Oct. 5, 2020

Jim Jones And The People's Temple


On November 18, 1978, a mass suicide in the jungles of South America shocked the entire world. A total of 909 people were killed on that fateful day, with nearly half of the kids under the age of eighteen. All of them were members of the Peoples Temple, an organization that began as an unconventional church in Indianapolis that sought to serve society’s marginalized before eventually morphing into a cult, thanks to the drug-addled mind of its founder and leader, Reverend Jim Jones. 

What began as an altruistic path towards an envisioned utopia ended in a harrowing tragedy – one that saw hundreds of people losing their lives at the behest of an unhinged madman who had a limitless appetite for power and control.

Follow us on Twitter: @lets_cult

Sources

Sources for this episode include the Alternative Consideration of Jonestown & Peoples Temple, A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown by Julia Scheeres, The Road to Jonestown by Jeff Guinn, Encyclopedia Britannica, Rolling Stone Magazine, Still Unfold, ThoughtCo, History Magazine, the New York Times, the New West Magazine, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Research by: Kayla Deleon



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Transcript

Josh Schell  0:07  
Hello, my name is Josh Schell and I'm very excited to bring you the first ever episode of The Let's Start A Cult podcast. The podcast where each week myself and some guests will dive into the wonderful and terrible world of cults and other extremist groups. And if the FBI are listening in we are definitely not looking to gather followers but if you're interested, I will send you a pamphlet but that out of the way, let me introduce you my first guest, Sam wood.

Sam Wood  0:33  
Hello.

Josh Schell  0:34  
Great, great introduction. Now Sam, if you were hypothetically a part of my cult I feel you'd be the guy to mix the Kool Aid but during during the making of the Kool Aid you would probably forget to add the poison, and add way too much water so we just be sitting there drinking really terrible grape flavored Kool AId and just wishing we were dead. 

Sam Wood  0:56  
I don't hate that. 

Josh Schell  0:57  
That's a good bit?

Sam Wood  0:58  
That's pretty good bit 

Josh Schell  0:00  
All right. That's good good. Glad you're okay with your role in the cult.

Sam Wood  1:03  
I don't know how I feel about majority of my role just me being dumb, but I like mixing drinks so I don't hate that 

Josh Schell  1:12  
You do push drinks on people I do. 

Sam Wood  1:14  
I do love pushing people 

Josh Schell  1:16  
Which when we get to that part of the show, not as funny not as funny as this is. My second guest is Justin ness. So Justin, How are you today? 

Justin Ness  1:25  
Thought my name was Joe. What the fuck? 

Josh Schell  1:26  
You can be Joe if you wanted to be. In this cult we have no I mean not cult. We have no names. 

Justin Ness  1:33  
Joe's my cult name, bro. Okay, I'll call you, Joe. 

Josh Schell  1:36  
I will I will forget to do that. Actually, I don't want. I don't want this to be part of it. But I feel if I'm giving roles away I feel you would be like my right hand man. But eventually you become more popular with me. And then you Julius Caesar me in the back and take over my cult.

Justin Ness  1:52  
Wow okay, hot take. I like the idea though.

Josh Schell  1:56  
I'm giving him ideas I think he's gonna take over this podcast. This has been my one and only episode. Before Ness takes over the podcast. On today's episode of Let's Start A Cult. We will be talking about The People's Temple and the chilling turn of events that led to the Jonestown Massacre. The greatest single loss of American civilian life since 911. Or Well, I guess it was before 911. So 911 was the I don't want to go. We'll leave it!

Sam Wood  2:24  
Conspiracy Theory. It happened after 911 

Josh Schell  2:27  
Oh, all right. Write in the comments if you think Jonestown happen after 911 How much do you guys know about Jonestown Massacre and The People's Temple?

Sam Wood  2:36  
Off the top of my head. 

Josh Schell  2:37  
Yeah, off the dome. 

Sam Wood  2:37  
Nothing. I don't know anything about either those events.

Josh Schell  2:40  
Okay. What about you, Justin? 

Justin Ness  2:42  
You know, I feel like I could throw in a big old guess. But other than that, yeah, I don't. I don't feel like... 

Sam Wood  2:50  
What's your guess?

Josh Schell  2:51  
Yeah. What was what what is what is the guess? Based on the brief description I've given what is your guests on the Jonestown Massacre and The People's Temple?

Justin Ness  2:59  
Well, you know, all I can picture is, some people in some hoods, you know, believing in some crazy shit. And then next thing you know, they all rampage to village? I don't know.

Josh Schell  3:10  
Pretty close in the first part. 

Sam Wood  3:11  
They had hoods. There's definitely hoods involved.

Josh Schell  3:14  
I should maybe put a spoiler because you were so close.

Justin Ness  3:16  
Oh my God

Josh Schell  3:16  
No, I'm kidding. You weren't that close. But good. Good guess we'll get to what exactly happened. But first, we want to start with the ringleader, as it were James Warren Jones, affectionately called Jim Jones. He was born May 13 1931, in small town of Crete, Indiana. His father James. So he named his son after himself, kind of not a great bit. 

Sam Wood  3:38  
Feel like that's a cult bit.

Josh Schell  3:39  
Like it's a bit condescending.

Justin Ness  3:40  
Seems like a good guy.

Josh Schell  3:41  
Or not condescending. Just a little full of himself, you know? 

Sam Wood  3:44  
Yeah, yeah. 

