I’m sure you’ve used the phrase “drinking the kool-aid” before, but you might not know that the origin of that phrase is derived from the mass murder-suicide of 900 individuals in Jonestown, Guyana.
Jim Jones was a civil rights activist before he was a cult leader. Jones was active in the desegregation of Indiana, founded the first mixed-race church in the midwest, and worked with numerous charities promoting cultural equality.
Jones digressed from mission work and started doing radical Christian preaching sessions. He would gather hundreds to thousands of people and “exercise” the devil himself from poor unsuspecting people. He was also known for his ability to “pull cancer out of peoples bodies,” which was really just raw, rotten chicken that he kept hidden under his sleeve.
Over time, Jones became paranoid and unhinged, distrustful of the world around him. He had amassed a signific ant following by this time and began to preach about the “reckoning,” which is more commonly known as a religious apocalypse.
Turns out, Jones was using religion as bait to attract radical socialists to exchange political beliefs with him, which is all well and good until he began to shroud his church of people from the news and shunned those who defected. Jones moved his cult to Guyana after news of abuse and scandals got out about his church. This is when Jones’s followers were transitioned from community members to cult members.
Jones bought a plot of land in Guyana that he aptly named “Jonestown.” Over 1,000 members of his community group in the states followed him over, where they worked in concentration camp style labor environments for long hours, while Jones preached radicalism to them.
An American journalist and former People’s Temple member named Leo Ryan showed up in Jonestown with members of the press, to report on an interview with Jim Jones. This set Jones into a frenzy, despite the journalists complimenting the quarters and work-life balance of the members of Jones’s cult. This was likely just the breaking point for Jones, he panicked and planned a drastic course of action.
Jones attacked Leo Ryan and the rest of the journalists that were present, killing all of them. Promptly after that, most likely panicking because he feared the implications that would have come from the US government, Jones poisoned a vat of kool-aid with cyanide. Jones invited his entire cult to come drink from the vat, stating that authorities would be arriving to kill them at any moment. Jones made people believe that they would die, either way, so over 900 members drank from the poisoned vat, including Jones himself, knowing that it would kill them. Only 33 people survived. Those who refused to drink the kool-aid were shot.