Up until 9/11, the Jonestown Massacre was the largest loss of American civilian lives due to a deliberate act in American history. Among the 918 dead was Carolyn Layton. Outside of Jim Jones, Layton might be the person most commonly associated with the massacre. But why is that? Read our Carolyn Layton wiki to found out.
In this Carolyn Layton wiki, you’ll learn what brought the married woman to cult leader Jim Jones and what could have possibly driven her to be part of the Jonestown Massacre in 1978.
Layton was a bright young woman who was a product of her times. She was politically active and had a degree in international relations. She spent time in France. Her travels and her degree were tools with which Layton wanted to make the world a better place.
Then Layton discovered the Peoples Temple, the Christian religious sect where she thought she could help set some of the world’s wrongs right.
The Peoples Temple
By all accounts, most of the people who joined Jones’s Peoples Temple movement were a lot like Layton. They wanted justice. They wanted to get rid of inequality and racism and work towards the betterment of man. It was these ideals that drew in Carolyn Layton.
Jones was at the center of the Peoples Temple. He was a charismatic preacher who claimed he wanted to change the world. He preached that the Bible was just a book and it was the spirit of Jesus’s acts that were truly important.
Layton joined the church and eventually brought in her husband, Larry Layton, and her sister, Annie Moore. They were normal people who wanted to do good in the world. But by the end, they had been turned into zealots.
At some point, Layton became Jones’s lover. She quietly divorced Larry.
When word started getting around that Jones was having an affair, he justified it by saying that his wife’s medical condition prevented her from having sex. He argued he needed sexual release, so an arrangement had been made with Layton.
Carolyn Layton’s Rise to Power
Many reports say once Layton was fully ensconced as Jones’s mistress, she soon took a leadership and administrative role within the Peoples Temple church. With the added responsibilities came a change in attitude, at least according to the other church members.
Gone was the smart, classy woman everyone had first met and in her place was an authoritarian administrator who lashed out at those who did her or Jones wrong.
There were also lies that everyone was expected to accept. For example, in 1974 it was claimed that Layton had been sent off on a secret and dangerous mission for the Peoples Temple in Mexico.
The truth of the matter was she was at her parents’ California home, pregnant with Jones’s child. And while a number of church members uncovered this deception, everyone was expected to accept the lie as gospel truth.
Layton, much like Jones, began to become paranoid. The paranoia fueled the ultimate goal of the church: a utopia of their own making.
The Jonestown Massacre
Situated in Guyana, the Jonestown settlement established by the Peoples Temple was never supposed to become home to so many people so quickly. But allegations of abuse against church members and other negative publicity drove Jones to flee to Jonestown with as many followers as he could.
Layton, her sister, and her son with Jones, Jim Jon, all eventually ended up in Jonestown.
Soon, the madness began to spread. Jones held all-night meetings that he called “white nights” to test the loyalty of his flock in the event of a hypothetical emergency. Then California Congressman Leo Ryan came to visit Jonestown and things quickly exploded.
What happened during the Jonestown Massacre is a matter of public record, but what many people don’t know is the level of control Jones had over his followers. Larry, the man Jones had stolen Carolyn Layton from, was still a member of the church and was the one who led the attack that ended up killing Ryan and several others.
Using Ryan’s assassination as the match, Jones lit a fire under his people. He told them they were all going to be murdered in retaliation for Ryan’s death. He said it was better for everyone to commit suicide instead of living through the attack, especially the children.
With that, hundreds of followers drank a cyanide and Flavor-Aid cocktail, either willingly or via coercion. These people included Layton and her son. Jonestown, the place that was supposed to be heaven on earth, became synonymous with these deaths.