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Creepy Murals in the Denver Airport - Is There Fire Behind the Smoke?

Thousands of oblivious air travelers walk by these sinister murals in the Denver International Airport every day.

Thousands of oblivious air travelers walk by these sinister murals in the Denver International Airport every day.

Real Fire or Just Blowing Smoke?

Conspiracies seem to be part of the human condition. Just as the human eye will interpret meaningful forms from the random bumps, swirls and shadows on the wall or see fluffy flying animals in the shifting clouds - a phenomenon called Pareidolia, so does the human psyche seem to have an irrepressible desire to find large scale organized plots and schemes in the actions; good intentioned or otherwise, of one or a few individuals. Perhaps conspiracies are a survival mechanism that is a legacy of man's tribal heritage; stemming from the time when one thirsty outsider drinking from your clan's waterhole was misinterpreted as a sinister plot to deprive all your kith and kin of water.

Whatever the psychological or sociological impetus behind them, man perceives conspiracies in society's bumps and swirls, and while most of these are probably meaningless shadows on the wall, once in a while a conspiracy comes along that you see with your own eyes, not through the paranoid filters of someone else, and its appearance makes you scratch your head and wonder if there might not be some substance behind it. In other words - are there real flames driving that smoke?

Are conspiracy theories just a form of mental pareidolia - the psychological equivalent of seeing faces on Mars?

Are conspiracy theories just a form of mental pareidolia - the psychological equivalent of seeing faces on Mars?

Forewarned, but Still Stunned

I returned very recently from a trip to Fort Collins, Colorado to visit my Mother, who resides in that city. I traveled with my son by plane, which arrived at the Denver International Airport (DIA), the closest airport in the region. As we disembarked and made our way to the Southwest Airlines baggage claim area, my son and I passed by one of the controversial murals that have been cited by conspiracy groups as part of a large body of evidence that pinpoints DIA as a secret fortress of the Freemason-backed New World Order. Some vaguely defined secret society has allegedly constructed huge hidden bunkers beneath the ground there to shelter the political elite of the world in the event of a major catastrophe. When a comet "grazed" the Earth by coming within a million miles of the planet in 2011, President Obama's coincidental arrival at the Denver airport was interpreted by the conspiracy faithful that he had been sent there to take cover in the event of our world's destruction.

If I had not been predisposed to be on the alert for these sinister looking DIA murals, such as the one you see at the top of this article, I probably would not have noticed anything out of the ordinary, but instead would have been caught up in the same state of blissful ignorance that enshrouds thousands of weary air travelers who walk by these bizarre colorful splashes on the walls every day and remain completely focused on their own business, without so much as a sideways glance. My own Mother was once snowed in at DIA for two days and remained unaware of their existence until I told her.

Yet the conspiracy theories surrounding the artwork on the floors, walls and concourses, and the mysteries associated with the underground tunnels, buried buildings, and even the form of the runways at DIA have been in circulation for several years now. Therefore, when I deplaned in the airport I was forewarned about these rather creepy objects that explore the dark themes of war and death, subjects that seem distastefully inappropriate in a structure through which skittish travelers often pass with the thoughts of past airline disasters already running through their apprehensive heads. This strange artwork and architecture definitely does not serve the purpose of soothing the anxiety of aviaphobic passengers, or anybody else.

I stumbled upon the unnatural decorations for the first time when random channel surfing took me to a 2010 episode of Tru TV's Conspiracy Theory, hosted by former pro wrestler and Minnesota Governor Jessie Ventura. I was rather intrigued by the program and actually managed to control my television ADHD through the entire episode, after which I filed the information in the recycle bin in the back of my mind, to fish it out again only a few days ago from five years of mental effluvium already washed under the proverbial bridge.

Forewarned as I was, I was still a bit shocked when I viewed these monstrosities with my own eyes. One would suspect that a Colorado airport would feature placid, pastoral paintings of Rocky Mountain alpine meadows and the gentle creatures that inhabit them. Instead, I walked off the plane to encounter a gas masked fiend impaling the white dove of peace on the point of a scimitar.

