A cult leader kills one of his followers

A cult leader kills one of his followers

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Roch Theriault fatally wounds Solange Boislard in Ontario, Canada. Theriault, the leader of the most bizarre and violent cult in Canadian history, often physically abused his followers. Obsessed with anatomy and medicine, Theriault performed crude intestinal surgery on Boislard by slicing open her abdomen and ripping out a piece of intestine with his bare hands. He then ordered another follower to stitch up the wound with a needle and thread. When she died the next day in agonizing pain, he sawed off the top of her head, and then sexually assaulted her. Before burying the woman, he removed a rib, which he wore around his neck.

Theriault was arrested and charged with murder the following year after another cult member, whose arm had been hacked off by Theriault with a meat cleaver, told hospital authorities what had happened. At his trial in 1993, even more horrific tales came to light. The cult leader had burned women with a welding torch, put vice-grips on their nipples, and cut their fingers off with a wire cutter. The alcoholic and delusional Theriault apparently thought he was driving the devil out of them.

Theriault also demanded sex from all of the women members in an attempt to increase the number of cult members through children. After a new member of the cult, an escapee from a mental hospital, beat a child at the compound, Theriault performed “surgery” on the child. When the child then died, Theriault castrated the man as punishment. After authorities learned about some of the activities at the ranch, they removed all of the children.

The 1993 trial came to an abrupt end when Theriault pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison and remained incarcerated until his death, in February of 2011.

Adolfo Constanzo

Adolfo de Jesús Constanzo (November 1, 1962 – May 6, 1989) was a Cuban-American serial killer, drug dealer, and cult leader who led an infamous gang that was dubbed the Narcosatanists (Spanish: Los Narcosatánicos) by the media. [1] His cult members nicknamed him The Godfather (El Padrino). Constanzo led the cult with Sara Aldrete, whom followers nicknamed "The Godmother" (La Madrina). The cult was involved in multiple ritualistic killings in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, including the murder of Mark Kilroy, an American student killed in Matamoros in 1989.

10 The Children of God

David Berg formed one of history&rsquos most infamous cults, The Children of God, in the 1960s. What made the cult&rsquos beliefs deviate from mainstream religion was its fine blend of promiscuous sex and worship of Jesus Christ. In the 1970s, the group even adopted an evangelic approach dubbed &ldquoflirty fishing.&rdquo Leaders encouraged young females in the cult to have sex with potential converts to win them over. This resulted in many female members working as prostitutes.

The Children of God grew to over 130 communities across the globe and had over 10,000 dedicated members in the 1970s. It discouraged children from attending any form of formal schooling since they believed the apocalypse was imminent. They also taught that kids should only involve themselves in eschewing the world to yearn for the kingdom of God. The CIA and Interpol began investigating sexual abuse allegations made by members against Berg. The following year, Berg died, but the group continued as The Family International until 2010.


James Warren Jones was born on May 13, 1931, in a rural area of Crete, Indiana, [1] [2] to James Thurman Jones, a World War I veteran, and Lynetta Putnam. [3] [4] Jones was of Irish and Welsh descent [5] he later claimed partial Cherokee ancestry through his mother, but his maternal second cousin said this was untrue. [5] [note 1] In 1934, the economic difficulties during the Great Depression forced the family to move to the nearby town of Lynn, where Jones grew up in a shack without plumbing. [6] [7]

Jones was a voracious reader who studied Joseph Stalin, Karl Marx, Mao Zedong, Mahatma Gandhi, and Adolf Hitler. [8] He also developed an intense interest in religion. One writer suggests this was primarily because he found it difficult to make friends. [5] Childhood acquaintances recalled Jones as a "really weird kid" who was obsessed with religion and death, alleging that he frequently held funerals for small animals on his parents' property and that he had stabbed a cat to death. [9] One childhood acquaintance noted that, after German prisoners-of-war arrived in Lynn during World War II, one patted young Jones on the back of the head, to which he responded by giving the Nazi salute and shouting "Heil Hitler!" [10]

Jones and a childhood friend both claimed his father was associated with the Ku Klux Klan, which had become very popular in Depression-era Indiana. [7] Jones recounted how he and his father argued on the issue of race, and how he did not speak with his father for "many, many years" after he refused to allow one of Jones's black friends into his house. Jones's parents separated, and Jones relocated with his mother to Richmond, Indiana. [11] In December 1948, he graduated from Richmond High School early with honors. [12]

To support himself, Jones worked as an orderly at Richmond's Reid Hospital and was well-regarded by the senior management. However, staff members later recalled Jones exhibiting disturbing behavior one former co-worker of Jones, with whom he had been childhood friends, recalled an incident where Jones manhandled a patient in traction while dry shaving him, resulting in the patient's injury with a straight razor, and then gave a menacing look at the co-worker. [13] It was at Reid Hospital where Jones met nurse Marceline Baldwin, whom he married in 1949. She would die with him at Jonestown. [9]

Jones and his wife relocated to Bloomington, Indiana, where he attended Indiana University Bloomington. There he was impressed with a speech by Eleanor Roosevelt about the plight of African-Americans. [9] In 1951, the couple relocated to Indianapolis. Jones attended Indiana University for two years and then took night classes at Butler University, earning a degree in secondary education in 1961—ten years after enrolling. [14]

Beginnings in Indianapolis, Indiana Edit

In 1951, 20-year-old Jones began attending gatherings of the Communist Party USA in Indianapolis. [15] He became flustered with harassment during the McCarthy Hearings, [15] particularly regarding an event that he attended with his mother focusing on Paul Robeson, after which she was harassed by FBI agents in front of her co-workers for attending. [16] Jones also became frustrated with the persecution of open and accused communists in the U.S., especially during the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. [17] Jones said he asked himself, "How can I demonstrate my Marxism? The thought was, infiltrate the church." [15] [16]

