DENVER — Are they foolish rumors taken one step too far, or is there some truth to the conspiracies at the Denver International Airport?
That depends on how far you’re willing to let your imagination run wild. For you, perhaps the truth is what you perceive as reality. Or maybe it’s just what you want to believe. Or maybe it’s basically anything that has yet to be disproved.
When examined with even just a sliver of truth, the “proof” of these conspiracies seems pretty feeble and far-flung. But Alex Renteria, a spokeswoman with the airport, said it’s clear that isn’t stopping the hard-core conspiracy theorists.
And that’s just fine by DIA, which is celebrating its 25th birthday Friday.
“It’s not as exciting as everybody wants it to be, but I think that’s why we love it so much,” she said. “Let’s get excitement around our airport. And that’s OK if people think we’re weird and have the Illuminati and that aliens land their spaceships here. That’s fine with us. Keep thinking it. And we’ll keep trying to prove you wrong, but we’re not afraid to embrace those conspiracies.”
Conspiracy: Bunkers beneath the airport are home to lizard people, aliens and the Illuminati
One of the most well-known conspiracies revolving around the Denver airport is its underground tunnels and their purpose.
And who, or what, lives there.
Today, the tunnels are a flurry of activity. Surrounded in full by concrete, drivers pull baggage carts in all directions, ensuring the suitcases get to the planes before takeoff and to the baggage carousel in a timely manner. Thousands of people work in the tunnels every day, Renteria said. Travel all the way to the end and it becomes quiet. Just four solid walls lit along the sides. If you imagine an underground tunnel, it's about what you'd expect.
"It’s not as spooky as people think, but we encourage people to keep believing," she said.
When it was first being constructed, the Denver airport was behind schedule. The public began wondering why the timeline had been extended and what was actually going on at the airport, she said. Somehow, she said, people jumped to the conclusion that there are bunkers under DIA and that was the reason construction was taking extra time. She said this simply isn't the case, though the tunnels are quite real.
Renteria said they’ve heard rumors that the tunnels, which are there to transport luggage from aircraft to the carousels in the airport, extend well beyond the airport’s grounds. In fact, some believe the tunnels go all the way to Cheyenne Mountain, the home of NORAD.
Renteria confirmed that the tunnels only extend out to the perimeter of the airport. In total, they're about 1.63 miles long.
It only gets more bizarre when you learn about the conspiracies of who calls these tunnels home — lizard people.
“That one is so wild to me,” Renteria said. “I don’t know. I’m wondering if someone fueled it. Somebody just decided that was the case and they were like, ‘Now there’s lizard people here.’”
Denver7 previously reported that the lizard people are supposedly controlling the airport and can change forms as they work to rule the world.
Renteria said DIA is taking this one in stride.
“In our marketing campaign in the Great Hall, there is a reference to lizard people in the tunnels,” she said. “We know that rumor is alive and well.”
And, to be honest, she said she's never actually seen one, so she hates to debunk the conspiracy.
"I encourage anybody who does believe in it— keep believing," she said. "Who knows? Maybe some day we will see a lizard person."
If there are no lizard people, are there at least aliens?
“There are no aliens,” Renteria said. “This isn’t a place where aliens can land their ship. I guess that’s what we call them. No, unfortunately. I feel like that would be against FAA regulations for anything to land beside aircraft.”
And how about the Illuminati, the world’s elites? Will members bunker in the tunnels during an apocalypse?
Renteria said this is also untrue, though she jokingly wished there was some truth to it because she feels confident that she’d be able to nab a spot in the bunker if the world was indeed coming to an end.
“I feel like the Illuminati would like a nicer place," she said. "Don’t get me wrong, I love our tunnels, but I’m just thinking with all that money, if they’re the world’s elite, they’d want a nice place. Some wallpaper. Some marble floors.”
She confirmed that no airport employees have ever reported any strange sightings in the tunnels, though there are some drawings that could possibly depict aliens.
Don’t plan on sniffing around on your own to find the tunnels or lizard people. DIA is, after all, an airport and security is very tight.
“I’m sure people are very curious and want to walk into doors that are unmarked or say ‘Dangerous’ when really there’s just like a furnace back there,” Renteria said.
