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.:

    Goes to show that no real GOOD ever comes from such cults as these.
    I think the only one that might come close are those “Heaven’s Gate” loons.

    This has go to be the start of the whole “kool-aid” thing. when referring to liberalism.
    The analogy of such a failed “experiment” to the polar opposite of conservatism becomes too obvious.

    BTW, Powers Boothe did a eerily good job of portraying Jones in a movie about this.

    Very good post

    Stay safe out there.


  2. Jim Jones started his cult in Indianapolis and got run out of town. He went to California and became an adviser to the Governor (the same guy who is Governor now).
    In California, not much changes.
    I remember sitting on a BART train in Berkeley in December 1978 and overhearing a conversation between two women. One of them was blessing the fact that her son had left the cult before all this happened. Neither one seemed to question why anyone would follow such a nut.


    • Berkeley? I never figured you for a hippie. 😉

      Many of his followers were from poor neighborhoods. I remember reading somewhere that a number of his “flock” actually followed him from Indy to San Fran. The guy may have been a stone-cold sociopath, but he knew how to inspire devotion. Funny how often that happens.


      • I was visiting friends in the Bay Area. I’d never seen Berkeley and I wanted to see it. (The campus is beautiful.)
        I believe this was the time I watched the anti-Bakke demonstrations at Berkeley. (Bakke was the 40-year-old white guy who sued to be admitted to med school there and won. The hippies were upset about it for violating their idea of equal opportunity.)


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