Peoples Temple

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

Peoples Temple was a religious organization founded in 1955 by Jim Jones that, by the mid-1970s, included over a dozen locations in California including its headquarters in San Francisco. It is best known for the events of November 18, 1978, in Guyana, in which 918 people died at the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project (informally, and now commonly, called "Jonestown") and nearby airstrip at Port Kaituma, and Georgetown in an organized mass suicide/killing.

The mass suicide and killings at Jonestown resulted in the greatest single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster, prior to the events of September 11, 2001. Casualties at the airstrip included, among others, Congressman Leo Ryan.


Peoples Temple before California

Indiana formation

Jim Jones' first church in Indianapolis, Indiana

Before forming a church, Jim Jones had become enamored by communism and frustrated by the harassment communists received in the U.S.[1] This, among other things, provided a seminal inspiration for Jones; as he himself described in a biographical recording,[1][2]

I decided, how can I demonstrate my Marxism? The thought was, infiltrate the church. So I consciously made a decision to look into that prospect.

Although he feared a backlash for being a communist, Jones was surprised when a Methodist superintendent (whom he had not met through the American Communist Party) helped him into the church, despite his knowledge that Jones was a communist.[3] In 1952, Jones became a student pastor in Sommerset Southside Methodist Church in Indianapolis, but left that church because it barred him from integrating African Americans into his congregation.[2] In 1954, Jones began his own church in a rented space in Indianapolis, at first naming it the Community Unity Church.[2]

Jones had previously witnessed a faith healing service at the Seventh Day Baptist Church, and concluded that such healings could attract people, and generate income, helping accomplish his social goals.[2] Jones and Temple members knowingly faked healings because they found that the increased faith generated financial resources to help the poor and finance the church.[2] These "healings" involved chicken livers and other animal tissue, claimed by Jones (and confederate Temple members) to be cancerous tissues removed from the body.[4]

In 1956, Jones bought his first church building, in a racially mixed Indianapolis neighborhood. He first named this church "Wings of Deliverance",[5] and later that year renamed it the "Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church", the first time he used the phrase "Peoples Temple."[2] Jones' healings and purported clairvoyant revelations attracted spiritualists.[5]

Indianapolis expansion

Indianapolis is located in Indiana

In order to increase publicity, the Temple organized large religious "conventions" with other Pentecostal pastors, Jones continuing to disguise the fact that he was using religion to further social goals.[5] Those conventions drew as many as 11,000 attendees,[5] as Jones and the other preachers conducted "healings" and impressed attendees by revealing private information—usually numbers, such as addresses, phone numbers or Social Security numbers, which private detectives could easily discover beforehand.[5] Jones and Temple members also drove through various cities in Indiana and Ohio on recruiting and fund raising efforts.[6]

The Temple stressed egalitarian ideals, asking members to attend in casual clothes so poor members would not feel out of place, and providing shelter for the needy.[7] While the Temple had increased its African-American membership from 15% to nearly 50%, in order to attempt further gains the Temple hired African-American preacher Archie Ijames (who had earlier given up organized religion).[5] Pastor Ijames was one of the first to commit to Jones' socialist collective program.[7] In 1959, the church joined the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and was renamed the Peoples Temple Christian Church Full Gospel.[2] This affiliation was a successful attempt to both raise the dwindling membership and restore the reputation of the organization.

In February 1960, the Temple opened a soup kitchen for the poor, and expanded their social services to include rent assistance, job placement services and free canned goods, clothing and coal for winter heating.[7] Ijames and his wife helped to increase the Temple's soup kitchen service to an average of about 2,800 meals per month.[7]

The Temple's public profile was further elevated when Jones was appointed to the Indianapolis Human Rights Commission. He engaged in public attempts to integrate businesses, and was the subject of much local media coverage.[8]

Changes and "religious communalism"

Jones had read extensively about Father Divine, the founder of the International Peace Mission movement.[9] Jones and Temple members visited Divine several times, while Jones studied his writings and tape recordings of his sermons.[10] The Temple printed Divine's texts for its members and began to preach that members should abstain from sex and only adopt children.[10]

