Show Mobile Navigation
Weird Stuff |

10 Things That Don’t Quite Add Up About The Jonestown Massacre

by Marcus Lowth
fact checked by Jamie Frater

On November 18, 1978, over 900 bodies were discovered in Jonestown, the makeshift compound established in Guyana by the Peoples Temple sect. In an act of so-called “revolutionary suicide,” most had taken their own lives by ingesting cyanide in a grape-flavored beverage. The group had killed a Congressional representative and realized that this would bring the wrath of the US government down on them.

At least that is the official story. Numerous investigations and books have been written about the Jonestown massacre, with many bluntly arriving at the conclusion that the whole affair was a CIA-orchestrated project rather than a brainwashed cult who took their own lives. When you look at some of the points raised, several aspects of the Jonestown incident don’t quite add up—even if they don’t conclusively prove that the CIA was the mastermind.

Featured image credit:

10 Jim Jones’s CIA Connections And Lack Of Official Body Identification

Photo credit: Nancy Wong

Although it is almost impossible to prove beyond any doubt, some researchers into the Jonestown incident—including Michael Meiers in his book Was Jonestown a CIA Medical Experiment?—have asserted that Jim Jones, the leader of the Peoples Temple sect, was a CIA asset and had been since the group’s inception in 1955 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The sect moved to California in the mid-1960s. There, Jones’s influence grew and, with it, the attention of law enforcement. They kept their interest in Jones and his group following the sect’s move to Guyana in the mid-1970s.

As you might imagine, there were also some discrepancies over Jones’s death. It is claimed that his body was found with a bullet hole in the head that appeared to be self-inflicted. However, some researchers argue that this body had a high barbiturate level, which would have made it difficult or impossible to pull the trigger of a gun.[1]

Furthermore, some conspiracy theorists say that Jones’s body was not identified by official means such as dental records. These discrepancies have led to debate over whether this body actually belonged to Jones and whether he died at Jonestown at all.

9 The Ambush Of Leo Ryan

Photo credit:

Leo Ryan was a US Congressional representative who had traveled to Jonestown on a fact-finding mission. On the morning of November 18, 1978, Ryan recorded what he believed to be several human rights violations. He also rounded up about 15 of Jones’s followers who no longer wished to be “trapped in Jonestown” and wanted to return to the United States. As Ryan was about to board his waiting plane, he was shot dead on a Guyanese runway.

His death—or more to the point, what led to it—was awash with conspiracy and perhaps rightly so.

Ryan had intended to remain in Jonestown for several more days. But a seemingly random knife attack by a sect member caused significant injuries to Ryan. Although the wounds weren’t life-threatening, the event forced him to leave with the returning members of the sect so that he could receive proper medical treatment.[2]

As he and the others began to board the plane, they were ambushed by some of Jones’s men (apparently on Jones’s orders) who opened fire on the departing group. Five were shot dead, including Ryan. Several others were wounded.

One of the ambushers was Laurence Layton. Posing as a defector, he had traveled with the members wishing to leave Jonestown despite several warnings from members that Layton should be made to stay as he was not to be trusted. They were right.

8 The Layton Family Connections

Photo credit:

On the surface, it might seem that Laurence Layton was simply a loyal follower of Jim Jones and so took matters into his own hands. However, when you look at some of his family’s connections, particularly in light of the Jonestown massacre, there is certainly the possibility that his actions were predetermined long before that morning.

For example, his father, Laurence Layton Sr., is believed to have invested huge amounts of money and resources in Jonestown. When you look at his background, it is easy to see why an eyebrow or two would be raised. Layton Sr. had extensive involvement in the development of biological warfare and genetic experimentation programs for the US government.[3]

Layton Jr.’s mother had her own questionable background. Her wealth was said to have originated from IG Farben, the same company behind the Nazi death camps in World War II and a company with a whole host of conspiracies surrounding it.

This connection to the Nazi regime is even darker due to the accusations of mind control at Jonestown, which are said to have originated in the concentration camps of Europe and then carried on via Operation Paperclip under the US intelligence services.

Another connection was George Phillip Blakey, the husband of Laurence Layton Jr.’s sister. Blakey was a known CIA contract agent. It is claimed that he provided the down payment to secure the land for Jonestown.

7 Richard Dwyer

Photo credit:

Although it is only an educated guess, the person most likely responsible for sending Leo Ryan to Jonestown was Richard Dwyer. He had a well-documented past with the CIA that went back to the late 1950s.

While the Jonestown fiasco was unfolding in 1978, Dwyer served as the deputy head of the US embassy in Guyana. In short, he was America’s eyes on the ground in Guyana and perfectly placed to monitor or assist Jones, depending on which side of the story you believe.

It is also claimed by some investigators that Dwyer had close connections to the cult leader, Jim Jones. A recording made during the apparent suicides in the compound appeared to offer proof of Dwyer’s involvement in the massacre. Jones can be heard clearly saying, “Get Dwyer out of here!”[4]

This indicated Dwyer’s presence there at the time of the killings. For their part, intelligence agencies simply say that Jones was likely drugged and hazy at this point and misidentified Dwyer. Make of that what you will.

6 Mark Lane

Photo credit:

One easily overlooked angle of the whole Jonestown affair was the eventual treatment of attorney Mark Lane. He was well-known for representing James Earl Ray, the man charged with the murder of Martin Luther King Jr.

