FBI Opens Investigation of Peoples Temple

Four days after the deaths in Jonestown, the FBI – which had already been assigned the task of investigating the circumstances of Leo Ryan’s assassination and the deaths in Jonestown – transmitted a four-page teletype to all field offices with its first description of Peoples Temple and the nature of its investigation. With the earliest information about the Temple coming from its critics and disaffected former members, the memo included several rumors which subsequent events showed to be groundless. Nevertheless, they both captured the mood and set the tone for how the FBI, the government as a whole, and the American public would perceive Peoples Temple for years to come.

The memo ends with the words “Armed and dangerous. Suicidal tendencies”. The closing would characterize almost every RYMUR document.

FBI Memo of November 22, 1978, RYMUR 89-4286-300