with suicide.[104] Jones's body was later moved outside the pavilion for examination and embalming. The official autopsy conducted in December 1978 also confirms Jones's death as a suicide. His son Stephan believes his father may have directed someone else to shoot him, but this is speculation.[105] The autopsy also showed levels of the barbiturate pentobarbital in Jones's body, which may have been lethal to humans who had not developed physiological tolerance.[106] According to Jeff Guinn's book The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple, Jones’s body was cremated and his remains were scattered in the Atlantic Ocean.

Personal life[edit]

While Jones banned extramarital sex among Temple members, he engaged in sexual relations with both male and female Temple members outside of his marriage to Marceline.[107][108] His first known affair began in 1968 with Temple member Carolyn Layton, who remained with him until the events at Jonestown. Jones was also engaged in a relationship with Temple member Maria Katsaris, which began in 1974 and also lasted until the end. Jones had many other mistresses during the 1970s, both before the move to Jonestown and after.

The book The Road to Jonestown by Jeff Guinn states: "Jones had occasional sex with male followers" but "never as often as he did with women." Guinn states that Jones was most likely bisexual, but that his main physical and sexual attraction was towards women. Jones, however, claimed that he detested engaging in homosexual activity and did so only for the male temple adherents' own good, purportedly to connect them symbolically with himself.[107] Jones is on record as later telling his followers he was "the only true heterosexual".

On December 13, 1973, he was arrested and charged with lewd conduct for masturbating in the presence of a male undercover LAPD vice officer in a movie theater restroom near Los Angeles's MacArthur Park.[109] Jones had motioned to the undercover officer to join him on the theater balcony where Jones was, but later followed the officer into the bathroom where the incident occurred.[110]

Family aftermath[edit]


On the final morning of Ryan's visit, Jones's wife Marceline took reporters on a tour of Jonestown.[111] Later in the day, she was found dead at the pavilion, having been poisoned.[112]

Surviving sons[edit]

Stephan, Jim Jr., and Tim Jones survived the events of November 18, 1978, because, being members of the Peoples Temple's basketball team, they were playing an away game in Georgetown at the time of the mass poisoning.[15][113] Stephan and Tim were both 19, and Jim Jones Jr. was 18.[114] Tim's biological family, the Tuppers, which consisted of his three biological sisters, Janet,[115] Mary[116] and Ruth,[117] biological brother, Larry[118] and biological mother, Rita,[119] all died at Jonestown. Three days before the tragedy, Stephan refused, over the radio, to comply with an order by his father to return the team to Jonestown for Ryan's visit.[120]

During the events at Jonestown, Stephan, Tim, and Jim Jones Jr. drove to the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown in an attempt to receive help. Guyanese soldiers guarding the embassy refused to let them in after hearing about the shootings at the Port Kaituma airstrip.[121] Later, the three returned to the Temple's headquarters in Georgetown to find the bodies of Sharon Amos and her three children, Liane, Christa and Martin.[121] Guyanese soldiers kept the Jones brothers under house arrest for five days, interrogating them about the deaths in Georgetown.[121]

Stephan was accused of being involved in the Georgetown deaths and was placed in a Guyanese prison for three months.[121] Tim and Johnny Cobb, another member of the Temple basketball team, were asked to go to Jonestown and help identify bodies.[121] After returning to the U.S., Jim Jones Jr. was placed under police surveillance for several months while he lived with his older sister, Suzanne, who had previously turned against the Temple.[121]

Chaeoke Jones, Lew Jones, and Terry Carter Jones. Father, mother, and child all died in the mass murder-suicide.[122]

When Jonestown was first being established, Stephan had originally avoided two attempts by his father to relocate him to Jonestown. He eventually moved to Jonestown after a third attempt. He has since stated that he gave in to his father's wishes because of his mother.[123] Stephan is now a businessman and married with three daughters. Although he has appeared in the documentary Jonestown: Paradise Lost, which aired on the History Channel and Discovery Channel, he has stated he will not watch it and has never grieved for his father.[124] One year later, Stephan appeared in the documentary Witness to Jonestown where he responds to rare footage shot inside the Temple.[125]

