Why did Jim Jones wear sunglasses?

Many of the photographs taken of Jim Jones during the Temple’s years in California – especially after 1971 – show him wearing sunglasses. Whether he’s in the Peoples Temple pulpit, in public meetings or demonstrations, or in Jonestown, the glasses seem to be a common feature. It is unknown whether anyone alive could give factual evidence as to the reason for the sunglasses, although there has been quite a bit of conjecture.

The most widely-held belief – especially in the Temple survivor community – is that his constant use of sunglasses was a result of sensitivity to light caused by amphetamines, a common side effect of such drugs. Jones himself did not acknowledge the use of drugs – much less any addiction to them – but he was known to stay awake for days at a time to do his work. (His autopsy revealed that: “The tissue levels of pentobarbital are within the toxic range … [and] within the generally accepted lethal range.”)

Others offer different reasons beyond drugs. In a 2003 article for the jonestown report, David Parker Wise, an associate pastor who eventually defected from the Temple, suggests that: “Wearing sunglasses makes people who are already afraid of you think you are quite charismatic… he created mystery with his sunglasses.” Another theory – also advanced by Wise and reinforced by others – is that he would use the sunglasses to hide the fact that he was discretely reading the notes his members had taken about audience members who needed healing. Bryan Kravitz, who joined Peoples Temple in 1971, was quoted in a 2005 article as saying that Jones “never wanted to remove his sunglasses and that should have been a hint that he had something to hide. He gave a story about the energy being sapped by looking into his eyes.”

The Temple offered its own explanation in the premier edition of its publication, The Living Word, in July 1972: “The sunglasses Pastor Jones wears during meetings are not special in any way. He uses them to minimize distraction during meditation.”

Although photos show Jones wearing the sunglasses on November 18, they were not among the identified items recovered during the clean-up of the Jonestown site.