Since it opened in 1995, controversies, conspiracies, and scandals have plagued Denver International Airport. Better known as DIA, airport officials worked hard over the last 25 years to turn the airport's reputation around. Their hard work paid off, as this year the Wall Street Journal named it the best airport in the United States. The six most confusing airports in the world should take note of Denver's success. Whether you agree that it is great or not, it's hard to deny the airport has some unusual facts and stories attached to it. Here are some of the most interesting facts about the strangest airport in the United States.
It Was $2 Billion Over Budget When Completed
A lot of construction projects go over budget. But they don't usually end up costing more than twice the price of the original estimate. DIA did, according to New York magazine. Originally projected to cost a little over $2 billion to build, the final costs came in at $4.8 billion. Those figures are part of what kicked off 25 years of conspiracy theories. There wasn't a lot of accounting about why the final figure was nearly twice the initial estimate. And no one seemed able to explain where that money actually went. Conspiracy theories about the costs claimed they used the money to build a secret underground city. Its purpose would be to house government officials in case of an attack on the United States. The airport strongly denies the claims.
Some of The Artwork Is...A Little Strange
When the airport opened, officials commissioned artist Leo Tanguma to create murals for the terminals. The resulting artwork raised more than a few eyebrows. One of the most disturbing and controversial pieces is "Children of the World Dream of Peace." It's a nice title, but the mural itself shows a soldier in a gas mask, brandishing a sword and machine gun. Behind him, adults cradle the bodies of their dead children. In the center, children appear to sleep underground. This piece ended up fueling conspiracy theories, especially the ones around tunnels under the airport. The Denver Post reports that this particular mural will go into storage during the remodeling work on Jeppesen Terminal. They state that the mural will remain in a climate-controlled facility until it returns in 2021. Some people think this is an excuse to remove the disturbing imagery and the mural won't come back to the airport again.
There Is a Time Capsule That Will Open in 2094
While building the airport, officials created a time capsule for future generations. They set it inside a capstone at the south end of Jeppesen Terminal, according to Way Marketing. The opening date was set for 2094, 100 years after construction on the airport completed. They filled the capsule with Colorado memorabilia from the time, including signed Rockies baseballs and artwork from local children. They also included newspaper articles critical of the new airport. But the time capsule itself isn't without controversy, either. That's because the capstone covering it contains masonic imagery, according to The Telegraph. There is even a reference to a "New World Airport Commission" on the capstone, a group that doesn't exist. Some people believe that could be a nod to a New World Order and wonder what the capsule really contains.
The $200 Million Baggage System Never Worked Right
One of the problems that plagued the airport from the very beginning was the baggage system. The system's initial idea was sound and actually ahead of its time. Officials wanted to create a fully automated baggage handling system, eliminating the chance of human error. The idea was to also speed up baggage processing and prevent flight delays. But issues kept coming up with the creation of the system. According to The New York Times, it cost the airport millions as it continued to delay the opening of the airport. The airport struggled with the system for more than 10 years, finally pulling the plug on it in 2005. By then, only one airline was using the system anyway. The rest were using manual baggage handling systems again.
The Giant Statue of a Blue Horse Outside the Airport Killed Its Creator
The art inside the airport is odd, but the art outside may be even stranger. When going to the airport, an enormous blue horse with red glowing eyes greets visitors as they drive to the main terminal. Nicknamed "Blucifer" by locals, the rearing horse stands 32-feet tall. And as if a giant blue horse with glowing red eyes wasn't disturbing enough, the story behind Blucifer is even worse. Artist Luis Jimenez sustained serious injuries while creating the behemoth. The head of the statue fell off and crushed one of his legs. Jimenez ultimately died from blood loss due to his injuries. The accident would cement the horse's reputation in DIA history.
You'll Find a Talking Gargoyle at Baggage Claim
A few years ago, airport officials decided to stop trying to squash the rumors surrounding the airport. Instead, they decided to have some fun with it, according to USA Today. That's why in 2019 they decided to install a talking gargoyle in baggage claim for the airport's 24th birthday. The animatronic gargoyle responds to visitors as they move through the area. It calls them out for being on their phones or asks them about the conspiracy theories surrounding the airport. The gargoyle even jokingly welcomes passengers to the Illuminati Headquarters before quickly correcting itself. It's a humorous nod to the airport's shady history.