Jones was surprised when a Methodist district superintendent helped him get a start in the church, even though he knew Jones to be a communist. [17] In 1952, he became a student pastor at the Sommerset Southside Methodist Church, but later claimed he left the church because its leaders forbade him from integrating blacks into his congregation. [15] Around this time, Jones witnessed a faith-healing service at a Seventh Day Baptist Church. [15] He observed that it attracted people and their money, and concluded that he could accomplish his social goals with financial resources from such services. [15]

Jones organized a mammoth religious convention to take place June 11–15, 1956, in Indianapolis' Cadle Tabernacle. Needing a well-known religious figure to draw crowds, he arranged to share the pulpit with Rev. William M. Branham, a healing evangelist and religious author who was as highly revered as Oral Roberts. [4] Jones was able to begin his own church after the convention, which had various names until it became the Peoples Temple Christian Church Full Gospel, later shortened to the Peoples Temple. [15] He was ordained as a minister in 1957 by the Independent Assemblies of God and in 1964 by the Disciples of Christ. [note 2]

Jones was known to regularly study Adolf Hitler and Father Divine to learn how to manipulate members of the Peoples Temple. Divine told Jones personally to "find an enemy" and "to make sure they know who the enemy is" as it will unify those in the group and make them subservient to him. [20]

Racial integrationist Edit

The New York Times reported that, in 1953: [21]

[D]eclaring that he was outraged at what he perceived as racial discrimination in his white congregation, Mr. Jones established his own church and pointedly opened it to all ethnic groups. To raise money, he imported monkeys and sold them door to door as pets.

In 1960, Indianapolis Mayor Charles Boswell appointed Jones director of the local Human Rights Commission. [22] Jones ignored Boswell's advice to keep a low profile, however, finding new outlets for his views on local radio and television programs. [22] The mayor and other commissioners asked him to curtail his public actions, but he resisted. Jones was wildly cheered at a meeting of the NAACP and Urban League when he yelled for his audience to be more militant, and then climaxed with, "Let my people go!". [23]

During this time, Jones also helped to racially integrate churches, restaurants, the telephone company, the Indianapolis Police Department, a theater, an amusement park, and the Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital. [15] Swastikas were painted on the homes of two black families, and Jones walked through the neighborhood comforting the local black community and counseling white families not to move. [24] He also set up sting operations to catch restaurants refusing to serve black customers [24] and wrote to American Nazi Party leaders, passing their responses to the media. [25] Jones was accidentally placed in the black ward of a hospital after a collapse in 1961, but refused to be moved he began to make the beds and empty the bedpans of black patients. Political pressures resulting from Jones's actions caused hospital officials to desegregate the wards. [26]

Jones received considerable criticism in Indiana for his integrationist views. [15] Likewise, white-owned businesses and locals were critical of him. [24] Among other incidents, a swastika was placed on the Temple, a stick of dynamite was left in a Temple coal pile, and a dead cat was thrown at Jones's house after a threatening phone call. [25]

"Rainbow Family" Edit

Jones and his wife adopted several non-white children, referring to the household as his "rainbow family", [27] and stating: "Integration is a more personal thing with me now. It's a question of my son's future." [9] He also portrayed the Temple as a "rainbow family".

In 1954 the Joneses adopted Agnes, who was part Native American. [9] [15] [28] In 1959, they adopted three Korean-American children named Lew, Stephanie, and Suzanne, the latter of whom was adopted at age six, [28] and encouraged Temple members to adopt orphans from war-ravaged Korea. [29] Jones was critical of U.S. opposition to North Korean leader Kim Il-sung, calling the Korean War a "war of liberation" and stating that South Korea "is a living example of all that socialism in the north has overcome." [30]

In June 1959 Jones and his wife had their only biological child, naming him Stephan Gandhi. [15] In 1961, they became the first white couple in Indiana to adopt a black child, naming him Jim Jones Jr. (or James Warren Jones Jr.). [31] They also adopted a white son, originally named Timothy Glen Tupper (shortened to Tim), [15] whose birth mother was a member of the Temple. [9]

Travel to Brazil Edit

Jones traveled with his family to Belo Horizonte, Brazil, with the idea of setting up a new Temple location, after preaching at the Temple about the fears of nuclear war and reading an article in the January 1962 issue of Esquire magazine which listed the city as a safe harbor in the event of an atomic exchange. [32] On his way to Brazil, Jones made his first trip to Guyana, which at the time was still a British colony. [33]

Jones' family rented a modest three-bedroom home in Belo Horizonte. [34] Jones studied the local economy and receptiveness of racial minorities to his message, although language remained a barrier. [35] He also explored local Brazilian syncretistic religions. [36] Careful not to portray himself as a communist in a foreign territory, he spoke of an apostolic communal lifestyle rather than of Castro or Marx. [37] Ultimately, the lack of resources in Belo Horizonte led the family to move to Rio de Janeiro in mid-1963, [38] where they worked with the poor in the favelas. [38]

Jones became plagued by guilt for effectively abandoning the civil rights struggle in Indiana and possibly losing what he had tried to build there. [38] His associate preachers in Indiana told him the Temple was about to collapse without him, so he returned. [39]

Move to California Edit

Jones returned from Brazil in December 1963 [40] and told his Indiana congregation that the world would be engulfed by nuclear war on July 15, 1967, leading to a new socialist Eden on Earth, and that the Temple had to move to Northern California for safety. [15] [21] Accordingly, the Temple began moving to Redwood Valley, California, near the city of Ukiah. [15]

According to religious studies professor Catherine Wessinger, Jones always spoke of the Social Gospel's virtues, but chose to conceal that his gospel was actually communism until the late 1960s. [15] By that time, he began partially revealing the details of his "Apostolic Socialism" concept in Temple sermons. [15] Jones also taught that "those who remained drugged with the opiate of religion had to be brought to enlightenment—socialism." [41] He often mixed these ideas, once preaching: [42]

If you're born in capitalist America, racist America, fascist America, then you're born in sin. But if you're born in socialism, you're not born in sin.

