this day in crime history: november 18, 1978

Photo: The Jonestown Institute
Photo: The Jonestown Institute

On this date in 1978, members of the People’s Temple cult in Guyana assassinated Congressman Leo Ryan, who had traveled to the South American country to investigate allegations of abuse made against the cult.  While he was at an airstrip waiting to fly home, Temple gunmen opened fire, killing Ryan, three journalists, and a Temple defector.

Shortly after the murder of Ryan, People’s Temple leader Jim Jones led the group in a mass murder-suicide.  Over 900 men, women, and children died.  It is believed to be the largest murder suicide in history.

Further reading:

PBS – Jonestown: The Life and death of the People’s Temple

Wikipedia – Jonestown

SDSU – The Jonestown Institute

5 thoughts on “this day in crime history: november 18, 1978

  1. John D.:
    People such as Jones, whenever they come on the scene and display such charisma, need to be a lot more closely scrutinized, lest this type of tragic end happens again.
    Good post.

    Roll safe (and stay warm) out there.


    • The late Eric Hoffer wrote a book titled The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements that explains the allure of guys like Jones. A good read, highly recommended.


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