JONESTOWN SURVIVOR and Articles Posted on Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple Site


Reflections and Articles by Laura Johnston Kohl


Laura Kohl

Since 2004, I have been writing and reflecting on my decade in Peoples Temple. Much of the writing I have done has ended up on the website of The Jonestown Institute, available at this link.  My dearest friends and members of the survivor community Fielding McGehee and Rebecca Moore work tirelessly to keep this wonderful resource free and available to the public.  Many of my beliefs immediately after the murders in Jonestown were false. It has taken a lot of my deeper study and time for me to even allow my feelings to evolve.  The articles do reflect how I gradually arrived where I am today. They will continue to evolve, no doubt, as I live my life. Here is the website where my writing is shared:

After trying single-handedly to effect change throughout the 1960s to make the world around her more humane, Laura Johnston Kohl found she needed more hands. She joined Peoples Temple in 1970, living and working in the progressive religious movement in both California and Guyana. A fluke saved her from the mass murders and suicides on November 18, 1978, when 913 of her beloved friends died in Guyana.

Soon after this, Synanon, a residential community, helped her gradually affirm life. She married, and she and her husband adopted a young son. In 1994, she finished her studies, and became a public school teacher.

On the 20th anniversary of the deaths in Jonestown, Laura located fellow survivors of the Jonestown tragedy, and together they have worked to make sense of the jigsaw puzzle that was Peoples Temple. Her perspective has evolved as new facts have cleared up mysteries and she has had time to reflect. Her mission continues to acknowledge, write about, and speak about why the members joined Peoples Temple, why they went to Guyana, and who they were. One of her earliest interviews, on National Public Radio during its coverage of the 25th anniversary of the deaths in Jonestown, was one of the inspirations for Stanley Nelson’s documentary, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple.

In addition to being interviewed on television and radio, in documentaries, and for both domestic and foreign press, Laura makes herself available to family members of those who perished in Guyana and scholars who are trying to understand the calamity of the ending. She is contact with fellow survivors many times during the year and helps organize gatherings twice a year.

Her research and contemplation has led to publication of her book, Jonestown Survivor: An Insider’s Look. The website for the book is here, and its blog includes a number of articles separate from those published below.

Laura’s continuing work on this site includes her management of the Peoples Temple Flickr photo siteand a Peoples Temple Oral History project.

Laura has been interviewed several times in recent years in conjunction with publication of the book. She was interviewed for a podcast at the Escondido Library in San Diego County in May 2012. An earlier podcast, from November 2011, appears here (scroll down to Baycast #2; program begins after 30 seconds of intro music. An extensive interview appeared in the February 22, 2013 edition of The Western Front, the news service of Western Washington University. A short biographical video clip appears here. More recently, she was interviewed for The San Diego City Times in November 2013,BlogTalkRadio in March 2014, and, a news website for Chattanooga, Tennessee in April 2014.

Laura may be reached at


A Boyish God: A Review (2014) NEW

Moving From Guilt To Obligation (2014) NEW

A Further Legacy Of Peoples Temple (2013)

Peoples Temple Oral History Project Gets Underway (2013)

Who Could Have Stopped The Deaths In Jonestown? (2012)

Hate? What is it good for? (2012)

Peoples Temple and Synanon – Modern Communities: The Role of Women (2012)

The Meaning of the New Jonestown Panels At Evergreen Cemetery (2011)

Membership In Communal Groups – So Much Of Who I Am Today (2011)

Peoples Temple – A Church On The Margin And Then Over The Side (2011)

My Communal Studies Experience (2011)

Sisterhood (2011)

Coming Out Of The Peoples Temple Closet (2010)

Who Are the Victims of Peoples Temple? (2010)

The Architecture Of Jonestown and How It Both Created the Community and Ultimately Destroyed It (2010)

Poison in Jonestown (2010)

Jonestown Survivor: An Insider’s Look Published (2010)

Making The He’s Able Album (2009)

Three Cinquain Poems (2009)

Mourning the Dead, Cherishing the Living (2008)

Seeing the Faces (2008)

An Evolving People’s Temple (2008)

The Peoples Temple Planning Commission (2007)

Why Study Or Reflect On Peoples Temple? (2007)

Was It Murder or Suicide? (2006)

The Joiners of Peoples Temple (2005)

The People’s Temple: A Review (2005)

The Silence That Need Not Be (2005)

Film Creates Opportunity for Temple Member Reunions (2004)

Q 875 Made by Outsiders (2004)

Reliving the Love, Recalling the Pain of Temple Experience (2004)

Sex in the City? Make That, The Commune (2004)

A Temple Member’s Odyssey (2003)


Wanda King Comes Home (2014) NEW

Remembering Odell Rhodes (2014) NEW

The Things You Noticed About Sammie Jones (2014) NEW

Johnny Moss Brown: A Born Leader (2013)

In Remembrance of June Crym Adams (2013)

Remembering Smitty (2013)

Paula Adams: Caught Between Two Men (2012)

Rheaviana Beam: A Kaleidoscope Of Parts (2012)

My Younger Sister Liane Harris (2011)

Alice Inghram: A Remembrance Of A Best Friend (2011)

Evelyn Leroy: The One Who Died In My Place (2011)

Johnnie Mae Yates (2010)

Carolyn Layton: Jonestown’s American Gothic (2009)

Michael Bellefountaine: An Adopted Member of Peoples Temple (2007)

David Shular: An Appreciation (2004)

Last modified on October 24th, 2014.

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