By the early 1970s, Jones began deriding Christianity as "fly away religion", rejecting the Bible as being a tool to oppress women and non-whites, and denouncing a "Sky God" who was no God at all. [15] He wrote a booklet titled "The Letter Killeth", criticizing the King James Bible. [43] Jones also began preaching that he was the reincarnation of Father Divine, Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus, Gautama Buddha, and Vladimir Lenin. Former Temple member Hue Fortson Jr. quoted him as saying: [9]

What you need to believe in is what you can see. If you see me as your friend, I'll be your friend. As you see me as your father, I'll be your father, for those of you that don't have a father. If you see me as your savior, I'll be your savior. If you see me as your God, I'll be your God.

In a 1976 phone conversation with John Maher, Jones alternately said he was an agnostic and an atheist. [44] Marceline admitted in a 1977 New York Times interview that Jones was trying to promote Marxism in the U.S. by mobilizing people through religion, citing Mao Zedong as his inspiration: "Jim used religion to try to get some people out of the opiate of religion." [21] He had slammed the Bible on the table yelling "I've got to destroy this paper idol!" [21] In one sermon, Jones said: [45]

You're gonna help yourself, or you'll get no help! There's only one hope of glory that's within you! Nobody's gonna come out of the sky! There's no heaven up there! We'll have to make heaven down here!

Focus on San Francisco Edit

Within five years of moving to California, the Temple experienced a period of exponential growth and opened branches in cities including San Fernando, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. By the early 1970s, Jones began shifting his focus to major cities across California because of limited expansion opportunities in Ukiah. He eventually moved the Temple's headquarters to San Francisco, which was a major center for radical protest movements. Jones and the Temple soon became influential in city politics, culminating in the Temple's instrumental role in George Moscone's election as mayor in 1975. Moscone subsequently appointed Jones as the chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission. [9]

Jones was able to gain contact with prominent politicians at the local and national level. For example, he and Moscone met privately with vice presidential candidate Walter Mondale on his campaign plane days before the 1976 election, leading Mondale to publicly praise the Temple. [46] [47] First Lady Rosalynn Carter also met with Jones on multiple occasions, corresponded with him about Cuba, and spoke with him at the grand opening of the San Francisco headquarters—where he received louder applause than she did. [46] [48] [49]

In September 1976, Assemblyman Willie Brown served as master of ceremonies at a large testimonial dinner for Jones attended by Governor Jerry Brown and Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally. [50] At that dinner, Brown touted Jones as "what you should see every day when you look in the mirror" and said he was a combination of Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, Albert Einstein, and [Mao Zedong]. [51] Harvey Milk spoke to audiences during political rallies held at the Temple, [52] and he wrote to Jones after one such visit: [53] [54]

Rev Jim, It may take me many a day to come back down from the high that I reach today. I found something dear today. I found a sense of being that makes up for all the hours and energy placed in a fight. I found what you wanted me to find. I shall be back. For I can never leave.

Jones hosted local political figures, including Davis, at his San Francisco apartment for discussions. [55] He spoke with publisher Carlton Goodlett of the Sun-Reporter newspaper about his remorse over not being able to travel to socialist countries such as China and the Soviet Union, speculating that he could be Chief Dairyman of the U.S.S.R. [56] Jones' criticisms led to increased tensions with the Nation of Islam, so he spoke at a large rally in the Los Angeles Convention Center that was attended by many of his closest political acquaintances, hoping to close the rift between the two groups. [57]

Jones also forged alliances with key columnists and others at the San Francisco Chronicle and other press outlets, [58] although the move to San Francisco also brought increasing media scrutiny. Encountering resistance by his editors to publishing an investigative piece about the Temple, Chronicle reporter Marshall Kilduff brought his story to New West magazine. [59] In the summer of 1977, Jones and several hundred followers abruptly decided to move to the Temple's communal settlement in Guyana – officially called the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, but informally known as "Jonestown" – after they learned the contents of Kilduff's article, which included allegations by Temple defectors of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. [49] [60]

Jones had started building Jonestown several years before the New West article was published. It was promoted as a means to create both a "socialist paradise" and a "sanctuary" from the media scrutiny in San Francisco. [61] Jones purported to establish it as a model communist community, adding that the Temple comprised "the purest communists there are". [62] Jones did not permit members to leave the settlement. [63]

Religious scholar Mary McCormick Maaga argues that Jones's authority decreased after the exodus to Jonestown because he was not needed for recruitment and he could not hide his drug addiction from rank-and-file members. [64] In spite of the allegations prior to Jones's departure, he was still respected by some for setting up a racially integrated church which helped the disadvantaged 68% of Jonestown residents were black. [65] Jones began to propagate his belief in what he termed "Translation" once his followers settled in Jonestown, claiming that he and his followers would all die together, move to another planet, and live blissfully. [66]

New children Edit

Jones claimed he was the biological father of a child named John Victor Stoen, though the birth certificate listed Temple attorney Timothy Stoen and his wife Grace as the parents of the child. [67] The Temple repeatedly claimed that Jones fathered the child in 1971 when Stoen had requested that Jones have sex with Grace to keep her from defecting. [68] Grace left the Temple in 1976 and began divorce proceedings the following year. Jones ordered Stoen to take the boy to Guyana in February 1977 in order to avoid a custody dispute with Grace. [69] After Stoen himself defected in June 1977, the Temple kept the child in Jonestown. [70] Jones also fathered Jim Jon (Kimo) with Temple member Carolyn Layton. [71]

