THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE
"TITTER YE NOT"
Why don't blondes make Kool-Aid?
Because they can't figure out how to get 8 cups of water into the little packet.
Paddy's in jail. The guard looks in his cell and sees him hanging by his feet.
"What the hell you
doing?" he asks.
"Hanging myself," Paddy replies.
"It should be around your neck," says the Guard.
"I know," says Paddy, "but I couldn't fookin' breathe!"
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. I immediately ran over and said
"Stop! Don't do it!"
"Why shouldn't I?" he said.
I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!" "Like what?" "Well ... are you religious or atheist?"
"Religious." "Me too! Are you Christian or Jewish?" "Christian."
"Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?" "Protestant." "Me too!
Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?" "Baptist."
"Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?" "Baptist Church of God." "Me too!
Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?" "Reformed Baptist Church of God." "Me too!
Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?" "Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!"
To which I said, "Die, heretic scum!" and pushed him off the bridge.
"Jonestown" was the informal name for the Peoples Temple
Agricultural Project formed by the Peoples Temple, an American
religious organisation under the leadership of Jim Jones , in north
western Guyana. It became internationally notorious when on
November 18, 1978, over 900 people died in the remote commune,
at the nearby airstrip in Port Kaituma, and in Georgetown, Guyana's
capital city. The name of the settlement became synonymous with
the incidents at those locations.
A total of 909 Americans died in Jonestown, all but two from
apparent cyanide poisoning, in an event termed "revolutionary
suicide" by Jones and some members on an audio tape of the
event and in prior discussions. The poisonings in Jonestown
followed the murder of five others by Temple members at Port
Kaituma, including United States Congressman Leo Ryan . Four
other Temple members died in Georgetown at Jones' command.
The actions in Jonestown have been commonly viewed as mass
suicide, although some sources, including Jonestown survivors,
regard it as mass murder instead. It was the largest such event in
modern history and resulted in the largest single loss of American
civilian life in a deliberate act until September 11, 2001. In recent
years, the Jonestown massacre has been the subject of several
The Peoples Temple was formed in Indianapolis, Indiana, during
the mid-1950s. Though its roots and teachings shared more with
biblical church and Christian revival movements than with Marxism,
it purported to practice what it called "apostolic socialism". In doing
so, the Temple preached that "those who remained drugged with
the opiate of religion had to be brought to enlightenment —
socialism." In the early 1960s, Jones visited Guyana – then still
a British colony – while on his way to establishing a short-lived
Temple mission in Brazil.
After Jones received considerable criticism in Indiana for his
integrationist views, the Temple moved to Redwood Valley, California in 1965. In the early 1970s,
the Peoples Temple opened other branches in California, including Los Angeles and San
Francisco. In the mid-1970s, the Temple moved its headquarters to San Francisco.
With the move to San Francisco came increasing political involvement by the Peoples Temple.
After the Temple's participation proved instrumental in the mayoral election victory of George Moscone in 1975, Moscone appointed Jones as the Chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission. Unlike other figures considered as cult leaders, Jones enjoyed public support and contact with some of the highest level politicians in the United States. For example, Jones met with
Vice President Walter Mondale and First Lady Rosalynn Carter several times. Governor Jerry Brown, Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally, and Assemblyman Willie Brown, among others, attended a large testimonial dinner in honor of Jones in September 1976.
In the Fall of 1973, after critical newspaper articles by Lester Kinsolving and the defection of eight Temple members, Jones and Temple member Tim Stoen prepared an "immediate action" contingency plan for responding to a police or media crackdown. The plan listed various options, including fleeing to Canada or to a "Caribbean missionary post", such as Barbados or Trinidad. For its "Caribbean missionary post", the Temple quickly chose Guyana, conducting research on its economy and extradition treaties with the United States. In October 1973, the directors of the Peoples Temple passed a resolution to establish an agricultural mission
The Temple chose Guyana, in part, because of its own socialist politics, which were moving further to the left during the selection process. Former Temple member Tim Carter stated that the reasons for choosing Guyana were the Temple's view of a perceived dominance of racism and multinational corporations in the U.S. government. Carter said the Temple concluded that Guyana, an English-speaking socialist country with a predominantly indigenous population, would afford black members of the Temple a peaceful place to live. Later, Guyanese Prime Minister Forbes Burnham stated that Jones may have "wanted to use cooperatives as the basis for the establishment of socialism, and maybe his idea of setting up a commune meshed with that." Jones also thought
that Guyana, with a government consisting of black leaders, was small and poor enough for him to easily obtain influence and official protection.
