Last Update: I hope, in some way, I have been able to explain the unexplainable and bring some understanding to the unfathomable. I promise you will not be disappointed if you ever have the chance or time to read or listen to my cautionary tale. Thank you so much for your time, your honest questions and the kindness you showed me. . . .************************************************

Hello Reddit, I'm Deborah Layton. At just eighteen years old, and home from boarding school, I innocently joined the Peoples Temple and moved into their campus dormitory in Northern California. By the age of 21 I was a trusted aide to Jim Jones, and the signatory for millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts. At the age of 24, and believing I was heading to the organization's tropical paradise, I realized I had just entered a concentration camp.

Within weeks of my escape from Jonestown, I wrote an affidavit to the US government requesting their help for the 900+ people being held against their will in Jones' encampment. It became front page news across the country. Six months later and just four days before the tragedy, I was in Washington D.C. giving testimony before State Department officials requesting help.

After 18 years of keeping who I was a secret, I wrote my memoir Seductive Poison. This month Random House released the audio book, now on Audible.

A friend of mine said this is an amazing forum, so I'm looking forward to spending the afternoon with you. AMA!

Visit me at


Comments: 475 • Responses: 58  • Date: 

Frajer142 karma

How do you feel about the fact that "drink the Kool Aid"is such a popular phrase?

SeductivePoison229 karma

It's a complete misnomer, because in fact 140 babies, parents and senior citizens in Jonestown were coerced and murdered. Babies do no commit revolutionary suicide. Jones had it planned. We innocents had no idea.

nottodayfolks40 karma

You say "we" innocents. Does this mean you saw no illegal, immoral activity before heading to Jonestown?

SeductivePoison91 karma

Certainly the children and their parents saw nothing illegal. Even if one had-- no one should have expected to die. 'We innocents' refers to all those who went to Jonestown believing it was the paradise Jones talked about, sent lovely movies from on his visits there. However in those days only 30 members occupied the clearing in the middle of a formidable jungle.

Jonestown was a failing agricultural community--it could not have ever supported 900 more. People were stored in warehouse cabins on bunk beds--including 70 & 80 year olds.

We watch immoral things on television--should we be killed for this?

gingawaria133 karma

Hi Deborah, I hope this isn't taken the wrong way, but I find the circumstances surrounding the Jonestown tragedy completely fascinating.

As someone who was in Jonestown, do you think that it was Jim Jones' plan all along to commit this atrocity?

SeductivePoison239 karma

Happy cake-day gingawaria!

It is not shameful to find the story so fascinating. Trust me, I continue to try to make sense of the losses.

When I had finished writing Seductive Poison I was asked by a BBC documentary film crew to accompany them back to Guyana and into Jonestown. I was hesitant until the producer came on the phone and told me in his research he had come across a woman's dissertation about the history of Guyana that some 100 years ago a white minister convinced his Amerindian flock to kill themselves and come back as white men. I realized Jones must have known this story.

twojaguars107 karma

Are there any people or organizations which are currently active that you fear may go the way of Jonestown?

SeductivePoison209 karma

Yes, some call themselves churches, however, if joining means turning your back on everything you've known -- your family, friends who are not in the organization -- you are in danger.

tryingtoworkoutmylif50 karma

Any in particular?

SeductivePoison157 karma

You know them.

chipotleslayer83 karma

Hi Deborah,

In high school, we had to do a religion project in which we were each assigned a religion to study and present to the class. I was assigned the People's Temple. I read quite a few books on the ordeal and articles and whatnot online. One thing that I really never understood is the drills, or "white nights" I believe they were said to have been called.

Were they common?

What exactly happened during those drills?

Do you think people assumed that last night was another White Night and just went along with it at first?

SeductivePoison109 karma

Jones began "White Night" drills in an attempt to further weaken our will. A siren would come over the loud speakers at 1 or 2 in the morning waking us from our abysmal sleep. Jones' voice screaming "hurry hurry children, run to the safety of the Pavilion." We could gun fire in the jungle, so we knew there were mercenaries out there. No one knew that in fact Jones had different young men on different nights -- unbeknownst to each other shooting off their guns. We would be kept hungry, thirsty, tired, defeated in this Pavilion until Jones determined we were safe again. We had these at least weekly. Towards the end, I actually hoped in one of these White Nights were we stood in line to take the poison that it wasn't a trial. Life had become so dreary and hopeless, death was a welcomed escape.

