One of nine hidden elves visitors can discover in the dioramas at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Courtesy of Denver Museum of Nature and Science

There are secrets hidden in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

These aren't like the conspiracy theories that have followed the Denver International Airport for years. The museum's secrets are harmless, and very cute. They're elves.

Hidden in the backgrounds of the museum's dioramas in the wildlife halls are nine elves, sitting by creeks, peeking from around tree trunks, hanging from branches. One is as small as an acorn on a 10-foot wall.

They've made their home here since 1971, when artist Kent Pendleton was hired by the museum to paint the dioramas.

"And he never really intended people to see or celebrate these creatures that he included in the backdrop. It was just something sort of fun for him. But now we knowingly have and celebrate our elves," media relations manager Maura O'Neal said.

Visitors can even pick up an elf scavenger hunt maps to aid them on their quest. That's what CPR reporter Joella Baumann and three children did recently as they embarked on a 40-minute elf hunt.