The public is not allowed in the tunnels due to safety hazards. Conspiracy theorists may argue this is just another move to cover up the secrets under DIA.
“Public spaces are public for a reason and we keep the public out of certain spaces for their safety and for the safety of others," Renteria said. "As we just saw, there’s somebody welding nearby. I mean this is a total operation, so it’d be really hard to have passengers just hanging out down here.”
She compared it to the sewage system — the public simply isn't allowed down there. There's one exception: Travelers would be welcomed to the tunnels if a tornado was threatening their safety.
There is one conspiracy in the tunnels she said she can take seriously.
"There is an elusive soda machine that I’ve heard about that is 25 cents for a soda," she said. "Who knows? I’ve never found it. That’s the real conspiracy theory."
She said she is absolutely in favor of people believing in whatever conspiracies they want, but she also won't deny what's actually happening in the tunnels.
"They’re not full of conspiracy," she said. "They’re full of baggage.”
Conspiracy: Time capsule hints at Freemasons and New World Order
The airport’s time capsule, complete with a plaque, is on display near the south security checkpoint. It reads, “The time capsule beneath this stone contains messages and memorabilia to the people of Colorado in 2094.”
But there is one line that seems to catch everybody’s attention.
“It says, 'New World Airport (Commission)' on the plaque and I think people see that and say, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s the Illuminati! It’s the New World Order!’” Renteria said.
The New World Order often refers to the organization that will rule humanity in the event of an apocalypse.
“Really, what that plaque was talking about is that we were considered a new international airport,” she said. “So, we were considered a new world airport — sort of access to the world.”
DIA was completed and opened to the public in 1995.
Renteria said the plaque has a Freemason and Masonic symbol on it, which is representative of the local philanthropic Freemason lodges in Colorado. They helped get the time capsule to the airport, she explained.
She said they have heard reports of people who are Masons who visit the time capsule with their Mason Card and try to swipe it near the time capsule, just to see if “there is something that they can get access to that normal people can’t.”
How can we know for sure that the Illuminati and New World Order aren’t involved?
Buckle up and stay patient. We’ll likely have to wait until the time capsule is opened in 2094.
Conspiracy: Blucifer is haunted (and will be removed from the airport grounds)
It’s hard to live in Colorado and never hear about the 32-foot, 9,000-pound blue mustang outside the Denver airport. Its name is Blue Mustang, but most know it as Blucifer.
He's a gateway to the west, Renteria said.
"This wild mustang, rearing up," she said.
The piece was commissioned as public art project for DIA in 1993. A panel decided to select American sculpture artist Luis Jimenez to do the work. He had had his work shown in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC.
You likely know what happened next: Jimenez started the project but when he was almost done, a piece of the statue fell on him. He suffered a severed artery and lived in a rural area too far from a hospital to get help in time, Renteria said.
But the conspiracy that the horse somehow came alive and attacked his owner? Not so much.
The statue was completed by Jimenez's children in 2008 and erected near the airport. At the time, almost everybody was unhappy with the decision. Angry Facebook groups were created. Petitions were signed. All to no avail.
Conspiracists have also questioned why the horse has red, glowing eyes.
Renteria said it’s a nod to Jimenez’s father, who owned a neon shop in Mexico.
Every so often, a report will circulate with breaking news about Blucifer being taken down and removed from the airport’s property. We’ve seen it time and time again on social media — and people truly begin to believe the Blue Mustang is actually on its way out.
“Never,” Renteria said. “No, he’s our favorite piece. One of our favorite pieces. He does what is art is meant to do — create conversation.”
About a decade after the structure was put up, the airport stopped receiving complaints to remove Blucifer.
And no matter if you hate him or love him, he's here to stay, Renteria said.
Conspiracy: Some artwork hints at the apocalypse, others confirm conspiracists' beliefs
If you’ve visited the airport, you’ve likely seen the artwork in the terminals and signs around the Great Hall.
Let’s start with those signs. In August 2018, airport staff put posters around the construction in the Great Hall hinting at what was to come. But the signs also skirted around straight-out denying the conspiracies surrounding the airport.
One sign features gargoyles and aliens with the question, "What's happening behind this wall?" Another features the large green head of an alien and reads, “Yes, DEN’s got some secrets."
