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The DIA is a host to many wild conspiracy theories, from the Freemasons to lizard-pepole.

Denver International Airport (DIA) hosts millions of travelers annually and spans a sprawling 54 square miles. Not only is it a bustling hub for air travel, but it’s also a conspiracy theorist’s playground. Claims of underground bunkers and artwork that hints at an apocalypse have been circulating the internet for years. While it’s highly improbable that lizard people played a role in designing and building the airport, there are still many unanswered questions about its bizarre origins and eccentric features.

Even before the airport opened in 1995, theorists started stirring. The construction of DIA went $2 million over budget, according to Business Insider. The project also took 16 more months than expected. Some were confused about why time, money and energy were being funneled into a new airport when there was an existing one near the city that was still functioning. Looking for answers, conspiracists found ways to explain the odd beginning.

New World Order Theory

One theory is that the airport was created by the New World Order, a secret group with ties to Nazis. A dedication plaque near one of the entrances also says that the airport was funded by “The New World Airport Commission.” There’s no information that this commission actually exists, which caused people to link it to the New World Order. The New World Order is an alleged group of global elites with power over multiple countries.

The Freemasons Theory

That same plaque also features The Freemasons’ symbol, so some think that it was built in conjunction with their society. The Freemasons is the oldest and largest fraternity. Shrouded in secrecy and exclusivity, the group have been the subject of multiple conspiracies due to their undisclosed rituals. The Freemasons have an estimated 1.3 million members in the U.S. The date on the dedication plaque March 19, 1994. The sum of the numbers of the date is 33, which is the highest, most elite level of Freemasonry. Some even believe that the New World Order is linked to the Freemasons. 

Causes of Conspiracies

Another theory for the airport going over budget is that it houses an underground bunker for a selective group of elites. Some even posit that aliens or lizard people reside there. While that’s an absurd claim, it could explain where the funds were spent.

DIA also hosts an impressive slate of odd and unusual artwork. It’s interesting that there’s so much commissioned work, considering that the airport was so over budget. The murals by Leo Tanguma depict somewhat disturbing images, such as a devil emerging from luggage, a man — that some argue looks like a Nazi officer — in a gas mask and children near fire and knives. Some people believe that these artworks have been removed due to the controversy, but they're currently in storage being cleaned and refurbished as the airport undergoes construction, according to Jennifer Garner, an exhibits curator at DIA. Theorists argue that the images could lend clues to the apocalypse. It’s strange that some of the pieces would showcase unsettling scenes, as patrons would be seeing them before taking off. 

DIA’s CEO, Kim Day, actually enjoys the theories, according to the Denver Post. A public information officer from the airport claims that Day believes they cannot convince the public otherwise, so they might as well lean into the conspiracies. The airport’s website even describes the main theories. If it did have something to hide, one would believe that it wouldn’t embrace the claims. However, it’s unclear why the airport wouldn’t provide reasoning to disprove any of the theories. The conspiracies could be an effective marketing ploy. 

The theories, outlandish as they may be, provide justification for the oddities of the airport’s beginnings. It’s unlikely that DIA harbors the secrets of an elite society. However, there’s still much to wonder about — the budget, the artwork and the late opening. For now, the public has to chalk up DIA’s oddities to a strange artistic vision. 

CORRECTION (July 28, 1:04 p.m.): A previous version of this article stated that some artworks in the Denver International Airport were removed due to the controversy.

Diana Witt is a junior theatre and media arts and design double major. Contact Diana at wittdr@dukes.jmu.edu.