In 1973, just after the CIA’s redirection in the next stage of testing and development of the M.K. ULTRA and related operations, it was decided that religious cults best represented a new and virtually fool-proof operations platform in which to further Mind Control technologies. Several religious “sects and cults” were examined by the Agency for their possible utilization by the CIA in Top Secret studies of Mind Control operations. In late 1973, under this new focus of the CIA, Deep Cover Operative George Philip Blakey made the initial $650,000 deposit for purchase of what would become known as “The People’s Temple” in Guyana, under the management of Reverend Jim Jones. During this period, Jones moved his People’s Temple from California to Guyana, where the Agency felt it would be isolated and kept away from public or government scrutiny which might interfere with the operation.
The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, better known by its informal name "Jonestown", was a remote settlement established by the Peoples Temple, a cult under the leadership of Jim Jones, in Guayana Esequiba, a disputed territory in northwestern Guyana claimed by Venezuela.
It became internationally known when, on November 18, 1978, a total of 918 people died at the settlement, at the nearby airstrip in Port Kaituma, and at a Temple-run building in Georgetown, Guyana's capital city. The name of the settlement became synonymous with the incidents at those locations.
In total, 909 individuals died in Jonestown, all but two from apparent cyanide poisoning, in an event termed "revolutionary suicide" by Jones and some Peoples Temple members on an audio tape of the event, and in prior recorded discussions. The poisonings in Jonestown followed the murder of five others by Temple members at Port Kaituma, including United States Congressman Leo Ryan, an act that Jones ordered. Four other Temple members committed murder–suicide in Georgetown at Jones' command.
Terms used to describe the deaths in Jonestown and Georgetown evolved over time. Many contemporary media accounts after the events called the deaths a mass suicide. In contrast, most sources today refer to the deaths with terms such as mass murder–suicide, a massacre, or simply mass murder. Seventy or more individuals at Jonestown were injected with poison, and a third of the victims (304) were minors. Guards armed with guns and crossbows had been ordered to shoot those who fled the Jonestown pavilion as Jones lobbied for suicide.
Jonestown resulted in the largest single loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act until September 11, 2001.
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