On the final and real White Night everyone knew that their life on this planet was soon to be stolen from them.

Brad_Wesley67 karma

Was there a lot of sex abuse in the community? A lot of cults seem to have that.

SeductivePoison171 karma

Peoples Temple was a celibate organization. Having said that, Jones did rape men and women against their will -- for the purpose of breaking down their sense of self and soul.

uberlad64 karma

Thank you so much for doing this. I learned about the Jonestown tragedy just a few years ago -- definitely a very twisted, horrible ordeal.

Question: Knowing what you know now, what would you say your very best life advice is?

SeductivePoison308 karma

No one joins a cult. No one joins something they think will hurt or kill them. People join political movements, social organizations attend off-campus dinner socials believing they are mingling with like-minded people. It is often too late when one realizes they've been deceived.

Although my experience is extreme, I saw this tendency again when I worked on the trading floor of an investment banking firm -- where invisible boundaries are crossed believing the end justifies the means. When you believe in something and think there will be a great payout, whether in spiritual points or money it is often hard to take a closer look and walk away from so much. At some point in all our lives we have been entrapped and did not know how to extricate ourselves. The less extreme and most common are abusive relationships.

edit: Thanks for the gold!

alexjuliancountry58 karma

You said that you 'escaped' from Jim Jones. What was the church doing to force people to stay? Would you consider his movement similar to that of the scientologist movement?

Thanks for the AMA!

SeductivePoison176 karma

I don't know, but Jones studied L. Ron Hubbard's books.

SeductivePoison111 karma

I escaped from Jonestown, which was an encampment secured by armed guards. Those who spoke honestly about wanting to leave were medicated and put in the feared medical unit from where they never returned.

Victor Frankl wrote about this in his book "Man's Search for Meaning" and I start my book off with his quote "We who have come back by the aide of many lucky changes, or miracles -- whatever one may choose to call them -- we know: the best of us did not return." People were desperately afraid in Jonestown. Many took a stand against Jones and became examples of what not to do for they were punished severely and often did not return the same as before.

jabroni_joints57 karma

What attracted you to that lifestyle? Were recreational drugs abundant in Jamestown?

SeductivePoison139 karma

Innocence and naivete, the belief I was joining an organization much like the peace corp. I thought I could work hard for 2 years, help the poor and the needy, and continue on with my life.

There were no recreational drugs, ever, in Peoples Temple. We were good law-abiding, brainwashed followers -- unbeknownst to all of us, only Jones was using medications.

jabroni_joints45 karma

Thanks for the reply SeductivePoison. Was he just a master of manipulation? When you got out, whats the first thing you did? I'd go munch a dank cheeseburger

SeductivePoison86 karma

The first thing I did was smoke a forbidden Gauloise cigarette. The same brand we smoked at my English boarding school.

In terms of manipulation, he was on-par with Hitler, Mao and Castro.

isnormanforgiven33 karma

I smoked those in iraq. Fantastic smokes btw very flavourful

SeductivePoison57 karma

Congratulations on returning home!

You especially know fear and what causes some of us to remain silent. Unless someone has experienced and lived through absolute terror, we have no right to condemn another. -- They are good. I wish smoking were safe.

rosythewench54 karma

Hi Deborah, thank you so much for being here to share your experiences.

You mentioned that you escaped from Jonestown. How did you escape? And what made you want to leave? Did you know about the plan to kill everyone if things started going sour?

Thanks again!

SeductivePoison159 karma

It took me months to write the 4 chapters describing my narrow and harrowing escape from Guyana. The short answer would be "The best of us did not return" -- rather than standing up, I pretended I was part of the team, that I believed in him. My deceit is what saved me. It is also what haunts me. In my escaping to warn the United States government about the possible massacre I had to forsake my Mother. For me to live, I left her behind.

CadHuevFacial52 karma

As far as you know, did Jim Jones tend to prey on specific demographics/people with specific (vulnerable) personality traits? I'm sure he had to have had a special kind of aggressive charm about him to recruit as many followers as he did, but how much would you credit the sheer size of Peoples Temple membership to his recruitment preferences?

