I had never heard about this until researching this article – but apparently, there’s a huge world of Denver International Airport (DEN) conspiracy theories. Why? Who knows!
To be fair, there are some weird things about the airport. It’s massive. Like, really big – 33,531 acres. That’s two times as big as Manhattan. Also, Denver already had an airport before DEN was built. ALSO, the airport came in at 2 billion dollars over budget. Plus, Denver already had an airport: Stapleton International Airport, which was around for 65 years before shutting down just before DEN opened up in 1995. It was actually closer to the city, albeit smaller and less modern.
And that’s not even going into the weird design of the place and the bizarre art that decks out the various terminals.
All that to say, there are the foundations for some pretty wild conspiracy theories – and that’s exactly what we’ve got!
Myth #1: The Freemasons control the airport, along with the New World Order.
First of all, though they are sometimes conflated, the Freemasons are not the Illuminati – and neither of them is what you think it is. And even though secret societies are totally in vogue these days, this myth is flimsy at best.
It seems to be at least partially based off the fact that on a dedication capstone placed at an entrance to the airport contains a time capsule that has a masonic marking and references to the New World Airport Commission. But like I mentioned above, the Freemasons are an actual organization – secretive, sure, but not underground. And they happen to have civic ties to the airport’s dedication – but they had nothing to do with planning the airport or running it now.
As for the “New World Airport Commission” – it is often misinterpreted as a coded allusion to the New World Order (a vaguely racist, catch-all conspiracy that covers pretty much everything you can think of), but it is actually something much less…well…interesting. The Commission was named by arts enthusiast Charles Ansbacher, who died in 2010. But before he passed, he recalled in an article for Westword that he’s pretty sure he named the Commission after Dvorák’s New World Symphony in order to emphasize the newness of the airport – it had been the first major airport built in the States in over 20 years. He went on to say that “the idea that there is anything secretive about this is totally preposterous.” He was there the day the capstone was placed, and said that the Masonic markings were included because the stone itself was donated by a local Masonic lodge.
The Commission planned some functions related to the opening of the airport, and then it pretty much went away.
Myth #2: The public art in DEN foretells the coming apocalypse.
To be fair, the art is pretty spooky – there are gargoyles in the terminals, and gigantic wall murals showing some pretty far out there scenes of fantastical wars, not to mention the giant Blue Mustang with the glowing red eyes. Even more disturbingly, a large piece of the horse sculpture (aka “Bluecifer”) fell on its creator, Luis Jiménez, severing an artery and killing him.
There are also explanations for all of these art pieces. According to the airport’s website “Notre Denver”, the gargoyles, are a reference to the historical protective duties of old world gargoyles – the airport’s protectors are rising out of cast luggage, and they “help ensure the safe arrival of baggage.”
The wall murals are pieces commissioned from Leo Tanguma, a Denver-based, chicano artist who draws heavily from his Mexican and spiritual heritages, and his liberal politics.
According to Tunguma himself, the murals have a message: “The first part of the environmental mural is about the ways that humans destroy nature and themselves through destruction and genocide. The second part is about humanity coming together to rehabilitate nature and revive their own compassion.” The title of one of the murals is “Children of the World Dream of Peace”, for Pete’s sake, and it features a rainbow resolution.
That’s it – nothing sinister. Just an artistic take on war and reconciliation.
Lastly, we have the Blue Mustang – “Bluecifer,” to those in the know.
Aside from the unfortunate demise of it’s creator, the conspiracy theories mostly point towards the Mustang’s glowing red eyes as a reference to the four horsemen of the apocalypse. As always, the actual origin is much more prosaic; the artist’s father worked with neon signs.
Myth #3, 4, 5 and possibly more: Aliens? Nazis? Secret bunkers? I don’t even know.
Apparently, the airport is shaped like a swastika, so…Nazis? Also, maybe there are huge bunkers beneath the airport, built so that rich people and also Lizard people (aka “Reptoids”) can survive the apocalypse? Tunnels connecting the airport to NORAD? And maybe there are aliens somewhere down there, too?
Apparently, some construction workers saw some evidence of weird stuff while they were building the tunnels, including entrances to…bunkers or something? Secret tunnels? Who knows? Something that is very well documented was the failure of the extremely expensive automated luggage handling system – which is suspicious because it was so big and yet so non-functional. Least credibly, there have been some strange symbols seen in the tunnels, and some low quality footage of “lizard people” on conspiracy sites.
Listen. There is so much tunnel space (470,000 square feet) underneath the airport because it is a massive infrastructure project – there has to be some way to get stuff from one end to the other without going through all the passengers.
Many of the various levels of tunnel underneath the airport were opened at different times – meaning some construction workers were bound to see unaccessible entrances to mysterious areas. Actually, they were just other parts of the 7000 foot long tunnel system. And all the electrical and plumbing systems were visually verified as ending at the bottommost floor by the Denver Post. To have successfully hidden anything below that would be such a massive undertaking, it would be impossible to hide. And to have connected the tunnels to NORAD, which is over 90 miles away, would be the longest tunnel constructed anywhere, ever, and utterly impossible to hide.
Given that the tunnels are so extensive, of course they have been graffitied by various workers – which is where the “alien symbols” come from.
The automated baggage system did not work as well as intended, it’s true, but it was still utilized in various ways until around 2010. Now most luggage is hauled around in trucks that traverse the underground maze.
As for the lizard people…literally, just a practical joke. Sometimes the airport workers, who all know about the conspiracies surrounding the airport, put on lizard masks and skulk around when the media comes to tour the tunnels.
And the Nazis…I don’t even know. The airport’s runways looks vaguely swastika-esque, if you’re really searching for it – but they’re designed to optimize options for take off and landing, no matter the wind direction. Combined with Tanguma’s ominous murals, it points to some fascist überconspiracy, I guess. But the conspiracy itself isn’t anything particularly specific…just, Nazis.
Which – duh. Nazis: the cul-de-sac where all conspiracies end.