There may have been a point in human history when conspiracy theories were rare. But that would have been very, very early on. Seeing conspiracies — where they exist and where they don’t — is baked into who we are.
“As a species, one of our greatest strengths is our ability to find meaningful patterns in the world around us and to make causal inferences,” psychology professor Christopher French said in a 2015 Scientific American article. “We sometimes, however, see patterns and causal connections that are not there, especially when we feel that events are beyond our control.”
It’s little wonder that after thousands of years of finding “meaningful patterns in the world around us” we’ve elevated the construction of conspiracy theories — some harmless, some not-so-harmless — to something approaching an art form. We can’t get enough of them.
It’s likewise little wonder that where the opportunity exists, people find ways of capitalizing on that endless interest.
Roswell’s local lore — speaking of things that are baked in — includes one of the best known and most widely circulated conspiracy theories: That the U.S. military has attempted to sweep under the rug its recovery, in 1947, of a crashed flying saucer and the bodies of its alien occupants.
A segment of our local economy is based on people’s desire to learn about the alleged crash and cover-up.
Few institutions, however, have embraced the art of the conspiracy theory more fully than the Denver International Airport (DEN), which last week signed a memorandum of understanding to become the official sister airport of the Roswell International Air Center (RIAC).
DEN’s massive size (53 square miles) and the amount of time and money invested in its construction — including budget overruns in the neighborhood of $2 billion — put it on the radar of conspiracy theorists from the start. Many believed there had to be more going on than construction of an airport.
Strange works of art, some of them rumored to be cursed; seemingly out-of-place symbols and bizarre murals in the airport’s Great Hall have done nothing to tamp down speculation about the facility since its opening in 1995. Here are a few more of the theories that have circled DEN:
• The “New World Order” was behind its construction. This theory grew from plaques placed around the airport stating it was funded by “The New World Airport Commission” — a group that has never existed. Some have posited however, that it sounds suspiciously like a New World Order subsidiary.
• The Illuminati is headquartered there. A plaque placed over a time capsule at the airport contains a number of symbols associated with Freemasonry — and the Illuminati. It’s been theorized that the shadowy band of manipulators maintains an underground lair at DEN.
• Those strange murals, which must be Google image-searched to be believed, contain clues to the apocalypse.
• A series of underground tunnels lead to secure gathering spots for the world’s elite, to be accessed in the event of the aforementioned apocalypse.
• “Lizard People” have colonized the place.
Some pretty good theories. The best thing about them: One needn’t comb websites devoted to the unknown or unsubstantiated to learn about them — the information can be found on the airport’s own website.
There could, at some point, be flights from RIAC to DEN, as the air center explores expanding commercial airline service.
Meanwhile, DEN is a perfect sister-airport match for the air center in Roswell — a city accustomed to promoting its own connections to the unknown — and perhaps offers a glimpse of how the still-developing future of the RIAC could unfold in terms of marketing. Minus apocalyptic murals, one can hope.
John Dilmore is editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this column are those of the author.