Delve Deeper into the Conspiracies

Further Observations of a Conspiratorial Nature

The creepy murals painted upon four different walls at the Denver International Airport are just one part of a grander set of notorious conspiracy-related objects of art. These include a giant apocalyptic horse statue that actually killed its creator when it fell upon him, a capstone containing Masonic symbols bordering an inscription reading "New World Airport Commission," a statue of Anubis, the Egyptian god of death, creepy carvings of gargoyles popping out of suitcases, and engravings indicating deadly biological toxins scattered on the floor with dark circles that look like Nazi death suns. In addition to the artwork, the very construction of the huge airport is replete with conspiracy. Enormous buildings buried beneath the runways are rumored to be the last refuge of the Illuminati, and the runways themselves are seen by some to be arranged in the form of a Nazi swastika, although one has to squint hard to detect this shape in an aerial photograph.

The artwork and architecture are murmured to be combined elements of an attempt by the secret international consortium that built the airport to obliquely communicate its devious scheme to depopulate the globe and then repopulate humanity via the elite remnants of the holocaust hiding deep in the bowels of the Denver airport. I felt a little silly writing these words here, but when you actually see the macabre murals it is not hard to join the chorus of voices asking "what the hell is going on here?"

I discovered an added element of Denver Airport strangeness on the morning of our return trip to San Diego, as my son and I boarded the underground train that takes passengers from the main terminal to the various gates. It probably means nothing, but hard core conspiracy theorists, of which I am not one, may have noted that the train itself directs passengers in a smoothly sinister voice that made me think of Blaine the Mono, the sentient though deranged monorail in Stephen King's Dark Tower novel "The Waste Lands." In that story Blaine the Mono attempts to carry gunslinger Roland Deschain and his Ka-tet to their doom, and the disturbing voice of the DIA railway caused my overly active imagination to conceive of being similarly derailed by this slick talking "Crazy Train."

Whether it is a pagan temple of apocalyptic doom or not, I found the Denver Airport to be extremely well organized for such a massive facility, as well as being incredibly easy for an outsider such as myself to navigate through. My son remarked to me with a sly, cynical grin that this, of course, is all part of the conspiracy. It makes perfect sense that the Illuminati, the Free Masons, the New World Order, or whoever may be the ringleaders of your current conspiracy flavor of the month would make ingress and egress in their subterranean fortress extremely efficient, in order to herd the human sheep out quickly and swiftly usher in the powerful elite when the Apocalypse hits.

Another portion of the Death Mural on depicts ghostly gassed mothers carrying dead babies - Deliberate depopulation by the New World Order or the La Llorona motif?

Another portion of the Death Mural on depicts ghostly gassed mothers carrying dead babies - Deliberate depopulation by the New World Order or the La Llorona motif?

The Real Theme Behind the Murals

The man behind the mysterious paintings is a Chicano artist named Leo Tanguma, a muralist noted for incorporating themes of the Mexican-American struggle, as well as protest against the war-mongering military industrial complex into his artwork. When interviewed about the inspiration behind his DIA murals, Tanguma denies being forced to paint from some cryptic directive sent down from the secret meeting rooms of Illuminati headquarters. Instead, he defends his airport murals as being largely of the same themes he has used throughout his career. After examining a sample of his pre-DIA work on the Internet I tend to believe him.

Furthermore, Tanguma reports that many of the children depicted in the DIA murals are local victims of gang violence whose images were included at their parents' request. One of the murals' other diverse subjects is the Native American legend of La Llorona, an indigenous woman who is said to have murdered her children after their conquistador Father threatened to take them back to Spain. Tanguma actually paints a happy ending to this tale, an idyllic scene that is often misinterpreted by conspiracy buffs as the celebration of the happy children of the Illuminati remnant after their post-apocalyptic reemergence from their Denver Airport bunker.

Still, there is enough of the arcane and esoteric in the DIA murals to cause a bit of head scratching, even in the most hard headed conspiracy skeptic. For instance; in one of these painting's more tranquil scenes we see the happy children of all races handing the weapons of their various countries over for destruction by a small boy dressed in supposedly typical German costume. This wildly exaggerated interpretation is held up by conspiracy proponents as proof of the airport builders' dedication to the Nazi philosophy. What it shows me is that there is fuel enough in these intricately detailed murals to drive anybody's half-baked imaginary plot.

This mural is supposed to depict a German boy beating the swords of all the peoples of the world into plowshares, but I find the Nazi connections a stretch.