Pressure and waning political support Edit

In the autumn of 1977, Timothy Stoen and other Temple defectors formed a "Concerned Relatives" group because they had family members remaining in Jonestown. [72] Stoen traveled to Washington, D.C., in January 1978 to visit with State Department officials and members of Congress, and wrote a white paper detailing his grievances against Jones and the Temple. [73] His efforts aroused the curiosity of California Congressman Leo Ryan, who wrote a letter on Stoen's behalf to Guyanese Prime Minister Forbes Burnham. [74] The Concerned Relatives also began a legal battle with the Temple over the custody of Stoen's son. [75]

Most of Jones's political allies broke ties after his departure, [76] though some did not. Willie Brown spoke out against enemies [ who? ] at a rally that was attended by Harvey Milk and Assemblyman Art Agnos. [77] On February 19, 1978, Milk wrote a letter to U.S. President Jimmy Carter defending Jones as "a man of the highest character", and claimed that Temple defectors were trying to "damage Rev. Jones's reputation" with "apparent bold-faced lies". [78] Mayor Moscone's office issued a press release saying Jones had broken no laws. [79]

On April 11, 1978, the Concerned Relatives distributed a packet of documents, letters, and affidavits to the Peoples Temple, members of the press, and members of Congress which they titled an "Accusation of Human Rights Violations by Rev. James Warren Jones". [80] In June 1978, escaped Temple member Deborah Layton provided the group with a further affidavit detailing crimes by the Temple and substandard living conditions in Jonestown. [81]

Jones was facing increasing scrutiny in the summer of 1978 when he hired JFK assassination conspiracy theorists Mark Lane and Donald Freed to help make the case of a "grand conspiracy" against the Temple by U.S. intelligence agencies. Jones told Lane that he wanted to "pull an Eldridge Cleaver", referring to a fugitive member of the Black Panthers who was able to return to the U.S. after rebuilding his reputation. [82]

In November 1978, Congressman Ryan led a fact-finding mission to Jonestown to investigate allegations of human-rights abuses. [83] His delegation included relatives of Temple members, an NBC camera crew, and reporters for various newspapers. [84] The group arrived in the Guyanese capital of Georgetown on November 15. [83] Two days later, they traveled by airplane to Port Kaituma, then were transported to Jonestown in a tractor transporter. [85] Jones hosted a reception for the delegation that evening at the central pavilion in Jonestown, during which Temple member Vernon Gosney passed a note meant for Ryan to NBC reporter Don Harris, requesting assistance for himself and another Temple member, Monica Bagby, in leaving the settlement.

Ryan's delegation left hurriedly the afternoon of November 18, after Temple member Don Sly attacked the congressman with a knife, though the attack was thwarted. [86] Ryan and his delegation managed to take along fifteen Temple members who had expressed a wish to leave, [87] and Jones made no attempt to prevent their departure at that time. [88]

Port Kaituma Airstrip shootings Edit

As members of Ryan's delegation boarded two planes at the Port Kaituma airstrip, Jones's armed guards, called the "Red Brigade" – led by Joe Wilson, Thomas Kice Sr. and Ronnie Dennis – arrived on a tractor and trailer and began shooting at them. [89] The gunmen killed Ryan and four others near a Guyana Airways Twin Otter aircraft. [90] At the same time, one of the supposed defectors, Larry Layton, drew a weapon and began firing on members of the party inside the other plane, a Cessna, which included Gosney and Bagby. [91] NBC cameraman Bob Brown was able to capture footage of the first few seconds of the shooting at the Otter, just before he himself was killed by the gunmen. [90]

The five killed at the airstrip were Ryan Harris Brown San Francisco Examiner photographer Greg Robinson and Temple member Patricia Parks. [90] Surviving the attack were future Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a Ryan staff member Richard Dwyer, Deputy Chief of Mission from the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown Bob Flick, an NBC producer Steve Sung, an NBC sound engineer Tim Reiterman, an Examiner reporter Ron Javers, a Chronicle reporter Charles Krause, a Washington Post reporter and several defecting Temple members. [90]

Mass murder-suicide in Jonestown Edit

Later that same day, November 18, 1978, 909 inhabitants of Jonestown, [92] 304 of them children, died of apparent cyanide poisoning, mostly in and around the central pavilion. [93] This resulted in the greatest single loss of American civilian life (murder and suicide, though not on American soil) in a deliberate act until September 11, 2001. [94] The FBI later recovered a 45-minute audio recording of the mass poisoning in progress. [95]

On that tape, Jones tells Temple members that the Soviet Union, with whom the Temple had been negotiating a potential exodus for months, would not give them passage after the airstrip shooting. The reason given by Jones to commit suicide was consistent with his previously stated conspiracy theories of intelligence organizations allegedly conspiring against the Temple, that men would "parachute in here on us". "shoot some of our innocent babies," and "they'll torture our children, they'll torture some of our people here, they'll torture our seniors." Jones's prior statements that hostile forces would convert captured children to fascism would lead many members, who strongly believed in the Temple's leftist ideology, to view the supposed suicide as valid. [96]

With that reasoning, Jones and several members argued that the group should commit "revolutionary suicide" by drinking cyanide-laced grape-flavored Flavor Aid. Later-released Temple films show Jones opening a storage container full of Kool-Aid in large quantities. However, empty packets of grape Flavor Aid found on the scene show that this is what was used to mix the solution, along with a sedative. Jones had taken large shipments of cyanide into Jonestown for several years prior to November 1978, having obtained a jeweler's license that would allow him to purchase the compound in bulk to purportedly clean gold. [97]

