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20 Years Later: Jonestown Memorial

[November 18, 1998]

FACTNet's special section on Jonestown.

November 18, 1998 marks the 20-year anniversary of the mass tragedy at Jonestown, Guyana, in which 912 members of the People's Temple died after suicide orders were issued by leader Jim Jones, who they called "Dad." Those who refused to drink the cyanide-laced punch were forced to drink at gunpoint or shot. Mothers administered the poison to their babies using eye-droppers. Of the 912 dead, 276 were children.

Jones ordered the deaths after People's Temple members killed Congressman Leo Ryan, who had gone to Jonestown on a fact-finding mission. After only a day at the Jonestown compound, a member tried to stab Ryan. The injury was minor, but Ryan decided to leave and a couple dozen People's Temple members decided to leave with him. Other members followed the group to the airstrip and opened fire, killing Ryan, three journalists, and one of the departing members.

Within a few months of the mass deaths, other People's Temple members who had survived also committed suicide, with one mother slitting the throats of her three children.

A year later, ex-People's Temple members Jeanne and Al Mills, who had been speaking out about their cult experience, were shot to death along with their daughter in their Berkeley, CA home. They had become among the most vocal People's Temple critics and feared for their safety.

Each year, a memorial is held at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, CA where 260 People's Temple children are buried. Due to the lack of dental records, the children were never able to be identified and thus were buried together there.

In memory of the tragedies at and surrounding Jonestown, especially for the children who suffered, FACTNet presents the following informational web sites with the heartfelt hope that public awareness of the severe dangers of cults may help avert similar future devastation.

FACTNet links

Death at Jonestown

Jonestown: The day I should have died

An extensive collection of U.S. State Departmentrecords on Jonestown and the Peoples Temple

Jonestown: A Tragedy Made in San Francisco

A collection of writings on Jonestown, compiled by researchers in Rice University's Religious Studies Department:

Making Sense of the Nonsensical: An Analysis of Jonestown

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