SeductivePoison86 karma

He went after well to do idealistic college students-- through whom he could siphon money from their parents; he targeted poor, black seniors--then siphoned their SS checks. More joined because of the positive press he received. Most believed they were only pitching-in to help an organization with good deeds. No one thought they would be forbidden from leaving. Some who left were found, brought back, then punished, one man was killed. Jones used his political clout to procure more politicians then used those associations to intimate his parishioners.

Jones often met with new visitors, wooing them with the amount of attention he gave them, telling them how he needed their qualities in his organization, that together he and they could change the wrong in the world,--racism, classism....

Ramza_Claus35 karma

Deborah Layton... are you related to the infamous Larry Layton?

For those who don't know, Larry Layton is a man who pretended to be a Jonestown defector and asked to leave Jonestown with Leo Ryan and the NBC News crew, and Layton opened fire on the plane that was supposed to carry people from Port Kaituma back to a larger city in Guyana.

SeductivePoison77 karma

Yes, he is my older brother. He served over twenty years in prison for crimes a thousand of us committed -- the only person held responsible for the massacre. Had I been in Jonestown when Leo Ryan came, I am sorry to say that I, too, would have believed he was there to hurt us, and might have shot him believing I was protecting my fellow prisoners. I wanted to leave desperately, but would never have left with him. We were so defeated and indoctrinated that the world the rest of you lived in was foreign to us. Larry believed that he was saving his wife, their unborn child and all of the other residents of the encampment by sacrificing his own life.

I cannot defend what my brother did except to say that he believed he was saving the lives of 900 people by taking the lives of the "traitors." He had no idea Leo Ryan was going to be killed.

At his parole hearing it was the 'defector' he shot that came to the hearing and asked for leniency. He also said that it could have been him. The Chief Judge, who sat for both of my brother's trials said Larry was only a small cog in a big machine. Many jurors begged for leniency however his sentence was mandatory life. I actually explain this much better and thoroughly in my memoir. It is too hard in this short a forum to explain, defend all of our actions.

twojaguars29 karma

Hi Deborah, thank you for doing this AMA. I have a few questions about Jim Jones.

1) What was it about him in particular that made him so magnetic and persuasive?

2) Did he start off being well-intentioned, and gradually became corrupted by all the power he had attained? Or did he always mean for things to end the way they did?

SeductivePoison49 karma

1) Besides being written about in the newspaper, and seen with dignitaries at lunches and dinners, he was also the head of the Human Rights Commission and the SF Housing Authority. We believed he was honest, benign, and a good minister. If you're interested, in my memoir, I take you with me as I meet Jones, am seduced into his organization and far too late, realize my error.

2) I do not believe deceit can grow into benevolence. He always knew, he got not heal. Nothing good can come from betraying the trust of others. I think in the end power corrupted him further and madness ensued once he was isolated 250 miles from civilization in the middle of the Guyanese jungle where he imprisoned his well-meaning followers.

PolioVaccination29 karma

Hello, and thanks for sharing your story!

Do you consider yourself religious today?

What was the transition like between practicing Jones' religion and realizing you no longer believed his word?

Why do you think others didn't realize the absurdity that inspired you to escape?

Sorry for the length. Have a great day!

SeductivePoison62 karma

I consider myself spiritual -- in the Quaker sense. I was raised Quaker.

On my return to the United States I got a job on the trading floor of an investment banking firm. It was with these men I was told were evil, capitalists that I found friendship, acceptance and where the kernels of the brainwashing fell away.

filthy_tiger18 karma

This is probably an odd question, but since you brought up being Quaker I have to ask. Ever played Wink?

SeductivePoison13 karma

No.... what is it?

NotSoTeenageDirtbag28 karma

Hi Deborah,

I would like to thank you for the AMA. I am currently working on an undergraduate thesis on Jonestown. One quote I have come across from Jones was

"What you need to believe in is what you can see ... If you see me as your friend, I'll be your friend. As you see me as your father, I'll be your father, for those of you that don't have a father ... If you see me as your savior, I'll be your savior. If you see me as your God, I'll be your God"

Can you verify this statement from Jones or recall anything similar? It would really help with my thesis. Thank you for sharing.

SeductivePoison28 karma

Yes, he said this all the time in the early days when older, very religious people were joining.

Mocosa25 karma

Did you suffer from any sort of PTSD from the event?

