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JonesTown: largest mass suicide in modern history

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Few weeks ago, I accidently saw some clips on youtube about JonesTown, after watch some related clips, I roughly had an idea it was a cult mass suicide with more than 900 peoples die. On November 18 1978, in Georgetown, Guyana, the cult (Peoples Temple) founder Jim Jones (May 13, 1931 – November 18, 1978), order all the followers to suicide by drinking some red colour liquid (cyanide). Among the 909 vicitms, 276 are children.


All these was triggered by U.S. representative Leo Joseph Ryan, Jr. (May 5, 1925 – November 18, 1978) together with 'Concerned Relatives' of Temple members, Don Harris an NBC cameraman and reporters for various newspapers visit JonesTown on a fact finding mission on abusive of human right. All it begin because Ryan was friends with the father of former Temple Member Bob Houston, 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.

Before venture to JonesTown, Ryan was being stop by United States Department of State on attempt to investigate JonesTown, they told him 'everything was fine.'

Finally, on November 17, Ryan aide Jackie Speier (today a Congresswoman), the United States embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Richard Dwyer, a Guyanese Ministry of Information officer, nine journalists, and four concerned relative representatives of the delegation boarded a small plane for the flight to an airfield at Port Kaituma a few miles outside of Jonestown.

Initially, the welcome at Jonestown was warm, but Temple member Vernon Gosney handed a note to NBC correspondent Don Harris which stated, "Please help me get out of Jonestown," listing himself and Temple member Monica Bagby. That night, the media and the delegation were returned to the airfield for accommodations following Jones's refusal to allow them to stay the night; the rest of the group remained.

The next morning, Ryan, Speier, and Dwyer all continued their interviews, and in the morning met a woman who secretly expressed her wish to leave Jonestown with her family and another family. Around 11:00 A.M. local time, the media and the delegation returned and took part in interviewing Peoples Temple members. Around 3:00 p.m., 14 Temple defectors, and Larry Layton posing as a defector, boarded a truck and were taken to the airstrip, with Ryan wishing to stay another night to assist any others that wished to leave. Shortly thereafter, a failed knife attack on Congressman Ryan occurred while he was arbitrating a family dispute on leaving. Against Ryan's protests, Deputy Chief of Mission Dwyer ordered Ryan to leave, but he promised to return later to address the dispute.

The entire group left Jonestown and arrived at the Kaituma airstrip by 4:45 p.m. local time. Their exit transport planes, a twin-engine Otter and a Cessna, did not arrive until 5:10 p.m. The smaller six-seat Cessna was just taxiing to the end of the runway when one of its occupants, Larry Layton, opened fire on those inside, wounding several. Concurrently, several other Peoples Temples members who had escorted the group out began to open fire on the transport plane, killing Congressman Ryan, three journalists and a defecting Temple member, while wounding nine others, including Speier. The gunmen riddled Congressman Ryan's body with bullets before shooting him in the face at point blank range. The passengers on the Cessna subdued Larry Layton and the surviving people on both planes fled into nearby fields during and after the attack.

That afternoon, before the news became public, the wife of Ryan aide William Holsinger received three threatening phone calls. The caller allegedly stated, "Tell your husband that his meal ticket just had his brains blown out, and he better be careful." The Holsingers then fled to Lake Tahoe and later to a ranch in Houston. They never returned to San Francisco.


Later the same day, 909 inhabitants of Jonestown found dead, died of cyanide poisoning. No video was taken during the mass suicide, though the FBI did recover a 45 minute audio recording of the suicide in progress.

On that tape, Jones tells Temple members that the Soviet Union, with whom the Temple had been negotiating a potential exodus for months, would not take them after the Temple had murdered Ryan and four others at a nearby airstrip. The reason given by Jones to commit suicide was consistent with his previously stated conspiracy theories of intelligence organizations allegedly conspiring against the Temple, that men would "parachute in here on us," "shoot some of our innocent babies" and "they'll torture our children, they'll torture some of our people here, they'll torture our seniors."

Given that reasoning, Jones and several members argued that the group should commit "revolutionary suicide" by drinking cyanide-laced grape flavored Flavor Aid. When members apparently cried, Jones counseled "Stop this hysterics. This is not the way for people who are Socialists or Communists to die. No way for us to die. We must die with some dignity." can be heard saying, "Don't be afraid to die," that death is "just stepping over into another plane" and that "[death is] a friend." At the end of the tape, Jones concludes: "We didn't commit suicide, we committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world."

After the incident, an autopsy of Jones' body also showed levels of the barbiturate Pentobarbital which may have been lethal to humans who had not developed physiological tolerance. Jones' drug usage (including LSD and marijuana experimentation) was confirmed by his son, Stephan, and Jones' doctor in San Francisco. (Yes, these followers were lead suicide by a crazy man who's abuse on multiple drugs)



A side note:
On December 13, 1973, Jones was arrested and charged with soliciting a man for sex in a movie theater bathroom known for homosexual activity, in MacArthur Park in Los Angeles. The man was an undercover Los Angeles Police Department vice officer. Jones is on record as later telling his followers that he was "the only true heterosexual", but at least one account exists of his sexual abuse of a male member of his congregation in front of the followers, ostensibly to prove the man's own homosexual tendencies.

While Jones banned sex among Temple members outside of marriage, he himself voraciously engaged in sexual relations with both male and female Temple members. Jones, however, claimed that he detested engaging in homosexual activity and did so only for the male temple adherents' own good, purportedly to connect them symbolically with him (Jones).

In interviews for the 2007 documentary Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, childhood acquaintances recalled Jones as being a "really weird kid" who was "obsessed with religion ... obsessed with death", and claimed that he frequently held funerals for small animals, and had purportedly fatally stabbed a cat.

Leo Joseph Ryan, Jr was the only U.S. congressman that killed in the line of duty.

Leo Ryan's body was returned to the United States and interred at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California. The official Congressional Memorial Services for Ryan were compiled into a book: Leo J. Ryan - Memorial Services - Held In The House Of Representatives & Senate Of The U. S., Together With Remarks. Remembering the funeral of her brother held in the San Francisco area, Ryan's younger sister Shannon stated she was surprised both by the number of supporters that attended the funeral, and by the "outgrowth of real, honest sorrow"


(reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Jones , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_Ryan)

(more info: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/jonestown/timeline/timeline2.html)
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