In 1974, after travelling to an area of northwestern Guyana with Guyanese officials, Jones and the Peoples Temple negotiated a lease of over 3,800 acres (15.4 km²) of jungle land located 150 miles (240 km) west of the Guyanese
capital of Georgetown. The site was isolated and had soil of low fertility, even by Guyanese standards. The nearest body of water was seven miles (11 km) away by muddy roads. Jonestown's location was advantageous not only for Jones, but for the Guyanese government at the time; the settlement stood not far from Guyana's disputed border with Venezuela, which would be reluctant to mount a military incursion on the land if it risked American lives.
As 500 members began the construction of Jonestown, the Temple encouraged more to relocate to the settlement, which was formally named the "Peoples Temple Agricultural Project". Jones saw Jonestown as both a "socialist paradise" and a "sanctuary" from media scrutiny. In 1976, Guyana finally approved the
lease it had negotiated (retroactive to April 1974) with the Temple for the over
3,000 acres (12 km 2) of land in Northwest Guyana on which Jonestown was located.
In 1974, Guyanese government officials granted the Temple permission to import certain items "duty-free." Later pay offs helped safeguard shipments of firearms and drugs through Guyanese customs. The relatively large number of immigrants to Guyana overwhelmed the government's small but stringent immigration infrastructure in a country where most people wanted to leave. Jones reached an agreement to guarantee that Guyana would permit Temple members' mass migration. To do so, he stated that Temple members were "skilled and progressive", showed off an envelope he claimed had $500,000, and stated that he would invest most of the group's assets in Guyana. Guyanese immigration procedures were also compromised to inhibit the departure of Temple defectors and curtail the visas of Temple opponents.Jones purported to establish Jonestown as a benevolent communist community, stating:
"I believe we’re the purest communists there are." Jones' wife, Marceline, described Jonestown as "dedicated to live for socialism, total economic and racial and social equality. We are here living communally." Jones wanted to construct a model commu nity and claimed that Burnham "couldn’t rave enough about us, the wonderful things we do, the project, the model of socialism." Jones did not permit members to leave Jonestown without his express prior permission.
The Temple established offices in Georgetown and conducted numerous meetings with Burnham and other Guyanese officials. In 1976, Temple member Michael Prokes requested that Burnham receive Jones as a foreign dignitary
along with other "high ranking U.S. officials." Jones traveled to Guyana with Mervyn Dymally to meet with Burnham and Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Willis. IIn that meeting, Dymally agreed to pass on the message to the U.S. State Department that socialist Guyana wanted to keep an open door to
cooperation with the United
States. Dymally followed up that
meeting with a letter to
Burnham stating that Jones was
"one of the finest human
beings" and that Dymally was
"tremendously impressed" by
his visit to Jonestown.
Temple members took pains to
stress their loyalty to Burnham's
Peoples National Congress Party. One Temple member, Paula Adams, was
involved in a romantic relationship with Guyana's Ambassador to the United States,
Laurence "Bonny" Mann. Jones bragged about other female Temple members he
referred to as "public relations women" giving all for the cause in Jonestown. Viola
Burnham, the wife of the prime minister, was also a strong advocate of the Temple.
Later, Burnham stated that Guyana allowed the Temple to operate in the manner it did on the references of Moscone, Mondale, and Rosalynn Carter. Burnham also said that, when Deputy Minister Ptolemy Reid traveled to Washington, D.C. in September 1977 to sign the Panama Canal Treaties, Mondale asked him, "How's Jim?", which indicated to Reid that Mondale had a personal interest in Jones' well being.
In the summer of 1977, Jones and several hundred Temple members moved to Jonestown to escape building pressure from San Francisco media investigations. Jones left the same night that an editor at New West magazine read him an article to be published by Marshall Kilduff detailing allegations of abuse by former Temple members. After the mass migration, Jonestown became overcrowded. Jonestown's population was just under 1,000 at its peak in 1978.
Many members of the Peoples Temple believed that Guyana would be, as Jones promised, a paradise or utopia. After Jones arrived, however, Jonestown life significantly changed. Entertaining movies from Georgetown that the settlers had watched were mostly eliminated in favor of Soviet propaganda shorts and documentaries on American social problems. Bureaucratic requirements after Jones' arrival sapped labor resources for other needs. Buildings fell into disrepair and weeds encroached on fields. School study and nighttime lectures for adults turned to Jones' discussions about revolution and enemies, with lessons focusing on Soviet alliances; Jones' crises; and the purported "mercenaries" sent by Tim Stoen, who had defected from the Temple and turned against the group.