One Temple member, Christine Miller, dissents toward the beginning of the tape. [96] When members apparently cried, Jones counseled, "Stop these hysterics. This is not the way for people who are socialists or communists to die. No way for us to die. We must die with some dignity." Jones can be heard saying, "Don't be afraid to die" that death is "just stepping over into another plane" and that it's "a friend". Jones's wife Marceline apparently protested killing the children she was forcibly restrained and then joined the other adults in poisoning herself. At the end of the tape, Jones concludes: "We didn't commit suicide we committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world." [96]

According to Temple members Odell Rhodes and Stanley Clayton, who escaped the mass poisoning, children were given the Flavor Aid first by their own parents families were told to lie down together. Rhodes also reported being a close contact to dying children. [98] Mass suicide had been previously discussed in simulated events called "White Nights" on a regular basis. [81] [99] During at least one such prior White Night, members drank liquid that Jones falsely told them was poison. [81] [99]

Following the mass murder-suicide, Jones was found dead at the stage of the central pavilion he was resting on a pillow near his deck chair, with a gunshot wound to his head which Guyanese coroner Cyril Mootoo said was consistent with suicide. [100] Jones' body was later moved outside the pavilion for examination and embalming. The official autopsy conducted in December 1978 also confirms Jones' death as a suicide. His son Stephan believes his father may have directed someone else to shoot him, but this is speculation. [101] The autopsy also showed levels of the barbiturate pentobarbital in Jones' body, which may have been lethal to humans who had not developed physiological tolerance. [102] According to Jeff Guinn's book The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple, Jones’ body was cremated and his remains were scattered in the Atlantic Ocean.

While Jones banned extramarital sex among Temple members, he engaged in sexual relations with both male and female Temple members outside of his marriage to Marceline. [103] [104] His first known affair began in 1968 with Temple member Carolyn Layton, who remained with him until the events at Jonestown. Jones was also engaged in a relationship with Temple member Maria Katsaris, which began in 1974 and also lasted until the end. Jones had many other mistresses during the 1970s, both before the move to Jonestown and after.

The book The Road to Jonestown by Jeff Guinn states: "Jones had occasional sex with male followers" but "never as often as he did with women." Guinn states that Jones was most likely bisexual, but that his main physical and sexual attraction was towards women. Jones, however, claimed that he detested engaging in homosexual activity and did so only for the male temple adherents' own good, purportedly to connect them symbolically with himself. [103] Jones is on record as later telling his followers he was "the only true heterosexual". On December 13, 1973, he was arrested and charged with lewd conduct for masturbating in the presence of an undercover LAPD vice officer in a movie theater restroom near Los Angeles' MacArthur Park. [105]

Marceline Edit

On the final morning of Ryan's visit, Jones's wife Marceline took reporters on a tour of Jonestown. [106] Later in the day, she was found dead at the pavilion, having been poisoned. [107]

Surviving sons Edit

Stephan, Jim Jr., and Tim Jones survived the events of November 18, 1978, because, being members of the Peoples Temple's basketball team, they were playing an away game in Georgetown at the time of the mass poisoning. [15] [108] Stephan and Tim were both 19, and Jim Jones Jr. was 18. [109] Tim's biological family, the Tuppers, which consisted of his three biological sisters, Janet, [110] Mary [111] and Ruth, [112] biological brother, Larry [113] and biological mother, Rita, [114] all died at Jonestown. Three days before the tragedy, Stephan refused, over the radio, to comply with an order by his father to return the team to Jonestown for Ryan's visit. [115]

During the events at Jonestown, Stephan, Tim, and Jim Jones Jr. drove to the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown in an attempt to receive help. Guyanese soldiers guarding the embassy refused to let them in after hearing about the shootings at the Port Kaituma airstrip. [116] Later, the three returned to the Temple's headquarters in Georgetown to find the bodies of Sharon Amos and her three children, Liane, Christa and Martin. [116] Guyanese soldiers kept the Jones brothers under house arrest for five days, interrogating them about the deaths in Georgetown. [116]

Stephan was accused of being involved in the Georgetown deaths and was placed in a Guyanese prison for three months. [116] Tim and Johnny Cobb, another member of the Temple basketball team, were asked to go to Jonestown and help identify bodies. [116] After returning to the U.S., Jim Jones Jr. was placed under police surveillance for several months while he lived with his older sister, Suzanne, who had previously turned against the Temple. [116]

When Jonestown was first being established, Stephan had originally avoided two attempts by his father to relocate him to Jonestown. He eventually moved to Jonestown after a third attempt. He has since stated that he gave in to his father's wishes because of his mother. [118] Stephan is now a businessman and married with three daughters. Although he has appeared in the documentary Jonestown: Paradise Lost, which aired on the History Channel and Discovery Channel, he has stated he will not watch it and has never grieved for his father. [119] One year later, Stephan appeared in the documentary Witness to Jonestown where he responds to rare footage shot inside the Temple. [120]

Jim Jones Jr., who lost his wife and unborn child at Jonestown, returned to San Francisco. He remarried and has three sons from this marriage, [108] including Rob Jones, a high-school basketball star who went on to play for the University of San Diego before transferring to Saint Mary's College of California. [121]

Lew, Agnes, and Suzanne Jones Edit

Lew and Agnes Jones both died at Jonestown. Agnes was 35 years old at the time of her death. [122] Her husband Forrest, [123] and four children, Billy, [124] Jimbo, [125] Michael [126] and Stephanie, [127] all died at Jonestown. Lew, who was 21 years old at the time of his death, died alongside his wife Terry and son Chaeoke. [128] [129] [130] Stephanie Jones had died at age five in a car accident in May 1959. [15]