This mural is supposed to depict a German boy beating the swords of all the peoples of the world into plowshares, but I find the Nazi connections a stretch.

Conclusion - A "Perfect Storm" of Sociological Pareidolia

In and of themselves, the murals at the Denver International Airport probably would not have been enough to inspire the howls of hysteria that have issued forth from legions of Internet conspiracy blogger hacks. But taken together with the masonic "New World Airport Commission" symbols lining the terminal halls, the statue of the Egyptian god of death - a feature that admittedly seems grotesquely out of place in an airport, carvings of winged gargoyle demons popping out of suitcases, the fiery-eyed apocalyptic horse that greets travelers at the airport entrance, and even the structure of the airport itself; a "perfect storm" of conspiracy has been created at DIA that will probably never be debunked, no matter how passionately and logically its detractors argue. The detractors, such as myself, will probably be pegged as being in on the conspiracy.

To me this is an example of extreme sociological Pareidolia; an attempt by humans to find meaningful patterns to explain a seemingly malignant, hostile universe. The murals, the horse, the statue of Anubis, the suitcase gargoyles, the underground buildings and the swastika runways are the meaningless bumps on the wall or the fluffy folds in the clouds. When viewed together they form a rather baleful picture, but this image is a cousin of the same sinister turtle man I am seeing right now in the swirling patterns of our kitchen's tile floor. Yes there is a lot of smoke billowing out of the Denver International Airport, but the flames are largely of our own imagination, creepy flickering shadows on the wall that signify nothing.

The creepy face of the Turtle Man looks up at me from my tile floor.  What do you see?

The creepy face of the Turtle Man looks up at me from my tile floor. What do you see?

What Do You Think About the DIA Murals?

A DIA Walk-through with Jessie Ventura

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Mel Carriere (author) from San Diego California on January 20, 2016:

Thanks again Kim. Wish you the best as well.

ocfireflies from North Carolina on January 19, 2016:


It is always my pleasure and hope hard luck turns into good luck very soon.


Mel Carriere (author) from San Diego California on January 18, 2016:

Thank you Kim. I've had a run of hard luck lately and you give me a much needed ego boost. Although there is definitely weirdness at DIA, I'm not sure how much is just a deliberate joke played by the designers. Thanks for reading!

ocfireflies from North Carolina on January 18, 2016:


You never disappoint. You are truly a master wordsmith. I must admit that I was surprised to not see someone allude to something else Denver is now quite known for - smoke of a different kind - which ironically may have served as inspiration for the DIA designers while at the same time adding fuel to the Conspiracy-Theme Minded. Smiles...



Mel Carriere (author) from San Diego California on July 19, 2015:

I don't think too many people even know they are there, Charito1962. My mother, who lives in Colorado, didn't know about them until I told her. People who use airports are usually so busy that they don't even look at the art on the walls. Thank you very much for your visit and comment.

Charito Maranan-Montecillo from Manila, Philippines on July 19, 2015:

My, the murals do look scary! I don't think I'd like to look closely at them should I land at the Denver International Airport.

Mel Carriere (author) from San Diego California on July 15, 2015:

I agree with you Ann that those of us with active imaginations can form pictures and perhaps plots out of thin air. Thanks for reading!

Ann Carr from SW England on July 15, 2015:

What an interestingly different hub!

I just see rather disturbing pictures that wouldn't make me feel better about flying, which I hate anyway!

I can see the face in your tiled floor! I'm always seeing images in things because I have a vivid imagination and I'm very 'visual'; but I don't see conspiracy in any of them!

Great hub.


Mel Carriere (author) from San Diego California on July 07, 2015:

I agree with you Svetlana. I don't think there is necessarily some secret, insidious conspiracy governing body directing all of these nefarious activities, but our corrupt, corporate paid for government certainly makes it look as if there is one. I just don't think Denver is part of the plan, whether it be a widespread plan or just the action of one or a few individuals. Thanks for reading.

Lana Adler from California on July 07, 2015:

I like your take on conspiracy theories, although I see it slightly differently. I don't think you need the conscious consent of individuals to participate in a conspiracy; all you need is people with similar interests pursuing the same objective. They don't need to be acting in unison, or be coordinated by some malevolent governing body. In fact, conspiracies are quite common, as someonewhoknows pointed out. All you need is 2 people or more agreeing to do something. But conspiracy *theories* in our society have a negative connotation and usually constitute a nutjob mentality.