Jim Jones Jr., who lost his wife and unborn child at Jonestown, returned to San Francisco. He remarried and has three sons from this marriage,[113] including Rob Jones, a high-school basketball star who went on to play for the University of San Diego before transferring to Saint Mary's College of California.[126]

Lew, Agnes, and Suzanne Jones[edit]

Lew and Agnes Jones both died at Jonestown. Agnes was 35 years old at the time of her death.[127] Her husband Forrest,[128] and four children, Billy,[129] Jimbo,[130] Michael[131] and Stephanie,[132] all died at Jonestown. Lew, who was 21 years old at the time of his death, died alongside his wife Terry and son Chaeoke.[133][134][135] Stephanie Jones had died at age five in a car accident in May 1959.[15]

Suzanne Jones married Mike Cartmell; they both turned against the Temple and were not in Jonestown on November 18, 1978. After this decision to abandon the Temple, Jones referred to Suzanne openly as "my damned, no-good-for-nothing daughter" and said she was not to be trusted.[136] In a signed note found at the time of her death, Marceline directed that the Jones's funds were to be given to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and specified: "I especially request that none of these are allowed to get into the hands of my adopted daughter, Suzanne Jones Cartmell."[137][138] Cartmell had two children and died of colon cancer in November 2006.[139][140]

John Stoen and Kimo[edit]

Specific references to Timothy Stoen, the father of John Victor Stoen, including the logistics of possibly murdering him, are made on the Temple's final "death tape", as well as a discussion over whether the Temple should include John Victor among those committing "revolutionary suicide".[100] At Jonestown, John Victor Stoen was found poisoned inside Jones's cabin.[79]

Jim Jon (Kimo) and his mother, Carolyn Layton, both died during the events at Jonestown.[141]

In popular culture[edit]




  • Guyana: Crime of the Century a.k.a. Guyana: Cult of the Damned (1979), fictionalized exploitation film (depicted here as 'Reverend James Johnson')
  • Eaten Alive! (Italian: Mangiati vivi!) is a 1980 Italian horror film (depicted here as 'Jonas', leading a cult in the jungles of Sri Lanka instead of Guyana)
  • The Sacrament (2013), a found-footage horror film (depicted here simply as 'Father'; in addition, Jonestown has been renamed 'Eden Parish')
  • Jonestown (2013), an independent short film which dramatizes the last 24 hours in the lives of Jones (played here by Leandro Cano) and The Peoples Temple Church through the eyes of a reporter.[145]
  • The Veil (2016), a supernatural horror film (depicted as "Jim Jacobs")
  • The Jonestown Haunting (2020)

Fiction literature[edit]

  • Jonestown, by Wilson Harris. London: Faber and Faber, 1996.
  • We Agreed to Meet Just Here, by Scott Blackwood. Kalamazoo, Michigan: West Michigan University Press, 2009.
  • Children of Paradise, by Fred D'Aguiar. New York: HarperCollins, 2014.
  • Before White Night, by Joseph Hartmann. Richmond, Virginia: Belle Isle Books, 2014.
  • White Nights, Black Paradise, by Sikivu Hutchinson. Infidel Books, 2015.
  • Beautiful Revolutionary, by Laura Elizabeth Woollett. London: Scribe. 2018.