Josh Schell  3:44  
So James had been injured during World War One, which meant that his family was dependent on their matriarch Lynette and I mean, back in the 1930s 40s, pretty uncommon for the matriarch to be the breadwinner, you know what I mean?

Sam Wood  3:58  
Yeah, what, what was she doing any uh...?

Josh Schell  4:00  
It didn't, it didn't really specify what necessarily she was...

Sam Wood  4:03  
How she was bringing that dough in.

Josh Schell  4:04  
But But I mean, whatever she was doing it, it left Jim to be left to his own devices. He was all he was alone a lot, and actually led him to begin making his way through the churches found in Lynn. Even going as so far as to befriend local Pentecostal minister and he began to be inspired by the preaching and ideals of the churches that he visited and he incorporated them into his own sermons, which he would share with the rest of the children in the community. So as a child, he's going around spouting off religious beliefs to other kids, and he was a gifted and charismatic speaker, even as a 10 year old boy, but religious zeal and the subject of his sermons often turned off a lot of his playmates, and he hated a lot of the usual activities such as sports and dancing, which led him to become ostracized from other kids his age, and you love dancing as a kid Sam 

Sam Wood  4:50  
Yea Twinkle Toes. They use to call me. It sounds like he was a born leader, a hero of the nation.

Josh Schell  4:56  
You might retract that I mean leader sure he He's definitely got those leader qualities the public speaking and being able to command attention. 

Sam Wood  5:04  
Real no nonsense kind of guy wasn't down for dancing around singing with the kids. You know? 

Josh Schell  5:09  
He was no, he was no clown or athlete.

Sam Wood  5:12  
Did you say he was hurt in world war one? 

Josh Schell  5:14  
No, his dad. 

Sam Wood  5:15  
Oh, okay.

Josh Schell  5:16  
The confusion because they have the same name

Sam Wood  5:17  
Yeah, yeah, no, I was Yeah, sorry. Okay, so he he wasn't hurt in war. 

Justin Ness  5:21  
I was like, he's a cripple and war and he's 10 I was like the fuck is going on? 

Sam Wood  5:25  
Yea I was wondering how I was also curious on how he fought. 

Josh Schell  5:28  
I don't even think he was alive back then. It would have been after the war that he's born.

Sam Wood  5:31  
Okay. So his father...

Josh Schell  5:33  
Was injured. 

Sam Wood  5:33  
Yeah.

Josh Schell  5:34  
And actually, I think it was a if I'm not mistaken, I think believe it was a gas attack that his father was injured by so he was a lot of lung issues growing up and died pretty early. Not great. So Additionally, the Jones family wasn't really liked by their neighbors who remembered the mock funerals that young Jim held for dead animals in the neighborhood. The frequency of this odd play routine on nerve display mates and their families. The majority who believed the animals had been killed deliberately and cruelly by none other than the boy grieving them. And actually, in this quote from the 2006 documentary Jonestown, the life and death of people's temple one of Jim Jones childhood friends, Chuck Wilmore says, quote, "I thought Jimmy was a really weird kid. He was obsessed with religion, he was obsessed with death, and a friend of mine told me that he saw Jimmy kill a cat with a knife", which you can already see with this going most stories don't start most good stories don't start with and he killed a cat and then he, he cured cancer. You know what I mean? Like it kind of fits with where this is going.

Sam Wood  6:30  
It's a tough hobby man. 

Josh Schell  6:32  
Killing cat? 

Sam Wood  6:32  
Killing stray animals.

Josh Schell  6:35  
Well, I don't know if they're stray. They might have been...

Sam Wood  6:36  
Oh, they... even worse. 

Josh Schell  6:38  
It doesn't specify

Justin Ness  6:38  
Pebbles no!

Sam Wood  6:40  
Why couldn't he have danced 

Josh Schell  6:43  
And danceed his cares away?

Sam Wood  6:44  
God, damn it 

Josh Schell  6:45  
In the road to Jonestown by Jeff Guin. The author claims that Jim was also fascinated with Adolf Hitler. So during during World War Two, quote, when Hitler committed suicide in April 1945, thwarting enemies who sought to capture and humiliate him, Jim was impressed writes Guin in his book. And I don't know if he was impressed that he killed himself, which I mean, as far as things to be impressed with Hitler is him killing himself is probably a good thing to be impressed with him about.

Sam Wood  7:14  
Yeah, 

Josh Schell  7:14  
Maybe 

Sam Wood  7:15  
It's a good take.

Josh Schell  7:15  
I don't know if that's a good take actually. 

Sam Wood  7:17  
I dunno. He killed a lot of people before that. So...

Josh Schell  7:19  
Yeah, 

Justin Ness  7:20  
This Jimmy kids just, I think he's a coward. And you related to Hitler killing himself. And he's like, you know, if I had to go and I did all this weird fucking shit then I think I'd probably kill myself too. I don't know. It doesn't seem like that's what he would be. Well, I'm not James or Jimmy. You know. Guys fucked up by the sounds of it. So maybe he was impressed by it.

Josh Schell  7:41  
Yeah, I mean, anyone impressed with Hitler, it's probably not gonna go well, you know what I mean. Especially since, I mean, his dad was in World War One, to be fair, but technically fought against Hitler because Hitler was in the war on the other side. 

Sam Wood  7:54  
And you know, there wasn't a ton of media back then. Right. So I'm pretty curious. You know, if anything, he's just hearing word of mouth. What Hitler's doing? 

Josh Schell  8:02  
Yeah.

Sam Wood  8:03  
No research done on him. And he's thinking, Man, I'm kind of I kind of fuck with this guy. 