But anyway..these murals are really interesting. I can see how they can be interpreted in different ways. But isn't it what good art is supposed to do? Inspire a personal reaction, an interpretation that may have little to do with what the artist originally created? For what it's worth, I don't think these murals are Illuminati-related :-)

Mel Carriere (author) from San Diego California on June 29, 2015:

Now that you put it that way someonewhoknows, I guess every group effort is a conspiracy, in a way. For instance, if we get together to cook brownies for the save the rainforest bake sale it is a conspiracy, by the strictest definition. I believe the word conspiracy has such ugly connotations because it is typically used by law enforcement to denote some illegal activity, such as "conspiracy to commit murder." The other uses of the term might have been popular at one point but I think they have fallen out of favor, for the most part, and the word has very ugly undertones. Whatever the result of our quibbling over semantics is, if the Denver Airport is a conspiracy, I think it is mostly a conspiracy to pull a big joke over on the public. I don't believe it is a sanctuary for the New World Order. I think it's just an airport with some weird, perhaps questionable artwork, but the last I checked insensitivity to nervous air travelers is not a crime. Thanks for reading and your detailed comment.

someonewhoknows from south and west of canada,north of ohio on June 29, 2015:

I will try to conspire here to help my fellow man understand the true meaning of the word "conspire".

Definition - "To breathe together"

- "Agree"

- "Plot" - plan - defined the word plot as a secret plan for accomplishing a "usually" evil or unlawful purpose.

- "Intrigue" - A secret scheme

- A clandestine love affair

It,seems to me that someone has conspired to incubate the idea that, the definition of conspire be almost exclusively negative in nature.I however am conspiring to remedy that notion . Right here and now!


someonewhoknows from south and west of canada,north of ohio on June 29, 2015:

Conspiracies are simply defined - people coming together for some purpose.

That purpose is what ever they believe it, is ,or what their leader or group says it,is.

We seem to have the belief that to conspire to do something always means a negative rather than a positive inspiration. I know we all tend to see or define certain words meaning in a particular way ,but that is incubated into our culture by us. Just as swear words are picked up by children or certain words that one group uses to describe another group. Know whAT i MEan? Misunderstandings have caused wars to erupt. No wonder !


Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on June 29, 2015:

My pleasure Mel. I hope you can prove it someday.

Mel Carriere (author) from San Diego California on June 28, 2015:

I honestly think someone in the airport commission had a sense of humor Kristen and did this on purpose to bring out all the conspiracy people out of hiding. Thanks for reading!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on June 28, 2015:

Mel, this was another hub you have here on those creepy murals. It makes you want to think and go hmm. What were they thinking? Voted up for interesting!

Mel Carriere (author) from San Diego California on June 26, 2015:

Thank you Sheila. Maybe you and your fellow Oklahoman Deb up there can do a murals field trip to Denver and report back. If I had time I would have searched for more of these macabre objects but it seems like one is always running in an airport, especially one this big. I appreciate your dropping by!

Mel Carriere (author) from San Diego California on June 26, 2015:

Thank you Deb, I think what you say is true, it just seems that an airport is an odd place to hang scenes of death and destruction. Conspiracy? - Probably not. Poor Judgment? - Probably.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on June 26, 2015:

Humanity seems to have an attraction to the macabre, and since this is a large airport, it gets a lot of foot traffic. Sounds to me like the artist has exactly what he wants, a large viewing audience. Artists usually like to make people think, as this man certainly has, with the voice of reality or not. Nice article!

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on June 26, 2015:

I have been in the Denver airport once, but did not notice the pictures. I don't much believe in conspiracies. Maybe it is in our nature to try to find reason behind everything. If I ever go back to Denver, I will know have to pay attention to these paintings!

Mel Carriere (author) from San Diego California on June 18, 2015:

Linda you are the first to repirt the face, so I guess this is the start of a new conspiracy. I thought the face had a rather reptilian form to it, so I dubbed him the Turtle Man, and even wrote a horrot story about him some years ago. Thanks for reading.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on June 18, 2015:

This is very interesting, Mel. I had no idea about the rumours surrounding the Denver airport, so your information was news to me. I'm afraid to say that I immediately saw a face on your kitchen floor, although he doesn't look like a turtle man to me!

