According to The Atlantic, the mass murder-suicide he orchestrated in his commune in Guyana that he called Jamestown resulted in the deaths of 918 people, a third of them children.
Teri Buford O’Shea, a member of Jones’ Peoples Temple who fled the commune just weeks before the event, said that the cult leader conducted suicided drills that he called White Nights, in which he would trick his followers into believing that Black people were being herded into concentration camps in the United States and that U.S. agents were on their way to Guyana to kill them. He even had people fire guns in the jungle and shoot actors with rubber bullets to add a sense of realism.
That fateful night in 1978 began similarly to other White Nights, but this time, it was no drill. The Washington Post reports that Jones left behind an audio recording of the group’s final moments, in which his followers can be heard wailing in pain, some even arguing with him about the necessity of the mass murder-suicide. Weeks later, his autopsy report would also reveal disturbing details about the final moments of Jim Jones and his unfortunate followers.
Jim Jones didn’t wait to die painfully by cyanide poisoning
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Although he had his followers drink Flavor-Aid laced with cyanide, and give it to their unwilling children, Jim Jones opted for a different method of suicide for himself. According to The New York Times, his autopsy report revealed that he had died from a gunshot wound to the head.
A specialist who examined the body said that it was certain that Jones’ wound was self-inflicted. However, the same could not be said about a nurse in the cult named Anne Elizabeth Moore. The doctors were able to tell that she had been shot from point-blank range, but the advanced state of decomposition of the body by the time they made their examination and other factors made it impossible to tell if she had committed suicide or been murdered.
One forensic pathologist from Guyana said that his examination of Jones’ body in that country led him to suspect that the cult leader had been murdered. However, the results of the official autopsy performed in the United States — that Jones committed suicide — have been widely accepted as the official explanation.