Suzanne Jones married Mike Cartmell they both turned against the Temple and were not in Jonestown on November 18, 1978. After this decision to abandon the Temple, Jones referred to Suzanne openly as "my damned, no-good-for-nothing daughter" and said she was not to be trusted. [131] In a signed note found at the time of her death, Marceline directed that the Joneses' funds were to be given to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and specified: "I especially request that none of these are allowed to get into the hands of my adopted daughter, Suzanne Jones Cartmell." [132] [133] Cartmell had two children and died of colon cancer in November 2006. [134] [135]

John Stoen and Kimo Edit

Specific references to Timothy Stoen, the father of John Victor Stoen, including the logistics of possibly murdering him, are made on the Temple's final "death tape", as well as a discussion over whether the Temple should include John Victor among those committing "revolutionary suicide". [96] At Jonestown, John Victor Stoen was found poisoned inside Jones's cabin. [75]

Jim Jon (Kimo) and his mother, Carolyn Layton, both died during the events at Jonestown. [136]

Marcus Wesson’s Sordid History

Marcus Wesson did not begin his history of sexual abuse with his daughters and nieces. It had begun when he met his legal wife, Elizabeth Wesson, at the age of eight and married her at the age of fifteen. Elizabeth said in an interview that at eight-years-old, Wesson told her, “I belonged to him. And that I was his wife already.” She spoke further about Wesson’s relationship with her as a child. Wesson had convinced her that: “That she was special. And that the Lord chose me to be his wife.”

By the age of fourteen, Elizabeth was pregnant. And by the age of twenty-six, she had given birth to eleven children.

YouTube Elizabeth Wesson as a teenager. She was the legal wife of Marcus Wesson.

Wesson’s sons had a completely different experience than his daughters, as they had claimed that their father raised them as Seventh-Day Adventists, and that, “he’s the best dad anybody could ever have.” One son, Serafino Wesson, expressed disbelief that his father was the killer, as he stated that, “he looks really dangerous … but he’s such a gentle guy, I can’t believe he did it.” The Wesson sons were raised away from their sisters, as contact between the sexes was discouraged. As a result, the male children of the Wesson clan knew very little about the twisted goings-on between their father and sisters.

And on that fateful day, when Sofina Solorio and Ruby Ortiz had come to knock on the door of the Wesson clan home, they had heard that Marcus Wesson was about to move the entire family to Washington State.

In fear of losing all contact with their children, Sofina and Ruby rushed to demand custody of their sons. When they left their sons in Wesson’s care, they claimed that he had given his word that he would do right by their children. But instead, their entire future was torn apart in a hail of gunfire. And in the ensuing murder trial, Marcus Wesson had been sentenced to be put to death by lethal injection. He currently resides in San Quentin State Prison on death row.

After learning about the horrific crimes of Marcus Wesson, read about the massacre at Jonestown, one of the largest cult massacres of all time. Then, read about the cult of the Branch Davidians, led by David Koresh.

6. The Bride of Christ Church

You may have heard of the phrase “Holy Roller” used to describe an overly enthusiastic Christian person who is overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. But that was an actual nickname of a cult. In 1903, an Oregon man named Edmund Creffield found local Pentecostal Christians to join his own sect of Christianity called The Bride of Christ Church. His followers were mostly women, and they gave up all of their money to be part of the group. Creffield would instruct them to roll around on the floor while they prayed. This would disorient them, and he had sex with many of his female followers, claiming that they would give birth to the second coming of Christ. When the men in town found out what he was doing, Creffield was tarred and feathered, but his followers remained loyal.

Since they didn’t have much money, the followers were forced to steal peaches from a nearby orchard to stay alive. In the end, Creffield served time in jail, but many of the women were still devoted to him. One of the women shot and killed him. After his death, one of the followers committed suicide, and another was sent to an insane asylum, because she was trying to kill herself in a ritualistic suicide, too.

(Photo: Facebook/Impulso News)

One of the most famous cult leaders of all time, Charles Manson was the leader of a group of young people in California during the late 1960s. He called his cult &ldquoThe Family.&rdquo

Manson&rsquos family committed a series of nine murders in July and August 1969, most notable were the murders that took place on the night of August 9, 1969, which included the murder of pregnant actress Sharon Tate.

Cult expert Steven Hassan: Trump's "mind control cult" now faces an existential crisis

By Chauncey DeVega
Published April 7, 2020 7:00AM (EDT)

Donald Trump (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


During the 1970s, Steven Hassan was a senior member of the Unification Church, an offshoot Christian sect led by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Hassan was so loyal to the Unification Church that he pledged to die or kill at Moon's command.

After escaping the Unification Church, Hassan dedicated his life's work to freeing other people from mind control organizations and destructive cults. He is now one of the world's leading experts on mind control and cults.

Hassan is a direct personal witness to the way cult leaders are defined by their use of money, power, greed, sex, lies, charisma and violence to control their followers and empower themselves. In 2016 Hassan saw those traits personified in the form of Republican nominee Donald Trump. He then tried to alert the public to the danger that a cult leader would become president and that ruin and despair for the United States would be the inevitable result. Hassan's new book "The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control" attempts to explain how this all came to be.

While many pundits and others have remained in denial about the existential threat posed by Donald Trump and his movement, Hassan warned early on that Trump's followers were effectively cult members and would not be swayed from supporting their leader for any reason. With the coronavirus pandemic, Trump's power over his followers is on full display, as he and his spokespeople are now suggesting that older and other vulnerable Americans should be willing to risk their lives in order to "save the economy" — and of course to aid Trump's victory in the 2020 presidential election.

