Holocaust Denial: Extraordinary Belief, Extraordinarily Dangerous

How do you begin to comprehend a denial of atrocity? How does one reconcile a genocide with, as scholar Deborah Lipstadt says, “the dubious distinction of being the best-documented genocide in the world” (TED & Lipstadt 2017) with the fact that there are individuals who discount every shred in the mountain of evidence? This is an understanding that I and every other Jewish individual must live with. Though we often feel that such beliefs are too crazy to be dangerous, I hope to help it be seen that these beliefs are far from innocuous.

We can define Holocaust Denial as an antisemitic belief that denies or manipulates, in part or whole, the reality of the Holocaust. (ADL 2019) Some common permutations of this include a rejection of the deaths of 6 million Jews at the hands of the Axis, a refutation of the method of any deaths which did occur, or assertions that the whole Holocaust is a hoax perpetuated by Jewish people to gain sympathy, money and the creation of Israel. (ADL 2019) All of these we can look into more deeply when we examine their evidence.

Yet “Deniers” come in many shapes and forms and may not always appear as you think. Surely, there are the usual suspects – skin-heads and those who explicitly call themselves Nazis or do not hide behind pretense (Southern Poverty Law Center 2017, Daily Stormer 2019).  But they are also academics, politicians, neighbors (Austin 2019). As of January 2019, recently polling found that 1 in 20 Britons or 2,739,500 people do not believe the holocaust happened (Sherwood 2019). As recent as 2018, many individuals in Europe and the United States were unable to name even basic facts about the Holocaust – including 66% of millennials being unaware of what Auschwitz is (Gstalter 2018). Now, this is not to say that ignorance is tantamount to denial, but it certainly forms a fertile bed for those who would seek to lie to and reshape the uninformed.

This belief is extraordinary because it actively denies a plethora of accounts, stories, documents and other evidence both from the victims and the perpetrators (TED & Lipstadt 2017). It is a remarkably persistent belief, and it would not be surprising if its adherents are growing year by year right now. The Anti-Defamation League (an organization dedicated to combating antisemitism and racism) reported that antisemitic incidents grew by approximately 57% in 2017. (ADL 2018) Examples of public figures either directly supporting or tied to those who engage in Holocaust denial are present in both the left (Alice Walker, Jeremy Corbyn) and the right (Arthur Jones, Arthur King, David Icke, Benoît Loeuillet) in the US, UK, and France. (Grady 2018, Mendick 2017, Wilner 2018, Madhani 2018, Willsher 2017) Further and most alarmingly, a recent CNN survey of Europe found that 1/3 of Europeans believe that Jews use the Holocaust to advance their own position or goals. (CNN 2018, Dashefsky, Arnold, Ira 2017) Assuming this is representative, that’s approximately 93.2 million people, a figure which gets only starker when you compare it to the total World Jewish population – only 14.5 million in 2017. (CNN 2018, Dashefsky, Arnold Ira 2017) Education may not be able to change the minds of those who have already written off this atrocity. But, for those not yet there, perhaps there is hope in spreading an understanding of the horror, and empathy for our still wounded communities.

Holocaust deniers use a variety of points to support their claims. Many of their points are a result of cherry-picked data or blatant falsehoods. In an effort to be “balanced”, I will present the claim initially and respond to each as it is relevant. My list of denier “facts” is not exhaustive, for as a belief and form of antisemitism, it constantly shifts to include new “details” and “revisions”.

First, deniers believe that the Diary of Anne Frank is a forgery. The diary was the result of Anne Frank, a young Jewish woman, recording her experiences as she hid with her family from the Nazis. Deniers say that due to the multiple editions of the diary or even its original form, it’s fake. (Lipstadt 2011) Alternately, that the diary is written in green ballpoint pen, something that wouldn’t be available to Anne easily at the time. (Lipstadt 2011) Both aspects of this are demonstrably false. Claims of the diary being fake were so numerous near its publication, that the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation subjected the diary to many tests of its authenticity, showing that the handwriting, glue, paper, and ink of the diary were accurate both to the time period and to Anne herself. (Lipstadt 2011) Furthermore, that green writing was just on two pages, in the margins and never of the content itself. This brings into question whether the green writing was hers or an original editor but pulls it entirely away from the content. Finally, the reason for its multiple editions is due to Anne’s own rewrites and attempts at writing a novel based on her experiences. (Lipstadt 2011)

Another belief is that the death figures in the Holocaust have been inflated. The proof here is supposed to be of the World Almanac which in 1940 listed the Jewish population at 15,319,359, then listed the population in 1949 as 15,713,638. (Pilcher 2007) The listed population growth, therefore, throws into question how many people died in the holocaust if any. But that number came instead not from the actually listed number for the World Almanac: 11,266,600, but from an error-filled 1950 report. (Pilcher 2007) Another source of “inflation” pointed to is the plaque change that occurred at the Auschwitz state museum in which the memorial plaque listed 1 million deaths in 1991 but before this listed 4 million deaths. Interestingly, this actually was inflation, but not by Jewish people, by the Soviets. The Soviets increased the number of non-jews who died in the camp, the number of Jewish individuals remains. (Pilcher 2007) Another popular counterpoint beneath this heading is that Jews didn’t die, they simply fled to the USSR and US. This is oft touted by current tenured Northwestern University engineering professor Arthur Butz, who claims that the only reason Jews didn’t re-establish contact with their relatives is bad marriages. (Lipstadt 2011) No evidence truly supports this claim, but we do have extensive records of those who did die. Such as the use of Nazi gas buses, chambers and the actual admittance of murder by the perpetrators (Lipstadt 2011).

As understanding of torture has shifted, some hold Nazi confessions were produced under torture and are false. Many deniers believe that there never was an intent to mass murder Jewish people. Confessions during the war crime trials were done under duress, they say. Why wouldn’t someone confess to anything if it might save them from death? (Lipstadt 2011) Yet, many admissions of guilt were recorded after the sentencing of the Nazis, who therefore have no reason to lie. (Lipstadt 2011) Many explicitly claim the deaths of these Jews, such as Otto Ohlendorf, Einsatzgruppen commander who killed 90,000, or Adolf Eichmann, explicitly using the words gassing the Jews. (Lipstadt 2011)

Another belief is that documents of Auschwitz are false, as are other documents of death squads. Auschwitz often sits as the crown jewel in the minds of deniers. Deniers claim that many chambers in Auschwitz were used for delousing or that instead they were used for Air raids. They also supposed that the burning of dead bodies was a form of disease control. (Lipstadt 2011) Others claim that there were no gas chambers at all, a view espoused by Frenchmen Paul Rassiner, once imprisoned by the Nazis (Austin 2019, Memorial And Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau. 2019). Yet this ignored the many records of the death camp and many admissions by those that work there. (Lipstadt 2011) The gas chambers themselves have locks from the outside in and specifically made parts that refer to gas. Further, were the dead burned for disease control, the monthly burn rate of 120,000 bodies would have to be the result of 4/5 of the camp population dying of typhus in 1 month. That isn’t possible in any epidemiological projection. (Lipstadt 2011)  Finally, it again ignores the admissions of the killing method by Nazi Hans Stark, quoted by Deborah Lipstadt in her BBC article and again by me here:

“As early as autumn 1941 gassings were carried out in a room…[which] held 200 to 250 people, had a higher than average ceiling, no windows, only a specially insulated door with bolts like those of an airtight door [Luftschutzer]. The room had a flat roof, which allowed daylight in through the openings. It was through these openings that Zyklon B in granular form would be poured.” (Lipstadt 2011)

When we accept that people do believe in these falsehoods when they actively or passively deny the Holocaust, the next logical question is why. Some extraordinary beliefs may come across as relatively harmless, but Holocaust Denial has a real effect on the survivors of the atrocity. I propose there are several cognitive contributions toward this belief, of which one might assign varying degrees of responsibility and malice to the individual.

