Since September 11, the FAA and TSA have gone to great lengths to keep airline passengers safe with strict guidelines for what not to bring on a plane. But even with those rules in place, there are still some crazy things confiscated by TSA agents. People do follow the rules for the most part, and airports are arguably safer now than they have ever been. However, some brazen flyers still attempt to bring weapons, drugs, and other potentially dangerous oddities with them through security.
The craziest things confiscated by airport security almost boggle belief. Sure, they’ve found hidden weapons – but would you ever expect someone to attempt to smuggle dead seahorses onto a plane? And that’s not even the weirdest thing found by TSA agents. The honors might just go to a giant wooden mallet, or perhaps the stun gun disguised as a cell phone.
While there have been some cringe-worthy TSA stories over the years, the organization has confiscated many troubling and bizarre objects, documented on their Webby Award-winning Instagram account. You may feel a little confused as to why anyone would travel with these particular items, but you’ll probably also feel relief knowing that they landed in the right hands.
1. A Bag Of Eels
In 2012, a sack of eels was found in a checked bag and confiscated by the TSA at the Miami International Airport. Over 160 marine tropical fish and 22 invertebrates were also part of the haul that was later surrendered by the passenger to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
2. A Homemade Avalanche Charge
A homemade explosive created to trigger an avalanche was found in a carry-on at Anchorage’s Tom Stevens International Airport in 2014. The TSA confiscated the item and reported it to the FBI, who arrested the suspect, an oil worker and mountaineer. Airport police and fire chief Jesse Davis said that the device didn’t come with a triggering mechanism, and no one was in any immediate danger.
3. A Giant Wooden Mallet
Flying with a giant wooden mallet is not something most people would do, but it was attempted at Burlington International Airport in Vermont in 2014. The TSA confiscated the item, as sledgehammers and mallets can be used as bludgeons and are prohibited as carry-ons. However, they can be placed in checked baggage – if they fit.
4. Live Snakes And Tortoises
In 2011, a man was apprehended at Miami International Airport with some unusual baggage. The Brazil-pound passenger attempted to go through security with seven exotic snakes and three tortoises – all hidden in women’s hosiery under his pants. An advanced screening machine alerted security, and the man was arrested.
5. A Bullet-Adorned Gas Mask
Gas masks on flights? Sure, they’re allowed. A futuristic gas mask adorned with bullets? That’s a solid no. Even though the bullets were replicas, the mask was removed by the TSA at Miami International Airport. It’s hard to discern fake bullets from the real thing, so the TSA prefers you don’t try to put them in your carry-on bag.
6. Live Exotic Birds
In 2011, an incredibly bold woman wrapped two birds in socks and taped them to her body. She was apparently attempting to take them to China. Luckily, the birds made it out alive; she was given a pat down by TSA agents at Los Angeles International Airport after her bulging clothing tipped them off. The woman was arrested by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on suspicion of smuggling endangered animals out of the country. “It was just one of those weird things that happens at our checkpoints,” a TSA spokesperson said.
7. A Knife Hidden Inside An Enchilada
Did you forget something? A passenger flying out of Sonoma Country Airport kept her knife with her enchilada while attempting to board a flight, and the TSA confiscated it. However, the passenger was cleared for takeoff when it was discovered she made an honest mistake and just wanted to eat her meal on the plane. There’s no word on if the enchilada made the trip.
8. Dead Seahorses
Five dead, endangered seahorses were confiscated after being found at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. They were spotted in a large bottle of alcohol (also prohibited) when the passenger’s carry-on was X-rayed. The seahorses were then were handed over to Michigan Fish and Game.
10. A Monster With A Hand Grenade
What’s considered art is often subjective, especially in the case of the TSA. A bizarre sculpture of a monster holding a hand grenade was confiscated at Eagle County Regional Airport in Colorado. While the grenade was inert and obviously part of the artwork, it didn’t matter – grenades of any kind are prohibited in both carry-on bags and checked luggage.
11. A Live Chihuahua
This adorable dog wasn’t being smuggled; he was an accidental stowaway. He crawled into his owner’s luggage while she was packing and was, thankfully, spotted by a surprised TSA agent at New York’s Laguardia Airport during a random baggage check. TSA officials worked with the airline to identify the owner and reunite the duo.
12. A Belt Knife