Jonestown Mass Suicide: Revisiting The Cult That Ended With The Deaths Of 900 | TODAY

started as an effort by a charismatic

preacher to build a new society but it

ended of course with the tragic deaths

of more than 900 people here's NBC's Joe

fryer Jonestown was supposed to be a

paradise in the South American jungle it

was anything but

the saddest part about this tragedy is

that good decent people died who were

well intentioned the story begins in

America during the 1970s when Jim Jones

created a religious movement called

Peoples Temple the charismatic minister

fought for civil rights and had a

multiracial family it was the original

rainbow family including his adopted son

Jim Jones jr. did his message at the

time resonate with you yes yes yes no

isms no sexism racism but in the new

book the road to Jonestown author Jeff

Gwyn details how Jones started to change

he's convinced himself that he is some

sort of superhuman martyr Jones

persuaded nearly a thousand followers to

move to a remote jungle in Guyana

the concept was to build a new world a

socialist utopia Jonestown was described

as his paradise that it was not former

member Leslie Wegener Wilson says

followers were overworked in underfed

and then as time were on I realized that

there was no future in Jonestown Jim

became increasingly paranoid Jones was

obsessed with revolutionary suicide he

felt followers should be prepared to die

for their cause even having them drink

fruit punch he claimed was poison only

after most of the people drank the

liquid did he tell them it's not poison

I was just testing you in November 1978

a concerned congressman Leo Ryan flew to

Guyana to investigate accompanied by NBC


while some followers praise Jonestown

others wanted out as the congressman

left he took 15 defectors with him

angering Jones people Dwayne the lie the

lie what can I do about lies are you

people gonna leave us I just beg you

please leave us he ordered gunmen to

follow the group to the nearby airstrip

where they opened fire five were killed

including congressman Ryan NBC

correspondent Don Harris and cameraman

Bob Brown sound engineer Steve sung and

field producer Robert flick escaped as

did Ryan aide and future congresswoman

Jackie Speier back at the communes

gathered his followers for a final



this time Jones served a punch spike was

cyanide more than 900 died 300 of them

children Jones shot himself

we know from autopsies conducted later

that a considerable number of people

were held and forcibly injected with the

poison in the end how many relatives did

you lose I lost 11 relatives Wagner

Wilson and her three-year-old lived

because they were part of a small group

that escaped during the confusion that

morning hiking through more than 30

miles of dense jungle the safety how

scared were you to try to escape I was

terrified I was waiting for a bullet to

hit at any moment I was preparing to die

on that day I don't know how I can ever

describe it words Jim Jones jr. 18 at

the time lost his wife but he lived

because he was in Georgetown Guyana

'he's capital as part of his frequent

public relations work for the temple so

the million-dollar question is would I

have done it I can't say I would but I

can't say I wouldn't if that shows how

much power Jones had and part of that I

believe is because we all are looking

for a place to fit into the world we're

looking for love we're looking for

acceptance and Jim Jones provided that

today a memorial in Oakland serves as a

remembrance for those who died

predominantly african-americans in the

elderly whom Jones's initial message

resonated with I think the lessons of

Jonestown is to really go within so you

don't have to go without it's better to

live for a cost than die for despite

what happened the minister's son still

goes by the name Jim Jones jr. I'm proud

of the upbringing that education that

was given that's not to be proud of I

also have to accept the horrific tragedy

of that my father caused but he caused

it Guttman for today Joe fryer NBC News

we're looking but I remember the

headlines around that time and it was

you almost couldn't even get your arms

around the idea of what had happened

there it's unfathomable and I don't

think there's been anything like that

since that's just it's so many minors

over 300 children yeah that's that hello

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