First among them may be the Just World Hypothesis, which an idea that posits that people have a hard time believing such horrors may have actually occurred in the world.  The death of 6 million Jews, a 1/3 of our total population, certainly qualifies for that. Perhaps these people have family members that lived in Germany or are German. These people are not bad people, how could such a thing happen? It is much easier to think that Jewish people simply ran away from the country, or that we weren’t explicitly slated for extermination alongside Roma peoples. But the tattoos and records do not lie, they do not change.

Another possibility comes with the phenomenon of confirmation bias, in which one sees evidence and interprets it according to their own world view. In the libel trial of David Irving, (TED & Lipstadt 2017, Lipstadt 2011), the judge explicitly mentioned how the evidence provided by Irving were half-truths and misinformation. One may be able to look at a scattering of figures and pull out exactly what they want to see. Look – the Auschwitz plaque changed, the death figures were inflated, there are multiple editions of Anne Frank’s Journal! All part truths interpreted just enough to support a denier. In cases where evidence may be cherry picked, one might instead point to a logically fallacy in reasoning – The Texas Sharpshooter. Drawing lines around just the areas that one might consider supportive to their point, manipulating data and numbers to their benefit.

It may also be possible the idea of a True Believer factors into Holocaust denial. The social context for these types of beliefs are important, and our recent polling shows that deniers may find themselves in good company, at all aspects and levels of society as previously described.  Furthermore, when one comes out as a denier, it is nearly impossible to change, it is difficult to undo. Deniers then retreat to their own scientific journals, their own community to support themselves. Whenever they are challenged by the events of reality, the horrors suffered by Jewish people and others, they discount it. It’s much easier to simply stay within their areas of belief.

Finally, and most insidiously, are those who are themselves racist by the application of stereotyping heuristics. In these cases, many deniers know that what they are doing is false. Lipstadt speaks much to this often as she did in her talk and in her trial with denier David Irving (TED & Lipstadt 2017, Lipstadt 2011). They attempt to spread their falsehoods to make Nazism more acceptable, a sentiment supported by the Nazis themselves (Pilcher 2007). These people believe that Jews are conniving, sneaky, that we are doing this to get our own state, to get money (Pilcher 2007). David Irving himself once asked a survivor how much money she received for the tattoo on her arm (TED & Lipstadt 2017). The loudest in this category are often the easiest to spot, but the quiet ones are just as bad. In the hearts of these people, they believe that Jews will always be this way– an enemy, an otherworldly evil to be exterminated.

To the horrors of the Holocaust, we Jewish people have coined the words “Never again.”, but the truth of the matter is those outside of our group seem to be forgetting. Many Holocaust survivors are well past 80 years old, and a battery of psychological and cognitive faculties support the denial of our plight. People believe that a just world would never allow this, they think that their evidence supports them, and all else is a lie. Many have gone too far and now are True Believers, unable to turn back from what they have held before. Finally, more still ascribe to a racist heuristic, and will use Holocaust denial not out of belief, but as a weapon against Jews. In these cases, I write not for them, but for the others who have yet to be converted or are for some reason unsure. The only way that we can ensure this genocide does not repeat itself, is for the world to listen to us, hear us, and deny the deniers.

Works Cited:


ADL. (2018). 2017 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. Retrieved from https://www.adl.org/resources/reports/2017-audit-of-anti-semitic-incidents

ADL. (2019). Holocaust Denial. Retrieved from https://www.adl.org/resources/glossary-terms/holocaust-denial

Austin, B. S. (2019). Holocaust Denial: A Brief History. Retrieved from https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/a-brief-history-of-holocaust-denial

CNN. (2018). A Shadow Over Europe. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2018/11/europe/antisemitism-poll-2018-intl/

DailyStormer. (2019). Tag Archives: Holocaust. Retrieved from https://dailystormer.name/tag/holocaust/

Dashefsky, Arnold/Sheskin, & Ira. (2017). Vital Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jewish-population-of-the-world

Grady, C. (2018, December 20). The Alice Walker anti-Semitism controversy, explained. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/12/20/18146628/alice-walker-david-icke-anti-semitic-new-york-times

Gstalter, M. (2018, April 12). Poll: Majority of Americans say something like the Holocaust could happen again. Retrieved from https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/382843-poll-majority-of-americans-say-something-like-the-holocaust

Lipstadt, D. (2011, February 17). History – World Wars: Denying the Holocaust. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/genocide/deniers_01.shtml

Madhani, A. (2018, November 07). 56,000 voters in Illinois House district preferred Holocaust denier to moderate Democrat. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2018/11/07/holocaust-denier-neo-nazi-arthur-jones-chicago-illinois-dan-lipinski/1918933002/

Memorial And Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau. (2019). Auschwitz-Birkenau. Retrieved from http://auschwitz.org/en/history/holocaust-denial/denial-forms/

Mendick, R. (2017, May 20). Jeremy Corbyn’s 10-year association with group which denies the Holocaust. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/20/jeremy-corbyns-10-year-association-group-denies-holocaust/

Pilcher, B. R. (2007, November 19). Holocaust Denial. Retrieved from https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/holocaust-denial/

Sherwood, H. (2019, January 27). One in 20 Britons ‘does not believe’ Holocaust took place, poll finds. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/27/one-in-20-britons-does-not-believe-holocaust-happened

Southern Poverty Law Center. (2017). Holocaust Denial. Retrieved from https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/holocaust-denial

TED, & Lipstadt, D. (2017, May 23). Behind the lies of Holocaust denial | Deborah Lipstadt. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ztdofPc8Rw

Willsher, K. (2017, March 15). France’s Front National suspends party official over Holocaust denial. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/15/benoit-loeuillet-france-front-national-holocaust-denial

Wilner, M. (2018, October 27). U.S. Rep. King after Auschwitz visit: “Bring pride back to Germany again”. Retrieved from https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/US-Rep-King-after-Auschwitz-visit-Bring-pride-back-to-Germany-again-570398


Anti-Vaxers: Origins and Beliefs

The anti-vaccination movement has taken social media by storm. From anti-vaccination propaganda, to websites, to support groups, there is a lot of controversy over the topic. The belief that vaccines can cause autism is considered to be an extraordinary belief, but is relatively new. The idea that vaccines are bad in general can be traced back to 19th century England. People began refusing to vaccinate infants against smallpox, and those in positions of power were not ensuring that this was being enforced anyways. Eventually, there was a huge outbreak of smallpox, but this doesn’t discourage anti-vaccination supporters today. This belief is problematic because of a term called herd immunity. Herd immunity happens when a lot of people in one area receive a vaccine, therefore protecting those who cannot receive certain vaccines from life potentially threatening diseases. When people don’t vaccinate their children by choice, they are essentially breaking this herd immunity, which puts the lives of children who are unable to get vaccines at risk. Today, anti-vaccination propaganda claims that vaccines cause autism. Information that supports or deters these claims can be found anywhere on the internet, however it is not all true. Some articles that may seem scientific, are not; and this easy access to misinformation is actually influencing whether or not people are vaccinating their children.

