Jim Jones was involved in various churches from an early age, but his messianic fever eventually led to the death of over 900 church members – People Magazine Investigates: Cults investigates this shocking case.
Jones founded the People’s Temple in the late 1950s and the community’s goals were to help others with Jones himself becoming a notable figure in promoting racial equality and human rights, something that drew him to the attention of the authorities.
By the 1970s the People’s Temple had grown in popularity and had some political support. Their decision in 1977 to leave the USA and setup in Guyana seemed abrupt but came ahead of some allegations of abuse. They formed a new community called Jonestown and whole families moved down to the new base.
However, many of their relatives back in the US were concerned for their well being and wondered if some had been coerced into making the move. When congressman Leo Ryan visited Jonestown the initial meeting saw him assaulted, though uninjured. Later, as he and his group boarded their plane, members of the cult opened fire on them. Ryan was killed along with four other, including members of an NBC news team.
This incident was followed by a mass murder suicide as cult members poisoned their own children and then took their own lives. Jones also committed suicide, shooting himself in the head.
People Magazine Investigates: Cults is produced by Lucky 8 and the Jonestown Massacre episode airs at 9. P.M. on Investigation Discovery.