Josh Schell  8:07  
I like this guy. 

Sam Wood  8:08  
I'm kinda down with what this guy's doing I mean,

Josh Schell  8:11  
And it's weird because Hitler doesn't really jive with his. And this is where it starts to get weird. I'll go into... 

Sam Wood  8:17  
Oh, it's about to get weird. Been a normal child up until now stabbing cats and burying them.

Josh Schell  8:23  
It gets interesting because Adolf Hitler doesn't really mesh with Jim's morals and like his compass. And I don't know if he grew out of this. Maybe it was just a fate. You know, when you're a teenager. You're like, I love Hitler.

Sam Wood  8:34  
Oh an angsty Hitler phase. We all go through it. 

Josh Schell  8:37  
Your on a 4chan forum. And you're just I love Hitler. And it's just I don't know if it's that but

Sam Wood  8:43  
Yeah

Justin Ness  8:42  
I was gonna say maybe it's his love of the automotive industry. You know, like Hitler helped bring Volkswagon into the mix. And maybe it was a personal thing.

Josh Schell  8:43  
Das Auto!

Justin Ness  8:47  
Yeah!

Josh Schell  8:55  
Yeah, I mean, it's possible. Let me let me go on and we'll see the the interesting part of his life. So in 1949 18 year old Jim married Marceline Baldwin, a striking woman who he had met while working in the hospital. A couple welcomed a child together and went on to adopt several other children of various ethnicities, sort of like the brad pitt and angelina jolie, angelina jolie,

Sam Wood  9:17  
And the Angelo Oney

Josh Schell  9:18  
and the Angelony of Olden time. No, angelina jolie, so they were the Brangelina of their time. The Gere, Jim Jimmy salini. Celine. His quote unquote, Rainbow family was a source of pride and joy for Jim went out of his way to encourage others to adopt interracially so you see where this gets weird. He He's a fan of Hitler, but also is like, he's a very against he's not very racist man. 

Sam Wood  9:45  
Yea, he's not racist at all. 

Josh Schell  9:46  
He's very, like... 

Sam Wood  9:48  
...inclusive. 

Josh Schell  9:48  
He's very inclusive in that way. Like he's not...

Sam Wood  9:51  
Unless you're a cat

Josh Schell  9:52  
Unless you're a cat or directly against Hitler, I guess. I don't know. And it quickly becomes clear that the adoption wouldn't be the end of his altruism. From there he worked as a pastor at a church advocating for integration and the end of the congregation's segregation. As could be expected, though this idea wasn't really welcomed by the church's existing leadership, and Jim quickly found himself kicked out without a job. So he went on to like, try and push for inclusion in the church and church was like, Fuck you. We don't like that. Like 

Sam Wood  10:23  
It was a different time. 

Josh Schell  10:24  
It was a different time. Yeah, I mean, it wasn't that long ago, less than 100 years, which is.. 

Sam Wood  10:29  
Yeah there's been a lot of fucked up stuff that happened in less than 100 years. 

Josh Schell  10:32  
Yeah, that's true. That's true. So rather than trying to trying his luck, as another parish gym began preaching specifically to the African American communities, powered by the desire to help them rise above racism and discrimination that they were subjugated to.

Sam Wood  10:45  
At the time, that would have been really forward like really forward thinking, yeah,

Josh Schell  10:49  
There's very few people in this time period, Jim Crow law, or like, those kind of laws are still in place where I mean, African Americans are free, but they're, they're very much not, You know what I mean, they're second class citizens in this time period. And it's, it's terrible. And I mean, for him to be very outspoken about this is it's kind of revolutionary. 

Sam Wood  11:05  
Yeah, hundred percent. 

Josh Schell  11:07  
And I think if you stopped at this point, he'd be this is this would be a great story and a happy ending. But sadly, he does not,

Sam Wood  11:13  
The wheels fall off.

Josh Schell  11:14  
And it starts getting weird. So he he starts using, quote, unquote, healing rituals to attract new members to his flock, claiming to heal diseases and afflictions of all kinds during these events. Now, this may seem a bit weird and rather sketchy to us modern audience. But Jim's healing rituals proved to be a big hit. Within two years, he already had a sufficient number of followers to start his own organization. And this is where it gets kind of absurd. After selling monkeys door to door, marketing them as useful house pets, Jim was able to collect enough money to establish his own church in Indianapolis. I don't know about you guys, but...

Sam Wood  11:50  
So he's an entrepreneur?

Josh Schell  11:51  
If Justin came to me and was like, Hey, I got a monkey. Actually, I want you to do it. Justin, sell me a monkey. How would you sell me a monkey? That's convincing me it's useful? 

Justin Ness  12:00  
I'd be like, I don't know. Good morning, sir. Would you like a monkey, and then you'd be like, Hell, yeah. And you'd be like, yeah, you know, your son was curious. George, think of this guy exactly like him. Probably a little dumber but, you know, that's the fun of it. You get to teach a new things and fuck, who knows? You might start aids like, I dunno

Josh Schell  12:21  
"You might start Aids." I think it already started by this. 

Sam Wood  12:25  
What do you mean?

Josh Schell  12:27  
I'm sold though, on that premise alone that he might start AIDS.

Sam Wood  12:31  
Is he gonna have sex with the monkey? Are you selling them for sex? 

Justin Ness  12:35  
I never said that. 

Sam Wood  12:36  
I don't...I think you're implying it. I don't understand.

Josh Schell  12:39  
He doesn't have anything in the contract against it, but...

