While we're in Jeppesen Terminal, Montgomery leads me to an object of much speculation: the capstone laid over a sealed time capsule at a dedication ceremony on March 19, 1994. Etched into the stone, underneath an inscription bequeathing the time capsule's contents to the "people of Colorado in 2094," are the Square and Compasses symbol of Freemasonry and the names of two Grand Masters, as well as a mysterious group called New World Airport Commission.
"[The capstone] was part of the pre-opening festivities," Montgomery says. "It's a time capsule that's sealed with two pieces of granite that the Masons made. Unfortunately, people connect the Freemasons with the Illuminati and secret societies and all of that stuff. We do have two Masonic symbols on here because the Masons actually made this for us. It's not uncommon to have the Masons to be a part of large public facility openings, like an airport."
He continues. "The other thing that doesn't help us is that the inscription on the stone says 'New World Airport Commission.' And people rightly say that that doesn't exist. Well, that's because it doesn't exist. But it did exist in 1994. It was a group that was celebrating the opening of the airport. It's written a little wonky. It's supposed to read 'The New comma World Airport Commission.' It doesn't help because it says 'New World' right there."
He's right. It doesn't help. Montgomery points to a braille tablet that rises up from the stone and features one of the two Masonic symbols. "My favorite conspiracy I've ever heard of is, if you touch it the right way, it's a kind of keypad that's connected with aliens or the release of toxic gas," he says.
Later, as I flip through newspaper microfilm at the main branch of the Denver Public Library, I find mention of the ceremony among articles about the construction of Coors Field, the death of local altruist "Daddy" Bruce Randolph and the fallout of the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding incident. In the March 20, 1994 article, J.R. Moehringer, the correspondent on the scene for The Rocky Mountain News, groused about the two-hour length of the commemoration and the Masonic rituals involved. He also threw this red meat at would-be conspiracists: "Some of the hundreds of Masons on hand seemed surprised to learn that Mayor Wellington Webb is Brother Webb," a reference to the then-mayor's membership in the organization. "Yet there he stood in his white apron, traditional garb of the Grand Lodge of Free Masons," wrote Moehringer.
Webb, who now helms a political consulting firm in Denver, did not reply to a request for a comment. His sneakers -- made famous during his first campaign -- are preserved inside the time capsule, along with a ball from the first Colorado Rockies game, a viewer's guide to Beavis and Butthead, a flight book from Denver's previous airport, and other mid-'90s ephemera. But Scot M. Autry, Grand Secretary of the MW Grand Lodge of Colorado, did respond. "The Freemasons had nothing to do with building the Denver International Airport," he writes. "The only involvement was the ceremony that was performed for the dedication capstone that was done on March 19, 1994."
When I ask him for a mission statement, he sends me a reply that could inspire another Simpsons Stonecutters episode, with references to former members Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, and vague catch-alls like "family values," "moral standards," and "community involvement." It's not clear if the Masons enjoy the conspiracies surrounding them but they sure seem to encourage them through their own obfuscation, not to mention with their funny necklaces.
"With the sort of pomp that might have been befitting the completion of one of the great pyramids, a time capsule was lowered beneath the floor of Denver International Airport yesterday and topped with a ceremonial capstone," wrote Robert Kowalski in The Denver Post, also on the day after the event. Kowalski slyly poked fun at the oft-delayed and costly project with his remarks, before going on to refer to the New World Airport Commission, writing it just so, without the comma Montgomery mentioned. Kowalski's article did, however, quote Charles Ansbacher, the New World Airport Commission's chairman.
In 2007, three years before his death, Ansbacher attempted to explain the commission's moniker in an interview with local alt-weekly Westword. He couldn't remember exactly why it was named something that, for many, conjures images of an authoritarian elitist takeover, but he suspected it was a dual reference, both to DIA being the newest airport in the world and to Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, popularly known as the "New World Symphony."
"The idea that there is anything secretive about this," said Ansbacher, who was a conductor, "is totally preposterous."