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JONESTOWN, Guyana–Three thousand acres of the jungle of Guyana, South American were cleared out between 1974 and 1977, and Jim Jones moved the Peoples Temple there, promising the members a paradise, where they would be free of the evils of the world, including religion. 

Jones had essentially been run out of San Francisco, after he moved the Peoples Temple there in 1965, from Indianapolis. He and his followers would commit mass suicide on Nov. 18, 1978.

LINK: The Jonestown Institute-includes audio, photos

Daniel Flynn, author of Cult City:  Jim Jones, Harvey Milk, and 10 Days That Shook San Francisco, said Jones was able to move his operation to South America, thanks to a support system in California.

“Some politicians kept their distance and some politicians like Harvey Milk and (assemblyman) Willie Brown continued to be supportive of Peoples Temple,” said Flynn. He said a series of articles in “New West” magazine had exposed Jones’ fake faith healings, abuse of church members and other misdeeds.


Jones had stopped preaching the scriptures in favor of communist ideals and socialism. When worried relatives went to South America to visit, they rarely got a true picture of what was happening, thanks to the tight control that Jones had over the flock. The world would soon find out just how much control he had. 

U.S. Congressman from California Leo Ryan had gotten reports of abuse. He decided to go to Jonestown on a fact-finding mission. He addressed the members of the Peoples Temple the night of Nov. 17.

Ryan had wanted to bring then Congressman from Indiana Dan Quayle, the future vice president, with him. Flynn says Quayle’s baby may have saved his life.

“He encouraged Dan Quayle to go down because he knew the temple had an Indiana connection and Quayle’s life was basically saved by his daughter, who was born around Thanksgiving of 1988,” said Flyyn. He said Quayle had to stay because his wife was expecting.

The next day Ryan was ready to leave. But, he was taking several people with him who wanted to leave the Temple. When they got to the air strip at Port Kaituma, several men were waiting on them. The men were Peoples Temple security. They ambushed the group and killed Ryan, one of the people leaving the temple, and three journalists. One of those journalists was Bob Brown, who caught some of the murder on tape as he fell with his camera.

Later that day Jones convinced 918 people to take a combination of chemicals.

The adults took injections. The kids drank it. 

PHOTO: The Jonestown Institute