For the first several months, Temple members worked six days a week, from approximately 6:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with an hour for lunch. In mid-1978, after Jim Jones' health deteriorated and Marciline Jones began managing more of Jonestown's operations, the work week was reduced to eight hours a day for five days a week. After the day's work ended, Temple members would attend
several hours of activities in a pavilion, including classes in socialism. Jones compared this schedule to the North Korean system of eight hours of daily work followed by eight hours of study. This also comported with the Temple's practice of gradually subjecting its followers to sophisticated mind control and behavior modification techniques borrowed from North Korea and Maoist China. Jones would often read news and commentary, including some from Radio Moscow and Radio Havana, and was known to side with the Soviets over the Chinese during the Sino-Soviet split.
"Discussion" around the topics raised often took the form of Jones interrogating individual followers about the implications and subtexts of a given item, or delivering lengthy and often confused monologues on how to "read" certain events. In addition to Soviet documentaries, political thrillers such as The Parallax View, The Day of the Jackal, State of Siege, and Z were repeatedly screened and minutely analysed by Jones. Recordings of commune meetings show how livid and frustrated Jones would get when anyone did not find the films interesting or did not 'get' the message Jones was placing upon them. Nothing in the way of film or recorded TV (shown on the commune's closed-circuit system), no matter how innocuous or seemingly politically neutral, could be viewed without
a Temple staffer present to 'interpret' the material for the viewers. This invariably meant damning criticisms of perceived capitalist propaganda in Western material, and glowing praise for and highlighting of Marxist–Leninist messages in material from Communist nations.
Jones' recorded readings of the news were part of the constant
broadcasts over Jonestown's tower speakers, such that all
members could hear them throughout the day and night. Jones'
news readings usually portrayed the United States as a "capitalist"
and "imperialist" villain, while casting "socialist" leaders, such as
Kim Il-sung, Robert Mugabe, and Joseph Stalin in a positive light.
Jonestown's primary means of communication with the outside
world was a shortwave radio. All voice communications with San
Francisco and Georgetown were transmitted using this radio, from
mundane supply orders to confidential Temple business. The
Federal Communications Commission cited the Temple for
technical violations and for using amateur frequencies for
commercial purposes. Because shortwave radio was Jonestown's
only effective means of non-postal communication, the Temple felt
that the FCC's threats to revoke its operators' licenses threatened
Jonestown, being on poor soil, was not self-sufficient and had to import large
quantities of commodities such as wheat. Temple members lived in small
communal houses, some with walls woven from Troolie palm, and ate meals
that reportedly consisted of nothing more on some days than rice, beans,
greens, and occasionally meat, sauce, and eggs. Despite having access to an
estimated $26 million by late 1978, Jones also lived in a tiny communal house,
though fewer people lived there than in other communal houses. His house
reportedly held a small refrigerator containing, at times, eggs, meat, fruit,
salads, and soft drinks. Medical problems, such as severe diarrhoea and high
fevers, struck half the community in February 1978.
Although Jonestown contained no dedicated prison and no form of capital
punishment, various forms of punishment were used against members
considered to have serious disciplinary problems. Methods included
imprisonment in a 6 x 4 x 3-foot (1.8 x 1.2 x 0.9m) plywood box and forcing
children to spend a night at the bottom of a well, sometimes upside-down.
This "torture hole", along with beatings, became the subject of rumor among
local Guyanese. For some members who attempted to escape, drugs such as
Thorazine, sodium pentathol, chloral hydrate, Demerol, and Valium were
administered in an "extended care unit." Armed guards patrolled the area day
and night to enforce Jonestown's rules.
Children were generally surrendered to communal care, addressed Jones as
"Dad," and at times were only allowed to see their real parents briefly at night.
Jones was called "Father" or "Dad" by the adults as well. The community had
a nursery at which 33 infants were born.
Up to $65,000 in monthly welfare payments from U.S. government agencies to
Jonestown residents were signed over to the Temple. In 1978, officials from
the United States Embassy in Guyana interviewed Social Security recipients
on multiple occasions to make sure they were not being held against their will.
None of the 75 people interviewed by the Embassy stated that they were
being held against their will, were forced to sign over welfare checks, or
wanted to leave Jonestown.
