After she escaped the cult, Deborah Layton wanted to get as far from her past as possible, terrified of being labelled the "Jonestown girl" or "Kool-Aid kid".
She was the one who warned US authorities they needed to save the People's Temple church members awaiting death in a remote jungle clearing in South America.
Her testimony was the impetus for Californian Congressman Leo Ryan to lead an investigations party to the Jonestown camp in Guyana, South America — an arrival that triggered a mass murder-suicide that left 913 people dead. That was November 18, 1978, but the images of bodies strewn around the community are still as vivid 40 years on.
But Deborah hates how the phrase "drink the Kool-Aid" has become a euphemism for unquestioning obedience, after Reverend Jim Jones's followers downed lethal cocktails of grape-flavoured Flavor-Aid, potassium cyanide, Valium and Phenergan at their leader's command.
"Once you were in Jonestown, everyone knew something was wrong," she told news.com.au ahead of the anniversary of the massacre on Sunday. "It was like a concentration camp — no food, sugar water for breakfast.
"It's like saying, 'take a shower' … People wanted out, people were afraid."
Deborah was a headstrong 17-year-old, freshly back from English boarding school and living with her parents in San Francisco. She first saw Jones speak at what was advertised as a civil rights event. He told the audience they should take just two years out of their privileged lives to help the needy.
At the end, he walked up to Deborah and said: "I felt your energy, it's you I need to change the world. You have qualities your parents don't recognise."
For Deborah, "That was the beginning of the seduction."
The charismatic leader wrote letters to her constantly. "There was indoctrination from the beginning," she says.
By 18, Deborah had joined what she thought was "like the peace corps" and she spent her 20s as a personal secretary to the charismatic leader, travelling around the world helping funnel millions into foreign bank accounts in various names, believing it was going to help people.
When she brought her mother — a Nazi death camp survivor — to Jonestown, Deborah's heart sank as she realised her mistake. "It was like a leper colony," says the 65-year-old. "I took her there.
"People would come out looking dishevelled, wondering if you had news about their families. People's souls were being destroyed."
Deborah says those arriving at the camp 220km northwest of Georgetown were "instantly imprisoned". All around was thick jungle filled with deadly animals, and the camp was encircled by armed guards, ostensibly there to protect the 1000-odd camp members from mercenaries.
But it was vital not to challenge megalomaniac Jones, says Deborah. By this time, he was using drugs, administering beatings and sleeping with mistresses. "He had completed a conspiracy against us," she says.
Most chilling of all were the regular "suicide drills", in which church members would line up and drink cups of liquid, so their deranged leader could see who he could trust.
Deborah would pray each time that it would be real, just to escape her living nightmare.
The idealistic society intended as a utopia away from the ills of the modern world had imploded.
Children were taken in the night and tortured, hanging over wells with mysterious objects touching their feet and microphones to their mouths to transmit their screams to their mothers and fathers. If their parents ran to them, they would be drugged and taken away from their offspring for good.
Paranoid Jones would regularly test people on their loyalty, to ensure they wouldn't risk leaving.
He would ask in a friendly manner: "Who misses their families? Who is thinking about going home?"
Anyone who said yes would be taken to the medical facility and drugged, to be later seen wandering around the camp like zombies. No one confessed their fears to others, says Deborah, because Jones warned he had planted moles to check up on them.
"They would absolutely have reported me," she says. "You have to understand how your captor thinks so he believes you're on his team."
She made herself indispensable as a high-ranking member of the church, gaining a position back in Georgetown, the capital — from where it was easier to escape.
When she told her story back in the US, she says, it sounded "so far-fetched I don't think even Leo Ryan believed it".
But after a second defector returned to the US with a similar story, and at the urging of concerned families back in California, Mr Ryan set off for Guyana to investigate what was going on.
"For six months they had my affidavit," says Deborah. "He was planning to kill everyone."
Another survivor, Laura Johnston Kohl, who assisted with the procurement of food and supplies for Jonestown, was living in the Guyanese capital at the time of the massacre. Now 71, she confesses she was oblivious to the truth. "He put people he thought were zealots back in Georgetown," she told news.com.au. "Jim picked people as naive as me, who thought everything would work out, to be there, because he knew Leo Ryan would stop there.
"I never did see Jim falling apart, he was very effective at hiding.
"Even when there was a paedophile at the camp, Jim said, 'we can fix this, monitor it, take of it' — which didn't work.
"In a way, Jim believed his own megalomania. He wanted the legacy. So when it started falling apart, he wanted everybody to die with him."
When Mr Ryan arrived at Jonestown and tried to take a group away with him, the perfect illusion shattered in the most devastating way possible.
Jones began his evil act by giving his poison to babies. "Parents who ran to be with their child would be shot in the back with syringes of cyanide," says Deborah.
"It was a massacre completed by Jones. This was not a mass suicide.
"It was better everyone died and people didn't know the truth."
When the world saw the sickening photos of piles of dead bodies, they finally understood the truth. Jones had done the unimaginable — and several of his disciples had helped. When he was finished, he shot himself.
It took Laura, who now lives in San Diego, 20 years to admit that she was part of the cult. She became a teacher and human rights activist, and wrote the memoir Jonestown Survivor: An Insider's Look.
Perhaps the most incredible element of the story is Jones's sheer celebrity. He had a letter from Ronald Reagan on his wall, was influential in US and Guyanese politics and held positions as head of the San Francisco housing authority and Human Rights Commission.
"He used these wonderful titles to convince people he was the real deal," says Deborah. "I think he started wanting to help people, but he changed. He realised people were listening to him."
But Laura doesn't believe Jim ever had good intentions. "Jim Jones was a scoundrel, he was a conman," she says. "He decided the most important thing was public image that was determine him a hero. From day one, Jim Jones was working for power."
Deborah's mother died of cancer in the encampment shortly before the massacre, something she looks back on with enormous regret. She began working in investment banking and now lives in California's Berkeley Hills. She is re-releasing her book, Seductive Poison, for the anniversary, and warns she sees echoes of the world that created Jonestown today.
"Either you were in Vietnam and loved the United States or you weren't, and you hated the United States," she says. "It's so much that now — 'If you're not with me, you're against me, the ends justify the means, if you need to lie, it's absolutely justified'.
"People did things they would never do in the normal world.
"The depths survivors have sunk to to live is the survivors' guilt that follows us."