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Jonestown Massacre: Cult Guru Jim Jones Led 913 Brainwashed Followers to Their Deaths with Doomsday Brew (FPD CASE VAULT)

Jonestown Massacre: 913 Cult Suicides After Investigators Fatally Shot
Source: Bettmann Archive

Reverend Jim Jones and his wife, Marceline, taken from a pink photo album left behind in the village of the dead in Jonestown, Guyana, during Reverend Jones' happier times. Jones led more than 900 members of his cult to a painful death.

Dec. 21 2023, Published 4:03 p.m. ET

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San Francisco cult leader Jim Jones led his brainwashed disciples to their deaths in a chilling mass suicide — by drinking poison-laced doomsday brew — that sent shockwaves around the world.

Now known as the Jonestown Massacre, the Nov. 18, 1978, horror left 913 dead, including 276 children, in the South American jungle compound they used to escape prying eyes in America.

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Earlier that day, Jones' henchmen murdered California Congressman Leo Ryan and four members of his entourage who'd traveled to Guyana to investigate human rights abuses at the compound.

Fearing reprisals for slaying Ryan, Jones gathered his followers at the camp's main pavilion where he boldly declared: " It's all over – we're going to commit suicide!”

Jonestown Massacre: 913 Cult Suicides After Investigators Fatally Shot
Source: Getty Images/Tim Chapman

Cult leader Jim Jones ordered a mass suicide that left 913 bodies sprawled through Jonestown, a compound carved out of the South American jungle.

Jones insisted they hurry up, declaring: “Troops will come in here. They will torture our babies. They will kill everybody. It's better that we die with dignity," surviving eyewitness Odell Rhodes Jr. said.

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Jonestown Massacre: 913 Cult Suicides After Investigators Fatally Shot
Source: Matthew Naythons/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

A toxic concoction of cyanide, tranquilizers and a grape-favored beverage was mixed in metal tubs and handed out to Jones' disciples, including unsuspecting children.

Soon, a table was set up with a large metal vat filled with a fatal brew of tranquilizers, cyanide and a grape-flavored beverage, which caused an agonizing death.

Jones, meanwhile, died from a single gunshot wound to the head. Only 33 people escaped with their lives.


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