In 1959, in a sermon in his Delaware Street Temple, Jones tested the new fiery rhetorical style that Divine had used.[11] His speech captivated members with lulls and crescendos, as Jones challenged individual members in front of the group.[11] The speech also marked the beginning of the Temple's underlying "us versus them" message.[11] Jones carefully wove in that the Temple's home for senior citizens was established on the basis "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need", quoting Karl Marx's "Critique of the Gotha Program".[12] He did so knowing that his Christian audience would recognize the similarities with text from the Acts of the Apostles (4:34–35) which stated "distribution was made to each as any had need."[12] Jones would repeatedly cite that passage to paint Jesus Christ as a communist, while at the same time attacking much of the text of the Bible.[12]

The Temple began tightening its organization,[7] asking more of its members than did other churches.[7] It required that members spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with its Temple "family" rather than with blood relatives,[7] the beginning of a process to wean members from families and redirect their lives toward a total commitment to the Temple's social and political goals.[7] Jones began to offer a deal towards a socialist collective, which he referred to as "religious communalism", in which members would donate their material possessions to the Temple in exchange for the Temple meeting all those members' needs.[7] Pastor Ijames was one of the first to commit.[7]

However, the Temple had little luck converting most midwesterners to communist ideals, even when disguised as religion.[13] Admiring Fidel Castro's 1959 overthrow of Batista in Cuba, Jones traveled to Cuba in 1960 to attempt to convert poor Cuban blacks to move to his congregation in Indiana,[13] but the plan failed.[13]

The Temple's religious message transitioned during this period, to one treading between atheism and the subtle notion that Jones was a Christ-like figure.[14] While Temple aides complained privately, Jones said that the new message was needed to foster members' dedication to the Temple's larger goals.[14] Jones maintained such implications until the mid-to-late 1970s.[14]

In 1961, Jones claimed he had had a vision of Chicago coming under a nuclear attack.[15] He claimed that Indianapolis would also be destroyed,[15] convincing aides that the Temple needed to look for a new location.

A 1962 Esquire magazine article listed the nine safest places to be in a nuclear war, with Belo Horizonte, Brazil, topping the list, because of its location and atmospheric conditions.[16] Jones traveled through Brazil from 1962 through early 1963.[17] He requested money from the Temple while in Rio de Janeiro, but the Temple lacked adequate funds for such a request because of shrinking finances in Jones' absence.[17] Jones sent a preacher that had become a follower in Brazil back to Indiana to help stabilize the Temple.[18]

Peoples Temple in California

Move to California

After traveling in Brazil, Jones returned to Indiana in 1963.[2] While Jones had always spoken of the social gospel's virtues, before the late 1960s, Jones did not reveal that his gospel was actually communism.[2] By the late 1960s, Jones began openly revealing in Temple sermons his "apostolic Socialism" concept.[2][19] The concept often loosely mixed tenets of atheism and socialism.[note 1] During this period, Jones preached to new members that the Holy Spirit was within them, but that Jones' healing power demonstrated that he was a special manifestation of "Christ the Revolution."[2] He also preached that the United States was the Antichrist and capitalism was "the Antichrist system."[2]

Image from a Peoples Temple brochure, portraying leader Jim Jones as the father of the "Rainbow Family".

Jones preached of an imminent nuclear holocaust, and that the surviving elect would then create a new socialist Eden on earth.[2] In 1965, he predicted this would occur on July 15, 1967.[2] Accordingly, Jones preached that the Temple must move to Redwood Valley, California.[2] Jones led approximately 140 members, half of whom were black, to Redwood Valley in July 1965 and officially opened church in Ukiah.[6][20] The addition of deputy district attorney Timothy Stoen greatly increased the Temple's credibility in the area, quickly increasing membership.[20]

Jones began deriding traditional Christianity as "fly away religion," and rejected the Bible as being white men’s' justification to dominate women and enslave people of color.[2] Jones authored a booklet he would distribute in the Temple titled "The Letter Killeth,"[21] pointing out what he felt were the contradictions, absurdities, and atrocities in the Bible, but also stating that the Bible contained great truths. Jones preached that the "Divine Principle" equated with "Love," and Love was equated with "Socialism."[2] He stated that the Bible only contained beliefs about a "Sky God" or "Buzzard God," who was no God at all.[2]

Urban expansion

Because of limited expansion in the Ukiah area, eventually moving the seat of power to an urban area appeared to be a strategic necessity.[22] In 1970, the Temple began holding services in San Francisco and Los Angeles.[23] It established permanent facilities in those cities in 1971 and 1972, respectively.[22]

