Its not only India where people are superstitious and can sacrifice their life to whom they follow religiously but America has a dark tragic history where Utopian ideals went horribly wrong. When It comes to the major examples of influence and unhealthy inter-dependability we have all got a story. Everyone knows how Ma Anand Sheela coerced people to commit suicide, the story of Osho and Ma Anand Sheela was a whole lot more bizarre. But do you know before that Pastor Jim Jones who is responsible for 900 deaths among which over 300 of them were children? Jim Jones forced 900 people to commit mass suicide. Lets understand first who is Jim Jones and how he established bizarre Jonestown which was later also called the place of Death?
Rise of cult Leader Jim Jones:
Since his childhood Jim Jones was a keen reader, he used to read about Stalin, Marx, Mao, Gandhi and Hitler and noted down their strengths and weaknesses. He had an intense interest in religion. After years of struggling he found a job as a student Paster, by the following year, Jones was making a reputation for himself in the state as a healer and evangelist. Soon Jones branched out a church on his own in 1955. The church soon became known as the People’s Temple. With his trademark dark glasses, suits and slicked-back hair, Jones was an impressive figure at the pulpit. Remarkable “healing” continued to draw new members into the fold.
In 1974 he brought a land in Guyana, a state in northern south America to develop a new home for his followers who were around 1000 in numbers and himself. His followers had to follow his directions and were not allowed to go outside without his permission, they were even not allowed to leave the place without his consent. Initially it was a place where people from all races could live but soon it turned into nothing more than a prison. Instead of studying in school, follower’s children had to attend lectures from Jones about revolution, enemies and Soviet alliances. Temple members had to work 8 hours in a day followed by 8 hours of study. Jones made a system that no one could change. Gradually people’s temple converted into a place where followers were compelled for mind control and behavioral modification influenced by North Korea. His preachings were constantly broadcasted and followers had to listen to it day and night. Kids were not allowed to meet their parents, demerol and valium kind of drugs were given to people who ever tried to escape.
It was a promised paradise which turned into the place of Death:
In November 1978 a team was made and Leo Ryan led a team of 18 people who were from the media and reached Guyana to investigate the happenings. Leo Ryan was a maverick congressman and an unconventional politician. He asked and invited people who wanted to leave the Jonestown. But his rescue operation did not go as per his plan. Ryan and a few people with him were driven to a airstrip and were shot point blank! It is said Leo Ryan was shot more than 20 times along with his team.
On 18 November 1978, in what came to be known as the “Jonestown Massacre,” Jones urged more than 900 of his followers in Jonestown to a revolutionary suicide. From a vat, his people drank the cyanide-laced punch, which gave birth to the phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid,” referring to those who blindly and foolishly follow something. Members proceeded to squirt the poison into their children. It took only 5 minutes. Children were screaming while Jones wass heard saying”I tell you, I don’t care how many screams you hear, I don’t care how many anguished cries, death is a million times preferable to 10 more days of this life.” Aftermath investigator revealed that it was not Kool-Aid which people drank but a similar brand called flavored Aid. Jim Jones, age 47, was found in a chair, dead from a single bullet wound to the head, most likely self-inflicted.
Series continued even during the aftermath of 900 Deaths:
Even after this cataclysmic incident, series continued with the other temple survivors. Mike Prokes the temple’s media relations man who escaped death in Jonestown called the media to defend Jonestown, he then after killed himself in a bathroom with a self inflicted gunshot. Husband and wife Al and Jeannie Mills, who were prominent defectors and opponents of Jones were found murdered.
What surprised us was the fact that Shannon Jo Ryan, daughter of Congressman Leo Ryan, who was gunned down in Jonestown, actually became a follower of Osho. She said “What Jones created was a prison and what Bhagwan (Osho)has created is a way out of the prison of ordinary life. Just total freedom is what he is all about”.
In light of this bizarre sequence of events, the establishment of Rajneeshpuram and the Osho religion in Oregon in 1981 became highly controversial. America should have grown up after this dark incident but nothing could change and people again started following another man called Osho. All these incidents and dark dots from history clearly state nothing but the story of superstitions and blind belief. Whether it is India or America it doesn’t change. Jonestown Massacre remains as a dark spot in American History and is a tragic example of Utopian ideals which went horribly wrong.
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