The Jonestown express: Why it still matters. And why we should never forget

I was not living during Jonestown.. the massacre occurred before I entered this world–at least in the current incarnation I inhabit.

But I have been both fascinated and perplexed by what Jim Jones was able to obtain: The complete submission of a large group of people, to the point where they chose death.. The choice was made by people who even watched others convulse in agony after taking the poison serum that Jones’ team concocted..

If you have never dabbled into the tragedy that was the Jonestown massacre, you should.. No, not because it’s just gruesome and gory, but because it sheds light on how humanity itself can often be ruined by just the actions of one lone lunatic..

Knowing the history of Jonestown, seeing documentaries and staring uncomfortably at photographs from the death cult’s final moments, I didn’t think much of yet another story about the Jonestown horror. But I was wrong..

I truly recommend a long read from the website It’s called ‘Escape from Jonestown’ and it’s presented in such detail, such vivid and gory detail, that I had to stop myself a number of times during the session to catch my breath and settle my mind.. By the end, I was darn near tears, welling up with emotion that I never encountered reading or watching anything on the topic before..

I warn you, this may affect your life a bit.. it may rattle your cage, and it may confound your sense of decency. Every single thing that happened in the compound where Jim Jones ruled with a faux religious iron fist was awful. Just awful.. mind games, brazen acts of cruelty, and in the end, mass murder before Jones, seeing the horror of his decision on every other person who took too long to die in agony, offed himself with one gun shot to the head.. Too quick for such a madman to go. I say he deserved much more pain considering what he afflicted on others.. Babies.. mothers.. fathers.. Elderly..

The Lonereads article is an excerpt from a book titled A THOUSAND LIVES by Julia Sheeres. It was actually published in 2011, but I had not heard of it until I read the article today. Sheeres’ account uses FBI documents.. home videos.. recordings from Jones himself. It also showcases quite a lot about Tommy Bogue, who was just 17 at the time of the massacre in Guyana.

Just reading the 26 minute passage was enough to choke me up to the point of exhaustion..
Sheeres wrote some painful details, including how a once successful pastor, Jones would be exposed as a charlatan of fakery in the mid 1970s. He took many from his California flock to the remote compound. And all the while, he had a big dream: Revolutionary suicide.  Also evidence shows that metal rings were put in boys’ ankles who attempted to flee.

The passage from the read that got me more than anything was about a woman, right before the mass murder took place, was telling Jim Jones that people, especially the children at the compound, deserved to live. The complete passage,

She was shouted down. An elderly man took the microphone, crying. “Dad, we’re all ready to go. If you tell us we have to give our lives now, we’re ready—I’m pretty sure all the rest of the sisters and brothers are with me.”

He is roundly applauded. The tide had turned in Jones’ favor. He’d been goading them toward this night for years.

Jones: Please get us some medication. It’s simple. It’s simple. There’s no convulsions with it. It’s just simple. Just, please get it. Before it’s too late. The GDF (Guyana Defense Force) will be here, I tell you. Get movin’, get movin’. Don’t be afraid to die. If these people land out here, they’ll torture our children, they’ll torture our people, they’ll torture our seniors. We cannot have this.

Parents try to console their children. Lovers embrace. Confused seniors wonder what’s happening. Jonestown guards circle the pavilion, guns trained on the cowering residents—they can either take the “potion” or be shot.

Jones is impatient.

Jones: Have you got the medication here?! You’ve got to move!”

From the school tent, aides carry a large steel drum containing a dark purple liquid. Dr. Schacht mixed his toxic cocktail carefully. It contains potassium cyanide, valium, chloral hydrate (used to put babies and small children to sleep for surgery) potassium chloride  (used to stop the heart muscle in lethal injections) and Flavor-Aid, a cheap Kool-Aid knockoff. Nurses fill paper cups and syringes with the poison and residents are told to form a line, mothers and babies first.

It’s impossible to determine how much time passes between edits on the Death Tape. The tape is recycled; whenever the mike falls silent, there is a ghostly bleed through of the Delfonics’ 1968 hit “I’m Sorry.”  The music would later be misconstrued by some, including FBI analysts, to be live organ music, as if a funereal march played while people lined up to die.

And the end result was a mass death. Call it suicide, as some do. I never thought that.. I believed this was murder.. Total and complete murder, a mass crime against humanity..

After the massacre.

The entire notion that Jonestown could happen seems foreign in my worldview. But it should not.. it can happen too easily.

There was always one thing, more than anything else, that provoked anger in my about this story. The video in which Congressman Leo Ryan is overrun during his speech to the people at Jonestown by applause. They wanted to drown him out, they wanted to impress Jim Jones with their allegiance, and they wanted to believe what they were doing was right in some way..
Their minds were warped. They were victims, though.. they were victims. And hours after they shouted down Congressman Ryan, Ryan would be assassinated and the entire crowd that cheered hours before would be writhing in pain, dying after drinking the mixture that would kill them…That video here:

I don’t think people think enough about Jonestown, or know enough about it.  History books overlook the incident, though I have spoken to people who remember it well and know just how much of an effect it had on pop culture forever. Hell, even today we still say ‘drink the Kool Aid’ without many people realizing just where that saying came from or what it means..

Death cults can happen. Religious fervor can overtake a body and create a demon of sorts.. Jonestown has always been a constant reminder for me of a few things.. you may disagree, but they are as follows:

  1. Never trust a person who proclaims himself a ‘man of God’ in the face of questions.
  2. Never blindly follow a group.
  3. Never blindly follow a religious belief with discernment. Same with politicians.
  4. The bandwagon is normally off the track. Stay off of it.
  5. Never drink the Flavor Aid.

I don’t offer those statements as any sort of mocking tone concerning Jonestown. I wholeheartedly believe Jonestown has given us a good lesson as to how dangerous and real mind control is..
Don’t be a victim..
Jim Jones was a sociopath.  He also had lots of help .. And he succeeded in making history.
Don’t think for a second that sociopaths like him don’t exist today..