I recently spoke with Steven Hassan about Trump's death cult and the power the president has over his followers. Hassan also explains how Trump resembles notorious cult leader Jim Jones and why Trump's followers remain in love with him even as his decisions are literally making them sick. Hassan also explains how Fox News and other parts of the right-wing disinformation machine are key elements of Trump's mind control powers over his political cult.

Hassan also warns that Trump's followers are capable of committing acts of great violence against their fellow Americans, should their leader command it.

As usual, this conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Donald Trump continues to make ridiculous statements, such as claiming he was the first person to call the coronavirus a "pandemic," or that there will be a magical flash of light and all will be well. It is clear he is mentally unwell. How do you make sense of his behavior?

Trump grew up in the church of Norman Vincent Peale. Peale taught magical thinking and that if a person just believed something 100%, God will magically make it come true. Trump was trained to be a magical thinker as a child. It's been described as a type of solipsistic reality where Trump defines his own world and what is real or not. That is a type of thinking which is very common to cults.

In this way of thinking, if Trump says the coronavirus pandemic is just going to somehow get better then it is going to happen. And when that does not happen, then Trump can deny ever saying such a thing, blame the Chinese, the Democrats or anyone else, instead of just saying he was wrong.

How does Donald Trump fit the profile of a cult leader?

Donald Trump fits the stereotypical profile of all destructive cults. These traits include malignant narcissism. Trump can easily be compared to Jim Jones, Sun Myung Moon, and other cult leaders. Trump always had a cult of personality around him in terms of his businesses and his social interactions with people. But once Trump attained the presidency, he took over the Republican Party and instituted a fiefdom where he rewards loyalty and punishes anyone who displeases him.

As for definitions, a "destructive cult" is an authoritarian pyramid-structured group with someone at the top who claims to know all things and says God is working through him or her. Trump does that as well. Donald Trump is also trying to control people's behavior, the information they have access to, and their thoughts and emotions, to make them dependent and obedient and under his control. Consider the novel coronavirus pandemic and how Trump has all these followers who do not trust real experts and only take what Trump says to be true. Trump's followers also don't believe in science and medicine.

Do members of cults know that the leader is lying but convince themselves it does not matter? Or have the cult members totally lost the ability to think rationally?

Unfortunately, when a person is in a mind control group, critical thinking does not take place. Thinking in a cult does not depend on independent verifiable data. Information about the world — empirical reality — goes through a filtering system where the default is to support the cult identity and the cult leader and what they tell you to believe. The way to escape a mind control cult's power and influence is for a person to find a way to access who they were before they got involved in the cult. A person in that situation needs to separate themselves from the ongoing indoctrination.

In the case of Trump and his movement, that can be through Fox News, right-wing religious TV or radio shows, the internet, smartphones, etc. Phones are a key part of how these Christian and other religious cults work where they send the members emails and texts. The brain needs a respite from all that communication. To escape Trump's cult, the members need to regain perspective on reality and develop the cognitive tools to say, "Yes, Trump lied to me." They need to say that to themselves and realize that Trump is not for the average person. He's not making America great. He's making things worse. He's dividing us. He's enriching himself. He's undermining the separation of church and state. He's undermining the rule of law.

What is the role of Fox News in Trump's power over his followers, especially during this pandemic?

Fox News is the main propaganda arm of Donald Trump and his true believers. Fox News is continually disseminating and reinforcing Trump's messages. Fox News is a dangerous entity.

Donald Trump and his Republicans, right-wing media and various churches have been saying that older people should be willing to get sick and die for the sake of the "economy." Moreover, they suggest that to die from this disease is an act of "patriotism" and "piety" and "love." This sounds like human sacrifice to an ancient mythological being. Specifics are critical here: is Donald Trump leading a death cult? And how are death cults different from other types of cults?

A death cult is a type of cult where the leader is telling the followers to kill themselves. A death cult also does not cherish the sanctity of life. It is very simple in terms of how it views the world in binary black and white terms. If the "last days" are here and God is going to return to somehow magically renew the world and send true believers to heaven, then it does not matter if those people who are not in the death cult die.

I would say right now it is premature to say that Donald Trump leads a death cult. But at the point where the coronavirus pandemic overwhelms the health care system, Donald Trump would then be the leader of a death cult.

For people outside Trump's cult and the Republican Party, it seems ridiculous and evil to suggest that people should go out and die from the novel coronavirus to save the economy. But Trump's followers seem willing to do so. What is going on in their minds?

If you are in a cult where the leader is claiming to be some type of apostle or prophet who gets revelations directly from God, and who says "just believe in me" and tells you to reject reality or outside information, then you believe that you will be fine. You will be "saved" and go to "paradise." Therefore, if Trump or his other spokespeople tell people to go out, get sick and then die, it is fine because the cult members believe they are going to heaven.

Unfortunately, there are millions of Americans who believe that Donald Trump is doing a good job with the coronavirus pandemic because they are not looking at any other source of news or reality testing. These people are doing a lot of praying and they have put their faith in an authoritarian leader who continually tells them, "I know better than everyone else, the experts, the doctors, etc." Trump says that all the time. He always tells his followers that he knows better than the scientists, generals and other experts. Trump is telling his followers that he is omnipotent.

What happens to a person's mind when it becomes subsumed by the cult leader?

As someone who was in a cult, the way I try to explain it is that mind control is a type of d issociative disorder where there is a split between who you really are and the cult identity. Cult members do have moments where their real authentic self re-emerges. For example, they miss their families. But then the cult part of the mind reasserts itself through fear or thought stopping or any number of other techniques to suppress the authentic self again.

