Monday, March 25, 2013

A Staged Vat of Poison: Images of a Movable Feast

Bodies of members of the Peoples Temple who died after their leader Jim Jones ordered them to drink a cyanide-laced beverage. The vat that contained the poison is in the foreground.
Frank Johnston—AP/Wide World Photos

Title: Jonestown Mass Suicide
Caption: JONESTOWN, GUYANA - 1978: People lie on the ground dead from being forced to commit suicide. Over 900 people died by the direction of Rev. Jim Jones. (Photo by Frank Johnston/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Photo flipped

FILE--Bodies are strewn around the Jonestown Commune in Jonestown, Guyana where more than 900 members of the People's Temple committed suicide in Nov. 1978. The Rev. Jim Jones urged his disciples to drink cyanide-laced grape punch. Jones, who was among those who died, led the Peoples Temple, which ran a free clinic and a drug rehabilitation program.(AP Photo/file) 1978 file photo
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November 22, 1978, The Bryan Times, UPI, Dignitaries attend closed-casket services for Rep. Leo Ryan, by H.D. Quigg,

The interview was the day before, or Tuesday, or in other words, three days after the mass suicide

November 22, 1978, The Toledo Blade, page 4, Cult leader Was Obsessed With Ego, Power, Son Says,

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) -- The son of cult leader Jim Jonas said Tuesday that his father was a sick man, a "man obsessed... a very frightened man," but he held enormous sway over his devoted disciples.

Stephen Jones, 19, said he and his mother recently had tried to keep his father, 46, out of the sect's decision making process, but they failed.

Stephen praised the communal life of the camp, but he said it was flawed by a growing paranoia and the egotism of his father.

"I feel Jim Jones was a man obsessed with his own ego and power. There were woman up there who worshiped him," he told reporters.

"My father was not a well man. He took many drugs for his ailments, and Mother and I tried to isolate him from decision making."

A San Francisco physician who treated Jim Jonas has confirmed that the religious leader was seriously ill, but the doctor would not specify the illness.

On Jones' orders more than 400 residents of the jungle camp of the People's Temple committed suicide Saturday. Jim Jones and his wife were among the dead.

Stephen, who came here from Jonestown three weeks ago as coach of the camp's basketball team, said his major concern now is the well-being of survivors, but he said it seems impossible to continue the settlement at Jonestown.

"I can't believe that this was a voluntary suicide," Stephen said. "There had to be the use of force, although some of it was blind loyalty."

Had he been in Jonestown, he said, he might have been able to talk his father out of ordering the deaths. If this failed, he said, h would have stood up and discredited and denounced his father to try to persuade people he was wrong.

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