Mel Carriere (author) from San Diego California on June 18, 2015:

They play their football hard in those places Larry and need to have the graveyard close by just in case.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on June 18, 2015:

Mel: Corn is a little hole in the wall of a community. If you blink, you'll miss it. Oddly enough, I've been there. Was taken by the proximity of the 8 man football field to the graveyard.

Mel Carriere (author) from San Diego California on June 18, 2015:

Thank you Larry. I am glad you enjoyed it. I was at the Denver Airport to go visit my Mom in Fort Collins. I then drove her down her down to New Mexico for a family reunion. Some of the attendees live in Corn, Oklahoma, a little town in SW Oklahoma. Perhaps one or two of your forlorn writers group reside there. I appreciate your dropping in.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on June 18, 2015:

Very interesting hub. Yes, it is very strange artwork for an airport, but in all seriousness, I think it stops there: a strange bit of artwork, not a global conspiracy.

It is the human mind's wont to make order where there is none. I'm as bad about this as anybody.

A top notch read!

Mel Carriere (author) from San Diego California on June 18, 2015:

Thank you someone who knows for adding fuel to the conspiracy flames. The link appears legit, for those who might be wondering.

someonewhoknows from south and west of canada,north of ohio on June 18, 2015:


Mel Carriere (author) from San Diego California on June 18, 2015:

It is bit unnerving, FatBoyThin, but I actually felt completely at ease in the Denver Airport, despite the creepy murals and the spooky sounding train. Compared to our old and laughably small San Diego airport they really do run an efficient operation there. Thanks for reading.

Colin Garrow from Inverbervie, Scotland on June 18, 2015:

Denver airport certainly looks like a creepy place - I reckon I'd be a bit freaked out by those murals and I definitely wouldn't want to see them just before boarding a plane! Also, anything to do the Masons has to be a bit dodgy. Interesting stuff, Mel, if a little unnerving.

Mel Carriere (author) from San Diego California on June 18, 2015:

Thank you Poolman for dropping in. A lot of information the conspiracy hacks were sharing about these murals was a real stretch of the imagination, which ultimately led me to believe that the murals are just the well-intentioned artwork of an artist whose ideas lean toward the radical. There are other elements of the conspiracy, however, that make one wonder, and there is no effort made by the Free Masons to hide their involvement in the project. People that are prone to see nothing but schemes and plots with the Masons have a field day on this one. Thanks for reading and for the nice words.

Old Poolman on June 18, 2015:

If one reads enough about any conspiracy theory, he or she can easily become a believer as their knowlege base builds. Even though I have been through this airport several times, I had never heard about this particular conspiracy theory until I read this well written hub. Now I have to do some more research and reading to find out if I am a believer or will just file it away in my "maybe file". At any rate, job well done and thanks for sharing.

Mel Carriere (author) from San Diego California on June 18, 2015:

Thank you Dana Tate for swinging by and reading my little rant here. Although I remain skeptical, this seems to be one conspiracy that a lot non-conspiracy types seem to be on board with. You can debunk one portion of it, but then another facet rears its ugly head and makes the debunking process problematic. I appreciate you dropping in.

Dana Tate from LOS ANGELES on June 18, 2015:

That picture of the faces on Mars was definitely creepy! I have been hearing about the conspiracy of the underground shelter for the elite for years. I always chalked it up to "things people say" but now I'm not so sure. I'm not to informed on this subject just little pieces of gossip here and there. However, I think it's time I delve a little deeper into the conspiracy theories. Very thought provoking and informative. I voted up and interesting.

Mel Carriere (author) from San Diego California on June 18, 2015:

Thank you Eric for your very encouraging words. I know what you mean, there is enough of the weird in that place to make even dedicated skeptics go hmmmm.... Thanks for reading.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 18, 2015:

I just really like your writing style. Each sentence is an adventure into the wonderful world of words. Now if I am not mistaken, somehow each of the key people involved in design and construction of that place are now dead. Kind of like killing the builders of the pyramid to keep the secrets for ever hidden. I'm just saying......