Content Warning: This article discusses mass murder and suicide and will be deeply disturbing for many readers.
Jim Jones referred to his cult as a church.
The Peoples Temple was founded in the 1950s in Indiana in the United States. In order to coax new members into the cult, Jones would tell people his secretary was paralysed and then “heal” her before their eyes.
He would tell her to stand up from her wheelchair and walk, leaving an impressionable crowd in shock.
Of course, since she was never paralysed, standing up and walking was no miracle.
Following media allegations of abuse in the United States, the cult leader moved his thousand or so followers to a self-made village in Guyana, South America, deep in the dense, animal-infested jungle.
He preached a life free from consumerism and racism, where a happy socialist existence could be enjoyed.
Jonestown, as he named it, was surrounded by snakes and jaguars, so it’s therefore unsurprising that fleeing was a risky move which required meticulous planning.
However, 10 brave members of the ‘utopia’ of The Peoples Temple became disillusioned. On November 18, 1978, they decided to escape.
Mother-of-one, Leslie Wagner-Wilson, was among them.
But when Wagner-Wilson ran into the jungle with her three-year-old son strapped to her back using a bed sheet, she was not only escaping a cult, but an imminent massacre.
“We were running for our lives, for if we got caught we would wish we were dead, because the discipline would be intense,” Wagner-Wilson later told CNN.
Rolling Stone once reported that those who were caught escaping were brought back to the commune and drugged for weeks on end.
Learn more about Jonestown in the video below. Post continues after video…