SeductivePoison42 karma

I never met with any therapist, psychiatrist or analyst. I believed I could make it in this world on my own. In many ways I did. However, looking back had I confided in someone my journey out of guilt and shame and sorrow would have come sooner. I still can't watch movies like Copycat, to me being held against your will is not entertainment. It is real.

xubax22 karma

My mother worked with psych patients for ~20 years and doesn't like watching movies about people with mental illness because she's already worked enough with it.

SeductivePoison20 karma


ima_foto_nut25 karma

Thanks for giving us the opportunity to learn more about you, the situation and your book.

I have a few questions if you don't mind. It was said that many people were being held their against their will. How many actually survived the ordeal? To my recollection (it has been a long time since I read about this or watched the documentary) it was only a handful. Why do you believe that is, that not everyone rose up at the end in the chaos and fought back? Why is it do you feel that so many people did drink the poison and gave it to the children? Do you feel that he still had a lot of people that believed in him even at the end?

I can understand how people get drawn into this kind of tragedy, but at the amount of people that claimed to be held against their will, I find it hard to understand that there was not an uprising.

Last question, for now. Do you feel out of the people that survived, that he still had followers who backed up his "teachings"?

Thanks again!

SeductivePoison82 karma

It was not unlike the thousands of Jews imprisoned in Auschwitz -- there were far many more of them than the guards. However, when you are given only rice, water, soup for sustenance, work 12 hours a day under intense sun you become weak. We also were kept in meetings throughout the night getting only 4 hours of sleep. Many inhabitants were broken, others of us were trying to figure a way out. When in extreme danger one tries to think as their captor. We are not always successful. One of the very evil and clever things Jones did nightly was to say he was sending someone he trusted out to pretend they wanted to leave. It was a test of loyalty. Be sure to report them. A father told his 12 year old son he had an idea for an escape, his innocent son, believing it was a loyalty test, reported his father who was then used as an example and had the Boa Constrictor wrapped around his neck. Jones used fear, intimidation and heinous other punishments to keep us afraid, silent and seemingly compliant. Believe me, many of us were afraid and wanted out. Several of us were brave enough to take a stand -- as I said before, 'we who have been back know the best of us did not return.'

On the night of the massacre autopsy reports show people were shot, had syringes filled with cyanide injected into their backs. The reason the initial counts came back that only 400 had died, then 600, then 800 then 900 was because families ran to be with other family members and they died together many on top of loved ones already killed.

Jonestown ended with through coercion and mayhem. Do not be deceived, no one willingly drank the poison.

ridingshotgun24 karma

How do you feel about congressman Leo Ryan and his actions?

SeductivePoison56 karma

He was a good kind man who got caught in a vastly more dangerous situation than he imagined.

Although he had read my affidavit -- "Affidavit of Deborah Layton Blakey, Re: the Threat and Possibility of Mass Suicide by Members of the Peoples Temple" I believe it was too unfathomable for him to get his mind around. Remember, in many ways Jonestown coined the definition of a cult.

[deleted]23 karma

I'm so angry at myself for missing your AMA earlier this afternoon! Professors don't allow laptops in class, of course.

I've read your affadavit and poems on I've seen your interview with Stanley Nelson. I've read Seductive Poison, and my mouth hung open in shock the entire time. The more I learn about Peoples Temple, the more I become astounded at what happened.

How do you think government and media response to Peoples Temple would have gone if the Internet existed in the 70's, or if Jim Jones was running it today? If you or Concerned Relatives could have used the Internet to spread their message, would things have turned out differently?

SeductivePoison30 karma

Yes, the Stanley Nelson PBS American Experience: 'Jonestown-The Life and Death of Peoples Temple' is a great documentary. I have a snippet on my website under LISTEN. It is my voice that you hear at the start.

TraciTheRobot23 karma

Hi Deborah,

because of your book, you stopped me from joining a cult.

Thanks for that :)

SeductivePoison24 karma

Wow. I wrote Seductive Poison in the hopes that my experiences might safeguard the life of another. Thank you for telling me.

Grillburg22 karma

Hello Deborah,

I'm so glad you were able to make it out before that tragedy. I'm very sorry to hear that your mother didn't.

I've previously associated with two religions and several get-rich-quick MLM schemes that are basically religions in disguise. Though none of them were life-threatening in the literal sense, it's frustrating to know that I spent years involved in groups that had their leaders' best interests in mind at the expense of all of the members.