Jones made frequent addresses to Temple members regarding Jonestown's
safety, including statements that the CIA and other intelligence agencies were
conspiring with "capitalist pigs" to destroy Jonestown and harm its inhabitants.
After work, when purported emergencies arose, the Temple sometimes
conducted what Jones referred to as "White Nights". During such events,
Jones would sometimes give the Jonestown members four choices:
flee to the Soviet Union; commit "revolutionary suicide"; stay in Jonestown and fight the purported attackers; or flee into the jungle.
On at least two occasions during White Nights, after a "revolutionary suicide" vote was reached, a simulated mass suicide was rehearsed. Peoples Temple defector Deborah Layton described the event in an affidavit:
"Everyone, including the children, was told to line up. As we passed through the line, we were given a small glass red liquid to drink. We were told that the liquid contained poison and that we would die within 45 minutes. We all did as we were told. When the time came when we should have dropped dead, Rev. Jones explained that the poison was not real and that we had just been through a loyalty test. He warned us that the time was not far off when
it would become necessary for us to die by our own hands."
The Temple had received monthly half-pound shipments of cyanide
since 1976 after Jones obtained a jeweller's license to buy the
chemical, ostensibly to clean gold. In May 1978, a Temple doctor
wrote a memo to Jones asking permission to test cyanide on Jonestown's pigs, as their metabolism was close to that of human beings.
In September 1977, former Temple members Tim and Grace Stoen battled in a Georgetown court to produce an order for the Temple to show cause why a final order should not be issued returning their five- year-old son, John. A few days later, a second order was issued for John to be taken into protective custody by the authorities.
SUICIDE IS PAINLESS - M*A*S*H
MANIC STREET PREACHERS
The fear of being held in contempt of the orders caused Jones to set up a false sniper attack upon himself and begin his first series of White Nights, called the "Six Day Siege." During the Siege, Jones spoke to Temple members about attacks from outsiders and had them surround Jonestown with guns and machetes. The fiery rallies took an almost surreal tone as black activists Angela Davis and Huey Newton communicated via radio-telephone to the Jonestown crowd, urging them to hold strong against the"conspiracy." Jones made radio broadcasts stating "we will die unless we are granted freedom from harassment and asylum." Ptolemy Reid finally assured Marceline Jones that the Guyana Defence Force would not invade Jonestown.
Congressman Leo Ryan, who represented California's 11th congressional district, announced that he would visit Jonestown. Ryan was friends with the father of Bob Houston, a Temple member whose mutilated body was found near train tracks on October 5,
1976, three days after a taped telephone conversation with Houston's ex-wife in which leaving the Temple was discussed. Over the following months, Ryan's interest was further aroused by the allegations put forth by Stoen, Layton, and the concerned relatives.
On November 14, 1978, Ryan flew to Jonestown along with a delegation of eighteen people. The group included Ryan; Jackie Speier, then Ryan's legal advisor; Neville Annibourne, representing Guyana's Ministry of Information; Richard Dwyer, Deputy Chief
of Mission of the U.S. Embassy to Guyana; San Francisco Examiner reporter Tim Reiterman; Examiner photographer Greg
Robinson; NBC reporter Don Harris; NBC video operator Bob Brown; NBC audio technician Steve Sung; NBC producer Bob Flick;
Washington Post reporter Charles Krause; San Francisco Chronicle reporter Ron Javers; and Concerned Relatives representatives, including Tim and Grace Stoen, Steve and Anthony Katsaris, Beverly Oliver, Jim Cobb, Sherwin Harris, and Carolyn Houston Boyd.
When the Ryan delegation arrived in Guyana, Lane and Garry initially refused to allow them access to Jonestown. However, by the morning of Friday, November 17, they informed Jones that Ryan would likely leave for Jonestown that afternoon regardless of his willingness. Ryan's party, accompanied by Lane and Garry, came to an airstrip at Port Kaituma, 6 miles (10 km) from Jonestown, some hours later. Because of aircraft seating limitations, only four of the concerned relatives were allowed to accompany the Ryan delegation on its flight into Jonestown.
Only Ryan and three others were initially accepted into Jonestown, while the rest of Ryan's group was allowed in after sunset. That night, they attended a musical reception in the pavilion. While the party was received warmly, Jones said he felt like a dying man and ranted about government conspiracies and martyrdom as he decried attacks by the press and his enemies. It was later reported
(and verified by audiotapes recovered by investigators) that Jones had run rehearsals on how to convince Ryan's delegation that everyone was happy and in good spirits.