By 1972, the Temple was calling Redwood Valley the "mother church" of a "statewide political movement".[22] From the start, the Los Angeles facility's primary purposes were to recruit members and to serve as a way station for the Temple's weekly bus trips across California.[22] The Temple set up a permanent staff in Los Angeles and arranged bus trips to Los Angeles every other week.[22] The substantial attendance and collections in Los Angeles helped to support the Temple's inflated membership claims.[22] The Los Angeles facility was physically larger than that in San Francisco.[22] Its central location at the corner of Alvarado and Hoover Streets permitted easy geographic access for a large African-American membership from Watts and Compton.[22]

Recruiting drives in Los Angeles and San Francisco helped to increase membership in the Peoples Temple from a few hundred to nearly 3,000 by the mid-70s.[24] Later, when the Temple's headquarters shifted from Redwood Valley to San Francisco, the Temple convinced many Los Angeles members to move north to its new headquarters.[22]

Organizational structure

Although some descriptions of the Peoples Temple emphasize Jones's autocratic control over Temple operation, in actuality, the Temple possessed a complex leadership structure with decision-making power unevenly dispersed among its members. However, within that structure, Temple members were subjected unwittingly and gradually to sophisticated mind control and behavior modification techniques borrowed from post-revolutionary People's Republic of China and North Korea.[25] The Temple brightly defined psychological borders over which "enemies", such as "traitors" to the Temple, crossed at their own peril.[25] While the secrecy and caution he demanded in recruiting led to decreased overall membership, they also helped Jones to better foster a hero worship of himself as the "ultimate socialist".[25]

In the early 1970s, the Temple established a more formal hierarchy for its socialistic model.[26] At the top were the Temple's Staff, a select group of eight to ten unquestionably obedient college-educated women that undertook the most sensitive missions for the Temple.[26] They necessarily acclimated themselves to an "ends justify the means" philosophy.[26] The earliest member was Sandy Bradshaw, a 24-year-old socialist from Syracuse, New York.[26] Others included Carolyn Layton, a 31-year-old Communist since the age of 15 who was the mother of a child with Jones; Sharon Amos, who worked for the social services department; Patty Cartmell, Jones' secretary; and Terry Buford, a Navy brat turned pacifist.[26] The group was often scorned as being elitist within the egalitarian Temple organization and were viewed as Temple secret police.[26]

The Temple's Planning Commission was its governing board.[27][28] Membership quickly ballooned from 50 to over 100.[27][28] During the week, members convened for meetings in various Redwood Valley locations, sometimes until dawn.[27] The Planning Commission was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Temple, including key decision making, financial and legal planning, and oversight of the organization.[29] The Planning Commission sat over various other committees, such as the Diversions Committee, which carried out tasks such as writing huge numbers of letters to politicians from fictional people mailed from various locations around the U.S.,[30] and the Mertles Committee, which undertook activities against defectors Al and Jeannie Mills.[31]

A group of rank-and-file members, referred to by outsiders as "the troops", consisted of working-class members that were 70–80% black who set up chairs for meetings, filled offering boxes and did other tasks.[26] Most made the leap from Christianity to the Temple's quasi-socialism both because of the Temple's political reeducation and because "the troops" were responding to the form rather than the substance of the Temple's services.[26] Jones also surrounded himself with several dozen mostly white privileged members in their twenties and thirties who had skills in law, accounting, nursing, teaching, music and administration.[26] This latter group carried out public relations, financial duties and more mundane chores while bringing in good salaries from well-paying outside jobs.[26]

Recruiting, faith healings and fund raising

The Temple used ten to fifteen Greyhound-type bus cruisers to transport members up and down California freeways each week for recruitment and fund raising.[32] Jim Jones always rode bus number seven, which contained armed guards and a special section lined with protective metal plates.[32] Jones told members that the Temple would not bother scheduling a trip unless it could net $100,000–$200,000, and the Temple's goal for annual net income from bus trips was $1 million.[32]

Beginning in the 1970s, the bus caravan also traveled across the United States quarterly, including to Washington, D.C.[32] In June 1973, Representative George Brown, Jr. entered a lengthy and laudatory description of the Temple into the Congressional Record.[32] The Washington Post ran an August 18, 1973, editorial-page item stating that the 660 Temple visitors were the "hands down winners of anybody's tourists of the year award" after spending an hour cleaning up the Capitol grounds.[32]