The only advice I can offer (to people who have asked how to avoid these groups here) is be sure never to take at face value ANYTHING that you can research on your own, especially when getting involved in a new social/religious group. If someone says "outsiders don't understand, they just want to tear down the amazing things we have built" in response to reasonable criticism, they are indoctrinated.

(Example from my experience: The Jehovah's Witnesses love to talk about how they foretold 1914 as being a big event, when Jesus re-ascended to his heavenly throne {invisibly, of course...remind you of Harold Camping much?}. They fail to mention the dozens of other times they made Armageddon predictions that never happened, like the big one in 1975 where, when it didn't happen, a bunch of them left, including a Governing Body member.)

I don't really have a question, just a thank you for sharing your story with us. The more who do, the more we can grow as a society away from mind-numbing garbage. I hope I didn't hijack your discussion with my wordiness.

SeductivePoison15 karma

loved your answer. thank you. I think I may be too wordy myself. I see I have a long way to go before I am finished answering Qs.

JanuaryOrchid21 karma

Do you remember the first time you knew that the organization was not what you thought it was? Was there an event or was it a slow realization?

SeductivePoison53 karma

Early in my indoctrination, my inner voice called up to me that something wasn't right. However, at a young age I was taught not to listen to this all knowing voice. Part of my story is also about well intentioned secrets-- handed down from my mother to me. Innocent deceit my mother believed would protect me from her shameful history. My mother was 23 when she escaped Nazi Germany. On her arrival in America she decided no on needed to know about her Jewish heritage. She wanted to safeguard her future families assent into American society--if it could happen in Europe, why not here? I believe it is because of these secrets - when my youthful questions were batted away- that I stopped listening to my inner voice and instead began to look for black and white answers outside my family. Jones had all the answers so it seemed.

There were several more times I was afraid and wanted to leave but my answers are getting too long. You will find all your questions answered in my memoir.

cbtitus19 karma

What was it that made you realize you had entered a "concentration camp?" Were the differences between the organization as it operated in the US vs. Guyana so stark that they shocked you 'awake'? How many others in Guyana do you think had come to the same realization?

SeductivePoison57 karma

Everyone in Jonestown knew. There were armed guards; for those who didn't abide--they were put on the Learning Crew (fashioned after Mao cultural revolution and indoctrination)

The second we pulled into Jonestown-- 24 hours over the ocean, 9 hours up a river and 2 more hours by flat bed truck into the middle of nowhere--I knew we had all been wholly deceived.

veritableplethora17 karma

How accurate do you feel the movie was? Did Powers Boothe capture the magnetism of Jones?

SeductivePoison53 karma

I was never able to watch the Powers Boothe movie. Been there, done that. Can't relive it.

JimmyMarshall16 karma

I don't even have a question off hand, but I'm definitely looking forward to the answers and discussion that pops up here. Thanks for coming by!

SeductivePoison22 karma

Thank you for "listening"

fakebaseball14 karma

Do you think Jones truly believed in what he was preaching, or simply was using it as a tool to control and manipulate?

SeductivePoison24 karma

All of the above. Jones believed his fibs and those fibs festered into megalomaniacal deceit. In the end, at any cost, he would keep anyone from knowing the truth. If no one got out of Jonestown to corroborate my story, he could deny everything.

Oxus00714 karma

What would you say to a young person considering joining an organization like the Peoples Temple? How would you try to persuade them otherwise?

SeductivePoison49 karma

How could they know its like Peoples Temple.

No one joins a cult-- these organizations (individuals too) present themselves as something much different. No one knowingly joins something they think will injure or annihilate them. The most important thing you can do for the individual you fear for, is tell them you will always be here for them, if they ever want to leave you will take them in. Do not respond in anger. My father, as horridly as I treated him once I was a member, always told me how much he loved me and would always be waiting for me. When I was ready to risk everything, I knew my father would not turn his back on me.

man_mayo13 karma

Who did you lean on for support after getting out of that situation?

SeductivePoison23 karma

My family. I grew up knowing I was loved and could accomplish anything I wanted. It would take 7 years for me to gain the courage to run, to blow the whistle, take a stand.... To live.

westsideasses13 karma

Wow. Thank you for doing this AMA!

Can you describe what a typical day was like at the camp? What sort of work were you doing?

