25 Unpleasant Facts About the Jonestown Massacre
25 Unpleasant Facts About the Jonestown Massacre

25 Unpleasant Facts About the Jonestown Massacre

Trista - October 1, 2019

25 Unpleasant Facts About the Jonestown Massacre
Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones pictured with his wife and their children. ABC News.

12. They Murdered Hundreds of Children During The Jonestown Massacre

When people became members of the Peoples Temple, the whole family became members. Adults and children all had to take part in the Peoples Temple activities. They all had to listen to what Jim Jones said in order to maintain their membership.

Nearly 300 children were forced to drink the Kool-Aid during the Jonestown Massacre. Jim Jones and his wife took care of most of these children. In fact, they were wards of the State of California. This also means the children weren’t supposed to leave California. Jones and his wife snuck them into Guyana.

25 Unpleasant Facts About the Jonestown Massacre
Jim Jones with his bodyguard in 1977. Wikimedia.

11. The Jones Family Struggled With Jim Jones’ Popularity

During ABC’s “Truth and Lies: Jonestown – Paradise Lost” documentary, Stephen and Jim Jones, Jr. discussed the reality of their situation. While most people saw the Jones family as the “rainbow’ family, this wasn’t true on the inside.

Behind the door, were Jones’ children who felt they didn’t have a father. Many of his kids resented the Peoples Temple because they thought their dad loved the members more than them. Stephen called his father an actor and said he cared more about other people’s perceptions of him than his own family. Jones always needed the most praise.

25 Unpleasant Facts About the Jonestown Massacre
Jim Jones Jr. as he appeared on “Truth and Lies: Jonestown – Paradise Lost.” ABC News

10. Peoples Temple Members Who Refused To Drink The Kool-Aid Died In Other Ways

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone drank the Kool-Aid on that fateful day in Guyana. Some of the members refused to drink the potion, especially once they saw people falling to the ground and dying. Frightened children started crying and pleading with their parents to let them go.

Parents started trying to find ways to escape. But, no one could escape from the middle of the compound that day. People walked around with guns, shooting anyone who refused to drink the Kool-Aid. Some people died from knife wounds, while others faced a lethal injection of the drink.

25 Unpleasant Facts About the Jonestown Massacre
California Congressman, Leo Ryan. NBC Bay Area News.

9. A California Congressman’s Visit To Jonestown Pushed Play On The Massacre

Not too long before the massacre, several Peoples Temple members reached out to California. They feared for their safety and complained about abuse from Jones. Congressman Leo Ryan went out to Jonestown to meet with the members. After reaching the members, Ryan decided to take the ones with him who wanted to leave the cult.

As Ryan and others started to leave, gunmen from the People Temple open fire. Ryan’s staffer escaped from the attack. Ryan, three journalists, and other people did not make it out alive. After this incident, Jones knew he had to follow through with his plan.

25 Unpleasant Facts About the Jonestown Massacre
Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Kingston citizens.

8. “Don’t Drink The Kool-Aid” Comes From The Jonestown Massacre

Members from the Peoples Temple who lived to tell the stories we know today, state they didn’t always receive Kool-Aid. In fact, many people believe that it was more of flavor aid than a Kool-Aid mixture with cyanide, valium, Phenergan, and chloral hydrate on that fateful November day.

Nonetheless, the statement “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid” comes from the Jonestown massacre. This statement means that you shouldn’t take part in a particular action or follow the crowd. Survivors of the Peoples Temple cringe when they hear this statement. Many ex-members take offense to the saying.

25 Unpleasant Facts About the Jonestown Massacre
Jim Jones in front of a congregation. ABC News.

7. Jim Jones Didn’t Drink The Poisoned Drink

Even though Jim Jones forced most of the Peoples Temple members to drink the poison, he didn’t take part in this. Jones died of a gunshot wound to the head the day of the massacre. To this day, no one knows if Jones killed himself or if one of the members from the Peoples Temple murdered him. Some members, though extremely difficult, escaped through the jungle next to the compound. Some people believe one of the survivors shot Jones as he still had communication with members.