Sam Wood  12:42  
He's not saying you can't have sex with a monkey. He's not saying you should. No, he is. He is saying you should he is. 

Josh Schell  12:49  
He's telling me directly. Here's a monkey that you can sleep with.

Sam Wood  12:52  
So Jim, so Jim made a killing selling sex. And then he bought a church. 

Josh Schell  12:58  
You know what? Pretty inclusive. You know, people want to have sex with monkeys. No I'm not going to.

Sam Wood  13:06  
I think we've touched too much on having sex with animals. 

Justin Ness  13:09  
Either that or you get one of the baskets and like go on the bikes there. And you put a hood over him and it's just like, fucking et. Like, that's every kid's dream, right? 

Josh Schell  13:17  
I also don't know if ET was around.

Sam Wood  13:18  
ET wasn't around. I'm willing to say Curious George wasn't around.

Josh Schell  13:22  
Ah, he might have been a comic strip. I have no idea. I have no research or anything to back that up.

Justin Ness  13:26  
There were UFO sightings way back when you know, maybe someone stole the whole et idea from one of these monkeys that had a hood up.

Josh Schell  13:34  
All right, I'm gonna go that's not how he sold them. But he sold monkeys which is weird,

Sam Wood  13:39  
Really weird. I've never met anyone who sold monkey so

Josh Schell  13:43  
So so he gets his own church in Indianapolis from the monkey money. And then in 1956, the people's temple originally called wings of deliverance 

Sam Wood  13:51  
Way cooler, 

Josh Schell  13:52  
Such a cool band man. So the church was born and it was nestled in Indianapolis, Indiana, focused on racial integration and helping those in need. At a time when most churches were segregated by race. This was a revolutionary, unconventional and utopian idea, and one that served to draw hordes of crowds to Jim's sermons. So yeah, pretty popular guy right now. Pretty good guy right now, other than the cats in the healing rituals, and the Hitler thing.

Sam Wood  14:17  
Huge in the monkey community. Huge in the witch healing community. 

Josh Schell  14:21  
Okay, yeah, he might be. Yeah, he's definitely bigger than that. 

Sam Wood  14:24  
Okay, 

Josh Schell  14:25  
Big grifter you know? Definitely pandering. Jim was charismatic and an idealist who wasn't afraid to share his views with others regardless of how contrary they ran to the status quo. For instance, one of his core beliefs was capitalism was inherently evil and creating an unbalanced between the world that made the rich richer and or even poor. He's very socialist. He's the Bernie Sanders of his time. 

Sam Wood  14:47  
I was gonna say America could've uh...

Josh Schell  14:49  
And I think Bernie Sanders was around then. Through The People's Temple Jim strive to put his money where his mouth was establishing avenues of people to help do good and contribute to their local communities. Most importantly, he encouraged his congregation to look past physical characteristics and circumstances of other people. In a bid to go beyond racism, discrimination and xenophobia that plagued America at the time. Jim's work turned him into a recognized and celebrated figure in Indianapolis and even served as a director of city Human Rights Commission in the early 1960s. Thanks to a tireless work with the homeless, good guy, you know, not racist, which again, was the weird part where he was like, I love Hitler. I mean, he didn't say it love Hitler, but he respected Hitler. 

Sam Wood  15:29  
Yeah. 

Josh Schell  15:30  
It's weird because Hitler's bit was I hate all races except for my own like, I don't know, he's kind of a he's a weird, dude. I mean, he hates cats. We can that that we can be for sure 

Sam Wood  15:40  
Hate cats. We don't know how he feels about monkeys. He loves selling them. 

Josh Schell  15:45  
And I mean, if we're extrapolating off of what Justin said, sex monkeys, so maybe he loves monkeys too much. 

Sam Wood  15:51  
Maybe he loves sex, 

Josh Schell  15:53  
Maybe? 

Sam Wood  15:53  
Is there anything? Is there anything on that? 

Josh Schell  15:55  
He adopted a lot, so I don't know if he did. He's like, I hate this. Just gonna, just gonna adopt people and be a good person. Pretty soon, though, Jim started started acting a bit irradically. Well, he had always perceived the threat of nuclear war to be inevitable. his fears grew so much that in 1962, he was actively looking for a way to survive the apocalypse. This led them to an article in entitled The Nine Places to hide published in Esquire magazine in January 1962, which listed several locations across the globe that would reportedly remain intact even after a nuclear war. Among these places was Eureka, California, a landlocked area north of San Francisco that was said to be a safe place due to Sahara's that surrounded it. Because of this, Jim decided to relocate the people's temple from Indianapolis to Redwood Valley, situated approximately 150 miles south of Eureka. So he moved a bunch of people like across the country to California because he was afraid of nuclear war.

Sam Wood  16:54  
Very forward thinking.

Josh Schell  16:55  
It's kind of sad that that had such an effect on people in America. You know what I mean? Like, people grew up with the fear of nuclear war, like all the time, we still probably should, yeah,

Sam Wood  17:05  
definitely. More than ever, definitely. Probably should be worried about it now. It's kind of crazy that he just like we're moving. How many people at this point? Was he you think he was moving? Like,

Josh Schell  17:16  
ah, it says 65 families? Oh, so that's a lot. I mean, a family could be too.

Sam Wood  17:22  
So it's a cult at this point.

Josh Schell  17:24  
It's basically it's the root This is the starting of the cult phase. The starting of where it starts to get, oh, Jim's off his rocker now but

Sam Wood  17:33  
but he is considering it a religion at this point. Wings of deliverance.