What were some of the cruel and unusual tactics Jones used to enforce power? What were some things you heard about or witnessed?

I will be buying your book for Kindle tonight. Thank you for stopping by and answering our questions!

SeductivePoison21 karma

the Audible version is truly powerful. Being in Random House Audio studios, watching Kathe Mazur become me and listening as she painted my words into cinematic images of a life once lived was often surreal. On several occasions I had the tingling sensation that this could not be real and I was about to awaken from a fantastical dream.

Kathe’s rendition of Jones is alluring, believable, seductive and terrifying. She created his likeness—in the early days, when he seemed honorable and benign—seamlessly melding into his essence-- suspicion, paranoia and a seething anger at the world he believed had turned against him.

Kathe’s interpretation of my mother—that longed-for voice I had not heard in 30 years, with its soothing European lilt –allowed me a few more precious moments with the gentle, innocent woman I left behind when I escaped.

westsideasses2 karma

Wow. That sounds incredibly powerful! Now I'll have to get the audible version. That sounds fantastic. I'll be listening to it on my commute.

I'm curious about the cruel and unusual tactics Jones used to enforce power at the camp though. What were some things you heard about or witnessed?

EDIT: Thank you so much for replying!

SeductivePoison10 karma

Children were dunked at night in a well believing there were monsters grabbing at their feet. Parents who screamed for this to stop were either drugged and put in the medical unit, or were forced into "the box" -- an enclosure underground. To survive it was safer to keep quiet, pretend you were on the team. It was the only way you had a chance to be trusted enough to be assigned 250 miles away from the encampment in the Capital -- where I would later escape from.

MrMagroo12 karma

Have you ever listened to the audio tapes of Jonestown--the so-called Death Tapes--or read the transcripts?

SeductivePoison16 karma

I first heard it while on All Things Considered with Noah Adams. He caught me off guard by playing the tape. Here it is:

dead_lift_it11 karma

May be a broad question, but what specifically was it about Jones or his speaking that was so persuasive and effective?

SeductivePoison31 karma

Jones styled himself like Martin Luther King -- eloquent, handsome and believable. @ 23 I learned that just because someone is pretty, handsome or beautiful does not mean they are nice, sane or safe.

neon_starshine10 karma

What was it like when you first learned of the massacre? You were obviously worried about the people being held against their will, but did you ever imagine something so horrific would happen?

Thank you for doing this AMA.

SeductivePoison21 karma

My predicted the massacre in my affidavit entitled

Affidavit of Deborah Layton Blakey, Re: the Threat and Possibility of Mass Suicide by Members of the Peoples Temple

Pleasestaywendy9 karma

ahhhh. I love your book. we had a thorough discussion and analysis of it in one of my psych classes and we were lucky enough to have you as a guest speaker. I recommend it to everyone I know! you are awesome.

SeductivePoison11 karma

Thank you. Which college is this? I am always nervous at these--worried people will get up and leave as I begin to talk.

jimmyjohntwo8 karma

Hi Deborah, Thanks for doing this AMA. What was life like inside Jonestown? How long were you there? Are there any other survivors or escapees? If so, do you have any contact with anyone from those days?

jimmyjohntwo9 karma

One other question, why did you keep your identity secret for 18 years?

SeductivePoison52 karma

4 weeks after my escape, going public, being on television, interviewed by the press-- I was ashamed. How could I have believed in such BS? Although I was now a public figure, I did not want everyone to know it was me. I wanted to live the life I escaped for. I wanted to know what it was like to date, wake when I wanted, stay home on Saturday and Sunday, sleep more than 4 hours a day. I needed to acclimate into the world I had been kept from.

My initial realization that 'it was time to come clean, come out' and explain to the world how good, idealistic people can get entrapped and not know how to disentangle themselves, came at 4:30am one morning while driving to work. Someone on the radio was talking about a strange group called the Branch Davidians, they had been surrounded by the FBI, military vehicles were on the way... and I thought 'oh my God, I need to call them, tell them how a captive mind thinks'. How could these entrenched mothers and children know the guns and military vehicle were there to help get the them out?

The second-- when one of the brokers screamed across the trade floor "drink the fucking kool aide, Jack". It was then I knew I needed to step out from behind the shadows of Jonestown, rise up from the muck and mire of shame I was drowning in and tell my story.

warypants7 karma

Your brother was the only person ever prosecuted for the murders. He was released from prison in 2002. Is he still alive? Have you been in touch with him? Sorry if this was covered.

