Even before construction began in September 1989, there were a number of Denver International Airport (DIA) conspiracy theories. Arguably the tamest of these (or those that would follow) was that there was no need for the airport in the first place and that its construction was a subterfuge designed to hide or disguise the construction of other, far more nefarious structures. In fact, despite claims that Stapleton International Airport was perfectly serviceable, the concourse crowding and tightly packed runways often created schedule disruptions on a national (and even international) level whenever there was inclement weather in the region.
The wild conspiracies didn’t end there, however. In fact, the initial claims barely scratched the surface, and couldn’t foretell the theories that would arise once the facility’s construction was completed. It’s hardly possible to construct a precise timeline of which notion first burst onto the scene, or the subsequent claims that pop up on an almost daily basis. So, while I’ve tried to make this as comprehensive as possible given the time and space allotted, know that this is still an incomplete record.
Nazi Runway Models
One of the more prevalent theories is that the runways at DIA are arranged to form a swastika as a tribute to the fascist New World Order. As can be seen below, this one isn’t quite as far-fetched as it may seem upon hearing the claim. The layout does bear a resemblance to the notorious symbol, particularly if you choose to selectively ignore some parts of the scheme. Far from the nefarious claims, however, the reasoning behind this configuration is pretty straightforward. Simply put, having the various runways splayed out in this pinwheel design makes it easier for multiple runways to be used at once, and minimizes the chance of having to shut down all runways during inclement weather or strong winds.
Of course, as you can see below, the shape isn’t as well-defined in actuality as it seems at first blush. While the brain seeks patterns, and the layout of the airport creates a sense of recognition, once you actually try to trace the lines out, it becomes apparent that the alleged swastika isn’t quite as clearly present as one may have initially thought. Note that the elements which have been traced were picked in order to best define the expected pattern, not because of their significance or prominence. Also, the form was traced without adding lines that aren’t there, or arbitrarily ending lines to create artificial symmetry. Even then, there are a great many elements of the design which have to be ignored completely in order to keep the pattern from being disrupted.
Not That Close Encounters
One of the stranger (and most easily dismissed) claims began with an anonymous individual watching (or re-watching) the 1977 Steven Spielberg classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In the film, a mysterious broadcast purportedly reveals the coordinates for Devil’s Tower, a Wyoming landmark that is pivotal to the story. However, for some unknown reason, the coordinates don’t actually correspond to the location of said landmark. Years later, the mystery of the strange coordinates was revealed; they actually indicated the future location of (you guessed it!) Denver International Airport…a dozen years before construction on the airfield began!
Pretty mind-blowing, isn’t it? At least until you scrutinize the claim, at which point you’ll discover that the numbers provided actually point to the longitude and latitude of Ault, Colorado, a small town in Weld County. While Ault (an acronym for “A Unique Little Town”) is indeed closer to DIA than the Devil’s Tower, it still logs in at over 65 miles away from the airport, far enough away that if a DC-10 were to land there, it would likely make national news.
Welcome to the New World
Few things immediately raise the hackles of conspiracy theorists as quickly as the phrase “New World Order,” and few organizations are as frequently targeted by conspiracy theories as the Freemasons. Given that the dedication capstone at the airport not only prominently features a Masonic crest, but also lists members of the “New World Airport Commission,” it should come as no surprise that the mere existence of this monument became a bit of an “Aha!” element in many of the more conspiratorial corners of the internet.
One of the more prominent claims about the New World Airport Commission is that there is no such organization, and never has been, that this was a not-so ‘secret’ code for the (again, you guessed it!) nefarious and nebulous New World Order. The problem with this theory is that the organization not only is a real thing but we here at Western History & Genealogy house 11 boxes of the Commission's archival documents (WH858). The very real (but also quite temporary) commission was formed by Charles Ansbacher, chair of the state’s Council on the Arts and Humanities. The purpose of the organization was primarily to promote and arrange the festivities for the airport’s opening, and as such disbanded shortly after the airport was opened for business. For the record, Mr. Ansbacher, a conductor for the Colorado Springs Symphony, named the committee for Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World,” more commonly known as the “New World Symphony.”
In addition to the capstone, there are inscriptions on the floor at various locations of the terminals, which have aroused the suspicions of some not-so-great internet sleuths. In many cases, there is a claim that the engravings are in some secret cabalistic language, and that nobody outside of some feted secret society knows what they mean. In actuality, they are in the Navajo language, and the translations are as follows:
BESH DIT GAII: White Metal (silver)
DZIT DIT GAII: The Mountain that is White (or, more simply, White Mountain)
NIINENII NIICIE: Tallow River (the translated Navajo name for the branch of the South Platte River which flows near DIA)
SIS NAAJINI: A mountain sacred to the Navajo people, said to be the eastern boundary of the Dinetah (Mount Blanca or Blanca Peak)
In addition to the Navajo inscriptions, there’s one other item inscribed in the floor which has had quite a fuss made of it, despite being arguably the least mysterious of the lot. It’s an image of a mine cart, with the cryptic letters “Au Ag” inscribed within.