Josh Schell  17:37  
He's always operated in the the church. Right? Yeah. So when he got kicked out, this was his way of still pushing his religion but but doing his own thing, which I mean, at the beginning was good. And oh, Jim claims that a mood because the nuclear war, Many claim that the motivated reason could be because this was also the point when they launched an investigation into his healing rituals. So that might be a percentage. I don't know. I can't say for sure. I don't know. Jim, you know, I mean, me and Jim are boys he died a long time ago. Spoilers.

Unknown Speaker  18:12  
He's dead.

Josh Schell  18:15  
Yeah, the the monkey Hitler lover is dead. Justin. I'm sorry.

Sorry to break it. We died from AIDS.

Unknown Speaker  18:21  
Ah, no. Oh.

Josh Schell  18:25  
So in Redwood Valley, the people's temple slowly expanded their operation, the 65 families that had follow Jim from Indiana to California worked hard to establish homes for the elderly, as well as services for drug addicts and orphan children's. Their work attracted praises from the community published in newspapers and even loaded loaded by the local politicians

Unknown Speaker  18:43  
loaded, loaded,

Josh Schell  18:44  
loaded a lot of a lot of the media their activities garnered made Jimmy into an even bigger celebrity. And before long, he was seen as selfless, charitable and compassionate man, a shining beacon of American values and idealism. Yeah, he's the Superman of his day.

Sam Wood  18:59  
This guy was it shit. I mean,

Josh Schell  19:02  
up until this point, he's had a few weird moments, obviously. I mean, you can't blame him too much for that. I mean, you can't blame kids too much. Like it's it's weird that he killed him. That's

Sam Wood  19:11  
I mean, all agree.

Josh Schell  19:13  
That's the and then the healing thing.

Sam Wood  19:15  
Yeah, he's a quack. People are calling him a quack for the healing thing at this point.

Josh Schell  19:19  
But I think as far as grifters go, he's taking the money he's getting for the healing and actually putting it into good thing so far. Yeah, you can't hate that part of it. You can hate that he's swindling people into healing them because he is definitely taking advantage of people but for sure, he's not a terrible human being right now. But underneath this veneer of perfection and altruism lay a dark and sinister secret. Well, other saw man fueled by his principles in a utopian vision of the world. The real Jim Jones was a mentally unhinged and unbalanced individual. His actions would eventually spell doom for those in his congregation. That's a little foreshadowing you know, a little bit of a tease for what's coming. Any any questions or comments on this? Jim Jones so far, it would have been cool if they called us called monkey business. Holy shit. I would have been also a good band name

Unknown Speaker  20:09  
might be one I called, uh, well,

Sam Wood  20:11  
he literally had a business selling monkeys. It would be Should we? You can't legally sell monkeys anymore. I looked into it

Josh Schell  20:18  
just on the pot or before just now. Okay, I thought you just knew this off though.

No, you can't.

Sam Wood  20:25  
I thought wow, along last trade. I'm tired of working.

Unknown Speaker  20:29  
Question. Yeah. What did you do to convince his 65 families to follow him across the country?

Josh Schell  20:36  
That's a good question. I'm not sure what he said to them. But at this point, it's safe to say he has a lot of control over these people being this and it is said a lot of times in a lot of different spots that he was a very charismatic person. So for him to convince people to move for the greater good of people, I don't think is a stretch like for you. And I might be weird because we're not we're not in a cult, right? So it's hard to imagine being well, being that enthralled with a leader that that could just be like, Hey, we're moving here. You know,

maybe maybe it's like monkey t shirts made up and are bananas and he's like, he's in

Unknown Speaker  21:15  
California.

Sam Wood  21:17  
He promised them dreams of grandeur and monkeys.

Josh Schell  21:22  
However the dynamics of the People's temples started changing when they settled in California like I said it this is the the beginning of the call No more monkeys know that he had the monkeys were not there, as he promised low so from a from a church dedicated to God and less fortunate. The People's temple slowly turned into the cult that it became, it started becoming geared towards Jones and its ever changing whims. Their aims gradually became more political and more communist with members forced to pledge that all their material possessions and money to gym. Some even signed over the custody of their children to them, mistakenly believing that the Prophet which was a nickname Jim soon, soon adopted after relocating, was the only one capable of rearing kids in the proper way. Oh, that's

Unknown Speaker  22:05  
creepy. So we're

Josh Schell  22:06  
getting weird. He's, he's adopting by force.

Sam Wood  22:09  
Also, I think if anyone starts calling themselves the Prophet, the Oracle, anything like that, we you probably have a situation. He

Josh Schell  22:16  
starts calling himself some worse thing the Overlord

Sam Wood  22:19  
the almighty Overlord,

Josh Schell  22:21  
you're close.

Every single thing the member of the People's temple did revolves around the wants and needs of dislikes of gyms. So if the Prophet didn't like it, they didn't do it basically. which is how I would like my life to go if people don't if I don't like it, I don't want people to do a four to get to know like selling monkeys stop doing it, please, it's wrong. Meanwhile, Jim became infatuated with power and authority even going as far to believe in the very myth that he created about himself. His followers were required to address them as either author or dad and later your song referring himself to Christ or God. Good bit, so I think he's just Yeah, he's he's about 80 years too early to be calling himself daddy you know what I mean?