As long as a person stays in the cult, they are receiving constant reinforcement of the cult identity. What is happening at present is very different from my experience in the 1970s. Then, you had to be taken to an isolated place to have your brain conditioned and programmed by the cult. Now the Internet, YouTube, Facebook and other types of media can program a person into a cult identity. Fox News and right-wing talk radio are obvious ways that Trump's followers are indoctrinated into his cult. Sleep deprivation by having people constantly tuned into the cult programming is another form of programming.

Trump's policies are actually causing real, measurable physical and economic harm to his "white working class" followers, as well as others. Yet those people remain among Trump's most devoted supporters. The coronavirus pandemic is a literal life and death example of the harm that Trump is causing his cult members. Yet they still love him. How does a person's mind reconcile such an outcome?

Donald Trump constantly tells his followers that he loves them. His people need and want to believe that Donald Trump loves them. Trump's followers have a deep investment in him emotionally and personally. I would tell Trump's true believers the same thing I would tell people in other mind control cults: Think back to what you thought you were getting involved with, and now think about where you are now. If you knew then where you would be three and a half years later, would you have ever gotten involved with Donald Trump in the first place?

I would also tell Trump's cult members to think about his lies. They need to realize that they made decisions based on things proven to not be true. Now Trump's followers know better. It is time for them to leave his cult. I would tell his cult members that it is time for a new chapter in their lives. They need to reboot their minds and behavior. Trump's followers need to think about the future, how they want to live and how they want to raise their children.

How will the coronavirus impact how Trump's cult members think about reality? How do they reconcile their love of Donald Trump with seeing people die all around them?

The cult part of their psyche is going to say it was their time. If Trump's followers are religious, they will simply rationalize it as the dead are going to a better place in heaven. These people will believe that the deaths are good because it is the end times or something of the sort. As they see their loved ones die, the authentic self may reassert itself. If it does, those people are going to get very angry and upset at Donald Trump.

Trump and his mouthpieces are now trying to blame Barack Obama and the Democrats for the coronavirus disaster. Trump and his media are also blaming Asians and Asian-Americans. There has been a rise in hate crimes as a result. What comes next as the pandemic continues?

One of the main things that cult leaders do is to project outward on to false enemies, to deflect their own irresponsible behavior and blame others. I can imagine scenarios where Trump's cult members, his followers go out and hurt other Americans. They would even go so far as to hurt their neighbors if Donald Trump and his spokespeople told them to.

I'm an idealist at heart. I want to have hope. I want people to rise up to their higher self and not descend down to barbarism and tribalism. Unfortunately, it really takes a great deal of energy to think critically, to look at data and not allow emotions to sway you to doing things that you will regret later.

Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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16 Infamous Cults in History

FLDS Temple in El Dorado, Texas. Randy Mankin of the Eldorado Success/Wikimedia.

4. The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was a polygamous cult founded by Warren Jeffs, a charismatic Mormon leader. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the founder and an early leader of Mormonism, believed that polygamy was necessary to produce as many offspring as possible. However, in 1890, the Mormons officially disavowed polygamy and, in 1935, excommunicated clergy who still advocated it. However, the polygamous faction of Mormonism never entirely went away. The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) operated mostly under the radar of both federal authorities and the mainstream Mormon church.

Warren Jeffs was a leader, or &ldquoprophet,&rdquo of one of the FLDS groups. His father, Rulon Jeffs, had previously led the group and married a total of 75 women who bore him 60 children. Allegations soon began to spread that under Jeffs, underage girls were being forced into marriage, as well as reports of crimes such as rape and incest. In April 2008, Texas child services raided the FLDS compound and brought 439 children into protective care. Many of them had already been married, and some of the girls already had children of their own. Many men were arrested for sexually assaulting children, including children to whom they had been &ldquospiritually married.&rdquo

Cult Leaders

Cult leaders’ charismatic personalities, fringe beliefs and lust for power have inspired hundreds to follow their unconventional philosophies — with often-tragic results. Charles Manson, David Koresh, Jim Jones, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and others have gained international notoriety for exposing the dark side of humanity.

Group Suicide

By the late 1980s, however, Applewhite regained his zeal for proselytizing, starting spreading the word of the imminent end of the Earth. The group made a series of videos called Beyond Human—The Last Call that featured information about the group and the Next Level in the early 1990s, which were broadcast via satellite. The group also took out ads worldwide, including USA Today in 1993. The headline of that ad read: "&aposUFO Cult&apos Resurfaces with Final Offer."

The discovery of the Hale-Bopp comet in 1995 drew the interest of Applewhite. He saw the comet as a sign that a spaceship was coming to take them to the Next Level. By 1996, the group was operating a successful computer business and lived in an exclusive neighborhood in Rancho Sante Fe, California. They also produced more videos encouraging others to leave with them, saying it was the "last chance to evacuate Earth before it&aposs recycled."

As the Hale-Bopp comet drew closer to Earth in 1997, Applewhite and his followers prepared to make their exit from this world. On March 21, they ate a last supper of sorts at a restaurant, all ordering the same thing: turkey pot pie, cheesecake with blueberries and iced tea. A day or two later, when the comet was closest to the planet, Applewhite and his followers took their own lives by drinking a mixture of vodka and barbiturates.

On March 26, the bodies were found all dressed the same with covered purple shrouds. When the news of Heaven&aposs Gate deaths broke, many people were shocked and horrified by the mass suicide. The media showed clips from a rambling video that Applewhite made shortly before the suicides, explaining their mission and encouraging others to follow. Members also recorded exit videos. But these did little to comfort the families of the followers or help the world at large understand their drastic, unfathomable actions.