'The Most Horrible Night of My Life.' an Ex-Jonestown Believer on the Pull of Cults - and How His 5-Year-Old Paid the Ultimate Price

By Stoen, Tim | Newsweek, April 7, 1997 | Go to article overview

'The Most Horrible Night of My Life.' an Ex-Jonestown Believer on the Pull of Cults - and How His 5-Year-Old Paid the Ultimate Price


Stoen, Tim, Newsweek


An ex-Jonestown believer on the pull of cults--and how his 5-year-old paid the ultimate price.

WHEN I WENT TO JONESTOWN with my 5-year-old son, John Victor, in February 1977, I believed I was going to make the world a better place. I guess I was a super-idealist. Fed up with racism and poverty in America, I was looking to create a utopian society where people of all races and classes could create a community. I had met Jim Jones 10 years earlier when we worked for a group that gave legal advice to poor people in northern California Jones had a reputation for compassion and guts, and I wanted to use his group, the People's Temple, to promote my own view of a model society. I ultimately became Jones's lawyer and the People's Temple's business and political adviser. Of course, Jones always had some opportunism in him, but I was too ideologically blinded to see it. I paid a price for that. The price was my son's life.

Since news of the Heaven's Gate mass suicide broke, I've seen all sorts of experts on TV talking about why people join cults. There are no simple answers. These people aren't necessarily from dysfunctional families. My loving parents gave me everything in the world, and I was a successful assistant district attorney. People join cults in moments of weakness--when they're angry about something in their personal life or in the world around them. For many in our throwaway, hedonistic society, life has become empty. Anything that involves a family--which is what a cult is--can be very appealing. People want simplicity; a cult provides ready-made answers.

I learned that lesson the hard way. The five months I spent in Jonestown were wonderful. Here were people of all backgrounds--professionals and drug addicts, janitors and secretaries, blacks, whites, Native Americans--creating a new world. I did diplomatic work with the government of Guyana, along with working in the sawmill, pushing crabwood boards into a planer in the tropical sun. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

'The Most Horrible Night of My Life.' an Ex-Jonestown Believer on the Pull of Cults - and How His 5-Year-Old Paid the Ultimate Price
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.