Lane believed that Ray had been set up and made his knowledge public. Lane was also in the process of reinvestigating the Kennedy assassination at the time of the Jonestown massacre.

In addition, he was acting as an attorney for the Peoples Temple sect. He was openly positive about the group and, in particular, Jim Jones. Lane even publicly stated his belief that Jonestown was “paradise on Earth” in a magazine interview.

Following the discovery of the hundreds of bodies and the possible mass suicide at Jonestown, many began to view Lane and his opinions differently. To some, this was intentional on the CIA’s part as it looked to discredit Lane. By extension, it would invalidate his views that James Earl Ray was innocent and that JFK’s assassination warranted further investigation.[5]

Given what we know about the JFK murder, it is understandable that some believe that they can see the hallmarks of intelligence interference in Jonestown.

5 Evidence Of MKUltra Mind Control In Jonestown

In his book Was Jonestown a CIA Medical Experiment?, Michael Meiers bluntly asserted that the CIA was pulling the strings of the Jonestown sect and that these were the final “field experiments of their MKUltra projects!”

Now that sounds a little fanciful, even outlandish, but there is a compelling argument made by Meiers. He examines how the “members” looked more akin to prisoners, even wearing hospital-type wristbands.

Meiers also noted that the medical facilities on-site were completely state-of-the-art while the majority of Jonestown was poor. He even cited the demographics of the sect’s members (many black people, poor women, and former prisoners) as being remarkably similar to those in past CIA experiments.[6]

When you add in the connections of some people like the Layton family, Meiers’s statements certainly make you take a second (maybe even a third) look at the official line.

4 The Mendocino State Mental Hospital

Photo credit:

It is also claimed by some researchers that Jim Jones enjoyed certain “protections” during the time that the Peoples Temple sect was in California, including from then–California Governor Ronald Reagan. Reagan was also active in the election of eventual San Francisco Mayor George Moscone.

Supposedly, these connections allowed the group to take over the operation of the Mendocino State Mental Hospital.[7] At first, the agreement was that the hospital would supply the group with test patients. But within weeks, every member of the staff was also a member of the Peoples Temple sect. Those who refused to join were fired and replaced with a group member.

3 Discrepancy On Body Count (And Bodies!)

Photo credit:

There was (and still is to some) a huge discrepancy concerning the number of people who died in Jonestown, the number who committed suicide there, and bizarrely enough, how many bodies were actually found.

For example, while authorities were still in the process of identifying the dead and taking a final body count, Robert Pastor, an aide to US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, ordered everyone to cease all activities even though 500 bodies had not been found. Of the 400 that were, only a handful had been properly identified. Rather bizarrely, the official explanation was that the missing 500 bodies “were found underneath” the other 400 bodies.

Furthermore, Dr. Leslie Mootoo, the Guyanese chief medical examiner, went on record to state that, of the bodies he had seen, “only 200 looked to have committed suicide!” Mootoo believed that most of the Jonestown cult members had been murdered.[8]

2 Other Motives Of The CIA

If we assume that these accusations and claims are true, what would the CIA have to gain from the Jonestown massacre? Well, quite a lot actually.

If we look at Leo Ryan, whose murder indirectly provided the reason for the mass suicide pact, he was a man who had few friends and many enemies within the CIA. He was pushing for transparency about the CIA’s activities and coauthored the Hughes-Ryan Amendment as part of this drive.

Needless to say, the CIA is secretive even within its own organization and had no desire to operate in such an open way. They certainly wouldn’t have shed any tears over Ryan’s demise—which cured a headache for them.[9]

Aside from the accusations of mind control experiments, the massacre would have also given the CIA a chance to train mercenary fighters who could be used in the region. They would do the “dirty work” of the intelligence agency whenever “muscle” on the ground was needed for such things as coups, uprisings, or even false flag attacks.

In short, if it’s true that the CIA was involved in Jonestown, they had a lot to gain.

1 Jim Jones’s ‘Hit List’ And The Murder Of George Moscone

Photo credit: NNDB

Nine days after the Jonestown massacre, Mayor George Moscone was shot and killed in San Francisco, California. A random attack? Possibly. But Moscone had some intriguing connections to Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple sect.

They had invested heavily in Moscone’s mayoral campaign, and in return, it would appear that many sect members were given jobs within the Welfare Department of the city. According to some researchers, this acted as a recruiting platform, giving the sect access to the poorest, most vulnerable, and most impressionable members of society. Moscone also refused to investigate the sect before they moved to Guyana in the late 1970s, which further tied him to the group.

In the years following the Jonestown massacre, it came to light that Jones had arranged for “busloads of people” to go to San Francisco and illegally vote in the mayoral election. It was also claimed that Moscone’s name was on a Jones’s hit list.[10]

In addition to Moscone, former sect member Jeannie Mills (who had written several critical pieces about the group) was gunned down at her home along with her husband and daughter.

Assuming for one moment that Jones didn’t die in Jonestown, was he responsible for having Moscone and the Mills family killed? Or was the CIA looking to close off all connections to their involvement?


Read about more mysteries and conspiracies involving cults on 10 Dark Mysteries Involving Strange Cults and 10 Crazy Catholic Conspiracy Theories.

fact checked by Jamie Frater
Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a passion for anything interesting, be it UFOs, the Ancient Astronaut Theory, the paranormal or conspiracies. He also has a liking for the NFL, film and music.

Read More: Twitter Facebook Me Time For The Mind