Where's daddy's monkey and I know

Sam Wood  23:05  
elite and he's legally dotting all the children are they're signing

Josh Schell  23:11  
their kids over? Yeah, listen, most of the family members have definitely have a lot of stake in this they have given up everything if not their children, for sure. Most of their material possessions I mean, moving that far they didn't have much

Sam Wood  23:24  
pretty pretty isolated

Josh Schell  23:25  
Yeah, exactly. They're away from their friends family and like it's the beginning of the year. I'm your only like, it's a it's a classic manipulative boyfriend or girlfriend you know, right on

Sam Wood  23:36  
you know that I know that I

Unknown Speaker  23:39  
have been there.

Josh Schell  23:41  
And for a boy who spent most of his childhood neglected by his parents the attention and influence that Jim now possess was incredibly intoxicating.

Sam Wood  23:49  
Yes, daddy issues, which is why he got himself

Josh Schell  23:51  
the nickname dad father makes sense. King Kong King King Kong King daddy calm. But the attention was clearly not enough from he began taking large quantities of amphetamines and Erbitux, it what's that word are Picchu.

Sam Wood  24:08  
Drugs dance.

Josh Schell  24:10  
Taking a lot of amphetamines, initially as a way to stay awake much longer. However, this is soon involved into recreational drug use, which led him to experience major mood swings and exacerbated his paranoia. This combined with his deteriorating health meant that dangerous and unhinged mand lurked beneath the image of the God fearing an iconic philanthropist that Jim had carefully cultivated throughout the years. So he's slowly turning into the Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hyde, which is the crazy one Mr. Hyde.

Sam Wood  24:39  
Crazy one you think the doctors the good doctors?

Unknown Speaker  24:43  
He's the Good, good.

Josh Schell  24:44  
Yeah. I don't know how much of the good doctors left and Jim right at this point, fueled by his drug abuse. Jim's paranoia led him to believe that both the CIA and FBI backed by the entire United States government. We're after him and the people's temple. This threat Along with the expository article that was about to be published spurred him into relocating his church once again.

Unknown Speaker  25:05  
No to

Josh Schell  25:06  
Guyana, South America, so we're leaving the continent.

Unknown Speaker  25:09  
Whoa, what about the monkeys? Oh, all right, probably.

Sam Wood  25:15  
Finally, we're getting back to what's important.

Josh Schell  25:16  
Yeah. Like they're going right to the middle of a dense jungle. So they're definitely, I don't know, if there's monkeys, I'm gonna assume there's monkeys. Maybe they're gonna make a large assumption. And soon maybe he went because the monkey? Yeah. Who knows? He said there. I know. There wasn't monkeys in California, guys. But listen, you've given me everything up until this point. I'll give you the monkeys were going to get monkeys and then. And that was it? How many families at this point is is there any? I'm curious if it's, if it's a cult larger. At this point. There's still hundreds of people okay, going down with him to Guyana. Like, yeah, and I don't I personally don't understand it. But I guess like, if you're in that situation where you owe him everything and he owns your children, like your children have grown up thinking this dude's God. Right? Yeah, it's hard to be like, we're saying no to God. Yeah, I don't know. It's weird. But moving on. The members of the People's temple have followed Jim to South America, believing in his vision of a utopian communion amid the country's dense jungle, as well as in his charisma and larger than life personality. in Guyana, though, Jim became even more controlling using drugs to ensure that none of his followers escaped his clutches. Within the compound were piles of mind altering substances including Quaaludes Demerol value morphine, and about 11,000 doses of Ramzan. I don't even know what that is. But apparently it was a drug that helped individuals suffering from mental illness like issues. So I mean, it sounds like a SoundCloud rappers dream. Yeah, most people's nightmare. I like being controlled by drugs don't

Sam Wood  26:51  
do drugs. I think that's the moral of the story here.

Josh Schell  26:54  
Here's the thing, don't do hard drugs,

Sam Wood  26:56  
was a completely rational spiritual man until he found our drug monkeys

and monkeys,

Josh Schell  27:06  
so rather than the utopia the people's temple was promised, they instead face the harsh realities of living in the jungle. members were forced to carry out manual labor in the sweltering tropical heat, often working long and grueling hours in a bid to please Jim, the agriculture paradise that Jim promised his congregation also never materialized. The jungles soils are notoriously thin, and lacked the nutritions nutritions nutrient nutrients.

Sam Wood  27:30  
I got that there it is

Josh Schell  27:32  
sufficient to grow crops. Despite the efforts of the People's temple, they weren't able to plant anything. And were forced to go out into town and beg for food. Most of the time they came back with discards soiled and rotten food for the market, which they had to share with one another. So it's not looking great. You know, they went from helping people in communities in America to being just really poor and hungry, I would imagine. And, and sick. I'm assuming sick, I would assume a lot of them were sick. Yeah. It says in this next like in this next paragraph here, their starvation was made even worse by the mosquitoes that were constantly feeding on their skin as well as the snakes have always kept them on their toes.

Sam Wood  28:11  
Maybe not aged Justin, but maybe a little malaria action.

Unknown Speaker  28:13  
Wow. Oh,

Josh Schell  28:15  
wow. He's also I think, have that so don't quote me on that. I don't know monkeys and malaria. during the dry season, every single member participated in a bucket for grades just so that their plants wouldn't die. The work was backbreaking and harsh, often like it was done in the heat of the sun, which is

Sam Wood  28:32  
grow up

Josh Schell  28:34  
the humidity. All right. Well, Sam, Sam's on Jim said here. He says, grow up. You move there. It's your fault.

Sam Wood  28:43  
Pretty much. How's the village gonna run without the bucket brigade? I'd also be a great name for the call and bucket brigade.

