Chicago O’Hare International Airport

Aliens, UFOs & crop circles at the airport

My At the Airport column on USATODAY.com this month – UFOS at DEN? is all about aliens (from outer space), UFOs, crop circles seen at some airport and the secret messages in some of the artwork at Denver International Airport

Scary stuff – but really fun.

Officials insist the 26-foot tall statue of the ancient Egyptian god Anubis now standing outside the Denver International Airport terminal is there to promote a King Tut exhibit opening soon at the Denver Art Museum. But the giant image of the jackal-headed god tasked with protecting the spirits of the dead is alarming some travelers.

“I’m not superstitious, but it doesn’t exactly instill confidence when the god of the dead is staring through the window at you!” says Brian Olson, a Colorado resident who travels frequently through Denver airport.

The Anubis statue, which has also spent time at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, will leave Denver International Airport in mid-August. Staying behind will be several pieces from the airport’s permanent public art collection that some travelers consider ominous and, in some cases, out of this world.

Mile-high mysteries

Matt Chasansky, the public art administrator at Denver airport, has watched all the YouTube videos, answered many e-mails and read all the internet postings about the secret messages allegedly embedded in murals, sculpture and other art pieces in the airport. He’s glad people are responding emotionally to the airport’s collection but insists concerns about strange doings at DEN are just misunderstandings.

 

(Terry Allen’s Notre Denver, courtesy Denver Int’l Airport)

One traveler wrote to complain about the “demons” in the baggage claim area. Those demons are part of Terry Allen’s work, Notre Denver and are European cathedral-inspired gargoyles meant not to harm people, but to protect them from losing their luggage. Other travelers see a secret code in the words and images in 21st Century Artifacts, the four mosaic floors created by Carolyn Braaksma and Mark Villareal for Concourse B. “The piece is actually about geography, archeology and topography,” says the airport’s Chasansky, “And those are Native American words and symbols for the Colorado River and other sites around the area.”

On its website, the airport notes that “a few fanciful conspiracy theories have been generated” by Leo Tanguma’s mural titled Children of the World Dream Peace, but that none of those far-out theories “were intended by the artist.” And both the airport’s telephone-hold message and brochure for the self-guided art tour make reference to the uneasy feelings some travelers get from the glowing red eyes of the 32-foot tall blue Mustang by Luis Jiménez, who died while working on the sculpture. Dubbed “Bluecifer” by detractors, the sculpture rearing up on the road leading to the airport has spawned Facebook pages and campaigns calling for its removal.

(Mustang by Luis Jimenez; courtesy Denver Int’l Airport)

There are also rumors about the airport’s aliens. The ones that have supposedly come to earth and now live in the hidden underground areas at the airport. “One theory says you can put your ears against the columns in the terminal and hear alien voices from the basement,” says Chasanksy. Another describes how pushing the right combination of buttons on a keypad by the airport’s time capsule will signal the elevators to descend to the aliens’ underground base. Unfortunately for alien hunters, that ‘keypad’ is just a plaque with braille lettering on it.

“All those theories are fanciful and fun,” says Chasansky, “But none of it is true. And the aliens aren’t telling me to say this.”

Unexplained events at other airports

Fanciful or not, Denver International isn’t the only airport said to be visited by aliens. According to Peter Davenport of the Seattle-based National UFO Reporting Center, “There have been many reports which seem to be, in one way or another, associated with airports.”

Larry Bowron, now the Transportation Director for the city of Battle Creek, Mich., says back when he worked at the Scottsdale, Ariz., airport he saw something he still can’t fully explain hover over the runway and then zip out of sight. “It looked like a helicopter, but had no lights on it. All of sudden a white beam of light came on and within two seconds it accelerated and was out of my sight. There was no sound, yet it moved 100 times faster than anything I’d seen in my life.”

Bowron says prior to that experience he was “sort of a skeptic” about UFOs, but “You see something that defies logic and it makes a believer out of you.”

Travis McQueen, manager of Indiana’sHuntingburg Airport, hasn’t seen a UFO, but did jump in an airplane to take some aerial pictures of mysterious crop circles that once showed up on airport-owned land leased to a local farmer. He won’t say whether or not he believes it was aliens or local pranksters who left their mark in the farmer’s bean field, but McQueen did file a report with the local sheriff so that the farmer could file an insurance claim for his lost crops.

(Crop circle – courtesy Travis McQueen)

Then there’s the UFO that may or may not have visited Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on November 7, 2006. Peter Davenport of the National UFO Reporting Center says he received documents “that left no doubt as to whether the event occurred, or to its bizarre nature.” He estimates that the disc-shaped object seen hovering above Gate C-17 was observed by no fewer than three dozen people, including aircraft mechanics, airline supervisory personnel and others he calls “highly qualified observers.”

The Chicago Tribune and other news outlets published reports about the 2006 UFO incident. Davenport and others call the event “very dramatic” and “very well documented.” The only thing officials at O’Hare have ever said about the possible UFO sighting, though, is “No comment.”

