On Sunday, November 18 1978, more than 900 members of The People's Temple were ordered to drink a cyanide-laced fruit punch that led to the mass suicide known as the Jonestown Massacre. Now, 40 years on friends and family of the deceased members, as well as those that survived Jonestown look back and ask why and how it happened.

According to The Guardian newspaper, the massacre was the "Largest intentional civilian death in American History," before the tragedy of 9/11 in 2001. The Jonestown Massacre took place in Guyana, South America where followers of Jim Jones' cult listened to his commands for the final time and committed what Jones called a "Revolutionary suicide."

Jonestown Massacre

The People's Temple first began in Indiana, it was 1955 and the new-style religious movement was an appealing one for many people with its combination of Christianity, Communism, Socialism and Racial Equality.

But throughout its 23 years, The People's Temple received a less than favourable reputation. Jim Jones often moved his people from one place to another, Rolling Stone magazine wrote about Jones' reasoning for the move to Guyana, when "A magazine expose of his mistreatment of People's Temple members was about to be published," but Jones claimed it was the safest place to survive a nuclear apocalypse.

Some believe that the Jonestown Massacre was years in the making, as leader Jim Jone's paranoia grew and he began to preach more conspiracies. One frequent activity he had members participate in was known as "White Nights," where members were asked to chose how they would handle one of his hypothetical emergencies such as; a CIA takedown.

In some of these rehearsals, the choice of a "Revolutionary suicide" was chosen and a mass suicide was simulated.

Members of The People's Temple remained loyal to Pastor Jim Jones, unable to leave or think differently from what Jones preached to members of his new-style religion. A loyalty that would eventually lead them being forced to "Drink the kool-aid" one of the world's largest mass suicides.

In a recording now known as the "Death tape" we hear 44 minutes of Jones preaching to his members shortly before the massacre.

40 years on

Jonestown is one of the most infamous and well-known cults, with the phrase "Drinking the kool-aid," often used when one believes an ideology different from the mainstream, or is acting in a bizarre way.

Since the massacre, there have been multiple documentaries including; "Jonestown: Paradise Lost" and "Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple," both films feature friends, family and survivors of The People's Temple as they recount their stories of Jim Jones and the tragic Jonestown Massacre.