Darkest Disciples: Deadliest Cult Leaders In History Part 1 – Jim Jones

Spring is in the air! In ancient time’s the coming of spring involved religious ceremonies, bonfires, and in the buff, all night parties. Nowadays, we just ask a groundhog if he saw his shadow.

With a new season comes new emotions, namely love! While there’s a number of love experts out there there’s no bigger leader in spreading it than your average religious leader. While the subject of religion can be seen as a minefield in polite company, I for one believe it can be a true force for good… in the right hands, anyway. It can be quite terrible when lead by the wrong people. PopHorror is looking back at some of the Deadliest Cult Leaders in History, starting with Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

James Warren Jones was born on May 13, 1931 to WWI vet James Thurman Jones and Lynetta Putnam. He was known to butt heads with his father, a known Klansman, and regularly brought several of his African American friends home just to spite him. After his parents separated, Jones lived with his mother while graduating high school. After meeting his wife, Marceline Baldwin, the pair moved to Bloomington, Indiana.

At an early age, Jones became fascinated with dictators, Communism and religion. He studied the likes of Stalin, Hitler and Ghandi, just to name a few. Jones would receive inspiration from Eleanor Roosevelt to form The Peoples Temple, an all-inclusive church open to people of any race and creed.

Jones was known to impress followers with faith healing and other miracles. On one such televised event, an elderly member of the church who previously could not walk was able to leave her wheelchair and began running through the crowd. It was later noted that the lady was Jones’s own secretary, but this experience allowed Jones to gain more followers.

After returning from a trip to Brazil in 1963, Jones began preaching about an oncoming nuclear war and prepped his followers for an exodus to South America. But first, he and his followers moved to Redwood, California in 1967 and set up a new Peoples Temple, which began to grow but denounced religion, instead focusing on Communism.

After initial reports from ex-Temple members, reporter Marshall Kilduff investigated and published an article on the Temple, offering up several interviews given by former members. A man named David Conn began conducting an investigation on Jones and members let him in on several secrets, including the faked miracles as well as the abuse with in the church. After several years of gathering evidence, Conn turned it all over to law enforcement as well as a few reporters, who released their own exposes.

After failing to smear Conn’s name, Jones finally uprooted his remaining followers and brought them to Guyana. He then formed a settlement nicknamed Jonestown, which was described as a “Socialist paradise free from media scrutiny.” During this time, it was noted that Jones had been abusing several pain medications as well as used them to better control his followers.

In November 17, 1978, Jones was visited by a delegation led by Congressman Leo Ryan, who had in his entourage several family members from the Peoples Temple, an NBC camera crew, and several reporters from various affiliations in a fact-finding mission. Jones “welcomed” the delegation and held a reception for them but not all events were peaceful. A lone Temple member would attack Ryan with a knife but was unsuccessful in harming him.

Congressman Leo Ryan

Ryan would leave Jonestown the morning of the 18th with 15 members of the Temple accompanying him. Unbeknownst to the group, members of Jones’s Red Brigade had tailed them to an airfield. The Brigade, as well as one of the Jonestown refugees, opened fire and killed five people in all, including the Congressman and a few of the reporters. As the Brigade returned to Jonestown, Jones would enact his most evil plan yet.

Knowing his time was limited, that same day, Jones and several members announced that the group should commit what Jones called “revolutionary suicide” by drinking cyanide-laced grape-flavored Kool Aid. A total of 909 inhabitants of Jonestown – 304 of whom were children – were later found dead, along with Jones himself, who ended his life with a gunshot to the head. Tapes were uncovered of Jones whipping his followers into a frenzy about how none would be spared by the backlash of what happened on the airstrip, and anyone caught by the authorities would be converted to fascism, and the only way to escape this was by death.

Jones had all of the makings of a great civil rights leader, doing something unheard of at the time. Sadly, he went down a dark road, making him one of the Deadliest Cult Leaders in History.

Keep it tuned to PopHorror for my next adventure into the Deadliest Cult Leaders in History.

About Zachary Howard

Just a dude stuck in small town in Washington State. Grew up on bad movies, loud music, violent video games, and I thing I turned out normal!

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