Nazi runways, out of the way areas, underground bunkers, aliens and artistic depictions of the apocalypse
Menacing sculptures and mystery bunkers. Swastika-shaped runways and murals that indicate a New World Order takeover or alien invasion.
And how about those gargoyles lurking by the baggage claim?
Conspiracy theories about Denver International Airport have risen spectacularly for more than two decades, owing to the airport’s combination of bold public art, strange architecture, notorious construction issues and an internet-fueled cycle of self-feeding paranoia.
They predate even the airport’s 1995 debut, but Jesse Ventura assisted to popularize them with a 2012 show of his TV present “Conspiracy Theory,” and dozens of media outlets from ABC News to the Science Channel still report them on an annual basis.
Not that the airport discourages the rumors.
“We have a CEO (Kim Day) who really embraces the conspiracy ideas,” stated Heath Montgomery, senior public information officer for DIA. “We decided a few years ago that rather than fight all of this and try and convince everybody there’s nothing really going on, let’s have some fun with it.”
2016 marks a level in the airport’s marketing savvy. For the very first time, DIA is featuring a unpretentious, museum-style exhibition of the most noteworthy (and, undoubtedly, least controversial) theories in honor of October as “Conspiracy Month.” Events have included a “conspiracy-themed costume party” and free “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” screening – selected because the coordinates for the alien landing in the 1977 film apparently point to DIA’s location (in truth it’s an empty field 51 miles northwest of the airport).
Most of the concepts are so laughable and effortlessly disproved that DIA is pleased to weaponize them as marketing resources. That, in turn, translates to an approximated “hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars” in free publicity, Montgomery stated.
“Those aren’t even pictures of our airport,” he stated as a Buzzfeed video played on a TV screen right behind him in the conspiracy display, which runs through Oct. 31 in the main terminal. “People see it out of context and then it continues the dialogue. YouTube is a big propagator of this. There’s been a great deal of misinformation out there that folks just regurgitate and spout it without thinking or addressing the reality behind it.”
To get to the soul of their continuing popularity, a Denver Post crew was awarded behind-the-scenes (and underground) accessibility to analyze the theories, facts and history of the country’s sixth-busiest, which plans to see a record 58 million travelers by the end of 2016.
The concept: The Freemasons, a centuries-old secret society, has governed the airport ever since it launched, with connections to the New World Order, a cluster of global elites who hold power over international affairs.
The history: A dedication plaque at the airport’s south entry (near the Westin Hotel and RTD University of Colorado A-Line) dated March 19, 1994, includes a time capsule and bears the mark of the Freemasons, as well as a reference point to the New World Airport Commission. “Strange markings” have also been observed around the airport, apparently implying secret or alien languages.
The facts: While the Freemasons are a authentic fraternal (and historically cloistered) organization with civic connections to the airport’s dedication, there is no proof to indicate they have a hand in ongoing planning or decision-making at the civilian facility. Anti-Masonic conspiracies that date back more than a century were plainly dusted off and updated in advance of 2012’s “apocalypse fever.” The time capsule, to be opened up in 2094, is made up of coins, a signed opening-day ball from Coors Field, Mayor Wellington Webb’s sneakers and a few Black Hawk casino tokens, among other objects. The New World Airport Commission was termed by Charles Ansbacher – an arts advocate who passed away in 2010. The name is a reference to Dvorák’s New World Symphony, based on a 2007 Westword post, and the Commission was designed only to orchestrate DIA’s opening festivities. The “strange markings” are Navajo-language characters and references to other airport artists.
Artistic indicators to the apocalypse
The theory: The airport’s 40-piece public art collection, most famously its colorful, 28-foot-wide murals by artist Leo Tanguma, its “Notre Denver” gargoyle sculptures near the east and west-side baggage claim locations, and the Mustang sculpture (a.k.a. big blue horse, or “Bluecifer”) close to Peña Boulevard, are indications to a sinister influence at the airport, alternately acknowledged as Illuminati, Freemasons, New World Order or Nazis.
The history: Like most concepts, this one approximately parallels the rise of the internet at the time of the airport’s beginning and has been given fuel over the years by radio hosts like George Noory, TV conspiracy-backer Ventura and numerous others. They point to Nazi or fascist symbolism in Tanguma’s murals (on Level 5 of the Jeppesen Terminal), the threatening and apparently arbitrary nature of the gargoyles, and the fact that a part of the 32-foot, 9,000-pound Mustang sculpture (which features glowing red eyes, construed as reference to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) fell on and mortally wounded its creator Luis Jiménez.