SeductivePoison19 karma

I have always stayed in touch with Larry whether he was in a dungeon in Guyana, jail in San Francisco or at the Federal penitentiary where he served out a 20 year sentence. Larry is a kind, decent man. I have learned over the years, it is very dangerous to point fingers and scoff at another's experiences. There but for the grace of god go I.

TheMichaelN7 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA. Two questions:

  1. Do you fear that the public's awareness of the Jonestown massacre is fading with time, or has it only gotten stronger with the advent of the internet and how readily-available information is today?

  2. Can you recommend any documentaries or books (aside from your own) that provide the truest sense of what life was like for those who lived at Jonestown?

SeductivePoison24 karma

Sadly, if we scoff at another's experience and think it could never happen to us --we are only opening the door wider for these groups. To protect our children, we need to acknowledge we are all susceptible at certain times in our lives--in a break up, divorce, death, going away to college in a new town with no friends. When we look for something meaningful and bigger than ourselves. It is normal to want to be apart of something, a group, a relationship. It's when that entity tells us 'ours is the only right way', that 'outsiders can't be trusted', if leaving means never seeing someone you care for ever again, because it is forbidden by the entity you are leaving --you are in danger.

Raven, by Tim Ritterman.

Taco_ki55es7 karma

Thanks for doing this!

Did this experience change the way you view religion or god?

SeductivePoison14 karma

Not at all.

moondusterone7 karma

I use Audible. Made a note of the title. Thank you. And this is an amazing forum.

SeductivePoison6 karma

you won't be disappointed.

I_Am_KimJongUn_AMA6 karma

Have you seen a film called The Master, wit Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and if so, how accurately do you think it portrays the experience of being in a cult?

SeductivePoison11 karma

I have still to see it. I was actually afraid to once again live my own experience. I understand from several people, who know me well, that it is a tremendous movie.

I hope to find the strength to watch it, especially since Phillip Seymour Hoffman was such a great actor.

iamthatmonster6 karma

Hello, and thank you so much for doing this.

My question is: what was so enticing, so...alluring about Jim Jones? How did he pull people in SO strongly? Was it mere charisma? Or were there certain 'perks' about bein part of his cult?

SeductivePoison9 karma

It was the turbulent 60's and 70's. The war in Vietnam was in full swing. People wanted change and were joining organizations they believed would push their agenda forward. Jones played with each individuals psyche. He would explain that he had to be extremely religious to get the Pentecostals to join. That to bring people out of the opiate of religion and into socialism he had to use their words and means to bring them over to the other side. Yes--it seems preposterous in hindsight... at the time he made it sound reasonable.

Farkuson6 karma

I'm not sure if anyone has asked this yet or if it's really a valid question, but I ask it with the sincerest of reasons. Do you ever have flashbacks or negative feelings when you see anyone named Jim Jones due to the strong connotation the name itself must have? If so, how do you cope with that considering both of those names are fairly common? (e.g. my ex band director was Jim Jones)

SeductivePoison9 karma

Thankfully, over the years good men with the name Jim Jones e.g General James Jones have helped to dilute my Pavlovian reaction.


Do you think that jones got most of these tatics into weaking and controlling the camp from the Dachau Spirit created by himmler for the concentration camps? they seem very similar with instances like waking the camp at night with gun fire, sleep deprivation and starvation.

SeductivePoison10 karma

I would not be surprised. One academic called Jonestown a Bergen-Belson. Jones studied Hitler, admired Idi Amin, called Castro--- Uncle Fidel, borrowed heavily from Chairman Mao's reeducation literature, believed (?) he was the reincarnation of Lenin. Just writing about this seems so unbelievable--but Hitler, Castro and Mao were able to frighten entire countries into subservience through fear and retribution. If you think a crazed intruder will harm your child--you will do as he asks hoping at some point you can find a safe way out. Sometimes there isn't one.

animal_crackers5 karma

You've mentioned several times there were armed guards at Jonestown. What's their story, and what ended up happening to them?

SeductivePoison14 karma

The armed guards were young, teenage boys whose entire families were there. They believed what they were doing was right. They believed as Jones pounded and pounded into us that there were mercenaries in the jungle planning to come and hurt and torture us. They too died with their families in Jonestown.