The Temple distributed pamphlets in cities along the route of these fund raising trips bragging of Jones's prowess at "spiritual healing", while not mentioning the Temple's Marxist goals.[32] Stops included large cities, such as Houston, Detroit and Cleveland.[32] Temple members pretended to be locals and acted as shills in the various faked healings and "revelations".[32] Local viewers did not realize that they were in the minority in the audience.[32] The weekly take from offerings and healing services was $15,000 to $25,000 in Los Angeles and $8,000 to $12,000 in San Francisco.[33] There were smaller collections from trips around the "mother church" in Redwood Valley.[33]

The Temple also set up Truth Enterprises, a direct-mailing branch that sent out 30,000 to 50,000 mailers monthly to people who had attended Temple services or had written to the Temple after listening to Temple radio shows.[33] Donations were mailed in from all over the continental United States, Hawaii, South America and Europe.[33] In addition to receiving donations, the Temple also sold trinkets, such as pieces of Jones's robes, healing oil, and Temple rings, key chains and lockets.[33] In peak periods, mailer revenue grossed $300 to $400 daily.[33] This figure even surprised Jones.[33]

Although Jones had earlier asked Temple members to destroy photos of Jones because he did not want members worshiping him as Catholics "worshiped plaster statues", Jeannie and Al Mills (who would later defect) convinced Jones to sell anointed and blessed photos to help raise money for the Temple.[33] Jones used to fret "they're gonna get me for mail fraud someday."[33] In 1973, the Temple also formed Brotherhood Records, a subsidiary that produced records from the Temple's "large interracial youth choir and orchestra".[34]

Size and scope

Despite exaggerated claims by the Temple of 20,000 or more members, one source claims its greatest actual registered membership was around 3,000.[35] However, 5,000 individual membership card photos were located in Temple records after its dissolution.[36] Regardless of its official membership, the Temple also regularly drew 3,000 people to its San Francisco services alone, whether or not they were technically registered members.[37] Of particular interest to politicians was the Temple's ability to produce 2,000 people for work or attendance in San Francisco with only six hours' notice.[20]

Peoples Temple Dorm at Santa Rosa Junior College

By the mid-1970s, in addition to its locations in Redwood Valley, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Peoples Temple had also established satellite congregations in almost a dozen other California cities.[25] Jones mentioned locations in San Francisco, Ukiah, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno and Sacramento.[38] The Temple also maintained a branch, college tuition program and dormitory at Santa Rosa Junior College.[39][40]

At the same time, Jones and his church earned a reputation for aiding the cities' poorest citizens, especially racial minorities, drug addicts, and the homeless. The Peoples Temple made strong connections to the California state welfare system.[41] During the 1970s, the Peoples Temple owned and ran at least nine residential care homes for the elderly, six homes for foster children, and a state-licensed 40-acre (160,000 m2) ranch for developmentally disabled persons.[42] The Temple elite handled members' insurance claims and legal problems, effectively acting as a client-advocacy group. For these reasons, sociologist John Hall described Peoples Temple as a "charismatic bureaucracy",[43] oriented toward Jones as a charismatic leader, but functioning as a bureaucratic social service organisation.

Kinsolving series

In 1972, the San Francisco Examiner and Indianapolis Star ran the first four parts of a seven-part story on the Temple by Lester Kinsolving, its first public exposé.[44] Kinsolving reported on several aspects of church dealings, its claims of healings and Jones's ritual of throwing bibles down in church, yelling, "This black book has held down you people for 200 years. It has no power."[45] The Temple picketed the Examiner, yelled at the Examiner's editor in a car (seated between burly Temple "Red Brigade" security guards) and threatened both papers with libel suits.[44] Both papers cancelled the series after the fourth of the seven installments.[44] Shortly thereafter, Jones made grants to newspapers in California with the stated goal of supporting the First Amendment.[46]


Some defections occurred,[47] most notably in 1973, when eight mostly young members, commonly referred to as the "Gang of Eight", defected together.[48] Because members of the Gang of Eight were aware of sinister threats to potentially defecting members, they suspected that Jones would send a search party to look for them.[48] Their fears proved to be correct when Jones employed multiple search parties, including one scanning highways from a rented airplane.[49] The Gang of Eight drove three trucks loaded with firearms toward Canada, avoiding watched U.S. Highway 101.[48] Because they feared bringing firearms over the Canadian border, the Gang of Eight traveled instead to the hills of Montana, where they wrote a long letter documenting their complaints.[49]