  • The Peoples Temple. Written by Leigh Fondakowski, with Greg Pierotti, Stephen Wangh, and Margo Hall. Premiered in 2005[152]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jones claimed to have Cherokee ancestry through his mother Lynetta, but this story was apparently not true. His mother's cousin Barbara Shaffer said, "there wasn't an ounce of Indian in our family" and that Jones's mother was Welsh. ("Jones—The Dark Private Side Emerges". Los Angeles Times. November 24, 1978)
  2. ^ Jones was ordained as a Disciple minister before the denomination was organized in 1968; at the time, requirements for ordination varied greatly. The denomination conducted investigations in 1974 and 1977, but did not find wrongdoings. No precedent existed for the Disciples to remove ministers. Disciples responded to the Jonestown deaths and massacre with significant changes for ministerial ethics and with a process to remove ministers.[21][22]


  1. ^ Rolls 2014, p. 100
  2. ^ Hall 1987, p. 3
  3. ^ Levi 1982
  4. ^ a b Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, pp. 9–10
  5. ^ a b c Kilduff, Marshall and Ron Javers. 1978. The Suicide Cult. US: Bantam Books. p. 10.
  6. ^ "Jones, Jim (1931–1978) American Cult Leader". World of Criminal Justice, Gale. Retrieved October 10, 2012.
  7. ^ a b Hall 1987, p. 5
  8. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 24
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h American Experience. 2007. Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple. US: PBS. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  10. ^ Jim Jones: Unholy Massacre Part 1
  11. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 27
  12. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 33
  13. ^ Biography. 1998. "Jonestown: Jim Jones: Mastermind American Cult Leader". US: A&E. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
  14. ^ Knoll, James. [2013] 2017. "Mass Suicide & the Jonestown Tragedy: Literature Summary." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple. US: San Diego State University.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Wessinger 2000
  16. ^ a b Jones, Jim. 1999. "Q134 Transcript." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. US: San Diego State University – transcript of recovered FBI tape (mp3 audio available).
  17. ^ a b Horrock, Nicholas M. December 17, 1978. "Communist in 1950s." The New York Times.
  18. ^ Collins, John (October 4, 2014). "The Intersection of William Branham and Jim Jones". San Diego State University. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  19. ^ Collins, John (September 19, 2019). "The "Full Gospel" Origins of Peoples Temple". San Diego State University.
  20. ^ Collins, John & Duyzer, Peter (October 31, 2015). "The Message Connection of Jim Jones and William Branham". San Diego State University. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  21. ^ "Johnstown Project at SDSU". Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  22. ^ "Parent Church is Chagrined by Evolution of Jone's Cult". Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  23. ^ Robinson, Harry (February 14, 2019). "Jonestown Survivor Laura Johnston Kohl – AllOutAttack Podcast w/ Harry Robinson #2". YouTube.
  24. ^ a b c d Lindsey, Robert. November 26, 1978. "Jim Jones-From Poverty to Power of Life and Death." New York Times. pp. 1, 20.
  25. ^ a b Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 68
  26. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 69
  27. ^ a b c Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 71
  28. ^ a b Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 72
  29. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 76
  30. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 65
  31. ^ a b "The Wills of Jim Jones and Marceline Jones." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. US: San Diego State University. [1977] 2019.
  32. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 63
  33. ^ "Q886 Transcript". The Jonestown Institute. San Diego State University. July 8, 2013. Retrieved March 23, 2021.
  34. ^ American Experience. 2007. "Race and the Peoples Temple." Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple. US: PBS. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  35. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, pp. 76–77
  36. ^ Collins, John (September 26, 2016). "Colonia Dignidad and Jonestown".
  37. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 78
  38. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 79
  39. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 81
  40. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 84
  41. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 82
  42. ^ a b c Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 83
  43. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, pp. 85–86
  44. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 86
  45. ^ Layton 1998, p. 53
  46. ^ Jones, Jim. 1999. "Q1053-4 Transcript." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. US: San Diego State University. – transcript of recovered FBI tape (see also: mp3 audio; annotated transcript).
  47. ^ Jones, Jim. "The Letter Killeth." (original material reprint). via Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple. San Diego State University. [2013] 2018.
  48. ^ See, e.g., Jones, Jim in conversation with John Maher, "Transcript of Recovered FBI tape Q 622". Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project: San Diego State University.