Purplerainzify5 karma

I’m a bit of a youngster and I have just recently learned about Jonestown, but I apologize when I say that the whole thing fascinates me, and I’m sorry if my lack of knowledge on the subject is palpable.

In the top comment, you said that it was definitely not revolutionary suicide for the mass, but do you think that there were certain people that were actually on board with it completely? As in there were some people that were so “brainwashed” as you say that they would have committed suicide totally willingly?

SeductivePoison10 karma

A few in Jones' inner-circle believed there was no way out for them. They had participated in questionable situations in the United States. If they returned, they would be imprisoned. This was a belief propagated by Jones constantly. That just by being members we were enemies of our government. I also believed on my escape that I would be arrested and imprisoned because Jones told me I was on the FBI and CIA's most wanted list for being a signatory on foreign bank accounts.

therealslimmshady5 karma

I know some people have brought up that Jonestown was some type of government experiment gone wrong, in association with MK Ultra. Do you believe that there was any of this going on?

SeductivePoison15 karma

I have heard of this MK Ultra, but know nothing about it. I don't believe in conspiracy theories-- but if Jonestown was some type of experiment it became malignant and like cancer-killed the host and all its blood supply.

Zayinked4 karma

I know this is late but I figured I'd add it anyways. Considering the extreme Anti-Communist view that America had attained during times of conflict with the USSR, how did Jones convince so many people to join his movement willingly? Was it out-and-out stated that Jones was pro-Communist/wanted to work with N Korea and the USSR? Did everyone there support Communist ideals? Was there blowback when they were based in CA?
I'm just wondering because even now, I was raised to believe that the word (and ideas of) "Communism" was bad. To this day, I realize that Communism is political and not necessarily evil or anything, but it still has a bad connotation in conversation and in my head. It's weird to think that he got so many people to commit so totally to something labeled with the word "communist". Thank you so much.

SeductivePoison7 karma

He didn't. He called it Socialism -- that all people should live well and equally. That the haves need to share some of their booty with the have-nots. No one joined believing they were becoming communists. Jones wasn't even a communist, just an incredible good con-man. He studied Hitler's tactics and learned from the best of the evil.

sonia72quebec3 karma

What happened to the money?

SeductivePoison8 karma

I worked with the United States government to retrieve all the money.

Bircher3 karma

What was Jim Jones like? Was he as savy and trustworthy as the documentaries make him sound?

SeductivePoison6 karma

Yes. He had the Mayor of San Francisco, an assemblymen, a chief of police a district attorney, the publisher of a newspaper, the wife of a presidential candidate all hoodwinked. That is the proof of a consummate psychopath. He believed, and made others believe in his benevolence.

JeffyTobias3 karma

Hey, thanks for doing this Ama I've always been interested in these events. I have a few questions. What's the worst thing you saw or heard of that he did to set an example to someone who escaped? How did you escape? How did he get all the people to the island, was it willingly or forced?

SeductivePoison8 karma

The worst thing I saw and was forced to participate in the United States was the beating of a man who had been suspected of molesting a child. He was beaten with a hose on his body and his penis until he was unconscious. Then Jones had each of us hold the hose and have our photographs taken. Always intimidating us into staying, believing if we left that these pictures would be used to defame us.

cocksparrow3 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA.

  • What was the reasoning given behind armed guards for a supposedly peaceable community doing humanitarian work?
  • At what point was it evident the guards were not there to keep others out, but to keep followers in?
  • Were the guards complicit or brainwashed themselves?

SeductivePoison5 karma

The armed guards, we were told, were there for our protection from the mercenaries Jones said, and we heard, in the jungle.

We, the inmates of Jonestown, were also afraid of the guards, Jones, his punishments and the possibility we would be committed to the medical unit, never free again to see family or friends.

40footstretch2 karma

Where were you when you heard of the massacre, and how did you initially react to it?

SeductivePoison4 karma

I was in San Francisco when the first news of the massacre and Leo Ryan's death hit the airwaves. I was afraid. And as horrible as this may sound, when I knew Jones was dead I was relieved. He had threatened to have me killed for coming forward with the truth. It would take me 18 years to come to terms with forsaking my mother, that my brother was being held accountable for things I had put into motion. Even now, as I am here -- I try to explain to the world and myself why, how, for what reason did this happen.