You might be tempted to think, given that Au and Ag are the chemical symbols for Gold and Silver respectively, that this image was a fairly straightforward acknowledgment of Colorado’s history of mining both gold and silver. And you would be correct. However, that hasn’t stopped this benign and innocuous design from raising alarm bells among people who can’t take anything at face value.
The claim relating to this inscription is that it secretly reveals the means by which the Illuminati, Reptilians, and/or New World Order will wipe out the bulk of humanity. The “Au Ag” ostensibly refers to a virulent pathogen known as the Australian Antigen. Of course, an “antigen” is something that actually triggers an immune response, not a pathogen itself. Also, while there is in fact something called the Australia Antigen (so named because it was first found in an Australian Aboriginal patient), it is used to diagnose and treat Hepatitis B. Hardly something destined to wipe out all of humanity except the “elites,” and those destined to toil in the underground fungus mines under their watchful gaze.
Claims with Baggage
Perhaps the most widely known clue to the airport’s “evil agenda” (aside from the big blue horse, of course) was Leo Tanguma’s three-paneled mural titled “Children of the World Dream of Peace.” The painting, particularly the first panel, contains within it some disturbing imagery which has, unsurprisingly, stoked the imaginations of a great many people. There are many claims that it foretells the One World Government; a fascistic future in which the New World Order (or the Illuminati, or the Reptilians, etc.) has wiped out most of the population, and ruthlessly rules over what’s left of humanity with an iron fist.
Of course, once the overarching concept the artist had in mind is explained, the panels make more sense.
The first panel represents the horrors of war, with grieving parental figures, bombed-out buildings, and children sleeping in the rubble. The dominant central figure is a faceless soldier impaling a dove (representing peace) on the point of their sword. This is, without doubt, the panel that is most frequently cited for its sinister overtones, and often the remaining panels are not mentioned or shown.
The second panel depicts impending disasters brought on by climate change. Dead animals are dotted throughout the painting. On either side, the bodies of a woman and a child lie in coffins, illustrating that humans are not immune from the impact of the changing ecosystem. Children of various ethnicities look on with expressions of shock, horror, and dismay, while behind them, a forest burns.
The final, central panel is a scene of hope and optimism for the future. In it, people of all races and nationalities are seen embracing each other, smiling happily, and singing. Weapons of war are bundled in nationalistic flags, with children bearing them forward, to be beaten into plowshares. A broken statue of the soldier from the first panel lies buried and forgotten.
Put together, the mural implies humanity moving past its aggressive tendencies, and defeating the ecological challenges we face. Taken as a whole, the predominant theme is one of hope for the future. Nevertheless, it’s hard to argue that much of the imagery isn't disturbing, even within the intended context. In 2018, as part of the preparation for a large-scale remodel of the Jeppesen Terminal, Leo Tanguma’s infamous murals were removed and put into storage.
Another piece of artwork that receives more than its fair share of online attention is “Mustang,” the giant blue rearing horse statue with glowing red eyes, more commonly known by the nickname “Blucifer.” The fact that Luis Jiménez, the artist who created the sculpture, was killed when a piece of the artwork broke loose and severed an artery in his leg has undoubtedly helped fuel the rumors and speculation regarding the 32-foot-tall creation. However, the so-called “demonic” nature of the installation remains unsubstantiated beyond the fact that people find it eerie. The red eyes often pointed to as “proof” of its nefarious nature were actually a tribute to the artist’s father, who owned and operated a neon sign shop where Jiménez learned to weld and paint and the value of working with his hands.
His wife has also recounted a story of Jiménez investigating a noise late at night and being frightened by a pair of glowing red eyes in his living room. After his initial shock, he realized that they were those of his horse Black Jack, who had somehow gotten into the house. She speculates that he chose the red eyes to illustrate the point that sometimes things can seem frightening simply because they’re unfamiliar or unexpected. Black Jack was also the model Jiménez used for the work, and the blue color was chosen because the horse was a Blue Roan Appaloosa, a breed with a mix of black and white hairs, giving it a distinctive blue tint.