Reactions to the signs ranged, which are still scattered around the Great Hall, Renteria said.
“The internet is a weird place,” she said. “So, you’ll find the people who were laughing with us and you’ll find the people who are like, ‘Finally, they’re telling the truth.’”
The same goes for the talking gargoyle — Greg the gargoyle — the airport first put on display in February 2019. The animated guardian of the airport now sits watch over the Southwest baggage claim on the fifth level. Stand in front of him and he may just start talking to you.
“Some people love him and some of those really-into-conspiracy people are now certain that we are Illuminati headquarters and that this is a real place, a lizard lair,” she said. “And it’s just wild.”
Renteria said the gargoyle came out of hiding to spend more time with people. Gargoyles, after all, exist to protect people — it's why they're often placed on homes or churches, she said. Greg is there to protect passengers' baggage.
"He loves it here," she said. "That’s what he said."
She said he's just another way DIA is bringing fun to air travel.
"We love to surprise our passengers," she said. "We want to make the airport not your normal travel experience — we want to elevate it."
In addition, travelers can find two unique murals at the airport, both by artist Leo Tanguma. One is called “Children of the World Dream of Peace” and the other “In Peace and Harmony with Nature.”
Both murals depict a warning of man-made issues, Renteria said.
“In Peace and Harmony with Nature” is split into two murals, with the left side showing a scene of destruction, violence and death. The separate right side of the mural is longer, and depicts people from many cultures celebrating joyously together with animals.
"This is a warning if you will," she said. "If we don’t take care of each other and our planet we could end up with a world that doesn’t look as beautiful as we want it to look like. Extinction, the turtle with the plastic on it. And sadness."
She then pointed to the right side of the mural.
"And then this other side is if we take care of each other and our Earth, we can end up with happiness," she said. "That’s (Tanguma's) version of what he wanted in the world."
The other mural “Children of the World Dream of Peace,” which is currently not on exhibit, is also split into two parts: On the right is a dark scene of a solider towering over huddled children. The left is much more colorful and positive and shows the solider on the ground with people from all around the world celebrating peace.
Some conspiracists believe the murals show a very real apocalypse, but Renteria said they were created to show what could happen to the planet if humans continue to destroy it and if violence continues.
“It’s anti-war, anti-hate and really the over-arching message is a symbol of children of the world coming together to a world of peace,” Renteria said.
She said it's meant to start a conversation about the future, the past and what makes us, us.
Other conspiracies at the Denver airport
Take a walk through the Great Hall and you may notice the letters “Au Ag” in a mining cart carved on the tile. Ask any scientist and they’ll tell you what it stands for — the atomic symbols for gold and silver. Renteria said this is a nod to Colorado’s mining history.
“But people say the conspiracy is that Au and Ag is the abbreviation for Australian antigen, which is that deadly toxin,” she said.
Australian antigen is, apparently, Renteria said, the Illuminati’s secret weapon. And it could have the power to wipe out all of humankind.
Renteria said one of her favorite conspiracies revolves around the airport’s coordinates. The rumor: The coordinates of DIA were given to humans by aliens.
“It’s in Spielberg’s ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ and that those coordinates are directly taken at Denver International Airport,” she said. “But that’s not true. It’s about 51 miles northwest of us.”
The 1977 science fiction film, which follows the story of a group of people attempting to contact aliens, mentions a number series which, when turned into coordinates, land you, as Renteria said, roughly 50 miles away from the airport. But conspiracists question how the film, which was created 16 years before DIA broke ground, knew those numbers would line up near the airport.
She said it’s fascinating how some people will take parts of a movie and apply it to their reality.
“They kind of take that upon themselves to make whatever they want about Martians coming,” she said.
What’s fueling these conspiracies?
These conspiracies are just the jumping off points for countless other theories.
But perhaps the real question is how the strong speculation remains, even as rumors get refuted over and over.
How have they survived the test of time — a 25 whole years?
“I think it’s fun, first and foremost,” Renteria said. “I think people like to be special. Especially Denverites and the Coloradans — it’s something that we can be proud of. There’s something different about our airport, whether it’s you’re about to land and you see a mustang out … your window or if you’re walking through the airport and you see the Tanguma art piece about children of the world. I think it makes it a little bit special.”