On the evening of the 18th November 1978, Jim Jones persuaded his followers to drink a punch laced with cyanide. By morning almost a thousand members of the People's Temple had died, many of them children.
The expression 'drinking the Kool-Aid' is a grim reference to this tragedy.
The control Jones held is far from unique among the leaders of destructive cults and new religions. Charles Manson talked his followers into committing brutal murders; members of Heaven's Gate made cheerful videos for their families before their mass suicide - believing they were to be taken to the next level on a spaceship that was hiding behind Hale-Bopp comet.
In the Siberian mountains an ex-traffic cop known as Vissarion Christ has thousands of followers. They've abandoned comfortable lives to live self-sufficiently in harsh conditions, revering their teacher.
There are many self-proclaimed Christs around the world. There's even one in Australia. Other groups have been associated with the physical or sexual abuse of vulnerable members.
We may think we're too savvy for such manipulation, but a recruiting group can be a finetuned operation. How does it work? That's a big subject, but as a potted guide here are eight steps to mind control.
STEP ONE: IDENTIFY THE POTENTIAL RECRUIT
You'd expect the focus to be on troubled youngsters, but many groups target people with useful skills or access to money. Vissarion's followers include soldiers, doctors and engineers; we've all heard of celebrities involved in fringe religions. People are often recruited at a time of personal stress such as divorce, bereavement, unemployment or depression.
STEP TWO: PERSUADE THE RECRUIT TO WALK INTO THE WEB
It may seem innocent: a self-help group, a retreat, relationship therapy, church, a business meeting, an evening class. Increasingly, groups use the internet. People are indoctrinated without leaving their bedrooms.
STEP THREE: LOVE-BOMBING
A cascade of affection, support and approval poured over the recruit. A woman born into David Berg's Children of God recalled this technique as a "wave of peace and love". Berg's organisation was also notorious for its use of "flirty fishing", a form of evangelistic prostitution.
STEP FOUR: SELL, SELL, SELL!
The recruit must see smiling, friendly, happy people - a living advertisement. Invite them to come along again, and again, until they're a part of the family.
STEP FIVE: TOUGH LOVE
Step five is tougher. The gloves start to come off. Reduce autonomy, induce dependency. Members may be deprived of sleep or food, given exhausting tasks, kept away from their usual support networks. Rigid rules and rituals may be introduced.
At the same time, rewards are offered - rest, love, comfort: the carrot and the stick. Some groups use meditation, mind-numbing chanting, euphoric music or dancing at this stage.
In 1995, The Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult carried out a deadly sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway. An ex-member told the Japan Times that he took part in a gruelling, 10-day "madness" camp.
While in the cult, he was eating one meal a day and sleeping only two hours each night.
Sleep and food deprivation, coupled with rigid rules, help to break down a person's sense of self.
"Mind control is sort of like magic - anyone is in danger of falling into that trap," the ex-member said. "Aum made it seem like you were free to make choices but, in reality, you were being guided toward those choices."
STEP SIX: RENOUNCING LOVED ONES
Persuade your recruit to renounce family, friends - anyone who offers a reality check. The more isolated a person, the more likely they are to invest in a new belief system. Which brings us to the seventh step.
STEP SEVEN: THE INTRODUCTION OF CORE BELIEFS
Charles Manson was said to be giving his followers large doses of LSD. One described how each acid trip took her farther and farther away from reality, until she could believe anything at all.
Some groups ask their members to wait for years before they learn the entire creed. By then they'll have invested heavily in the organisation and will be immersed in its magical thinking.
STEP EIGHT: ZERO TOLERANCE OF CRITICISM
The final step is vital. Shame anyone who questions; shun any who leave. Continuing control relies on absolute obedience and members being afraid to leave.
I once spoke to the mother of a young man who had joined a destructive community in England. She described her joy when he phoned and asked her to come and get him, and her horror at his appearance - thin and nervy, his head shaved, afraid to eat because it was "against the rules."
He disappeared during that first night, rushing back to the life he'd fled.
Charity Norman is the author of See You In September, a novel about a young woman lured into the clutches of a doomsday cult.