Former Temple member Jeannie Mills later wrote that Jones called thirty members to his home and forebodingly declared that, in light of the Gang of Eight defection, "in order to keep our apostolic socialism, we should all kill ourselves and leave a note saying that because of harassment, a socialist group cannot exist at this time."[50] Jones became furious, waving a pistol in his Planning Commission meeting while threatening potential defectors and referring to the Gang of Eight as "Trotskyite defectors" and "Coca-Cola revolutionaries".[51] While the Temple did not execute the suicide plan to which Jones referred, it did conduct fake suicide rituals in the years that followed.[50]

San Francisco Temple

The move to San Francisco permitted Jones to return to urban recruitment and made better political sense because it permitted the Temple to show its true political stripes.[52] By spring 1976, Jones openly admitted even to outsiders that he was an atheist.[53] Despite the Temple's fear that the IRS was investigating its religious tax exemption, by 1977, Jones's wife, Marcy, openly admitted to the New York Times that Jones had not been lured to religion because of faith, but because it served his goal of social change through Marxism.[20] She stated that, as early as age 18 when he watched his idol Mao Zedong defeat the Nationalists in the Chinese Civil War, Jones realized that the way to achieve social change in the United States was to mobilize people through religion.[20] She admitted that "Jim used religion to try to get some people out of the opiate of religion" and had slammed the Bible on the table yelling, "I've got to destroy this paper idol!"[20]

With the move into San Francisco, the Temple more strenuously emphasized that its members live communally.[54] It stressed physical discipline of children first, and then adults.[55] The San Francisco Temple also carefully vetted newcomers through an extensive observation process.[22]

The Temple distinguished itself from most cults with its overtly political message.[56] It combined those genuine political sympathies with the perception that it could help turn out large numbers of votes to gain the support of a number of prominent politicians.[57] Jones made it known after he moved to San Francisco that he was interested in politics, and legal changes strengthened political groups like the Temple.[58][59]

After the Temple mobilized volunteers and voters instrumental in George Moscone's narrow election victory in 1975, Moscone appointed Jones as Chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission.[60][61] Jones and the Temple received the support of, among others, Governor Jerry Brown, Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally, Assemblyman Willie Brown, San Francisco mayor George Moscone, Art Agnos, and Harvey Milk.[62] Willie Brown visited the Temple many times and spoke publicly in support of Jones, even after investigations and suspicions of cult activity.[63][64]

After his rise in San Francisco political circles, Jones and Moscone met privately with Vice Presidential Candidate Walter Mondale in San Francisco days before the 1976 Presidential election.[65] Jones also met First Lady Rosalynn Carter on multiple occasions, including a private dinner, and corresponded with Mrs. Carter.[66][67]

Jones used his position at the Housing Authority to lead the fight for a period against the eviction of tenants from San Francisco's famous I-Hotel.[68] The Temple further forged an alliance with San Francisco Sun Reporter publisher Carlton Goodlett and received frequent favorable mentions in that paper.[69] It also received frequent favorable mentions from famed San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen and other local newspaper and television reporters.[70]

The Temple aroused police suspicion after Jones praised the radical Bay Area group the Symbionese Liberation Army and its leaders attended San Francisco Temple meetings.[71] Further suspicions were raised after the defection of Joyce Shaw and the death soon after of her husband, Bob Houston.[72] After tension rose between the Temple and the Nation of Islam in San Francisco, the group held a large "spiritual" jubilee in the Los Angeles convention center attended by thousands, including prominent political figures, to heal the rift.[73]

While the Temple forged media alliances, the move to San Francisco also opened the group to San Francisco media scrutiny. After Jones and hundreds of Temple members fled to Guyana following media investigations, Mayor Moscone issued a press release stating the Mayor's office would not investigate the Temple.[58][74] During this time, Harvey Milk spoke at Peoples Temple political rallies[75] and wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter after the investigations began praising Jones and stating that the leader of those attempting to extricate relatives from Jonestown was telling "bold-faced lies".[76][77][78]

Mass suicide at the Temple's Jonestown agricultural commune

Jonestown is located in Guyana
Peoples Temple Agricultural Project ("Jonestown", Guyana)
Entrance to Jonestown

