You know the drill: any time you’re gearing up for a trip, you need to head to the dollar store to stock up on those adorable travel bottles in TSA-friendly sizes. You might even know some more advanced travel tricks, like freezing a bottle of water to bring along (hey, it’s not liquid).
But then there are some people who seem completely oblivious to flying regulations. Whether they’re willfully disobeying the rules or they’re just unaware that packing a live animal in your carry-on is (rightfully) forbidden, read on to discover some of the most bizarre items that TSA agents have found during their checks.
1. A live tiger cub
One Thai woman tried sneaking a live tiger cub (along with a stuffed version) through the Bangkok airport. The 2-month-old cub was heavily sedated and his heartbeat was detected through the airport’s x-ray machine. When confronted, the woman claimed to have no knowledge of the animal.
Next: This was a very creative way to smuggle drugs.
2. Cocaine cookies
It’s safe to say that when it comes to drug smuggling attempting, the TSA has seen everything. And with the incredible noses of drug-sniffing dogs, the risks just don’t seem worth it. But these cases prove that would-be smugglers will keep trying no matter what.
In 2014, a Guatemalan man was arrested at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey with a bunch of chocolate chip cookies in his bag… except those chocolate chips weren’t really chocolate. Each chip was really a tiny pellet of cocaine, with all of them adding up to 2 pounds of cocaine worth more than $50,000.
But the cookie smuggler wasn’t the only drug distributor who tried to use food to move product. One man flying into New York JFK from Trinidad had seven pounds of cocaine shoved inside frozen hunks of goat meat. Another from Guyana had 18 pounds hidden inside bags of custard mix.
Next: You wouldn’t want these escaping during your flight.
3. 200 poisonous tarantulas
Talk about creepy.
In 2012, the TSA confiscated 200 live, poisonous tarantulas along with other bugs including crickets and millipedes in tubes hidden in clothing. A German couple had been collecting the insects in Peru and were attempting to bring them home through Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, a direct violation of the laws which prohibit bringing wildlife in from other countries.
Next: The traveler had a frightening intention for this piece of contraband.
4. A human skull
It’s illegal to bring human remains through airport security without a death certificate and a valid reason, but that didn’t stop one woman from trying. She got busted smuggling a dirty human skull complete with hair and skin when traveling from Haiti to Miami.
The skull in question was believed to belong to an African-American man who had died within the year. The 30-year-old woman told customs officials that she purchased the skull with intentions of using it to practice voodoo.
Next: This is the worst way to save money on travel.
5. A baby
People will do just about anything to avoid paying airline fees. Even pack their newborn babies in suitcases.
Though it’s thankfully rare, it does happen on occasion. Recently, a woman on an Air France flight from Istanbul Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport got caught hiding a two-month-old baby in her carry-on. What’s worse is that she almost got away with it. Authorities found out halfway through the three and a half hour flight when she reportedly opened the bag and passengers noticed something moving inside of it.
Next: Even superheroes can’t travel with these.
Holy weapons, Batman!
Plenty of people try to smuggle knives, but there’s an alarming new trend towards specifically trying to carry “batarangs” — sharp, metal, bat-shaped blades like the one Batman throws at his enemies. And to answer your question, yes: these superhero themed weapons are strictly forbidden. Even if you happen to be named Bruce Wayne.
Next: Being a teacher doesn’t give you free reign to pack whatever you want.
7. A severed seal head
A biology teacher traveling from Denver to Boston was caught smuggling a severed harbor seal head amongst his luggage. He claimed he found the seal dead on a beach and cut off its head for educational purposes. But whether his story was true or not, federal law makes it illegal to disrupt or remove body parts from a dead mammal or transport fish or wildlife. The man was allowed to board the plane, but the head was confiscated.
Next: At least they were dead.
8. Venomous snakes
Ever hear of the movie Snakes on a Plane? It almost happened for real…
Just one year after the classic Samuel Jackson thriller was released, a man got caught attempting to transport 30 poisonous snakes from South Korea to Atlanta. Luckily for the passengers, the snakes were all dead and shoved in glass containers. But it was still super creepy.
Next: She was searched for walking funny — it turned out there was a reason.
9. Bags of live tropical fish
A woman arriving in Melbourne was stopped and searched when officials noticed she was walking strangely. The Australian Customs Service put out a press release stating, “During the search, customs officers became suspicious after hearing ‘flipping’ noises coming from the vicinity of her waist.”
Turns out that’s because she had 15 plastic bags filled with 50 live tropical fish woven into her skirt. Smuggling wildlife can result in more than $80,000 worth of fines and a prison sentence up to 10 years.
Next: While it’s not technically a weapon, it could easily be used that way.
10. A meat slicer
Meat slicers have razor-sharp blades, which is why you’re not allowed to pack them in your carryon. TSA agents confiscated one at the Southwest Florida International airport in 2015.
Next: This was a weird weapon.
11. Anti-tank gun
Most people know that traveling with weapons is a real no-no. An expended 84-mm anti-tank gun was discovered and confiscated at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Pennsylvania. Live or not, guns are prohibited in carry-on bags and can only be packed in checked baggage with the appropriate clearances and paperwork.
Next: You don’t see these every day.
12. A suicide bomber vest
A suicide bomber vest was discovered in a checked bag at Indianapolis International Airport. It contained 30 electric matches, a bag of potassium chlorate, and a bag of titanium powder, which were all inert. Luckily, after a little research, they figured out that it was just a training aid.
Next: You can’t have this item in your carry-on or in checked baggage.
13. Smoke bomb
A live purple smoke grenade was discovered in a checked bag at Las Vegas McCarran airport. Yeah, that’s not allowed, even in checked items.
Next: A man had this surprising item taped to his leg.
14. Live pigeons
A man was detained at Melbourne airport when officers discovered a vitamin container with two bird eggs inside it. After a more thorough investigation, the man was found to have live pigeons stuffed into padded envelopes and wrapped around each leg. He was attempting to board a 10-hour flight with his feathered friends.
Next: This passenger got arrested for packing this item.
15. Avalanche charge
An avalanche charge (a homemade explosive device used to set off an avalanche) was found in a carry-on bag at Anchorage International Airport. And while plenty of people have made it through security and only had their weapons confiscated, in this instance the passenger was arrested.
Just a small hint for next time you’re flying: you can contact a TSA agent 24/7 and ask specific questions about what’s allowed and what’s not. Happy travels!
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