Conspiracy Theories Take Flight at Denver Airport (2024)


The airport is a hub for both travel and urban legends.

Bethania Palma

Published July 29, 2021

Conspiracy Theories Take Flight at Denver Airport (1)

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

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The Denver International Airport (DIA) has long been the focus of intrigue. Even a seemingly unremarkable video of a pile of luggage, which was being used to test new baggage claim equipment at the airport, sparked widespread fascination on social media.

That's because DIA has unusual features — which some consider otherworldly signs of malfeasance. We'll discuss those features, some of which have stirred controversy for years, below.

Is the Airport Controlled by a Secret Cabal?

A popular TikTok video posted on June 2, 2021, by @hyperfocuspod noted that an underlying theme of rumors and urban legends surrounding the airport is that it is controlled by a vague, unnamed group.

There are a lot of specific theories, but the basic idea is that the airport is controlled by some all-powerful "they," the TikTok user said in the video. "Such as Free Masons, the New World Order, Nazis or neo-Nazis, or the Illuminati."

The answer to "who owns" or "who controls" Denver's airport, however, couldn't be more boring. Like other major airports in the U.S., the short answer is: The government does.

"The City and County of Denver owns and operates Denver International Airport," according to DIA's website. "Under the city charter, the management, operation and control of Denver International Airport is delegated to the city’s Department of Aviation. The Manager of the Department of Aviation is appointed by and reports directly to the Mayor of Denver."

Secret Societies

A pervasive belief about the airport is related to claims about a secretive cabal that owns or controls it. The airport's website points to a capstone demarcating a time capsule as the flashpoint for this belief. The capstone reads, in part, "The time capsule beneath this stone contains messages and memorabilia to the people of Colorado in 2094."

It also contains a symbol for the Freemasons, a generational guild which is often the focus of conspiracy theories, and the names of contributors, the first one of which is "New World Airport Commission," which sounds similar to "New World Order," the premise of one of the most prevalent and persistent conspiracy theories of modern times.

But according to the city of Denver, that only underscores the generosity of local masonic lodges in helping with airport construction. As for the airport commission, the city said:

The capstone also makes mention of a group called the New World Airport Commission. Unlike the Freemasons, this group doesn’t actually exist, making its inclusion a little tougher to explain. And, as some like to point out, the name is suspiciously close to that of the so-called New World Order. But, according to a 2007 Westword article, the name is likely a reference to Czech composer Antonín Dvořák’s “New World Symphony,” and the New World Airport Commission was simply a temporary commission created to arrange the new airport’s opening festivities.

Tunnels or Structures Underneath the Airport

A subset of the conspiratorial beliefs surrounding the airport holds that it contains an underground network of tunnels and structures that extend to Colorado Springs Air Force Base, or the Cheyenne Mountain Complex.

But that's not true. According to the city, the reality behind these, too, are fairly mundane:

Although the airport acknowledges that there are several subterranean levels beneath the main terminal (including the trains that carry passengers to and from different concourses and a long-defunct automated baggage system), they say the tunnels only extend out to the perimeter of the airport, less than two miles.

They also insist that you’re much more likely to meet mundane office workers than billionaires in ceremonial robes, since some of the underground levels host work and office spaces. And they’re adamant that any purported evidence of space aliens is just graffiti from mischievous employees, some of whom have been known to don lizard masks to prank unsuspecting coworkers and members of the media.

'Blucifer,' the 'Demonic' Horse Statue

Installed in 2008, one of the airport's iconic fixtures is a towering statue of a rearing horse, "Blue Mustang." With its glowing red eyes, the sculpture has become part of the airport's lore.

Adding to its imposing presence is the fact that Luis Jimenez, the artist who created the statue (known as "Blucifer" to locals), tragically died in an accident while constructing the piece when part of it broke off and fell on him.

But the statue isn't "demonic," as some assert. Jimenez's death was a tragic accident, and none of the statue's features were created with the intent to give the horse an ominous air. Jimenez's widow, Susan, explained the features in 2019 to Colorado Public Radio.

The sculpture is laden with symbolism, but none of it demonic. Instead, it's a blend of references to Jimenez's personal and cultural life journey.

The red eyes are just LED flood lights, inspired by an experience Luis had at home:

Susan understands that the “eyes have been a point of focus.” She remembers a time Luis was home alone at night. He heard something in the living room and went to investigate.

“He sees these two eyes,” she said. “And he said the hairs on the back of his neck stood up.”

He had thought there was an invader in their home, but then felt a nudge from a familiar source. It was their horse Black Jack, the model for Luis’ final work, who had mysteriously broken into their living room.

“And so [do the eyes] have anything to do with that incident and this kind of you're afraid of something but then it’s OK [because you realize] it is familiar,” she said. “I don't know. But the eyes do not have any evil intent whatsoever.”

And the horse is blue, Susan Jimenez said, as a tribute to the family's pet horse Black Jack, who had served as the model for the sculpture. Black Jack had a coat pattern known as blue roan, a mixture of black and white hair that creates a blue appearance.

The glittery paint quality selected by Jimenez was a nod to lowrider cars, symbolic of the Chicano working class experience, Dale Kronkright, head of conservation at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, explained to Colorado Public Radio.

By Bethania Palma

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who started her career as a daily newspaper reporter and has covered everything from crime to government to national politics. She has written for ... read more

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