There is a lot of factual evidence surrounding the positive side of vaccinations. Proof of this can be seen when something like herd immunity is compromised. If a preventable disease breaks out in a community, the people who can’t receive vaccinations are the ones who are most likely to get the disease. There has been research that suggests that there is no link between vaccines and autism, which is one of the main concerns of the anti-vaccination movement. The idea that the chemicals in vaccines are what causes autism have also been deterred. When individuals don’t vaccinate their children because they don’t want them to have autism, they are putting their child and the rest of the community at risk for potentially fatal diseases.

On the other hand, many anti-vaccination supporters also provide facts that appear to show vaccines do cause autism. Many supporters of the movement tend to believe that the side effects of vaccines are what cause autism.  Those who support vaccinations commonly assume that anti-vaccination supporters do not understand herd immunity, but they do. They understand that not vaccinating children has its risks, but the side effects are also risky. There have been articles about hiding information in regards to vaccines causing autism. One particular article states that a doctor hid the fact that he found evidence that vaccines cause autism. When a doctor provides information like that, it is hard to ignore, which is why many anti-vaccination supporters have clung to this idea.

So, why do people still believe that vaccines cause autism, even when there is evidence that it is not true? The social and cognitive aspects of this go hand in hand. One of the main reasons is due to the internet, specifically with the prevalence of social media. In today’s society, it is much easier to consult the internet as opposed to a health professional. Because of this, people wholeheartedly believe information that is actually misinforming them. They are viewing data and research that is not entirely accurate and taking it at face value. Some anti-vaccination supporters think that vaccines don’t work, and others believe conspiracy theories that the government is causing illnesses and diseases intentionally through vaccinations. Predatory journals, which can publish any information even if it is not scientifically accurate, can lead people to believe these things about vaccines as well. Regardless of the reason, anti-vaccination supporters will choose this data over advice from medical professionals.

Anti-vaccination supporters find evidence to support their case primarily on the internet. However, the reasons that they believe the information that they read can be different from person to person. Biases help a person maintain the beliefs that they have about a situation. In the case of anti-vaccination supporters, they are looking for evidence to confirm their ideas, rather than deny them. This is called a confirmation bias and can cause people to believe information that they see relevant to their topic, while ignoring counterevidence. There is also a term called the availability error, which refers to retaining information that one sees as significant. When it comes to anti-vaccination supporters, the anti-vaccination propaganda is more appealing, and therefore better remembered and enforced throughout their community.

American Academy of Pediatrics (2018). Vaccine Safety: Examine the Evidence. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/immunizations/Pages/Vaccine-Studies-Examine-the-Evidence.aspx

Durbach, N. (2004). Bodily Matters: The Anti-Vaccination Movement in England, 1853-1907. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=cphJifOrs2AC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=anti+vaccination+movement&ots=zoc55jOaNs&sig=Sfd5eSEpJt05o_fpdr0gU-3QPWg#v=onepage&q&f=false

Health Impact News (2014). CDC Whistleblower Emerges: Admits Coverup on Vaccine Link to Autism. Retrieved from http://healthimpactnews.com/2014/cdc-whistleblower-comes-forward-admits-coverup-on-vaccine-link-to-autism/

Jameson, C. (2014). Vaccines Cause Autism. Age of Autism. Retrieved from https://www.ageofautism.com/2014/08/vaccines-cause-autism.html

Kata, A. (2012). Anti-vaccine activists, Web 2.0, and the postmodern paradigm- An overview of Tactics and tropes used online by the anti-vaccination movement. Vaccine, 30(25). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X11019086

Van Zandt, P. (2019). Cognitive Biases [PowerPoint slides].

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2017). Vaccines Protect Your Community. Retrieved from https://www.vaccines.gov/basics/work/protection/index.html

The Sandy Hook Hoax

Alex Kirkpatrick Blog Post 1

The Sandy Hook Hoax

On December 20th, 2012, the country stood by in shock as they watched the news unfold about the events that occurred that morning at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. On that morning, Adam Lanza walked into the school armed with a rifle and two handguns and shot 20 school children and 6 adults. As people around the nation watched parents grieve the loss of their children, most agreed this was a national tragedy. Except for some. As the story continued to develop, so did the idea that the shooting was fake. While the population of people who believe this shooting was a hoax is small, it is fascinating the theories they have come up with to try and prove this event was a hoax. The popularity of this idea peaked in the aftermath of Sandy Hook and has since declined, but there are still people who are avid believers. It is of significance that there are people out there who believe this event was faked because it discredits the real suffering and grieving that the families went, and are still going through. Information about Sandy Hook and why some believe it is a hoax can be found all over the internet. Most notable is a YouTube video with over 10 thousand views, that gives all the reasons why the shooting was fake. This belief is extraordinary because it goes against all logic. No one would even think to consider that all these families are grieving the loss of children who are actually still alive. This belief seems impossible, which by definition, makes it an extraordinary belief.

Believers in this theory offer several explanations of why this event was a hoax. They claim that it would be incredibly hard to hit moving children as many times as Lanza did. Another belief is that all the parents there are actually trained crisis actors sent there by the government. This idea comes from a brief bit of video footage showing two parents smiling and laughing. Many feel that these people must be actors because who would be able to laugh and smile after the death of your child? Another reason that some believe this event was faked is because there are supposed sighting of the dead children. One child, Emilie Parker, is supposedly seen posing in a picture with President Obama days after the shooting. On the other hand, there are reasonable explanations for why these beliefs might be false. Adam Lanza was armed with a semi-automatic shotgun, capable of firing hundreds of rounds in minutes, so it’s very possible he was able to hit children multiple times. As for the claim that the parents were crisis actors, that video clip was taken out of context. Both parents were in an interview reliving found moments of their children. It was not Emilie Parker in that picture, but instead her younger sister, wearing one of Emilie’s dresses.

I believe that this a prime example of cognitive dissonance. People simply don’t want to believe that Adam Lanza was capable murdering 20 young children, so instead find it more comforting to believe that the whole thing was a set up and those children are alive somewhere. The reality is that those who believe this event was a hoax are simply misinterpreting the “evidence”. As discussed above, the various reasons they give for this being a hoax can usually be explained with a quite simple explanation. This is a good example of Ockham’s razor. The reasons given by believers are a prime example of pseudoscience. Many of their reasons give the appearance of science. They are bold and seem like they could be true, but upon further inspection they fall apart. For example, saying it impossible to hit as many children as many times as Lanza does seem realistic until you find out that he was equipped with a semi-automatic rifle. Many claims also seem to fall under the category retreating to the supernatural. Every time they are presented with evidence that contradicts their beliefs they change the belief a little, or say that the evidence isn’t good enough. Many believers claim that one of the deceased, Noah Polzner, is actually alive. When his grieving father released Noah’s death certificate to show that his son was actually dead, suddenly that wasn’t good enough and they needed Noah’s body exhumed.

Believers in this theory come from a diverse population made up of the young and old, white and black, and from various regions across the country. I believe that the biggest social influence that helps them to sustain this belief is the government. Many believers of the conspiracy think that the government orchestrated the event and is then trying to cover it up in various ways, such as employing crisis actors. So naturally, when the government denies their claims, it is interpreted as “of course the government would say that”. Thus, believers are engaging in post hoc theorization, which allows this belief to continue. They are rationalizing the government’s explanation to fit their beliefs.