Dance at ORD & MDW, drop your pants at PHL

Ready for St. Patrick’s Day festivities?

The Chicago airports are. Today, Friday, March 12, Irish dancers from the Trinity Academy will perform at both O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and at Midway International Airport (MDW). Performances will be 3 to 5 p.m. at O’Hare (in Terminals 1, 2, 3, and 5) and at Midway in Concourse A near the “Battle of Midway” exhibit.

And if you are traveling through Philadelphia International Airport (PHL ) between now and Sunday, March 14th, the Gap store there would like you drop your pants.

Old blue jeans collected by Gap stores nationwide will be turned into cotton fiber insulation.  And anyone who leaves a pair of pants will get a coupon good for 30% off their next denim purchase.

The project is a partnership with the Cotton. From Blue to Green campaign, which has so far turned 200 tons of recycled jeans into insulation for more than 540 houses built in areas destroyed by natural disasters .

Happy Souvenir Sunday from SEA and ORD

(Photo courtesy Pam Mandel, Nerd’s Eye View)

On Sundays, I unpack my bags and take a look at some of the fun, under $10, “of”the city items I picked up while stuck at the airport.

Last week, it was gee-gaws from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

This week, I’ve got souvenirs sent in by fellow travelers.

Beth Whitman, of Wanderlust and Lipstick, found two shelves of regionally-made soups at the Made In Washington store at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

And my buddy Cheryl Smalley went shopping at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD):

Did you find some great souvenirs last time you were stuck at the airport?

If so, please snap a photo and send it along. It may end up on next week’s Souvenir Sunday.

Tidbits for travelers: holiday news from airports around the country

Christmas week is always a big deal for airports and air travel.

This year, as usual, lines are long, people are cranky, and there’s a storm wreaking havoc with schedules and everyone’s best laid plans.

So, it’s a good bet that if you’re traveling by air this week, you’re going to spend some time being stuck at an airport. Remember to bring supplies such as books, snacks, a charged cell phone, and some extra cash to buy a few last minute gifts.

And remember to look around: some airports are hosting complimentary gift wrapping stations and many airports have scheduled holiday events and entertainment.

Here are just a few examples:

The Chicago Airport System’s schedule of “Holiday Delights” continues at both O’Hare Airport and Midway through Wednesday, December 23rd with performances by local blues, jazz, international, R&B performers, barbershop quartets and carolers. There will also be children’s workshops and a visit from Santa Claus.

Both airports are also offering free gift wrapping, past security, on December 21 and 23 with wrapping paper and gift bags created by students from the After School Matters program.

On Monday December 21st, Southwest Airlines and The Container Store join forces to offer free gift wrapping at Dallas Love Field, Phoenix Sky Harbor, Denver International, Saint Louis Lambert International, and Baltimore-Washington International airports. Here are some details about locations and times.

Free gift wrapping continues in various spots around Phoenix Sky Harbor airport through December 24th and through Wednesday at San Diego International Airport. Check your airport’s Web site to see if free gift wrapping is being offer there as well. Keep in mind that many airport shops also offer fee gift wrapping and many will have piles of pre-wrapped items ready to grab-n’- go.

If you find yourself hanging around Detroit Metroplitan Airport (DTW) Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday (Dec 21 – 23rd), head on over to the stage next the water feature in the center of Concourse A (near Gate A40). The airport is partnering with local Delta Air Lines folks to host a holiday karaoke event called “Sing Because you Care” between 11 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. each day.

Anyone, or any group, that sings is being asked to donate $5 to support the local Salvation Army.

And here’s a great gift for anyone flying to or from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA): the airport light rail station opened, as promised, on Saturday, December 19th. Just in time to save a lot of holiday travelers a lot of hassle and money.

It’s now possible to ride between the airport and downtown Seattle for $2.50.

Thanks, Santa!


Seasonal and H1N1 vaccines back at ORD and Midway airports

Getting ready to head home from a Thanksgiving visit?

turkey

If you haven’t gotten a seasonal flu shot or an H1N1 vaccine and are traveling to or through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) or Midway Airport – you’re in luck.

FLU POSTER SPITTING

The airport clinic in Terminal 2 operated by the University of Illinois at Chicago and – starting Sunday; stand-alone kiosks in the terminals at ORD and Midway Airports – will be offering arm-shot seasonal flu vaccines and H1N1 flu vaccines in the nasal mist form.

Both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 vaccines have been hard to find, and it’s a good bet this supply won’t last long. So if you have time – make it a point to get vaccinated at the airport.

The kiosks at ORD are in Terminal 1 and Terminal 3; at Midway the kiosk is in the airport’s  concession triangle.  The H1N1 mist costs $25; seasonal flu shots are $35. And, as with clinics across the country, the airport-provided vaccines will not be available to everyone: the clinic will be giving inoculations to those who fall into the federally defined at-risk categories.

For more information call the IUC clinic at: (773) 894- 5100