The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, better known by its informal name "Jonestown", was a remote settlement established by the Peoples Temple, a cult under the leadership of Jim Jones, in northwestern Guyana. It became internationally known when, on November 18, 1978, a total of 918 people died in the settlement, at the nearby airstrip in Port Kaituma, and at a Temple-run building in Georgetown, Guyana's capital city. The name of the settlement became synonymous with the incidents at those locations.
In total, 909 individuals died in Jonestown, all but two from apparent cyanide poisoning, in an event termed "revolutionary suicide" by Jones and some Peoples Temple members on an audio tape of the event, and in prior recorded discussions. The poisonings in Jonestown followed the murder of five others by Temple members at Port Kaituma, including United States Congressman Leo Ryan, an act that Jones ordered. Four other Temple members committed murder-suicide in Georgetown at Jones' command.
Terms used to describe the deaths in Jonestown and Georgetown evolved over time. Many contemporary media accounts after the events called the deaths a mass suicide. In contrast, most sources today refer to the deaths with terms such as mass murder-suicide, a massacre, or simply mass murder. Seventy or more individuals at Jonestown were injected with poison, and a third of the victims (304) were minors. Guards armed with guns and crossbows had been ordered to shoot those who fled the Jonestown pavilion as Jones lobbied for suicide.
Jonestown resulted in the largest single loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act until September 11, 2001.