Sandy Hook was an awful tragedy that forever changed the lives of the people living in Newtown, Connecticut. While most people believe that this was a horrible act of violence committed by a mentally ill individual, some believe that the whole thing is an elaborate hoax put on by the government. While at first it might seem that the claims this group make appear to be scientific, after further inspection these claims all have another, simpler, more logical, explanation, and as Ockham’s razor says, “the simplest explanation is often the best”. Believers of the hoax are able to keep their beliefs alive by engaging in cognitive dissonance and post hoc rationalization. Some might question why it matters that there are people out there who believe this event was fake. Belief in the hoax takes away from the fact the 20 real children were really murdered. It disrupts the grieving process of the parents and lifts the burden of guilt off Adam Lanza’s shoulder and places it on the government shoulders. It’s important to discredit these beliefs when possible because further adherence to these beliefs will only continue to overshadow the true victims here; the 26 people who died that day.

  1. C. (2019, January 02). Connecticut Shootings Fast Facts. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2013/06/07/us/connecticut-shootings-fast- facts/index.html
  2. Mikkelson, D. (2012, December 15). FACT CHECK: Was the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting a Hoax? Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/sandy-hook-exposed/
  3. Weideman, R. (2016, September 06). Lenny Pozner Believed in Conspiracy Theories. Until His Son’s Death Became One. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2016/09/the-sandy-hook-hoax.html

Slender Man: Mystic Figure Turned Murderous Motivator?

The belief I chose to research is Slender Man, who is supposedly a spooky figure who takes the form of a pale man with no face and tentacles as arms who stalks and haunts people. This is a myth that was formulated through online forums that slowly grew in popularity and belief, particularly among teenagers. Information on this belief can easily be found on different news sources due to the crime that occurred because of it, and Slender Man can also be traced back to the original fictional posting on an online forum. This belief was popular in the early 2010’s, and it is important to know about because it was a widespread belief that caused two young girls to attack their friend in 2014.

There is much evidence this belief is based on a legend, and almost no evidence that Slender Man is an actual being. The evidence against the belief is that the original source of Slender Man can be found on a site called “Something Awful”, when users were prompted to use their Photoshop skills to come up with paranormal images. A man named Victor Surge created the first image of what is now known as Slender Man, and this image gained popularity as other users created new content such as fake newspaper articles and images about Slender Man. The further this fictional figure got from its original source, the more people started to believe he was an actual figure. The only evidence for the belief is the crime that occurred in Wisconsin as a result of this legend. Two 12-year-old girls claimed Slender Man commanded them to drag their friend into the woods and kill her. They believed that they were hearing Slender Man in their heads and that he would appear to them after their friend’s death. Since then, one of the girls has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

As the fictional character gained popularity and moved further from its original post, the origins of this character grew murky, and people began to believe that Slender Man may actually exist. Although there is no evidence this figure actually existed, people believed he did because of the sheer prominence of the character online, or an argumentum ad populum. Another reason for this belief is our tendency as humans to desire explanations for things, and in this case, spooky feelings and happenings could easily be blamed on the existence of a figure like Slender Man. This is an example of confirmation bias, and can be clearly seen in the attack that occurred in Wisconsin. There is no doubt that at least one, if not both of the attackers were dealing with dark thoughts, and all they had to do was log in on their online forum and stumble upon Slender Man content in order to find an explanation for what they were feeling.

This was a belief in the United States, where believers were bred through the internet. With the popularity of the internet in America growing at this time, the belief was cultivated rapidly, particularly among adolescents. This also takes into account the fact that Slender Man was only popular on the internet, and nothing else (such as the news or in movies). This creates an aura of spookiness and urban folklore that perpetuates the idea that it could, in fact, exist despite disconfirming evidence.

In conclusion, the belief in Slender Man that existed in the early 2010’s and even caused an attack in 2014 is based on a fictional character from the internet. However, this does not mean that the people who believed in Slender Man were crazy for believing it. The combination of popularity, confirmation bias, and the sheer growth of the internet during this time created an online culture that was perfect for breeding a belief in a legendary figure. Unfortunately, the belief in this figure did cause harm in the attack in 2014. Since then, there have been many media outlets who have clearly disproven this belief, and it is rare to find someone who still believes in Slender Man today.

Dewey, C. (2016, July 27). The complete history of ‘Slender Man,’ the meme that
compelled two girls to stab a friend. Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/06/03/the-complete-terrifying-history-of-slender-man-the-internet-meme-that-compelled-two-12-year-olds-to-stab-their-friend/?utm_term=.96fc45c55887

Gabler, E. (2014, June 02). Charges detail Waukesha pre-teens’ attempt to kill classmate. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved from http://archive.jsonline.com/news/crime/waukesha-police-2-12-year-old-girls-plotted-for-months-to-kill-friend-b99282655z1-261534171.html/

TOUCHED BY HIS NOODY APPENDAGE — the church of flying spaghetti monster

It’s all started with an Open Letter To Kansas School Board, sent by a 24-year-old Organ State University graduate, Bobby Henderson, about the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM). In the letter, Henderson professed his faith that the world is actually created by a supernatural monster, who is accidently looks like a mass of noodles and meatball. To hide his own existence, he changed the result of every measurement in scientific experiments with his “Noodly Appendage”. And no one have noticed that is because the FSM is invisible and able to pass everything without noticed (Henderson, 2005). In this way, when human scientists tried to measure the age of earth, the amount of decayed Carbon-14 in the artifact is modified by FSM in the scientist back. Also, as the graph below suggests, the global warming is caused by the decrease number of pirates.

The reason Henderson describing such odd fact about a monster made of spaghetti is a satire to the intention of Kansas School to add Intelligent Design (ID) as part of the class context about the origin of life. As Henderson (2005) said: “I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories (FSM, ID, and Darwin’s evolution theory) are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; one third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.”

After the letter was published in 2015, the Church of FSM came into mainstream and educed an energetic discussion in the internet. Many readers send their scoff, saying not only the belief of FSM is ridiculous, even the Evolution Theory is questionable because no one could provide any empirical evidence to prove the credibility of the two. As a response to this challenge in the same way, Boing Boing announced a $250,000 prize to any individual who could provide empirical evidence proving that Jesus is not the son of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Jurdin, 2005).

Through the hilarious story of FSM, we can see how it intentionally uses some common logic and cognitive mistakes that people easy to make. It seems tend to mock some religious system who built on the basis of self-contradictive fallacies by mimicking the trick they like to use. First of all, the theory is not satisfied the standard for a good theory in many ways. It’s not a falsifiable belief, for the FSM cannot be detected by human eyes, in this way no one could provide any concrete evidence to prove it is not exit. It’s not follow the right logic. The precondition of every suggests it made is based on the fact that FSM made the world. Also, it qualified several characteristics as a pseudoscience. Take their hypothesis on the relation between global warming and the shrink on the number of pirates for example, it uses the science words and method, but lacks peer reviews and rely on not comprehensively data (Ruscio, 2002). Besides, it’s impossible to prove a negative. In this case, it’s hard to list any evidence against the existence of FSM, because there not a way to measure any of its impact or trace.

However, although FSM is made of bunch seemingly convincing statements, many Pastafarianisms (believers of FSM) don’t really fall into the concept traps. They just attracted by FSM with its message of “ending oppression, fighting bigotry, and consuming pasta” (Andrew, 2017). In other words, people just gather and propagandize the doctrine of FSM to against the unordinary believes which trying to pretend as science or truth and passing that uncertified knowledge to kids in school, just like the Intelligent Design Theory. It is a sarcasm like the Russell’s Teapot and calling the attention for the possible cognitive mistakes in today’s worlds, with an adorable and ridiculous story about a monster of pasta and meatball.



Retrieved from: https://www.saveur.com/pastafarians-church-flying-spaghetti-monster

Henderson, B. (2005). Open Letter To Kansas School Board. Retrieved from:

Ruscio, J. (2002). Clear thinking with psychology: Separating sense from nonsense. Belmont,
CA: Brooks/Cole-Thomson Learning.

