November 18, 1978, over 900 people died in the remote religious Peoples Temple commune in Georgetown, Guyana.
The Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ, commonly shortened to Peoples Temple, was a new religious movement founded in 1955 by Jim Jones in Indianapolis, Indiana. Jones used the Peoples Temple to spread a message that combined elements of Christianity with communist and socialist ideas, as well as an emphasis on racial equality.
The Peoples Temple is best known for the events of November 18, 1978 in Guyana, when 918 people died in a mass murder/suicide at its remote settlement, named “Jonestown”, as well as the murders of U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan and members of his visiting delegation in nearby Port Kaituma. The mass suicide and killings at Jonestown resulted in the greatest single loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The group moved to California in the 1960s and established several locations throughout the state, including its headquarters in San Francisco. At its peak, the Temple boasted 20,000 members (though 3,000–5,000 are more likely) and connections with many left-wing political figures.
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.
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, chloral hydrate, cyanide and Phenergan.