Two Peoples Temple members, Vernon Gosney and Monica Bagby, made the first move for defection that night. In the pavilion, Gosney passed a note to Don Harris (mistaking him for Ryan), reading, "Dear Congressman, Vernon Gosney and Monica Bagby. Please help us get out of Jonestown."
In the early morning of November 18, eleven Temple members sensed danger enough to walk out of Jonestown and take a train to the town of Matthew's Ridge, which is located in the opposite direction from the Port Kaituma airstrip. Those defectors included members of the family of Jonestown's head of security, Joe Wilson. When reporters and concerned relatives arrived in Jonestown later that day, Marceline Jones gave them a tour of the settlement.
That afternoon, the Parks and the Bogue families, along with in-laws Christopher O'Neal
and Harold Cordell, stepped forward and asked to be escorted out of Jonestown by the
Ryan delegation. When Jones' adopted son Johnny attempted to talk Jerry Parks out of
leaving, Parks told him, "No way, it's nothing but a communist prison camp." Jones gave
the two families, along with Gosney and Bagby, permission to leave. When Don Harris
handed Gosney's note to Jones in an interview in the pavilion, Jones stated that the
defectors "lie" and wanted to destroy Jonestown.
After a sudden violent rainstorm started, emotional scenes developed between family
members. Al Simon, a Native American Temple member, attempted to take two of his
children to Ryan to process the requisite paperwork for transfer back to the U.S. Al's
wife, Bonnie, summoned on the loudspeakers by Temple staff, loudly denounced her
husband. Al pleaded with Bonnie to return to the U.S., but Bonnie rejected his
While most of the delegation began to depart on a large dump truck to the Port Kaituma
airstrip, Ryan and Dwyer stayed behind in Jonestown to process any additional
defectors. Shortly before the dump truck departed for the airstrip, Temple loyalist Larry
Layton, the brother of Deborah Layton, demanded to join the group. Several defectors
voiced their suspicions about Larry Layton's motives.
Congressman Leo Ryan
Shortly after the dump truck initially departed, Temple member Don "Ujara" Sly grabbed Ryan while wielding a knife. While Ryan
was unhurt after others wrestled Sly to the ground, Dwyer strongly suggested that the congressman leave Jonestown while he filed
a criminal complaint against Sly. Ryan did so, promising to return later to address the dispute. The truck departing to the airstrip had stopped after the passengers heard of the attack on Ryan, and took him as a passenger before continuing its journey towards the airstrip.
The entourage had originally scheduled a nineteen-passenger Twin Otter from Guyana Airways to fly them back to Georgetown. Because of the defectors departing Jonestown, the group grew in number and now an additional aircraft was required. Accordingly, the U.S. Embassy arranged for a second plane, a six-passenger Cessna. When the entourage reached the Port Kaituma airstrip between 4:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m., the planes had not appeared as scheduled. The group had to wait until the aircraft landed at approximately 5:10 p.m. Then the boarding process began.
Larry Layton was a passenger on the Cessna, the first aircraft to set up for take off. After the Cessna had taxied to the far end of the airstrip, Layton produced a gun and started shooting at the passengers. He wounded Monica Bagby and Vernon Gosney, and tried
to kill Dale Parks, who disarmed him.
At this time, some passengers had boarded the larger Twin Otter. A tractor with a trailer attached, driven by members of the
Temple's Red Brigade security squad, arrived at the airstrip and approached the Otter. When the tractor neared within approximately 30 feet (9 m) of the aircraft, at a time roughly concurrent with the shootings on the Cessna, the Red Brigade opened fire while at
least two gunmen circled the plane on foot. There were perhaps nine shooters whose identities are not all certainly known, but most sources agree that Joe Wilson, Thomas Kice Sr., and Ronnie Dennis were among them.
The first few seconds of the shooting were captured on ENG videotape by NBC cameraman Bob Brown. Brown was killed along with Robinson, Harris, and Temple defector Patricia Parks in the few minutes of shooting. Ryan was killed after being shot more than twenty times. Speier, Sung, Dwyer, Reiterman, and Anthony Katsaris were among the nine injured in and around the Twin Otter.
After the shootings, the Cessna's pilot, along with the pilot and co-pilot of the Otter, fled in the Cessna to Georgetown. The damaged Otter and the injured Ryan delegation members were left behind on the airstrip.