Jurdin, X. (2005). Boing Boing’s $250,000 Intelligent Design challenge (UPDATED: $1
million). Retrieved from: https://boingboing.net/2005/08/19/boing-boings-250000.html

The AI we Encounter Everyday is Really Just Aliens

The belief that I am investigating is that aliens could be the AI (artificial intelligence) that we know today. Along with this belief comes the Fermi Paradox, named after the physicist Enrico Fermi. This Paradox poses the argument about the lack of evidence and high probability of extraterrestrial beings and civilizations. Based on the articles I have read, mainly astronomers are those who believe in this theory because they have not seen evidence from space that aliens are out there. I have found information on this theory on various websites, including that of SETI, BBC, and the Fermi Paradox website. This theory is still popular today, especially as we advance technologically with more AI devices coming out constantly. This belief that aliens were the start and continuation of AI technology is extraordinary because it seems impossible, we have knowledge of the scientists and engineers who have, and continue, to work on AI. Believers of this theory are claiming that the aliens came to our planet and created this technology, using their advanced knowledge, and then moved on to help other planets and populations do the same. When they moved on they left behind their AI technology so they could monitor us from a distance and later communicate with us if need be. They also state that it is possible if they were to try and communicate with earth, they may be so evolved that we would not be able to understand or detect their messages.

On one end of the spectrum, critics often say, if our galaxy is really over 10 billion years old, there must have been plenty of chances for another species to branch out into the world and settle down on another livable planet. If this is so, where are they and why haven’t we come into contact with them? At the other end of it all it is stated that we haven’t been able to detect alien intelligence because our first contact with them will be in the form of technology and not organic creatures. “Intelligences might be like small ships passing in the night in a vast ocean” it is stated on aeon.com. This AI technology that the aliens have developed is so far beyond our abilities to understand that until we are “ready” we won’t be able to come in contact with them.

Cognitively, I think this belief goes along with the idea that people don’t like the unknown. It brings us cognitive dissonance to not know the explanation behind something, like lights in the sky or why space is so vast, but we are the only species active throughout it. In terms of the belief that aliens are just AI I think it’s possible that this idea is comforting to people who don’t understand how or why technology had become so advanced to the point that it is essentially self-sufficient. The believers of this theory seem to come from more scientific backgrounds, but at the same time others who have similar scientific backgrounds will completely dispute these ideas. Those scientists who do share these beliefs have created communities and websites in which they can all share their ideas; this comradery allows their ideas to be supported and pushed even further. Confirmation bias could be to blame for some of these sustained beliefs, if someone has some beliefs that aliens exist and then they are presented with ambiguous evidence, they are more likely to see this as evidence to go along with what they believe. Along with this, even if they are presented with data that could prove that aliens do not exist, they aren’t likely to listen or remember this.

Overall, this belief in aliens as AI started in response to Fermi’s Paradox stating that the lack of evidence that aliens were real meant they could not be anywhere in our universe. From there they have perpetuated the belief through pseudoscience and lack of evidence to keep coming up with more and more hypotheses for why they do exist, but we haven’t seen them or communicated with them.


The Legend of the Loch Ness Monster

In the body of Great Britain’s largest freshwater lake, there persists the belief of a prehistoric monster outliving its counterparts. For 1500 years the mystery of Nessie, the Loch Ness monster, has endured in popularity both in its Scotland home and around the globe. Nessie is believed to reside in the Loch Ness Lake of the Scottish Highlands, remaining allusive over its 23 miles and 788 ft depth. The residents of the surrounding village, Inverness, can be credited with maintaining the legends desirability, most prominently through tourism efforts, insisting that there is still no evidence for the non-existence of the creature, thus come see for yourself.

The persistence of the legend rests on its longevity and contributes to its extraordinary attributes. If Nessie exists, it would counter the idea that prehistoric creatures have been extinct and prove they could survive in a modern environment, therefore, contradicting currently accepted scientific theories. Nevertheless, evidence supporting Nessie’s existence has been frequent and heavy since the legends origins. The earliest documentation can be traced as early as 297 AD in paintings by the Pict, an ancient people who lived in now modern eastern Scotland. The Pict people had an appreciation and fascination of animals, documenting them in great detail. Upon discovery their depictions were easily recognizable except for one, a creature with flippers, a round body, and an elongated neck, was unlike anything familiar in the region. These paintings would be the foundation for an evolving legend, appearing again two hundred years later in 565 AD in the biography of St. Columbia. His writing spoke of a monster in the Loch, of a creature beginning to attack a swimmer, but before it could attack again Columbia told it to return and it obeyed. In the centuries following these two tales paved the way of the legend, vague sightings of a mysterious sea creature would show pattern, enough for the belief to pass several generations. The belief would begin to attract global attention most notably in the 1930s. In July of 1933 the Caledonian Canal was being built across the Loch to accommodate traffic, on the 22nd of the month passersby George Spicer and his wife claimed to have seen “a most extraordinary form of animal” cross the street in front of their car, the description resembling that of the Pict. After multiple similar claims in the area it was decided that the construction of the bridge allowed a once isolated area to be explored, thus an increase in sightings. In the same year the first photo of Nessie arose, Hugh Grey had been walking with his dog when the picture was taken, showing an indistinguishable, blurry creature. In 1934 Nessie was told to have came ashore again, motorcyclist Arthur Grant was riding at 1am when he claims to have hit a large, round, flippered creature that retreated to the water post impact. However the greatest contribution to the legends attention occurred also in 1934, the “Surgeon’s Photograph,” taken by Robert Kenneth Wilson would show the head and neck of an unidentifiable animal among waves. The photograph would grab global attention through newspapers and radio broadcasts, bringing about eager tourists. The exponential popularity of this decade leveled out for the remainder of the 20th century, however, sonar readings, expeditions, films and photos would become frequent activities across the lake by those near and far, all contributing to over 4,000 documented accounts of claimed sightings.

Interest and research of the legend has persisted throughout the 21st century, however we are now able to dismiss some of the evidence that first sparked its infamousy in the 1930s. For example, Hugh Grey’s 1934 photograph was determined to be inadequate evidence as two positive-negative slides confirmed the shape was that of a rolling otter. Similarly, Arthur Grants motorcycle incident was decided to have been the result of another otter, whose size and features grew with time and exaggeration in

accordance with scheme of the legend. Finally, the most dramatic reversal of evidence came with Robert Wilson’s photograph being deduced to an elaborate hoax. The famous photo had been manipulated in size, the materials that of craftsmanship, and the floating movements responsible by submarine. It was a production involving Marmaduke Wetherell, an employee of the Daily Mail who wanted revenge after a previous submittal of evidence was quickly ruled to be fake. Co-conspirators Christian Spurling, Ian  Wetherell, and Maurice Chambers built, tested, and deployed the device for photography purposes, would remaining silent on its public effects until 1994.

