For example, the Jonestown survivor continued, someone in an abusive marriage might be terrified by the possibility of placing his or her children in danger by trying to leave the abuser.
What many young people – what many people in general – don’t realize, Layton stressed, is how easily a person can be drawn into a bad relationship.
“I think we’ve all been touched, at some point in our lives,” Layton said, “by someone we think is so nice and wonderful. But then, after a while, you realize, ‘oh, my god,’ they’re not really so nice after all.”
For Layton, that “someone” was none other than Jim Jones, the charismatic founder of the “People’s Temple of the Disciples of Christ,” one of the 20th century’s most notorious and best-known cults.
The homicidal leader would ultimately guide his cult into the deepest jungles of Guyana. Jones was deeply deluded by images of himself as a messianic figure, and when he believed American authorities were closing in on him, he chose martyrdom; some of his followers chose it with him, but many didn’t and died anyway.
To this day, when one hears the phrase, “drink the Kool-Aid,” or some variation thereof, it’s Jim Jones, the People’s Temple and Jonestown being referenced.
There are several misconceptions surrounding the tragedy at Jonestown, Layton said; she’ll undoubtedly detail some of those during her Greensburg appearances.
Layton first met Jones when she was 18, having just returned to the United States from boarding school in England; her parents had sent her there for her rebellious ways. She would ultimately rise to become one of Jones’ lieutenants, a fact that made her defection all the more extraordinary.
She was 25 on Nov. 18, 1978, when the congregation of the People’s Temple met its fate. She’d already fled to the US weeks before and had appeared before Congress to inform and warn the public about Jones’ cult. She also pled for the US government to intervene at Jonestown. Layton’s appearances on Capitol Hill ultimately persuaded Congressman Leo Joseph Ryan, Jr., to lead a delegation to Guyana to investigate Jonestown. Ryan’s fate, along with the fate of Jonestown itself, is well documented.