Jonestown: How The Rev. Jim Jones Convinced Hundreds to Die for Him


“Drinking the Kool-Aid” — meaning a total, unquestioning obedience to a person or a cause — gets heedlessly bandied around in present-day “post-truth” political discussions.

Seems like an appropriate time to reflect on the phrase’s horrific origin, which occurred 40 years ago when more than 900 members of the Rev. Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple died from drinking Kool-Aid laced with potassium cyanide and other toxins. Most perished willingly at Jones’ behest, while others — mostly infants and elderly people — had the poison forced on them.

SundanceTV’s two-night documentary Jonestown: Terror in the Jungle (Nov. 17-18 at 9pm ET/PT) examines how Jones transformed his Peoples Temple from an inclusive church in Indianapolis to a socialist commune ruled by fear and violence in the remote jungles of Guyana. With stunning archival footage and new interviews with survivors, former Temple members, and Jones’ own family, this is the definitive account of the Jonestown massacre. It’s also a study of how a cult of personality can convince rational people to commit the ultimate act of loyalty. 

False Prophet: The Words Of The Rev. Jim Jones

“I’ll get you on that Greyhound bus, even if you don’t have a penny! And I’ll give you the finest room you ever saw! Just get on my bus, and I’ll take you to the promised land!”

“And I must say it is a great effort to be God. I’d wish it upon another, but no one else has the faculty that I do. In the meantime, I shall be God, and beside me there shall be no other.”

“The lies are so incredible that anybody with the right mind would not believe them. The best thing to do with newspapers is to wipe your ass with them!”

“If we can’t live in peace, then let’s die in peace!”

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About Ryan Berenz 2041 Articles
Devotee of Star Wars. Builder of LEGO. Observer of televised sports. Member of the Television Critics Association. Graduate of the University of Wisconsin. Connoisseur of beer. Consumer of cheese. Father of two. Husband of one. Scourge of the Alaskan Bush People. Font of Simpsons knowledge. Son of a Stonecutter.