Josh Schell  28:52  
What does it imply though? I don't know. Like the wings of deliverance kind of means like you're going to heaven I think. And the monkey business is just funny as hell.

Sam Wood  29:00  
I don't know. But bucket brigades got good. alliteration.

Josh Schell  29:03  
Yeah, that was like yes, there would have been, you know, one bucket at a time while

you're piling buckets on each other to get to heaven. Yeah, you might if you fall, I guess. God. More importantly, Jim bred a culture of mistrust among the congregants. None of them were allowed to talk with one another, which made plotting and planning to escape Jonestown downright impossible. He also planted several trusted members who were tasked to weed out those who weren't 100% in the cult. So you know, he's starting to stir that that Miss trot like people can't confide in one another, which makes you know, getting out of there a lot harder and you're just isolated. It's safe to assume a lot of these people are just depressed and like one out there but they're too scared to make a break for themselves. You know what I mean?

Sam Wood  29:46  
Yeah, they're, they're ostracized for feeling like rain or something wrong.

Josh Schell  29:51  
Exactly. Slowly, news of their awful circumstances reached family and friends back home. I don't know why it took so long but

Sam Wood  29:58  
like pretty far away.

Josh Schell  30:00  
I mean, yeah, now they are but if one of my friends or family were like moving to California to help this guy out, I'd be like, a little strange, like maybe don't. But they began pressuring the United States government to take action against Jim and save their loved ones from the horrible conditions of life in Guyana, which was then referred to as Jonestown. Oh, there's the title of the episode role credits.

Sam Wood  30:22  
Su back is Jonestown sounds so cool. That sounds like sounds like a cool beach town or something.

You know, I mean, yeah, like I'm going down to Florida to go to Jones. Yeah,

exactly. Like fucked up. Yeah. preludes and

Josh Schell  30:34  
yeah, and monkey ass.

Sam Wood  30:36  
Yeah.

Josh Schell  30:38  
Exactly. Facing growing public dissatisfaction over their lack of action as well as their own growing unease with the disturbing news coming out of South America. The government elected to send representative Leo Ryan, of California to Jonestown to investigate what was really going on within the walls of the elusive and infamous compound, even America who's like will allow the Klu Klux Klan to be here. Yeah, we're a little concerned about what's happening. Yeah. So that even they're like, that's enough. Like the government's evolved at this point. You're not even in our country, and we're concerned about what you're doing with our citizens down there. We're coming down. Yeah. Interesting. When news of representative Ryan's visit reached gym, his paranoia and fears of the government intervention increased drastically, and for him, it was probably like, it's true like this the conspiracy that I've had in my mind, they're coming for me, and he's probably so high.

Unknown Speaker  31:26  
Yeah,

Josh Schell  31:27  
yeah, his mind addled with drugs concluded that the visit would bring nothing but Doom to him and his loyal followers. On November 14 1978, Representative Leo Ryan arrived in Jonestown accompanied by a whole slew of newsman and relatives of the cultist four days later, they concluded their unofficial investigation and prepared to depart, bringing along with them 14 defectors from the people's temple. They did the investigation. People were like, yeah, I want the fuck out of here. Like this guy is crazy. 14 people raise their hand. They're like,

Sam Wood  31:55  
yeah, we're

Josh Schell  31:56  
and to be fair, I think more people would but their families are there, right? Yeah. So it's hard to be like, I want to because what if your family's like they're their loyal father? What if they believe in the call? And if they're young enough, enough, they've grown? Yeah, they've they're probably a lot of people with kids. I feel we're just in the situation where they're like, oh, we're here. We're staying, I guess. This is where it starts getting bad. And this is a warning. It starts going downhill from here. So if you don't love graphic description, maybe leave it at this. It was the representative came and he he saved everyone and that's it. Plug yours, Justin,

Unknown Speaker  32:33  
I can't listen.

Josh Schell  32:36  
On November 14 1978, Representative Leo Ryan arrived in Jonestown. Oh, I already said this.

Sam Wood  32:43  
He's back. He's back.

Josh Schell  32:45  
Back again. The same amount of people know as a group stood on the in the airstrip near Jonestown waiting to board the flight that would take them back to the United States, a group of armed men from the cold struck them under orders from Jim obviously, however, they were only successful in killing the representative, three newsmen, and one defector, and I say only because there were a lot more people but I mean, that's like quite a bit of people to kill like, and the representative right like that, you know, America's probably not gonna be happy with that. Oh, they're like, oh, he fucked up, boy.

Unknown Speaker  33:17  
No, come

Josh Schell  33:19  
on. That would be his fears that would wrap everything up real nice. It'd be great. I mean, it'd be nuking a foreign country. So that would be an issue.

Sam Wood  33:29  
That would be an issue. Yeah. That would for the foreign country.

Josh Schell  33:35  
The failed assassination attempt made matters worse, Jim believed that those who escaped with their lives would bring the authorities and in him in the people's temple for good, which is a good assumption because probably what was going to happen? So he made a last last ditch effort attempt to ensure that his congregation would continue to follow him no matter what, quote, he tells the people, it's over. It's all over. They're coming for us. This is it. It's time to transition to the other side, says Julia shears, the author of 1000 lives The Untold Story of hope, deception and the survival at Jonestown. Prior to this mass suicide. Jones has statistically conducted rehearsals to figure out how best to carry it out. It was through these practices of these practice sessions that he found out that killing children babies first would be the most effective and discourage their parents from trying to escape with their lives. So pretty dark that they would practice this like multiple times. But he was killing people during the practice. These weren't focus groups. They he wasn't killing people at this time. But he was he was I don't think anyway, I believe it was just like, they were

Sam Wood  34:39  
they were focus groups.

