Study Finds That Arizona's the Place for Vortexes, Alien Lights, Lost Gold Mines — and Conspiracists

Jake Angeli, otherwise known as the QAnon Shaman, protested in Peoria in October 2020 several months before storming the U.S. Capitol.
Jake Angeli, otherwise known as the QAnon Shaman, protested in Peoria in October 2020 several months before storming the U.S. Capitol. TheUnseen011101
Whether far-right, far-left, or just plain far out of this world, Arizona seems to have a magnetic attraction to those on the fringes of society.

True believers claim vortexes radiate special energy in Sedona, mysterious lights hover in Phoenix skies, and hidden gold is buried in the aptly named Superstition Mountains. Arizona is a hive of political conspiracy theories, such as "Stop the Steal," (Biden won Arizona) and QAnon, whose devotees believe Satan-worshipping pedophiles, led by Democrats, the media, and celebrities, kidnap children, drink their blood for energy, enslave them as sex workers.

Clinging to such convictions landed Arizona near the top of the list of "top conspiracy destinations," in one recent "study." Authors claim 51 million Americans, one in five, believe some kind of conspiracy theory.

You won't have to travel far for a sampling.

Around 100 miles north of Phoenix, twisted juniper trees are among the first signs visitors know they're nearing what believers call a vortex in Sedona. Believers they say a vortex, a kind of inter-dimensional portal, sits on Airport Mesa, perched on Table Top Mountain in the Coconino National Forest.
click to enlarge Sedona is home to several vortexes believers claim. - DAVE CLARK
Sedona is home to several vortexes believers claim.
Dave Clark

New Age followers claim aliens wedged a giant crystal under Bell Rock. Psychic Page Bryant claimed several sites in Sedona to be electromagnetically teeming with vortexes, which can be used for healing. Visitors have reported seeing orbs and portals in the high desert.

Sedona is ranked No. 3 in the nation for the best road trip along Route 666 or The Devil's Highway, according to a study by a luggage shipping business My Baggage.

"We set out to find the top conspiracy destinations around the U.S., creating a travel hit list for conspiracy lovers in the form of a ‘Route 666’ travel guide," the group said.

Rankings are based on, among other things, distance from the nearest city, accessibility, number of hotels nearby the conspiracy, popularity of the conspiracy on Google, plus fun things to do while you're checking out the nearest vortex.

Phoenix and the Sedona Vortex lag in the My Baggage "rankings," behind Sacramento with its proximity to Bigfoot's stomping grounds and Los Angeles's "haunted" Cecil Hotel. But Phoenix rates wackier than Athens, Georgia (the Georgia Guidestones) and the "hidden chambers" behind Abe Lincon's head on Mount Rushmore, in South Dakota.

But the Sedona Vortex isn't the only Arizona mystery to captivate the imagination of storytellers.

While stargazing Arizona's night sky in the late 1990s, hundreds of residents claim they saw a different kind of light show. At the time, Comet Hale-Bopp was forecasted to become the brightest comet in roughly 20 years. That same night mysterious colored lights in a vee pattern were seen across the sky. Observers with a telescope claim that it was just aircraft in the sky but others suggest it was the work of aliens.

Phoenix is surrounded by high and dry mountains some that draw gamblers looking to strike it rich.
Despite searching for more than 100 years, none has been able to find the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine, but that doesn't stop people willing to die trying. The remains of Jesse Capen, a Denver man in his mid-30s was found three years after his disappearance in the mountains. German Jacob Waltz was said to have a gold mine around the Superstition Mountains.

The next generation of folklore includes internet-born and grown groups like QAnon. 

It is heavily pro-Trump, is considered a domestic terrorism group by the F.B.I., and has tentacles into the Arizona GOP alongside the Republican party nationwide. QAnon followers subscribe to a theory that a satanic child sex-trafficking ring controls the U.S. government, and the world. In 2017, that notion  sprouted from an anonymous person claiming to work for the government.

Phoenix local Jake Angeli, the self-proclaimed QAnon Shaman, known for his fur and horned-helmet get-up, was a regular at protests and often carried a sign proclaiming "Q Sent Me."

Unlike these other myths, QAnon has prompted violence — such as when protestors broke into the U.S. Capitol on January 6 and rioted once inside. The group attempted to disrupt Congress while counting the electoral votes after the presidential election in 2020.

That day, a shirtless Angeli trekked to Washington, D.C., plastered in red, white, and blue face paint, while holding an American flag with a sharp object at its tip.

Angeli claimed that "It's Only a Matter of Time. Justice is Coming" as a warning to political leaders.

The 34-year old has since pleaded guilty to a felony charge and faces 20 years in prison.

Whether it's something in the water, or lack thereof, or the heat, Arizona is rife with conspiracy theorists in the desert.
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Kristen Mosbrucker is a journalist who hails from the Northeast but has spent much of her career over the past decade across the South. She has interviewed everyone from business executives to homeless folks. She's covered business on the Texas-Mexico border in deep South Texas for the McAllen Monitor, technology and the defense industry in San Antonio for American City Business Journals, and the petrochemical industry in Louisiana for The Advocate newspaper. Early in her career, she spearheaded hyperlocal community news coverage for an NPR member station in Philadelphia.