25 Unpleasant Facts About the Jonestown Massacre
Jone Jones with his wife and children. ABC News.

6. People Looked Up to Jim Jones During the Civil Rights Movement

Jim Jones became an essential part during the early years of the Civil Rights Movement. He believed that American society should fully integrate, allowing African American and white civilians to become equal. Of course, this brought hundreds of African Americans into the Peoples Temple. In fact, at its height, over 50% of the group was African American.

Jim Jones and his wife said one way they fought against segregation was through adopting African American children. They would soon come to be known as the “rainbow” family because the couple took children from any background, race, and ethnicity.

25 Unpleasant Facts About the Jonestown Massacre
Jim Jones and an elderly lady in 1973. PBS.

5. Most Of The Peoples Temple Members Understood Danger Was Around Them

When you hear about other cult stories similar to the Jonestown Massacre, you hear about how thousands of people became brainwashed. This is not the case for the members of the Peoples Temple. While Jones manipulated and persuaded them to follow him, most understood danger was coming their way.

Starting months before the massacre, members began to find ways to leave the Peoples Temple. Of course, most had to escape in the middle of the night through the jungle because of the watch guards. Another way people showed they understood Jones was dangerous occurred by contacting the California government for help.

25 Unpleasant Facts About the Jonestown Massacre
Jim Jones, members of the Peoples Temple, and the mayor of San Francisco. PBS.

4. The Majority Of The Peoples Temple Members Were Not Societal Rejects

Most people assume that the people who followed Jim Jones to Guyana were social rejects. They didn’t have a home, families to care about them, most runaway, or they felt they didn’t belong in mainstream society. However, the opposite is the truth. Most of the members had families and jobs.

They believed that the temple could be a better place. They thought that Jim Jones would help make the world a better place. They felt he truly wanted unity in the United States and would fight for it. Above all, they wanted to help other people.

25 Unpleasant Facts About the Jonestown Massacre
A Peoples Temple Bus. PBS.

3. The “Death Tapes” Give Us The Most Information About That Fateful Day

One of the main reasons people know so much about the Jonestown massacre is because of the audio recordings tapped on that day. These tapes are now known as the “death tapes” and are often the first piece of information people look for when researching the massacre.

On these tapes, you can hear the conversations people had, the cries from the children, the way Jim Jones spoke to the group, and so much more. Psychologists and other professionals continuously analyze these tapes as a way to learn more about Jones and the massacre.

25 Unpleasant Facts About the Jonestown Massacre
“Healing” during a Peoples Temple meeting. PBS.

2. Most Members Did Not Want To Die

Listening to the “death tapes” is a challenge. The Jonestown massacre is a tragedy that people still struggle to understand, no matter how much they learn about the people involved. The more research completed from the “death tapes,” the more people realize one factor – most members didn’t want to die.

As you listen to the tapes, you hear several members tell other people that death is not the answer. People tried to find different ways, such as asking Jones if they could leave to try to make peace in the United States. Other people stated the children deserved to live.

25 Unpleasant Facts About the Jonestown Massacre
Jim Jones, his son Stephen, and two other men. PBS.

1. Many People Compare The Peoples Temple To A War Prison

While Jim Jones tried to convince members, he saved them from concentration camps; most survivors compare the Peoples Temple to a war prison. Members could not leave the base, and they received very little food. Guards always watched the camp, making sure people did not escape the grounds.

The working members of the Peoples Temple had to work at least 12 hours a day in the fields. The days were scorching and humid. Members received very little water. Eventually, Jones tried to keep members from communicating with each other for fear of a revolt.


Where did we find this information? Here are our sources:

“Things You Never Knew About The Jonestown Massacre.” Jonathan Sherman. Ranker.

“10 Facts About Jonestown You Didn’t Know.” Makenzie Kennedy. Vocal Criminal. October 2018.

“Jonestown.” Wikipedia.

“The Jonestown Massacre: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.” Beth Heyn. Heavy. February 2018.