In 1974, the Peoples Temple signed a lease to rent land in Guyana.[79] The community created on this property was called the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, or informally, "Jonestown". It had as few as 50 residents in early 1977.[80]

Jones saw Jonestown as both a "socialist paradise" and a "sanctuary" from media scrutiny that had started with the Kinsolving articles.[81] Former Temple member Tim Carter describes the reason for the move to Jonestown as "in seventy four (1974), what we saw in the United States was creeping fascism."[82] Carter explained, "It was apparent that corporations, or the multinationals, were getting much larger, their influence was growing within the government, and the United States is a racist place."[82] Carter said the Temple concluded that Guyana was "a place in a black country where our black members could live in peace", "it was a socialist government" and it was "the only English speaking country in South America."[82]

Increasing media scrutiny based upon allegations by former members placed further pressure on Jones in 1977, in particular, an article by Marshall Kilduff in New West Magazine.[23] Just before publication of the New West piece, editor Rosalie Wright telephoned Jones to read him the article.[83] Wright explained that she was only doing so before publication because of "all the support letters we received on your behalf, from the Governor of California (Jerry Brown)" and others.[84] While still on the phone listening to the allegations contained in the article, Jones wrote a note to Temple members in the room with him that said, "We leave tonight. Notify Georgetown (Guyana)."[84]

After Jim Jones left for Guyana, he encouraged Temple members to follow him there. The population grew to over 900 people by late 1978.[80][85] Those who moved there were promised a tropical paradise, free from the supposed wickedness of the outside world.[86]

Congressman Leo Ryan

On November 17, 1978, Leo Ryan, a Congressman from the San Francisco area investigating claims of abuse within the Peoples Temple, visited Jonestown.[87] During this visit, a number of Temple members expressed a desire to leave with the Congressman,[88] and, on the afternoon of November 18, these members accompanied Ryan to the local airstrip at Port Kaituma.[89] There, they were intercepted by Temple security guards who opened fire on the group, killing Congressman Ryan, three journalists, and one of the Temple defectors.[90] A few seconds of gunfire from the incident were captured on video by Bob Brown, one of the journalists killed in the attack.[90]

On the evening of November 18, in Jonestown, Jones ordered his congregation to drink a concoction of cyanide-laced, grape flavored Flavor Aid.[91][92]


In all, 918 people died, including 276 children.[93] It was the greatest single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster until the events of September 11, 2001.[94][95][96] This includes four that died at the Temple headquarters in Georgetown that night.[97] Congressman Leo Ryan became the only Congressman murdered in the line of duty in United States history.[98]

San Francisco Temple headquarters

The Temple's San Francisco headquarters came under siege by national media and relatives of Jonestown victims.[99] The event became one of the most known events in U.S. history as measured by the Gallup poll and appeared on the cover of several magazines, including Time magazine, and newspapers for months.[100]

In addition, according to various press reports,[101][102] after the Jonestown suicides, surviving Temple members in the U.S. announced their fears of being targeted by a "hit squad" of Jonestown survivors. Similarly, in 1979, the Associated Press reported the claim of a U.S. Congressional aide that there were "...120 white, brainwashed assassins out from Jonestown awaiting the trigger word to pick up their hit."[103]

Former members

Michael Prokes

Temple insider Michael Prokes, who had been ordered to deliver a suitcase containing Temple funds to be transferred to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union,[104][105] committed suicide in March 1979, four months after the Jonestown incident. In the days leading up to his death, Prokes sent notes to several people, together with a thirty-page statement he had written about Peoples Temple. Columnist Herb Caen reprinted one copy in his San Francisco Chronicle column.[106] Prokes then arranged for a press conference in a Modesto, California, motel room, during which he read a statement to the eight reporters who attended. He then excused himself, entered a bathroom and fatally shot himself in the head.[106]

Prior to the tragedy, Temple member Paula Adams had engaged in a romantic relationship with Guyana's Ambassador to the United States, Laurence "Bonny" Mann.[107] Adams later married Mann.[108] On October 24, 1983, Mann fatally shot both Adams and the couple's child, and then fatally shot himself.[108]

Defecting member Harold Cordell lost 20 family members that evening during the poisonings.[109] The Bogues family, which had also defected, lost their daughter Marilee (age 18), while defector Vernon Gosney lost his son Mark (age 5).[110]