Still another sculpture that garnered the ire of the internet was a 22-foot sculpture of Anubis, the Ancient Egyptian god of death. The piece was erected in June 2010, and was part of an advertising campaign for the Denver Art Museum, as the traveling King Tut exhibit was on display there from June 2010 through January 2011. The piece was paid for by private funds and was removed when the exhibit left town. Nevertheless, the sculpture’s infamy lives on in the dilapidated suburbs of the internet, where it is still touted as evidence of the airport’s malevolent nature.
The last piece of artwork to discuss are those of “Notre Denver,” the two “luggage gargoyles” which can be found in two of the airport’s baggage-claim areas. The creatures each perch in a Samsonite suitcase, a nod to the Samsonite factory which operated in Denver until its closure in 2001. The design of the gargoyles was inspired by those on the Notre Dame cathedral (as might be deduced from the title of the piece). As with the gargoyles of Notre Dame and many other examples of Gothic architecture, the idea is that the creature protects all they oversee. According to their creator, artist Terry Allen, they are posted in baggage claim to ensure your luggage arrives safely, on time, and at the correct carousel. Despite their innocuous tongue-in-cheek nature, their “demonic” visages have nevertheless led some to conclude that they are further evidence of the airport’s sinister secret purpose.
Beneath the Surface
The construction of the airport itself was rife with problems and setbacks, triggering an early onset of conspiratorial claims. One of the first was that the various problems with the design, the construction running wildly over budget, and even a badly timed metalworkers strike, were all due to the fact that the facility was being built on an ancient Native American burial ground. Note that no tribe or Native organization has ever made claims to that effect, as would be expected if that were the case. Also, the archeological evidence suggests that, while the site may have been a hunting ground, there is no evidence of remains that one would expect in a burial ground.
While the airport itself is home to a staggering amount of far-fetched misinformation, there is also a great degree of speculation as to what lies beneath the airport. One claim is that, in addition to the known runways, there are also secret runways buried just below the surface, which extend for 4 or 5 miles each. When the time comes (whatever “time” that may be), they can quickly be uncovered, so that massive planes carrying the Satanic Global Elites™ can be landed safely, ensuring that they are quickly ushered to safety in the underground bunker(s). (We’ll get to those shortly.)
According to many unnamed, anonymous sources, there is a vast, underground complex beneath DIA. A variety of conspiracy sites claim that much of the chaos and turmoil during the airport’s construction was actually deliberately engineered. The claim goes that by constantly altering plans, changing contractors, and shuffling around construction crews, nobody would have a clear picture of what, exactly, was being built. Well, nobody but the lizard people, of course. This claim is somewhat undermined by the fact that they also like to frequently cite one anonymous “whistleblower” who claimed to have worked on a construction crew, and therefore know exactly what was being built.
This brings us to those aforementioned underground bunkers. While it’s true that there are a great many tunnels beneath the airport, the notion of what amounts to an underground city (as is often described) is fanciful at best. A facility the size of DIA requires a significant number of maintenance tunnels, not to mention the sheer amount of passenger baggage that needs to be routed throughout. It’s therefore not surprising that there is a substantial facility beneath the terminals. However, despite what Mr. Anonymous claims, there is no evidence of a 6-story-deep complex, complete with everything needed to keep a colony of “elites” alive and well through a manufactured apocalypse of their own design.
Another hypothesis which has been presented is that the underground facility would be used, not for the survival of the [insert the secret society of your choosing], but rather to imprison the rebels who dared stand against their tyranny. Alternatively, some think it’s what’s known as a “DUMB” (no, seriously), an acronym for Deep Underground Military Base. This theory (I use the word in the colloquial sense, not the scientific one) says that there’s a tunnel connecting the base to the NORAD facility at Cheyenne Mountain. For the record, the longest road tunnel in the world is the Lærdal tunnel in Norway, a stunning engineering feat which measures in at around 15 miles, 6 times shorter than the imaginary 90-mile-long tunnel would have to be. (I specify road tunnel, since tunnels designed to transport water, rather than people or resources, can extend significantly further.)
Again, as with so many of these claims, there is no actual evidence to support any of these assertions, and it’s all just based on speculation, conjecture, and paranoia. For those who have decided that the underground structures, or any of the other things listed in this post, have an insidiously evil secret purpose, no mundane explanation will satisfy, regardless of how reasonable and well-supported it is. The question remains: If a secret organization really was conspiring to wipe out humanity (or whatever else their evil schemes entail), why would they deliberately and intentionally leave so many clues behind?
Clippings File: Denver. Airports. Denver International Airport. Conspiracy Theories
The New World Airport Commission archival collection (WH858).
Conspiracies Take Flight at Denver Airport (Snopes.com)
(For further information on these and future conspiracy theories, type "DIA" into the search engine of your choosing, and strap yourself in.)