  49. ^ American Experience. 2007. Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (program transcript). US: PBS. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  50. ^ a b Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, pp. 302–304
  51. ^ "First Lady Among Cult's References; Mondale, Califano also listed." Los Angeles Times. November 21, 1978.
  52. ^ Jones, Jim. "Transcript of Recovered FBI tape Q 799". Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project: San Diego State University.
  53. ^ a b Kilduff, Marshall, and Phil Tracy. August 1, 1977."Inside Peoples Temple." New West magazine. – via Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. US: San Diego State University. Introduction to article.
  54. ^ Layton 1998, p. 105
  55. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 308
  56. ^ "Another Day of Death." Time. December 11, 1978.
  57. ^ VanDeCarr, Paul. November 25, 2003. "Death of dreams: in November 1978, Harvey Milk's murder and the mass suicides at Jonestown nearly broke San Francisco's spirit." The Advocate.
  58. ^ Sawyer, Mary. [2013] 2014. "My Lord, What a Mourning: Twenty Years Since Jonestown." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple. US: San Diego State University.
  59. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 369
  60. ^ Goodlett, Carlton B. [1989] 2018."Notes on Peoples Temple." pp. 43–51 in The Need for a Second Look at Jonestown, edited by R. Moore and F. M. McGehee, III. Edwin Mellen Press. ISBN 0-88946-649-1.
  61. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 282
  62. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, pp. 285, 306, 587
  63. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 314
  64. ^ Layton 1998, p. 113
  65. ^ Hall 1987, p. 132
  66. ^ Jones, Jim. "Transcript of Recovered FBI tape Q 50". Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project: San Diego State University.
  67. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 451
  68. ^ McCormick Maaga, Mary. 1998. Hearing the voices of Jonestown. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 0-8156-0515-3.
  69. ^ Moore, Rebecca. [2013] 2020. "The Demographics of Jonestown." adapted from: Moore, Rebecca, Anthony Pinn, and Mary Sawyer. 2004. "Demographics and the Black Religious Culture of Peoples Temple." pp. 57–80 in Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
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  72. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 445
  73. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 377
  74. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 324
  75. ^ "Jim Jon (Kimo) Prokes". Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. San Diego State University.
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  77. ^ Hall 1987, p. 227
  78. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 458
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  80. ^ Liebert, Larry. November 20, 1978. "What Politicians Say Now About Jones." San Francisco Chronicle.
  81. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 327
  82. ^ Milk, Harvey. February 19, 1978. "Letter Addressed to President Jimmy Carter."
  83. ^ Moore, Rebecca. A Sympathetic History of Jonestown. Lewiston: E. Mellen Press. ISBN 0-88946-860-5. p. 143.
  84. ^ "Accusation of Human Rights Violations by Rev. James Warren Jones". Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project: San Diego State University. April 11, 1978.
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  87. ^ a b Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 481
  88. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, pp. 476–480
  89. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, pp. 487–488
  90. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, pp. 519–520
  91. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 524
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  94. ^ a b c d Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, pp. 529–531
  95. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 533
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  97. ^ 1978: Mass suicide leaves 900 dead. BBC, November 18, 2005
  98. ^ Rapaport, Richard (November 16, 2003). "Jonestown and City Hall slayings eerily linked in time and memory". San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco, California.
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  100. ^ a b c d "Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project". Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. San Diego State University.
  101. ^ Jones plotted cyanide deaths years before Jonestown. Polk, Jim. Cable News Network. 12 November 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  102. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, p. 559
  103. ^ a b Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, pp. 390–391
  104. ^ "Guyana Inquest—Interviews of Cecil Roberts & Cyril Mootoo" (PDF). Retrieved February 23, 2010.
  105. ^ Jonestown: Paradise Lost, Interview of Stephan Jones, Documentary airing on Discovery Networks, 2007
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  107. ^ a b "Paranoia And Delusions". Time. December 11, 1978. Archived from the original on January 14, 2009.
  108. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, pp. 176–177
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]