Wrapping up

Temple building at 1366 S. Alvarado St., Los Angeles

At the end of 1978, the Temple declared bankruptcy, and its assets went into receivership.[111] A few Temple members remained in Guyana through May 1979 to wrap up the movement's affairs, then returned to anonymity within the U.S.[111]

The Temple's buildings in Los Angeles (1366 S. Alvarado St.), Indianapolis and Redwood Valley are intact, and some are used by church congregations.[111] The Central Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church is currently located at the Temple's former Los Angeles building at 1366 South Alvarado St.[112] [113] The majority of Temple documents remain classified, despite Freedom of Information requests from numerous people over the past three decades.[114][115][116]

See also


  1. ^ The Temple openly preached to established members that "religion is an opiate to the people." (Jones, Jim. "Transcript of Recovered FBI tape Q 1053." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project: San Diego State University.) Accordingly, "those who remained drugged with the opiate of religion had to be brought to enlightenment – socialism." (Layton 1999, page 53). In that regard, Jones also openly stated that he "took the church and used the church to bring people to atheism." (Jones, Jim. "Transcript of Recovered FBI tape Q 757." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project: San Diego State University). Jones often mixed those concepts, such as preaching that "If you're born in this church, this socialist revolution, you're not born in sin. 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."(Jones, Jim. "Transcript of Recovered FBI tape Q 1053." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project: San Diego State University.) Archived 13 February 2011 at WebCite


