The Perfect Gift Book for Dads and Grads. Give them a summer of discovery and wonder.
Mini book

How Denver Airport Became the International Hub of Conspiracy Theories

Denver International Airport, home to many conspiracy theories. (Photo: David Rutledge/flickr)

Things have been a little chaotic at Denver International Airport (DIA) in recent weeks, after a breakdown in Southwest Airlines’ computer system caused long lines to snake through the terminal. For most travelers, it was an annoyance.

For those more focused on DIA’s ongoing weirdness, it was all part of the conspiracy.

Built at $2 billion over budget and unveiled in February 1995—16 months behind schedule—Denver Airport has been attracting controversy since construction began. The airport is 53 square miles, making it the second-largest in the world by area, behind King Fahd International Airport in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. The layout of its six runways is, to some, swastika-like. (According to an airport spokeswoman quoted in the Telegraph in February 2015, “[a]ll of DIA’s runways support the largest jets currently flying. We think the shape looks like a pinwheel.”)

Denver Airport under snow An aerial of the airport in winter. (Photo: ashleyniblock/WikiCommons CC BY-SA 2.0)

The “swastika” runway is just one piece of one of the most outlandish theories attached to Denver International Airport—that it was actually commissioned by the New World Order (aka the New Nazi Party). The stone dedication marker for a time capsule buried under an American flag at the south end of the terminal actually mentions the “New World Airport Commission.” Furthering speculation, its design features the square and compasses symbol associated with the Freemasons. 

The strangest thing about this is that the New World Airport Commission doesn’t exist. Conspiracy theorists argue that the New World Airport Commission really refers to the New World Order. According to that same Telegraph article, “[It’s] actually the New—World Airport Commission,” according to the airport. “It was designed by a planning and advocacy group consisting of local business and political leaders. The group had absolutely no association with the ‘New World Order’.”

Time Capsule dedication marker The time capsule marker. (Photo: Devon Hollahan/flickr)

The Denver International Airport uses a series of underground tunnels to run a passenger train from concourse to concourse, which is currently functional. What’s not functional, and was part of the delay in the original opening of the airport, is an automated baggage system. It failed from the first try and was never fixed, leaving empty tunnels under the airport that leave people wondering where they might lead.

Pair that with the rumor of buried buildings under the airport, and you have the perfect setting for a conspiracy about an underground bunker or eventual underground city. The Denver Post spoke with DIA Communications Director Stacy Stegman about the possibility of a hidden city: “I think people would be very disappointed if they were to actually spend some time under DIA,” Stegman said. “We are under the footprint of 53 million people. It would be pretty difficult to hide any covert activity with the thousands of workers that are down here every day.”

On the runway at Denver. On the runway at Denver. (Photo: Paul Heaberlin/flickr

This particular theory is one that can really take you down the conspiracy rabbit hole. The beliefs about the tunnels range anywhere from people being annoyed about the waste of money to believing that the tunnels lead to future Nazi prisons and concentration camps to believing that the tunnels lead to underground cities populated by aliens.

According to the Denver International Airport website, the fueling system at DIA ”is capable of pumping 1,000 gallons of jet fuel per minute through a 28-mile network of pipes. Each of the six fuel farm tanks holds 65,000 barrels (2.73 million gallons) of jet fuel.” This is a lot of fuel for a commercial airport—and 40 percent more than the larger King Fahd International Airport—causing some people to wonder what that extra fuel might be for.

Regardless of what’s happening underground, there is plenty of weirdness in plain sight at DIA. One of the more striking sights, located beside the road leading up to the terminal, is the unsettling Blue Mustang. 

Dubbed ”Blucifer” by locals, it is a 32-foot-tall sculpture of a wild, cerulean-hued horse rearing up in anger. The eyes glow red at night, but that is just one hint of its evil energy. The giant horse killed its creator, sculptor Luis Jiménez, before it was even finished being made. In 2006, a 9,000-pound section of the enormous sculpture fell on Jiménez, severing an artery in his leg and causing his death. Despite this terrible accident, Blue Mustang was installed in front of the airport in 2008.

Denver Airport mustangThe Blue Mustang monument. (Photo: Eric Golub/flickr

The strange art continues on the inside. The two murals at the airport designed by Leo Tanguma, called “Children of the World Dream of Peace” and “In Peace and Harmony with Nature,” are pretty unnerving. In the former, a gargantuan figure in flowing olive-green military garb and gas mask wields an assault rifle in his left hand and while stabbing a dove with a cutlass with his right. A line of shrouded, despairing figures cowers in his wake. It’s just what you want to see before boarding an international flight.

(Photo: Donal Mountain/Creative Commons)

There are markings on the ground all around the airport, but the particular markings that are beneath the biological-warfare-themed mural include a mining cart with the initials “Au” and “Ag” on it. To some, they are clearly the symbols for gold and silver. To others, they represent an abbreviation for the “Australian Antigen,” a deadly strain of hepatitis that could be used as a weapon in biological warfare.

If you’re flying into DIA, you’ll find gargoyles when you go to retrieve your luggage from the carousel. Because gargoyles are supposed to watch over the area in which they are positioned, the creatures have been installed in the baggage claim area to ensure that all of the luggage arrives safe from harm. You can see the two gargoyles, which form a sculpture known as “Notre Denver” by Terry Allen, near claims 3 and 16.

Gargoyle at Denver International AirportGargoyle at Denver International Airport. (Photo: Pravin Premkumar/flickr)

The terror around DIA isn’t confined to its terrestrial space. In 2007, 14 planes at DIA ended up with cracked windshields. While most windshields were cracked at various places around the airport—during takeoff, taxiing at the airport, and parked at the gate—one of the planes’ windshields cracked when it was at 19,000 feet. While the official cause from National Transportation Safety Board officials was “foreign object debris”, the investigators couldn’t figure out the “precise nature” of the debris, though the airport is frequently plagued by storms, wind, and dust being blown around.

What conspiracy theorists believe really happened was the cracks were a result of an electromagnetic pulse from the nuclear testing site under the airport. Unfortunately, electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) affect electronics and would be more likely to wipe out the electrical systems of the airplanes than to crack the windshields.

Whether all the talk of conspiracy at DIA remains earthbound, people are definitely trying to get a closer look at what’s going on from above. The biggest issue with the airport over the last few months has been the presence of unauthorized recreational drones. In one case, a drone flew within 500 feet of an aircraft. Drone users aren’t supposed to fly within five miles of the airport, and no higher than 400 feet, but there have been 17 close calls in 2015, 10 of which were actually in DIA’s airspace. The airport is currently creating a group to address the drone issue. No word on whether the group will meet in the secret underground city.