Josh Schell  34:40  
Maybe they weren't. I don't I don't actually know. So interesting. That would make sense because how do you practice that's what I'm

Sam Wood  34:48  
that's what I'm curious. Yeah, it's like okay, so now you're dead. Oh, no, that would pretend to be at work. You're crying. I'm just not believing it, john. I'm just not believing it.

Josh Schell  35:00  
Try harder. Other 10 how likely are you to leave right now? So I mean, all joking aside, pretty fucked up. Yeah, pretty bad that day on November 18. Nearly everyone in the compound believed it to be another mass suicide rehearsal, only realizing that it was the real thing when the youngest member of the People's temple started frothing at the mouse, after syringes dropped a lethal mix of cyanide sedatives and powdered fruit juice down their throat.

So,

it's not great. I don't know how to say it like it's it really shitty. And to a certain point, like, like, like they said, they thought they're going into another rehearsal, which is pretty shitty. I mean, imagine being in a play. Yeah, showing up for rehearsal. Thousands of people in the audience think it's a dry run, but and you were, you're just hung over because you were partying the night before thinking no one's gonna care about this. Oh, no quote, they started with the babies said Odell Rhoades, the only known survivor of the Jonestown Massacre. It just got all out of order. Babies are screaming children's are screaming, and there was mass confusion. According to him, it only took about five minutes for the cyanide to do its job. And then the adults lined up and took a sip of the poison that Jim prepared for them. His final act as their leader, their Prophet, and their father is terrible. I mean, this says like to think that these people were doing it willingly is like, it's wrong to think that because they're, I mean, there's guys with guns or crossbows, I believe it says here lined up behind them. So they that Yeah, they had rows of crossbowmen lined up behind them just waiting to kill anyone that disagreed. Right. Hmm. And I mean, at this point, like, their children had already passed away. So I don't think a lot of them want to live with that kind of guilt.

Sam Wood  36:41  
Yeah, there's not there's not much left for them at that point.

Josh Schell  36:44  
Yeah. And it's a very bleak to be fair.

Unknown Speaker  36:47  
Yeah,

Josh Schell  36:48  
very dark. I mean, I kind of want to skip over a lot of this because it's kind of gory. We'll skip to that. Like, I mean, they a lot of them take it like this guy was the only survivor obviously. And I just wanted to point out that you can't really blame the parents and the families because if they were put in this situation, it was like a frog in water you slowly boiling or lobster in waters, lobster and water, you slowly boil it so they don't feel the temperature rising. Okay, that's kind of what this call was right? They started off doing really amazing things right. Amazing. Like, against racism against the rich. All good things.

Sam Wood  37:21  
I hate racist, and I hate rich people. So I've outpoint love. He should have stuck with the monkey stuff. Yeah, that could have really changed.

Josh Schell  37:32  
If the monkeys had prepared the Kool Aid, it'd be funny.

Sam Wood  37:35  
Well, if I had prepared the Kool Aid, it would have been fine. It would have been like what the fuck would have been fine?

Josh Schell  37:42  
Yeah, so when when the guy needs authorities arrived in Jonestown The following day, a terrifying and gruesome sight awaited them. The entire compound was carpeted and hundreds of bodies, most of whom had their arms around each other, and remnants of fraud froth around their mouth, syringes and cups filled with innocuous looking liquids scattered all over the place. And as for Jim, he was discovered discovered dead of a gunshot wound to the head. Some say he took his own life while this claim that his trusted nurse and more Delta fatal blow before turning the gun on herself. There's that Hitler bit, you know, ended it himself. He, I don't know. It's kind of telling to be like, Oh, he took he took the gun like he took the bullet instead of drinking the Kool Aid, because he knew that would be the worst way to go. You know what I mean? The coward's way out basically and it and it sucks that he never got caught to pay for this like penance. But I like to think of there is a God and a hell he's down there burning for eternity, you know? Yeah, that's bad. That's pretty bad. According to Julia shears, the only thing that Jim wanted it other people's temple in the Jonestown Massacre was complete and utter control. Quote, he tried to control people's body. She said in her book, he couldn't stand it when people left the church, and he would go into a rage, but ultimate control. And the ultimate loyalty test for him was, if I order you, would you lay down your life for the cause? For me? For many of the 909 people, oh, 909 people, there you go.

Sam Wood  39:03  
900 people,

Josh Schell  39:05  
909 people died that day. And that's 14. So there was around 1000 people that probably followed him too. Yeah, down there, right. Because you can you can safely assume probably some die from starvation beforehand. Yeah, or disease or disease or anything like that. But for many of the 909 people who died that day, 300 of whom were aged 17 or younger. They were never given a chance to say no to Jim right. Instead, they were forced to follow a mentally unstable control freak with an unquenchable thirst for power over their grave. pretty sad story

Sam Wood  39:37  
started off, start off okay. Yeah, started off kind of hot. But

Josh Schell  39:40  
questions, concerns, comments, a lot of concerns.

I mean,

Sam Wood  39:45  
yeah, definitely concerned.

Josh Schell  39:48  
And it's, I don't know, I understand why people got into this. Like why people got into this group because it is it was a group for good originally, and then absolute power. corrupts absolutely. I believe that's the same Justin

Justin Ness

Guest

One of the Hosts of The Dicey D20 podcast!