Despite the surfacing falsehoods, the belief remains present to modern day. Its popularity hit a peak in the 1930s, but there are still believers who have taken a modern approach to tackling remaining unanswered questions. Rather than rely on testimonial answers, those persistent enough are using technology to acquire answers. For example, professor and scientist Neil Gemmell of New Zealand is conducting The Loch Ness Project, a search for DNA evidence of the present marine life. He says, “there’s absolutely no doubt that we will find new stuff, and that’s very exciting. While the prospect of looking for evidence of the Loch Ness monster is the hook to this project, there is an extraordinary amount of new knowledge that we will gain from the work about organisms that inhabit Loch Ness.” It is hopeful that the expedition will provide insight into the Lake’s biodiversity, perhaps contributing to the legends persistence or dismissal. Nevertheless, the additive lure of this potential is what invites the psychologist’s perspective. There is a wide scope of cognitive contributions that have attributed to the beliefs diligence. One method of such is post-hoc theorizing, meaning that claimed witnesses may not have understood what they had believed to seen, however, when it is suggested that it was the Loch Ness Monster, the witness asserts that they knew it had been so all along. Retreat to this explanation stems from the availability error as well, meaning the spike in sightings in the 1930s can likely be attributed to others believing they have seen something due to the bombardment of information on the matter, thus dismissing any other explanations. Along with this, a majority of the evidence presented can be argued as resembling pseudoscience, or a system of theories, assumptions, and methods erroneously regarded as scientific. The characteristics that suggest this are reliance on personal experiences, promising the impossible, and stagnation. Overturned testimonies, the contrast to prehistoric theories, and an unwavering virtue to Scottish folklore has allowed the belief to persist beyond what true scientific methodologies would suggest. It can be argued that the element of stagnation is what maintains the legends presence, having been interwoven into the Scottish culture for 1500 years suggesting a lack of proof is not enough to decay the belief, rather the modest evidence in its favor is framed extraordinarily, allowing it to persist.

The emphasis on tradition contributes to the societal perspective of the belief. Because it is asserted to be a Scottish legend, sharing in it is not limited to class, gender, or race. Rather, it is shared by the Scottish people as a unique statement of their history. This curiosity has been shared with the globe as well, perhaps making a world-wide statement of falsehood unachievable. Nevertheless, the reversal of evidence has not slowed down believers, and tourism for the purpose remains abundant. 

It is difficult to say if this scale of a pseudoscientific belief holds consequences. There is something about a tale of folklore that is appealing to humans whether they are passively or directly invested in something like the Loch Ness Monster. Additionally, those who participate in anything related to the existence of the Loch Ness Monster do not seem to be inflicting any sort of harm on anyone/anything. Whether the belief comes from an investment in one’s Scottish heritage or anecdotal experience, the prospect of an elusive sea monster can almost serve as a form of escapism, a non-consequential rabbit hole to fall down. Although the advent of pseudoscience shouldn’t be encouraged, the longevity of Nessie and her influence on Scottish culture has not resulted in any detrimental scientific malpractice thus far. Therefore, it is safe to assume that people will continue to venture to Nessie’s homestead for years to come.


A Fatal Gate: Reflections on the Beliefs of a UFO Cult

When 39 bodies identically dressed and positioned were found in a San Diego suburban house on March 26th, 1997, people were understandably shocked. The incredulity grew when it was revealed that every person intentionally ended their life as part of a religious group claiming aliens had come to take their spirits onto a spaceship. Soon after, videos surfaced of interviews with many of the group’s members cheerfully discussing their planned exit to their new immortal life––the “Next Level” (Krajicek, 2017). The group was named Heaven’s Gate, and the 39 people were the remaining followers of a religious movement that spanned three decades. Their last act cemented their legacy among the deadliest mass suicides in modern history. Remarkably, the website they used to proselyte can be accessed as it existed in 1997 due to the work of two believing members who manage the page and continue to fulfill requests for their religious materials (Feinberg, 2014).

The group has its origins in a chance meeting in 1972 between Marshall Herff Applewhite, an unemployed college music teacher who had been receiving treatment at a psychiatric hospital, and Bonnie Nettles. Nettles was a nurse at the hospital with a growing interest in biblical prophesy and extraterrestrials, and she met Applewhite at a time when her relationship with her husband was tenuous. According to Robert Balch and David Taylor, two sociologists who studied Heaven’s Gate extensively, Applewhite and Nettles “felt an immediate connection” and came to believe that they had been together in a previous life (2002). Applewhite had recently lost his job after having an affair with a male student, and he struggled deeply with his sexuality. He subsequently began hearing voices and had vivid dreams of men dressed in white proclaiming he was meant to fulfill a messianic mission. Nettles saw this dream as a prophecy and claimed she had received revelation from an extraterrestrial about meeting a person like Applewhite. Convinced of their importance, Nettles and Applewhite embarked on a six-month quest of studying the Bible, meditating, and praying.

Eventually, they came to believe that they were the Two Witnesses written about in Revelation Chapter 11. In the Bible, these two prophets are martyred, resurrected, and then taken up into heaven on a cloud. They interpreted the cloud as a spaceship and renamed the event “the Demonstration,” since in it they would reveal to the world the secret of overcoming death. Further, they believed the Earth was “a garden” that extraterrestrials, or members of the Kingdom of Heaven, had seeded with consciousness with the intention of harvesting those who were ready. Jesus had attempted this harvest, in which followers would become immortal, androgynous beings, but it had been delayed. All other religions of the world had been deceived by carnal beings who rejected the Next Level. Thus, Nettles and Applewhite began having public spiritual meetings to find people willing to train with them from 1972 to 1975. They attracted both interested people and the curious media, who quickly dismissed them as a misguided UFO cult. They proclaimed their role as the only two people on Earth in communication with the Kingdom of Heaven, and followers would need to rid themselves of their human mortality in order to “leave their vehicle,” or body, behind (Balch and Taylor, 2002).

The 1970s was a popular time period for new spiritual experiences outside of organized religion, and Nettles and Applewhite communicated a message that resonated with people seeking for a greater purpose. During the next twenty years, the group waxed and waned until only the most devoted these “seekers” remained. Some left as they faced evidence against the teachings of Nettles and Applewhite, known then as The Two or Ti and Do. While many of their claims about the nature of existence are unfalsifiable, they did make a specific prophesy about their death at the hands of their enemies. This event was supposed to occur early on, but eventually, they modified their interpretation to claim that they had suffered a murder of reputation by the media. Another challenge came in 1985 when Nettles died of liver cancer. As he had done throughout the group’s evolution, Applewhite adjusted the belief system to accommodate Nettles’ death and began to talk about the possibility of suicide (Balch and Taylor, 2002).

Overall, a mixture of cognitive biases, intentional behavior control, and isolation facilitated stronger and stronger belief in Nettles and Applewhite’s teachings. In his book about cults, Steven Hassan organizes these strategies in the BITE model, which stands for behavior, information, thought, and emotional control (Hassan, 2015). Perhaps the most vivid example of this control is the absolute restriction of sexual activity which led eight members, including Applewhite, to seek castration in order to conquer their sexual desires (Davis, 2000). In addition, Heaven’s Gate is a tragic example of cognitive dissonance as explained by Festinger, Riecken, and Schachter in When Prophecy Fails (1956). Like other doomsday or UFO cults, followers of Heaven’s gate were asked to voluntarily give away all their possessions and cut ties with anyone in their formal life as part of their belief. As the years passed and the arrival of the extraterrestrials failed to occur, both the leaders and followers faced real-world evidence that refuted their belief system. However, they had isolated themselves from the rest of society and relied completely on each other for social support. Thus, those who remained became even more entrenched in the belief. Even after the majority of the members died and no spaceship arrived, two surviving followers maintain the group’s website while two others enacted their own suicides.

In a recent podcast about this ill-fated movement, parents of one of the women who died in 1997 try to reconcile the sweet, smart girl they raised with the woman found lifeless in San Diego wearing a “Heaven’s Gate Away Team” patch on a black shirt (Heppermann, 2017). It’s unimaginable to think that those we love could come to believe in something as extraordinary as Heaven’s Gate and die for it happily. But isn’t it human to want social connection and a higher sense of purpose? The truth is that we are all susceptible to cognitive biases and deception, even if we’re the ones who create the belief.

