Marc Hoover: Jim Jones, the false prophet of death

Marc Hoover

Whether you believe in Christianity or not is a personal choice. Regardless, it doesn’t stop deceitful people from using the Bible to justify their nefarious deeds. A passage in the Bible even warns of false prophets. Matthew 7:15 warns us:

“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

There is an old saying often used in sports analogies telling viewers not to drink the Kool-Aid. Although crude, it means to not blindly follow any particular information. Unless you are older, you may not realize that Kool-Aid laced with cyanide was the weapon of choice for Jim Jones, a preacher who killed nearly 900 of his followers and Congressman Leo Ryan.

So who was Jim Jones?

Jim Jones was born in 1931. Considered a charismatic leader, he chose preaching Christianity as his calling. Though he began his ministry with good intentions, his life and the lives of his followers would end in tragedy.

In the 1950s, Jones formed a church in Indianapolis called the Wings of Deliverance Church. He eventually renamed it the Peoples Temple. He began by preaching to low income people and gained the trust of his followers by claiming to be a healer. Jones wore suits, dark glasses and slicked black hair. He preached fiery sermons and gained the trust of his followers. He eventually moved his church to California and then Guyana.

In 1974, Jones bought land in Guyana, a state in northern South America. He promised the move would benefit the church and its members by offering a better life. Jones moved to Guyana with about 1,000 followers who had sold all their possessions and given the money to Jones.

Their new home? A dream called Jonestown.

Once the church had moved to Guyana, Jones began showing signs of mental instability and paranoia. For instance, he discouraged followers from having sex and relationships. Yet, he had sexual relationships outside his marriage. He also began telling his followers he was God. Jones had denounced the outside world by creating a sanctuary. But instead of a sanctuary, it was a compound with armed guards. Followers soon realized they no longer had freedom. They would also learn the only way to leave Jonestown was in a body bag.

Eventually, former members of the church had convinced Congressman Leo Ryan of California to investigate Jonestown amid allegations of abuse and imprisonment. In November 1978, Ryan and an NBC news crew landed in Guyana. Jones gave the group a tour and denied any abuse. He told Ryan that members could return to America with his blessing.

Ryan said anyone who wanted to leave Jonestown could return with him back to America. Several members chose to leave with Ryan. The next day, Ryan, NBC staffers and several Jones followers had arrived at an airstrip to leave.

Within minutes, armed men from Jonestown pulled up in a vehicle and brutally killed Congressman Ryan and four others. Once Jones learned Ryan was dead, Jones destroyed Jonestown. He ordered his men to mix a large batch of Cyanide and Valium with Kool Aid. He then ordered his followers to drink the deadly brew; those who refused were forced at gunpoint.

In the end, 900 followers had perished. Of the deceased, nearly 300 were children. Jones avoided drinking the deadly drink. Instead, he died by a bullet to his head. Whether he committed suicide or someone else killed him is unknown. But his lifeless body was found with other church leaders.

Even with Jonestown, people continue to trust in self-proclaimed godly men. In Waco, Texas, a man named David Koresh started his own religious sect which also ended in tragedy in 1993. It’s been said that nothing is more dangerous than organized religion. For proof, a cynic need not look any further than Jonestown or Waco, Texas.

Marc is a grandparent and longtime resident of Clermont County. Visit his author page at He also wrote Just Bite Me: A Guide to Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Walking Nightmares, which is available on