- darkometer rating: 6 -
This was the tropical base of a sect from the USA
led by Jim Jones and called "Peoples Temple". It had chosen the extremely remote location in Guyana
in the 1970s to avoid increasingly critical media attention at home.
The place hit the global headlines after the horrific events of November 18, 1978, when a visiting congressman, investigating claims of abuses at Jonestown, was shot dead at the community's airstrip, after which Jones ordered his entire flock to commit mass suicide through taking poison (a mix containing cyanide). With over 900 dead, it constituted the single greatest non-natural peacetime loss of lives of US citizens until 9/11
. It also stands as the worst "cult suicide" of the century (at least). It included whole families, women and children too. It's also been suggested that the deaths were not in all cases as voluntary as the term suicide implies – and given that it was "enforced suicide" it could just as well be described as murder, a massacre. A few members of the sect survived to tell the tale … some that didn't also left notes before dying. All in all it was one of the most disturbing events in the already disturbing history of sect culture.
After the event, the Jonestown site was wound down, later also looted, and generally left for the jungle to reclaim the land. This is why today hardly anything of the former structures and facilities of Jonestown are still there. At one point, though, there was some vague talk of possibly developing the site as a kind of memorial, but I've never heard any more of it in a while.
Given the difficulty of access to the site it is a kind of an extreme dark tourism pilgrimage. BUT: I'm now planning this, as part of a longer Three-Guyanas trip in Ausgust 2019. The people organizing things on the ground there for me have also arrranged a visit to Jonestown - even though they made it clear that very little is there to see these days. I'll find out for myself and then decide whether it can still be regarded as a dark-tourism site proper ... but as a pilgrimage it is bound to be interesting in any case. I may also meet people who were there at the time or who met the sect members at the local market. So hopefully I'll get some insider insights too.
roughly 140 miles (220 km) north-west of Guyana
's capital city Georgetown