Before leaving Jonestown for the airstrip, Ryan had told Garry
that he would issue a report that would describe Jonestown "in
basically good terms." Ryan stated that none of the sixty relatives
he had targeted for interviews wanted to leave, the fourteen
defectors constituted a very small portion of Jonestown's
residents, that any sense of imprisonment the defectors had was
likely because of peer pressure and a lack of physical
transportation, and even if 200 of the 900+ wanted to leave "I'd
still say you have a beautiful place here." Despite Garry's report,
Jones told him, "I have failed." Garry reiterated that Ryan would
be making a positive report, but Jones maintained that "All is lost."
A 44-minute cassette tape, known as the "death tape", records
part of the meeting Jones called under the pavilion in the early
evening. Before the meeting, aides prepared a large metal tub
with grape Flavor Aid, poisoned with Valium, chloralhydrate,
cyanide, and Phenergan.
When the assembly gathered, referring to the Ryan delegation's air travel back to Georgetown, Jones told the gathering "one of
those people on that plane is gonna shoot the pilot, I know that. I didn't plan it but I know it's gonna happen. They're gonna shoot
that pilot and down comes the plane into the jungle and we had better not have any of our children left when it's over, because they'll parachute in here on us." Parroting Jones' prior statements that hostile forces would convert captured children to Fascism, one temple member states:
"The ones that they take captured, they're gonna just let them grow up and be dummies."
On the tape, Jones urged Temple members to commit "revolutionary suicide". Such "revolutionary suicide" had been planned by the Temple before and, according to Jonestown defectors, its theory was "you can go down in history, saying you chose your own way to go, and it is your commitment to refuse capitalism and in support of socialism."
Temple member Christine Miller argued that the Temple should alternatively attempt an airlift to Russia. Jim McElvane, a former therapist who had arrived in Jonestown only two days earlier, assisted Jones by arguing against Miller's resistance to suicide, stating "Let's make it a beautiful day" (followed by applause from Temple members) and later citing possible reincarnation. After several exchanges in which Jones argued that a Soviet exodus would not be possible, along with reactions by other temple members hostile to Miller, Miller backed down. However, Miller may have ceased dissenting when Jones confirmed at one point that
"the Congressman has been murdered" after members of his "Red Brigade" squad returned from the airstrip after shooting Ryan.
When the airstrip shooters arrived back in Jonestown, Tim Carter, a Vietnam war veteran, recalled them having the "thousand-yard stare" of weary soldiers. After Jones confirmed that "the Congressman's dead," no dissent occurs on the death tape. Directly after this, referring to his Red Brigade security squad that shot Ryan, Jones stated, "But the Red Brigade's the only one that made any sense anyway," and, "Red Brigade showed them justice." In addition to Jim McElvane, several other temple members gave
speeches praising Jones and his decision for the community to commit suicide, even after Jones stopped appreciating this praise
and begged for the process to go faster.
According to escaped Temple member Odell Rhodes, the first to take the poison were Ruletta Paul and her one-year-old infant. A syringe with its needle removed was used to squirt poison into the infant's mouth and then Paul squirted another syringe into her
own mouth. Stanley Clayton also saw mothers with their babies first approach the table containing the poison. Clayton said that Jones approached people to encourage them to drink the poison and that, after adults saw the poison begin to take effect, "they showed a reluctance to die."
The poison caused death within five minutes. After consuming the poison, according to Rhodes, people were then escorted away down a wooden walkway leading outside the Pavilion. It is not clear if some initially thought the exercise was another "White Night" rehearsal. Rhodes reported being in close contact with dying children.
In response to reactions of seeing the poison take effect on others, Jones counseled, "Die with a degree of dignity. Lay down your life with dignity; don't lay down with tears and agony." He also said, "I tell you, I don't care how many screams you hear, I don't care how many anguished cries...
death is a million times preferable to ten more days of this life. If you knew what was ahead of you – if you knew what was ahead of you, you'd be glad to be stepping over tonight." Survivor Odell Rhodes stated that while the poison was squirted in some children's mouths, there was no panic or emotional outburst and people looked like they were "in a trance". This statement was a contradiction to the crying and screaming children heard throughout the majority of the testimonial death tape.
Jones was found dead lying next to his chair between two other bodies,
his head cushioned by a pillow. His death was caused by a gunshot wound to his left temple that Guyanese coroner Cyrill Mootoo stated was consistent with a self-inflicted gun wound.
To me death is not a fearful thing. It's living that's cursed. Jim Jones
Take our life from us. We laid it dawn, we got tired. We didn't commit suicide, we committed an
act of revolutionary suicide protesting the considerations of an inhumane world.