The last large-scale test of Mark 16 took place 15 years ago today (Nov. 18, 1978) in Jonestown, Guyana. Needless to say, it was a miserable failure. 909 persons died- -so many that a US Army Graves Registration Unit was sent in to identify and return the bodies.
The massacre was precitated by the visit of Congressman Leo Ryan who went to investigate charges that some members of the People's Temple, the Rev. Jim Jones's religious church, were being held there against their will. As Ryan's group prepared to depart, some members of the People's Temple opened fire, killing Ryan, three reporters, and a defector. Ten other people were wounded by the gunfire.
Following this, a vat of Kool-Aid laced with cyanide was prepared and Jones told them to drink it. Reportedly, most did so willingly. Those who resisted were shot or injected with poison. A few escaped. Jones died from a gunshot wound to the head.
Jones had dabbled in numerous Christian denominations. He was ordained by the Disciples of Christ in 1964. He had been told by his mother since childhhood that he was a messiah and reportedly believed it.
The People's Temple was founded in Indianapolis in 1955 and moved to Ukiah, California in 1965. New People's Temples were opened in San Francisco and Los Angeles in 1971. Jones became active in San Francisco politics and was appointed chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority in 1976.
In that same year (1976), New West magazine published an expose of Jones, charging him with corruption, sadism, sexual perversions, and drug addiction. Jones quickly left San Francisco and a large part of his congregation followed. Two years later, most were dead.
Religious fanaticism and proclamations of prophethood can be much more than harmless eccentricities.