Professor: Kitana Ananda
November 3rd 2017
“The Jonestown Massacre”
“Take our life from us. We laid it down. We got tired. We didn’t commit suicide. We committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world.” – Jim Jones last words on Death Tape FBI No. 0042 (18 November 1978). How does one preach the complete opposite of Protection of Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property (Amendment 5 of the United States Constitution). How can one be so naive to believe in someone who wants others to commit suicide to save themselves?. Here is the story of the Jonestown Massacre created by one of the evilest men of the 1970’s; Jim Jones.
Jim Jones was the creator of “The People’s Temple”, which was created to be free from oppression and violence. According to his son, Stephan Jones his preaches were about socialist ideas and Christian Redemption. Many individuals were fooled by Jim Jones and believed that “The People’s Temple” was a way to seek help and also to serve humanity. Many were fooled that he had special powers to heal the sick and dying. Throughout his services at the Temple healings were staged for the people to believe in his lies.
“The People’s Temple” was first built in San Francisco, California where Jones became more popular by preaching more about Social Activism and started to call himself “a profit, a savior that would guide, protect and watch over his followers”. (Jonestown: Paradise Lost – 2006 movie/ documentary). Followers began to refer to him as their “Father” and many of them signed over their paychecks, possessions and even their homes to him. But there were a few followers that left while they can after rumours spreading that he was a physical and sexual abuser and a mind controller.
In 1977 Jim Jones and supporters left San Francisco, California and set out to South America, Guyana to build a new community. “The Peoples Temple”was created one hundred and fifty miles away from the capital of Guyana which was Georgetown, was then the establishment of Jonestown. Vernon Gosney, a survivor of the massacre joined “The People’s Temple” from 1974-1978 and lived in Jonestown for eight months. He currently is a Police Officer living in Hawaii. He explains that an emergency code “White Night” was created for extreme emergencies. For example, to create fear and desperation amongst his followers and also to rehearse for Mass Suicide which he considered to be a “Test of Faith.
November 14th 1978, the United States Congressman Jay Ryan and agent Jackie Spheir flew to Guyana to investigate allegations of abuse within the temple. Congressman Ryan decided that he would create a delegation which consisted of relatives who were determined to see that their loved ones were free to come and go as they pleased but Jones considered the group as a direct threat. Fourteen members that spoke out against Jones accompanied Congressman Ryan on his trip to Guyana. Members of the United States Media covered the trip including Dawn Harris from NBC and American Television Network, and also Tim Reiterman which was a reporter on assignment for the San Francisco Examiner.
Jim Jones controlled the members of “The People’s Temple” through disciplinary beatings and forcing them to turn over their property and custody of their children. When some of the individuals decided that they did not want to be apart of this lifestyle anymore Jones threatened them with death if they left the organization. Sherwin Harris was one of the members that bordered Congressman Ryan’s plane. He was attempting to visit his daughter Lynn who was living in Jonestown. In 1978 Lyann was just twenty one years of age when she was brought into “The People’s Temple” by her mother who was one of the members.
Jones created an isolation of the people from the outside world. There were no telephones, televisions, or commuting with anyone outside of Jonestown. Jones made people sign a petition stating that they didn’t want to see their loved ones. Being a leader how could u isolate people from their families? Jones wife, Marceline Jones had a passion for helping children so she had schools, nurseries, and clinics built for them. Even though Jones mid was so corrupted his wife seemed to actually care about people.
It took a few days for Jones to let Congressman Ryan and other family members to enter Jonestown. When Congressman Ryan finally entered Jones made sure to show that nothing funny and unusual was going on. But during the night Vernon decided to pass a note to who he thought was the Congressman which said “Please get me out”. Luckily it was one of the men that came with the Congressman and delivered the message. Vernon was pulled aside and was told that they were going to get him out. Jones made Vernon sign a note stating that he was leaving his son in Jonestown. After it was time for Congressman Ryan and the other visitors to go Jones ordered their plane to be shot down and the pilot to be killed.
After ordering the plane to be shot down Jim Jones decided that it was time to die. Jones made it seem as if “The People’s Temple” was under attack. The children were the first to die by the poison including Vernon’s son. “If we can’t live in peace, then let us die in peace”. (Jonestown: Paradise Lost – 2006 movie/ documentary). To Jones, the people did not commit suicide, they committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of the inhumane world. Lastly, many people were killed in this horrific tragedy. For instance, Congressman Ryan was assasinated, Dohn Harris of NBC, Ray Robinson the photographer, Rob Brown of NBC, Patricia Parks which was one of the defectors. There were eleven other people which were wounded but did survive.
In “The People’s Temple” Sharon and Lyann both slit their throats and killed the children. After all the children were killed Jones wife took the poison herself and Jones ordered someone to shoot him in the head. He couldn’t even go the same way he ordered others to die. This was not a mass massacre it was a mass murder according to Jim Jones son Stepan. 908 members of “The Peoples Temple” committed suicide or were poisoned against their will by being forced to drink the poison or being injected with it. Almost 300 of them were children with no idea what was going on.In the end, the gunman Larry Layton was jailed for eighteen years and released in April 2002. Tim Reiterman is now a Journalist for the Los Angeles Times and Co – Author of “Raven”, a book written about “The Peoples Temple”. Vernon Gosney is a Police Officer living in Hawaii, Sherwin Harris is a businessman and has two children, and finally Stephan Jones is married with three daughters.
To conclude, no person can control minds the way Jim Jones did. Jim Jones was a monster full of rage, hatred, and lies. He made the people believe in his lies, he abused their freedom and will power. Why commit such a crime? What could possibly be going through his mind? Jim Jones created such a horrific history that some may not be able to bare the truth of it. Throughout my essay i decided to tell the story of Jim Jones; the creator of Jonestown to specify on the importance of having your own mind and expressing your freedom. He was called a religious leader but also a psycho. Innocent people put there whole life in a murders hand and now they are all our history.