Curious to learn more? Use the links below to explore the Heaven’s Gate website or binge-listen the Heaven’s Gate podcast.

Works Cited

Balch, R. W., & Taylor D. (2002). Making Sense of the Heaven’s Gate Suicides. In Bromley, D. G., & Melton, J. G. (Ed.) Cults, religion, and violence. (pp. 209-228). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Davis, W. (2000). Heaven’s Gate: A Study of Religious Obedience. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, 3(2), 241–267. https://doi.org/10.1525/nr.2000.3.2.241

Feinberg, A. (September 17, 2014). The Online Legacy of a Suicide Cult and the Webmasters Who Stayed Behind. Retrieved February 12, 2019, from https://gizmodo.com/the- online-legacy-of-a-suicide-cult-and-the-webmasters-1617403237

Festinger, L., Riecken, H., & Schachter, S. (1956). When Prophecy Fails. Mansfield Center, CT: Martino Fine Books.

Hassan, S. (2015). Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults. Freedom of Mind Press.

Heaven’s Gate – How and When It May Be Entered. Retrieved February 12, 2019, from


Heppermann, A. (Senior Producer). (2017). Heaven’s Gate [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://www.heavensgate.show/

Krajicek, D. J. (March 25, 2017). A look at the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide on its 20th anniversary – NY Daily News. Retrieved February 12, 2019, from https://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/heaven-gate-mass-suicide-20-years- article-1.3008847

The Denver International Airport: Freemason, Alien and Illuminati Hotspot, or Questionably Designed Airport?

By: Lauren Nowakowski

Ever since opening day on February 28, 1995 the Denver International Airport has attracted a lot of attention from flight customers, conspiracy theorists, and workers alike. The airport itself cost a reported 4.8 billion dollars (Hsu). Of the many conspiracy theories that surround the airport some of the most extraordinary are the belief that the paintings inside hold clues to the apocalypse, there are underground bunkers that were built for the world’s elite, and even that lizard people and aliens are hiding in the underground baggage transport tunnels (Wenzel). Although these are definitely interesting theories the one I am going to focus on is the belief that the Denver International Airport was built, and is controlled, by the Freemason’s and the other elites of the world. The people who are believing this idea are often people who don’t understand why else the airport would have cost and took so much time and money to build, and why it has so many of these strange attractions (such as the apocalyptic murals, horse sculptures, bunkers, and dedication plaques). Many conspiracy theorists such as Jesse Ventura have popularized these ideas through their televisions shows that showcase these theories. Information on the theory that the airport was built by the freemason’s can be found all over the internet, and specifically in Newspapers found around Denver. Even the airport itself has begun commenting on the conspiracy theories associated with it, by using fun advertisements in the airport. The CEO of the company, Kim Day, does not argue with the conspiracy theories, but has instead decided to use it to their advantage through exhibitions, parties, and a competition to tour underneath the airport (Wolfson). This conspiracy theory has been popularized ever since the dedication plaque with a masonic symbol appeared at the South entrance dating March 19, 1994 (“A Vacationers Guide”).

So, what exactly are the facts of the matter, and why do people believe that the freemasons had a part in the creation of the Denver international airport? First off, the dedication stone, has the freemason logo on it and was paid for by two Freemason grand lodges that are located in Colorado (Wolfson). The dedication stone also names the ‘New World Airport Commission’ on it. This organization supposedly has very little information about it, which is why theorists tend to believe that it has ties to the masons and the New World Order. People often connect the Freemason’s with the illuminati, leading people to believe that this secret society was, and is, in control of the airport. The Mayor himself at the dedication ceremony was a member of the freemasons, and has some of his own items in the time capsule below the stone (John). With all of this evidence in support of the belief, there is also a lot of evidence that goes against it. For example, although the dedication stone was made by the free-masons, it is not necessarily uncommon to have the Masons do this, because they are a charity social organization (John). Second, the New World Airport Commission has a typo on the dedication plaque and is missing a comma. Instead of reading ‘New World Airport Commission’ it should read ‘New World, Airport Commission.’ Also, even though the New World, Airport Commission does not exist now, there was one in 1994 (John). Also, the Grand Secretary of the MW Grand Lodge of Colorado responded to these claims stating, “The Freemasons had nothing to do with building the Denver International Airport. The only involvement was the ceremony that was performed for the dedication capstone that was done on March 19,1994” (John). Lastly, Charles Ansbacher, the New World Airport Commission’s chairman stated that he wasn’t sure about why it was named what it was, but that it was most likely a reference to a common symphony known as Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, or also title the “New World Symphony” (Wenzel)

There are many cognitive contributions for why people believe this belief. First, many believers are conducting confirmation bias, by only looking for evidence to confirm their theory (Van Zandt). This can be seen when people ignore the fact that the New World, Airport Commission did exist at one point even though it no longer does. This is also seen when people look at the dedication stone’s symbols and believe that the Freemason’s must have been in control of the whole airport because their symbols are on the stone. They are ignoring all of the evidence that disconfirms these beliefs. People are also tolerating inconsistencies by believing that the free masons built and control the airport even though there is evidence that disproves this idea. Many people who believe in this do not know all of the facts, such as the New World Airport Commission did once exist, and that the free masons do not equal the illuminati. They often become mistaken because of evidence that is put out into YouTube videos and documentaries that are made with the purpose to convince you that these ideas are true. They often only show the evidence that seemingly proves the conspiracy, and leave out the information that often disconfirms it.

There seems to be many social and contextual contributions that lead to this belief. For example, a video on YouTube posted be SEA titled, “The Denver Airport Conspiracy – A Secret New World Order Bunker?,” has 1.4 million views, meaning this conspiracy theory has reached a great number of people. You also have the documentary made by Jesse Ventura that has brought even more attention to this theory. The different designs within the airport also do not help disconfirm the theories, because of the seemingly wackiness to it. There is a 9,000 pound, 10-meter-tall cast fiberglass blue horse with red eyes located outside of the airport (Allegretti). There is also the problem that because the Airport is in fact an airport, many people come through their doors every day, leading to more exposure of the airport and its quirks. Lastly, the Denver airport officials themselves aren’t outright denying the claims anymore, and are now poking fun at the conspiracy theories through their use of advertisements. The advertisements themselves don’t debunk the theories on the signs, but instead direct you to a website titled DENFiles.com (Barber). This may lead people toward getting the wrong idea.

In conclusion, the theories that surround the Denver international airport are definitely interesting, and there are still many questions that are left unanswered. The Freemason’s were definitely a part of the dedication ceremony, but besides that they really weren’t a part of the airport construction, or control wise. The advertisements themselves aren’t helping but the conspiracy theories to bed either, if anything they are bringing even more people into the conspiracy theories. Although the airport is a place with many interesting objects, and ideas surrounding so are many other places. The fact that the airport has so many conspiracies may just be due to the high level of exposure it gets being an airport. I myself have traveled through this airport, and even though I didn’t see any aliens, freemason elite, or underground bunkers, I definitely saw a lot of weird paintings, stones, and gargoyles, that did have me thinking twice about their meanings. But I guess that’s how a lot of conspiracies can start, second guessing something and looking down a rabbit hole of biased evidence with other misinformed people supporting you.


