FBI File on Jonestown

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The People’s Temple - a religious cult started by the Reverend Jim Jones - flourished in San Francisco in the 1970s. In 1977, Jones convinced his followers to move to Jonestown, Guyana. Congressman Leo Ryan went on a fact-finding visit to Guyana in 1978 to check on the activities of the People’s Temple and Jones. When Ryan attempted to leave Jonestown with four members of Jones’s cult of followers, Jones ordered Ryan and the four others killed. After the murders, Jones believed the future of his cult would be threatened. He convinced his 913 followers, including 276 children, to kill themselves. Following the mass suicide, Jones apparently killed himself with a shotgun. Jones’s suicide note is preserved in this file.

Following the news of the mass suicide that took place soon after Ryan’s murder, rumors spread that Jim Jones left instructions for assassinations to take place inside the United States, and that he created a "hit list" of targets, including government officials and defectors from the People’s Temple.

The summary reports of these interviews represent the bulk of the file. They contain a great deal of information concerning the inner workings and activities of the cult in the United States, including arms smuggling, drug trafficking, and planning terrorist attacks. Reports of eyewitness accounts of Congressman Leo Ryan’s murder and a complete case summary are also included in the file. The FBI File on Jonestown also provides insight into the 1970s culture of paranoia in the wake of the Manson Family murders and the Hearst kidnapping, both of which are referenced in the file in relation to Jones and the People’s Temple.

This is a tremendous resource for those studying late twentieth-century alternative religious movements and their relationships with the federal government.

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