Jonestown was the informal name for the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, an intentional community in
northwestern Guyana formed by the Peoples Temple led by an American, Jim Jones. However Peoples temple
was soon to become the largest loss of American life at once in modern history until the events of 9/11.
Jim Jones was born in a rural area of Randolph County, Indiana, near its border with Ohio. Jones was a
voracious reader as a child and studied Joseph Stalin, Karl Marx, Mahatma Gandhi and Adolf Hitler carefully,
noting each of their strengths and weaknesses. Jones also developed an intense interest in religion, primarily
because he found making friends difficult. Childhood acquaintances later recalled Jones as being a "really
weird kid" who was "obsessed with religion ... obsessed with death". They alleged that he frequently held
funerals for small animals on his parents' property and had stabbed a cat to death. Jim Jones and a childhood
friend both claimed that Jones' father, who was an alcoholic, was associated with the Ku Klux Klan.
Psychologists have looked back and concluded that he was most probably a psychopath from a very young age.
In 1951, Jones began attending Church due to his strange obsession with religion. His thoughts quickly turned
to how to infiltrate the church. He arranged several religious conventional with famous religious and slowly
became more and more powerful in the church community. Jones then began his own church, which changed
names until it became the Peoples Temple Christian Church Full Gospel. The People's Temple was initially
made as an inter-racial mission. This church did extremely well and arranged many protests and attracted
many members. It also got other outside support from political groups and religious leaders. Jim Jones was in
the star light and became very popular. However the whole thing was a fraud and nobody knew of Jim Jones
Jones had first started building Jonestown, formally known as the "Peoples Temple Agricultural Project", for
several years before anyone moved there. Jonestown was basically a little village in the middle of the jungle to
be used for farming. Jonestown was promoted as a means to create both a "socialist paradise" and a
"sanctuary" from the media scrutiny in San Francisco. Jones did not permit members to leave Jonestown.
Religious scholar Mary McCormick Maaga argues that Jones' authority decreased after he moved to the
isolated community, because he was not needed for recruitment and he could not hide his drug addiction from
members. In spite of the allegations prior to Jones' departure to Jonestown, the leader was still respected by
some for setting up a racially mixed church which helped the disadvantaged; 68 percent of Jonestown's
residents were black. However despite the media becoming suspicious about Jonestown and with Jim Jones
blatant drug addiction, Jones still managed to persuade 911 people to come to Jonestown.
When members got to Jonestown they were constantly bombarded with propaganda about the world ending.
They believed that they had been chosen and had the option to go to a better place. On 18
909 inhabitants of Jonestown, 303 of them children, died of apparent cyanide poisoning, mostly in and around
a pavilion. They had commit suicide. This resulted in the greatest single loss of American civilian life in a
deliberate act until the September 11, 2001 attacks. Only 2 members managed to escape by running off into
the jungle. Peoples temple did this because Jones had told them if they killed themselves they would go to a
better place free from racial segregation and unequal ruling. Some members refused to follow these orders
and as a result had cyanide forced down their throats. Jones was found dead in a deck chair with a self-
inflicted gunshot wound to his head. Not surprisingly Peoples Temple was abolished.
This to this