The truth about Jared Leto's bizarre cult

Of any celebrity, it's perhaps the least shocking that Jared Leto would be the one to start a cult. The Thirty Seconds to Mars frontman (and one-time gangster-with-a-grill Joker), is notoriously heady on fame as much as he is prone to bizarre behavior, such as, per Den of Geek, when he brought a dead pig to a rehearsal for Suicide Squad to help him get into character. To learn that it's more or less true that he started a cult, called "the Echelon," is perhaps facepalm-inducing enough, but once you delving into details, things turn truly bizarre.

In August, 2019, photos emerged from the Thirty Seconds to Mars Twitter account under #MarsIsland, featuring pictures of a white-robed, Jesus-looking Leto tending to flocks of similarly white-robed attendants. The headline read — as if in anticipation of what would be said — "Yes, this is a cult." This claim was backed up by Twitter accounts such as @altum68, who adopted #youwouldntunderstand as a slogan, and called Leto his guru. Since then, rumors and articles have run rampant trying to get to the bottom of this getaway, and discovered the groundwork for an honest-to-goodness pseudo-religion, complete with a three-day weekend at a private Croatian island, VIP packages up to $6499, matching tattoos for participants, archery, yoga, and performances by Thirty Seconds to Mars, dubbed "Church of Mars."

The cult of personality

As far back as 2013, Thirty Seconds to Mars used the phrase, "Yes, this is a cult," to ironically describe the undying adoration of their fans. Since 2015, as stated by Distractify, the band has held annual "summer camps" for the truly devoted. It wasn't until 2019, though, when photos and videos were released of devotees engaged in perhaps literal idol worship, that members of the public and mass media started growing curious at best, wary at worst.

The inner circle of Letotian (coined here) and Thirty Seconds to Mars followers refer to themselves as the Echelon (complete with triangular, Illuminati-like hand gestures, as shown by Diply), and they aren't shy about their beliefs. There's even a promotional video on YouTube that plays a string-heavy backtrack, cut with footage of Thirty Seconds to Mars concerts, weeping fans, adherents brandishing tattoos, and the words "Belief, Hope, Emotions, Understanding, Music, Support, World Unification, Love, Shouts, Communication, Freedom, Happiness Tears, Dreams. It Is The Family," running on top of it all. 

The truth behind Mars Island, and its retreat-for-the-well-off, may be very simple: It's a stunt by Thirty Seconds to Mars to drum up publicity, cement their fanbase, and get some extra cash (that they likely don't need) in the process. Whether or not Leto believes any of the religiosity of this rehashed Fyre Festival is completely unknown. One thing's for sure, though — the internet can definitely count on Jared Leto to continue providing everybody with amusing anecdotes.