Allegretti, David. “We Analyzed Evidence That the Denver Airport Is the Illuminati Headquarters.” Vice, Vice, 28 Mar. 2018, www.vice.com/en_au/article/wj7nk4/we-analysed-evidence-that-the-denver-airport-is-the-illuminati-headquarters.

“A Vacationer’s Guide to the Dark Side of Denver Intl. Airport.” Airport Van Rental, Airport Van Rental, 2018, www.airportvanrental.com/blog/vacationer’s-guide-dark-side-denver-intl-airport.

Barber, Megan. “Denver Airport Construction Signs Poke Fun at Conspiracy Rumors.” Curbed,Curbed, 7 Sept. 2018, www.curbed.com/2018/9/7/17832102/denver-airport-conspiracy-theories-signs-construction.

Hsu, Hua. “A Global Government Is Waiting Under the Denver Airport.” New York News &Politics, New York Magazine, 17 Nov. 2013, nymag.com/news/features/conspiracy-theories/denver-airport-bunker/.

John, Colin St. “How the Denver Airport Became an Icon of the Illuminati.” Thrillist, Thrillist, 31 Oct. 2017, www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/denver-airport-conspiracy-theories.

Wenzel, John. “The Definitive Guide to Denver International Airport’s Biggest Conspiracy Theories.” The Denver Post, The Denver Post, 31 Oct. 2016,

Van Zandt, Trisha. “Cognitive Biases.” The Ohio State University. 17 January 2019. Lecture

Wolfson, Sam. “’Remodeling the Lizard People’s Lair’: Denver Airport Trolls Conspiracy Theorists.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 7 Sept. 2018, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/sep/07/denver-airport-construction-conspiracy-lizard-people.


Ancient Alien Architects

The ancient alien architect theory is one that has held a lot of the publics’ attention through the years. The general idea is that years ago, aliens visited our planet and assisted our ancestors in building the great monuments of their time. The Egyptian pyramids, Mayan Temples, Angkor Wat, and Easter Island are a few examples that this theory ties in to. This theory is popular among many people, and not exclusive to those who are ill-informed or uneducated. Rather, it is widely held by “average” individuals seeking explanation or understanding of an uncertain and curious past (Killgrove, 2015).

The popularity of the ancient alien architect theory has grown to great prevalence. This popularity must be mostly attributed to the televised phenomena of shows such as History Channel’s “Ancient Aliens”. Other sources of information on the topic are found on websites such as “theancientalien.com”, and pseudo-archaeology books like Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods’, and Andrew Collins’ Gobekli Tepe; Genesis of the Gods (Killgrove, 2015). No matter the popularity of the theory, it is indeed extraordinary. The belief in the ancient alien architect theory defies all bounds of modern scientific knowledge; rejecting the traditionally accepted requirements for a legitimate scientific theory. There is no physical or historical proof that provides definitive evidence to support the theory, and yet it holds. No matter your personal opinion on the theory, it is undeniably rampant, controversial, and extraordinary.

For those who hold stock in the ancient alien architect theory, explanations abound. For example, at the time at which so many of the ancient monuments in question were built, our perception of the “necessary” technology was not yet invented. This begs the question, as to how our ancestors managed such a feat. Additionally, many of the monuments (Egyptian Pyramids, Easter Island Heads, etc.), have curiously precise alignment with the stars and patterns of the sun. Without telescopes or geometric equipment, this type of precision seems highly unlikely for humans to muster on their own (Jones, 2016). Interpretations of cave etchings and hieroglyphics seem to reveal images of helicopter-type vehicles and structures reminiscent of a flying saucer. Had our ancestors not been visited by ancient alien architects, how and why would these images appear (Jones, 2016)? Lastly, there is undeniable similarity between structures that were built hundred and thousands of years and miles apart (Mayan Temples and Egyptian pyramids) (Jones, 2016). Without ever having seen these other locations, how did our ancestors duplicate them? To those who accept the ancient alien architect theory, it seems that the only logical explanation to these mysteries was the visitation of higher-intelligence race of aliens.

On the other hand, there are many who reject the idea of the ancient alien architect theory. From a technological standpoint, it is true that scientists are still working on figuring out how exactly our ancestors managed such large architectural feats. However, modern discoveries and research has uncovered explanations and theories based in legitimate scientific processes. For example, a recent study based out of Egypt lead to the discovery that water can be utilized to make the transportation of heavy blocks easier (Jarus, 2016). This sheds light of the question as to how our ancestors managed to move such heavy objects without modern day technology. Circumpolar stars, such as Polaris, and lines of rope could have been utilized as a method of aligning the buildings so precisely with star patterns (Jarus, 2016). While scientists and archaeologists acknowledge that these actions would have been difficult, they would not have been impossible. Documents and building plans have been found in places such as Egypt as well, describing the large work forces utilized in these projects (Jarus, 2016).  For those who reject the theory, they see no actual evidence of its claims. They seek proof in traditional and logical scientific process.

Those who believe the ancient alien architect theory are not alone. Believers come from every walk of life, every age, and every socioeconomic status. There is a social fascination with the topic, and it is widely popular across many platforms. Social media, television shows, blogs, and even support groups devoted to the theory allow believers to hold strong. The prevalence of the show “Ancient Aliens” undoubtedly attracts many to this theory. Movies like “The Day after Tomorrow” and “Independence Day”, while not focused primarily on alien architects, promote fascination with alien conceptualization. All of these platforms make it hard to ignore the topic, and allow believers more and more outlets to solidify their convictions.

When considering the psychological explanations that may account for belief in such a theory, a few come to mind. Ad Ignorantum refers to the idea that something must be true, if it is not proven false. This is key in the mind of a believer. Instead of saying “let me show you proof”, they instead say “show me proof this isn’t true”. Hasty generalization is key as well. Jumping to a conclusion based of insufficient evidence is found is nearly every claim within the ancient alien architect theory. This ties in with the slippery-slope idea as well. A small idea is conjured, and instead of analyzing or trying to disprove it, the idea snowballs into an entire theory. For example, when considering the issue of how the pyramids were built, some argue that hieroglyphics found on site resemble helicopters (Jones, 2016). A believer assumes this to mean that a helicopter-type vehicle was present, and since humans did not have that kind of technology, they then assume that an extraterrestrial visitor must have brought it. And so, if they were present, they must have been helping with the construction of the seemingly impossible pyramid construction. Instead of accepting alternate explanations, a generalized theory is created, and seemingly explains the mystery.

These psychological explanations account for why so many fall into this belief pattern. It seems nearly impossible to reject an idea when everything seemingly “fits”. The characteristics of pseudoscience are tricky, and can make almost any issue believable. Humans seek explanation, and the comfort of understanding. When tackling an issue such as these ancient marvels, it is natural to search for any explanation, because it defies what we see as possible. This is where the ancient alien architect theory gains so much attention, and how it continues to spread.








Killgrove, Kristina. “What Archaeologists Really Think About Ancient Aliens, Lost Colonies, And Fingerprints Of The Gods.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 22 Nov. 2015, www.forbes.com/sites/kristinakillgrove/2015/09/03/what-archaeologists-really-think-about-ancient-aliens-lost-colonies-and-fingerprints-of-the-gods/.


Jones, Kim. “Top 10 Evidences To Prove The Aliens Built The Pyramids” Proof of Aliens Life, 25 Feb. 2016, https://proofofalien.com/top-10-evidences-to-prove-the-aliens-built-the-pyramids/.


Jarus, Owen. “How Were the Egyptian Pyramids Built?” LiveScience, LiveScience Online, 14 Jun, 2016.  https://www.livescience.com/32616-how-were-the-egyptian-pyramids-built-.html .