  1. ^ a b Jones, Jim. "Transcript of Recovered FBI tape Q 134." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project: San Diego State University.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Wessinger, Catherine. How the Millennium Comes Violently: From Jonestown to Heaven's Gate. Seven Bridges Press, 2000. ISBN 978-1-889119-24-3.
  3. ^ Horrock, Nicholas M., "Communist in 1950s", New York Times, December 17, 1978
  4. ^ Layton 1999, p. 65-6.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Reiterman 1982. p. 49-52.
  6. ^ a b Reiterman 1982. p. 57.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Reiterman 1982. p. 54-55.
  8. ^ Reiterman 1982. p. 68-72.
  9. ^ Reiterman 1982. p. 59.
  10. ^ a b Reiterman 1982. p. 59 and 65.
  11. ^ a b c Reiterman 1982. p. 60.
  12. ^ a b c Reiterman 1982. p. 61.
  13. ^ a b c Reiterman 1982. p. 62.
  14. ^ a b c Reiterman 1982. p. 74.
  15. ^ a b Reiterman 1982. p. 76.
  16. ^ Reiterman 1982. p. 77.
  17. ^ a b Reiterman 1982. p. 83.
  18. ^ Reiterman 1982. p. 85.
  19. ^ Jones, Jim. "Transcript of Recovered FBI tape Q 1023." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project: San Diego State University. Archived 13 February 2011 at WebCite
  20. ^ a b c d e f Lindsay, Robert. "How Rev. Jim Jones Gained His Power Over Followers." New York Times. 26 November 1978.
  21. ^ Jones, Jim. "The Letter Killeth." Original material reprint. Department of Religious Studies. San Diego State University. Archived 13 February 2011 at WebCite
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Reiterman 1982. page 164.
  23. ^ a b Kilduff, Marshall and Phil Tracy. "Inside Peoples Temple." New West Magazine. 1 August 1977 (hosted at Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project: San Diego State University). Archived 24 January 2011 at WebCite
  24. ^ Reiterman 1982. p. 156.
  25. ^ a b c d Reiterman 1982. p. 163-4.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Reiterman 1982. p. 156-9.
  27. ^ a b c Reiterman 1982. p. 160-3.
  28. ^ a b Lewis, Mike. "Jones disciple recovers from, recalls painful past." Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 19 November 2003. Archived 13 February 2011 at WebCite
  29. ^ Dickerson, Toby. "Peoples Temple (Jonestown)". Archived from the original on 2006-09-08. . The Religious Movements Homepage Project. University of Virginia. 5 February 2005.
  30. ^ Layton 1999, p. 62.
  31. ^ Hall 1987, p.178–184
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Reiterman 1982. p. 166-8.
  33. ^ a b c d e f g h i Reiterman 1982. p. 169-71.
  34. ^ Kilduff, Marshall and Ron Javers. Suicide Cult: The Inside Story of the Peoples Temple Sect and the Massacre in Guyana. Bantam Books, New York, 1978. ISBN 978-0-553-12920-5. page 42.
  35. ^ Hall, John R. "The Impact of Apostates on the Trajectory of Religious Movement: The Case of the Peoples Temple", in David G. Bromley (ed.) Falling from the Faith: Causes and Consequences of Religious Apostasy. Sage Publications, 1988. ISBN 978-0-8039-3188-6. page 234.
  36. ^ 'The Opposition, The Returned, Crisis & White Nights', Jonestown Institute, San Diego State University, May 2008. Archived 13 February 2011 at WebCite
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  41. ^ Hall 1987, p. 81–2
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  43. ^ Hall 1987, p.95
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  45. ^ Kinsolving, Lester. "SEX, SOCIALISM, AND CHILD TORTURE WITH REV. JIM JONES." San Francisco Examiner. September 1972.
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  50. ^ a b Paranoia And Delusions, Time Magazine, December 11, 1978 Archived 24 January 2011 at WebCite
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  53. ^ 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. Archived 13 February 2011 at WebCite
  54. ^ Reiterman 1982. page 256.
  55. ^ Reiterman 1982. page 259.
  56. ^ Reiterman 1982. p. 280.
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  58. ^ a b Los Angeles Herald Examiner, "The Political Pull of Jim Jones", November 21, 1978
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  80. ^ a b Entry to Guyana, Alternatives Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple, San Diego State University Archived 13 February 2011 at WebCite
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  82. ^ a b c Tim Carter. There was no choice in Jonestown that day...[dead link] Oregon Public Broadcasting Radio interview. 9 April 2007. Archived 13 February 2011 at WebCite
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  93. ^ "1978: Mass Suicide Leaves 900 Dead". Retrieved 3 October 2011. 
  94. ^ Rapaport, Richard, Jonestown and City Hall slayings eerily linked in time and memory, San Francisco Chronicle, November 16, 2003 Archived 24 January 2011 at WebCite
  95. ^ Nakao, Annie. "The ghastly Peoples Temple deaths shocked the world." San Francisco Chronicle. 14 April 2005. Archived 24 January 2011 at WebCite
  96. ^ Knapp, Don. "Jonestown massacre + 20: Questions linger."[dead link] 18 November 1998. Retrieved 9 April 2007.
  97. ^ Reiterman 1982. page 544-5.
  98. ^ Brazil, Jeff. "Jonestown's Horror Fades but Mystery Remain." Los Angeles Times. December 16, 1999.
  99. ^ Reiterman 1982. p. 573
  100. ^ Hall, John R. Gone from the Promised Land: Jonestown in American Cultural History. 1989. ISBN 978-0-88738-801-9. p. 289.
  101. ^ Spencer, Duncan, "Cult's Ukiah Community in Fear of Vengeful Death Squads", Washington Star-News, November 23, 1978
  102. ^ "Police Seek Out Cult 'Hit Squads'", San Francisco Examiner, November 22, 1978
  103. ^ Steel, Fiona. "Jonestown Massacre: A 'Reason' to Die". Archived from the original on 2011-02-13. Retrieved 2007-05-22. 
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  105. ^ "Letter to Feodor Timofeyev." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project: San Diego State University. Archived 14 August 2010 at WebCite
  106. ^ a b "Statement of Michael Prokes." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. San Diego State University: Jonestown Project. Retrieved 22 September 2007. Archived 24 January 2011 at WebCite
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  108. ^ a b Weingarten, Gene. "The Peekaboo Paradox." The Washington Post. January 22, 2006. Archived 13 February 2011 at WebCite
  109. ^ The Congregation of Peoples Temple. Archived 13 February 2011 at WebCite
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  112. ^ Central Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church. Archived 13 February 2011 at WebCite
  113. ^ Jim Jones ingested a lot of LSD prior to the events that took place in Guyana, and reports have been as vivid as Jones himself turning into a tyrannosaurus-rex.
  114. ^ McGehee, Fielding M. III. "Attempting to Document the Peoples Temple Story: The Existence and Disappearance of Government Records." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. San Diego State University: Jonestown Project.[dead link]
  115. ^ Richardson, James. "Jonestown 25 Years Later: Why All The Secrecy?". Archived from the original on 2011-02-13. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 
  116. ^ Taylor, Michael; Lattin, Don (1998-11-13). "Most Peoples Temple Documents Still Sealed". San Francisco Examiner. Archived from the original on 2011-02-13. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 

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