The facts: The significance of Tanguma’s murals is regularly divorced from the framework of their creation, which tells a hopeful account of peace and environmental stewardship subsequent times of war and pollution. Conspiracy theorists concentrate only on the grim imagery but not the rainbow-laden resolution (read from right-to-left in the mural “Children of the World Dream of Peace”). The red eyes in the Mustang sculpture are an respect to the artist’s father, who worked with neon signs. “Hindsight’s 20/20, because it truly could happen to be any color of neon,” stated Heather Kaufman, director of arts and public events for DIA. And the gargoyles? They have in the past been utilized as decorative yet functional downspouts, and normally, as longtime symbols of protection to ward off evil spirits. In DIA’s situation, they’re playfully popping out of open suitcases on pillars.
Underground bunkers – as well as aliens
The theory: Hidden beneath the airport’s underground baggage-transport tunnels is a mystery bunker (or sequence of bunkers) created to house billionaires and global political elite just in case of an apocalypse. Lizard people (a.k.a. “Reptoids”) and/or proof of aliens are also believed to be lurking down there.
The history: Contractors who in the beginning worked on the airport, which went over budget and launched 16 months behind schedule, apparently observed proof of bunker entrances and unexplained tunnels. A multi-million dollar computerized baggage system failed to operate as developed, fueling doubts about the purpose and scale of the construction. An “alien” drawing has shown up on the walls, and blurry footage of “lizard people” has shown up on conspiracy websites.
The facts: Roughly 1,000 folks work daily in the numerous levels underneath the airport, ferrying luggage among ticket counters, planes and baggage claim locations in a pair of 7,000-foot long tunnels that run alongside the airport’s underground trains – which were not promptly ready to utilize upon the airport’s opening. As observed during a tour of the tunnels supplied to The Denver Post, all plumbing and electrical infrastructure seems to end at the underground area’s lowest level; hiding anything else under it would be an engineering feat on par with the “Chunnel” that links England to France. In addition, “Over the years, little personal touches have been created,” Montgomery stated of the tunnels, pointing to the hand-drawn alien graphic (as well as decidedly non-alien-themed “graffiti” like smiley faces) as he forced an electric golf cart under the B concourse. The automated baggage system was in fact utilized in different capacities, mostly by United Airlines, up until 2010. “There’s a certain mystique to anything you can’t see,” Montgomery stated of the 470,000 square feet of underground space. “The fact of the matter is, it would take me three days to show you everything down here.” Last but not least, airport workers have been known to put on lizard masks as pranks while the media are on tours – which includes one captured on camera by Fox 31 KDVR-Denver in a video that has since been distributed (often uncredited) as proof of their existence.
Nazi runways, out of the way locations
The theory: DIA’s location, approximately 25 miles from downtown Denver, swastika-shaped runway configuration and numerous, hardly concealed symbols of Nazism or fascism touch at any number of threatening plots, theorists state. Also, a tunnel is stated to connect DIA to NORAD, practically 100 miles to the south near Colorado Springs.
The history: Nazi conspiracy theories are actually among the most popular online for the last two decades, and in spite of its recent, tongue-in-cheek embrace of most conspiracies, DIA officials have shied from immediately addressing them – which some view as a indication of their truth. “We do have some subject matter that we wanted to either just avoid or tread very lightly with,” stated DIA’s Kaufman, in reaction to a question about what made the cut for October’s exhibit in the main terminal. “Some things are worth debunking. Others aren’t.”
The facts: A close glimpse at aerial photography of the allegedly swastika-shaped runaways shows a lumpy, misshapen and mostly interpretive swastika, at best. The rotating, fan-shaped style permits for optimal take-off into and against the wind from different directions, based on weather and traffic patterns. Furthermore, a 90-mile long tunnel from DIA’s remote location to NORAD appears highly improbable and cost-prohibitive, given that the world’s longest underground rail tunnel – the newly opened, Swiss Alps-traversing Gotthard Base Tunnel – is less than half that length (35.4 miles) and took more than a decade to excavate and build.
For folks with vested pursuits in sowing doubt about institutions and organizations, the real fear may just be discovering there’s a boring explanation for all these theories. Conspiracies produce drama and excitement, permitting theorists to more clearly define (and typically reinforce) their existing beliefs. They feel alive, adrenalized and righteous.
But a more intricate, gray-area explanation of things might be the greatest unacknowledged threat to those with a stake in defining themselves against systems they don’t (or don’t want to) fully comprehend.
Theorists, for instance, have never properly addressed this notion: If the airport and its backers have spent decades and billions of dollars concealing secret, global plots and infrastructure, why jeopardize that work by putting so many noticeable clues in plain sight?
“No matter what you do, you lose,” Mongtomery stated. “You show people the tunnels and explain the symbols, you lose. You clam up and deny it, you lose. So that’s why we’ve started to have fun with these, because people are going to believe what they believe, regardless of hard evidence.”
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