The U.S. Transportation Administration (TSA) discovered 1,813 firearms in carry-on bags in 2013. That number represents a 16.5 percent increase from 2012, and averages to about five guns per day. However, firearms are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the strange things people have tried to bring on airplanes. Smoke grenades, spear guns, sword canes, knuckle stun guns, a utility knife concealed between Scooby-Doo greeting cards –TSA agents have uncovered all manner of illicit weaponry. And it’s not just weapons, either. Wildlife smugglers have attempted to traffic crocodiles, monkeys, snakes, and rare fish; a man from Thailand even tried smuggling a baby tiger cub out of the country by sedating it and putting it in a suitcase filled with stuffed tiger toys. While most travelers just want to be able to pack more liquids, there’s always going to be that passenger who attempts to board a plane with a cocaine cast or 50 rare orchids.
10. Batman Throwing Stars
While a passenger boarding a commercial flight out of San Diego obviously envisioned himself to be a superhero, TSA agents didn’t agree. Weapons are seized at airports every day, but bag scanners don’t typically detect throwing stars shaped like the Batman symbol. Was the man a comic book collector or Bruce Wayne in disguise? Either way, TSA agents confiscated the superhero weaponry and he won’t be fighting crime anytime soon.
9. Disassembled Gun Hidden Inside Stuffed Animals
TSA officers found gun components hidden inside a 4-year old boy’s stuffed animals at T.E. Green Airport in Providence, Rhode Island. According to the TSA, “a .40 caliber gun was artfully concealed in different pieces of three animals. The main frame was inside a bear. A magazine loaded with two .40 caliber rounds was inside a bunny, and a firing pin was inside Mickey Mouse.” The man told authorities that he had no idea how the gun parts ended up in his son’s stuffed animals. A police spokesperson later revealed that the incident was related to a domestic dispute, in which the man’s wife was trying to get her husband arrested.
8. Chastity Belt
This is a section of a 2012 TSA blog post entitled Body Scanner Discoveries of the Week: “And while it isn’t prohibited, a passenger wearing a chastity belt alarmed the body scanner at one of our checkpoints. I’m sure you can imagine why undergarments such as this might be a problem at a security checkpoint. Especially if there is no key.”
Despite setting off the carry-on alarm and raising some eyebrows, the chastity belt posed no danger to the public. It’s unknown whether or not the woman wearing the chastity belt had the key.
7. Gassed Up Chainsaw
A chainsaw can be a deadly weapon. Anyone who’s watched Leatherface run amok in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre can attest to that. Apparently, this didn’t dawn on a passenger flying out of Elmira, NY, as he not only packed a chainsaw in his luggage but packed a chainsaw that was gassed up and therefore fully operational. Here’s a little known fact. Chainsaws are actually allowed in checked luggage; however, the airline needs to be notified about it beforehand. This passenger didn’t inform the airline. More importantly, the chainsaw was gassed -that’s a no-no. Not only is gas a combustible liquid that can blow up the plane, but anyone with access to the man’s suitcase can easily have their hands on a deadly weapon.
6. Lipstick Taser
According ABC News, a bejeweled lipstick Taser was discovered in a carry-on bag at Detroit International Airport in April 2014. The tiny concealed weapon was pink and studded with small crystals. It had the power to deliver a 350,000-volt stun. A young woman at the Burlington, Vermont airport also had a lipstick Taser confiscated. Stun guns masked as cell phones are commonly seized as well. Trying to board a plane with a concealed weapon isn’t an easy task, no matter how creative a passenger gets. In Virginia, TSA agents uncovered a hairbrush with a ceramic dagger hidden inside.
5. Bazooka Round
The baggage area was quickly evacuated. So were the nearest terminals. In the end, five flights were delayed over an hour and an unknown number of passengers affected. It all started when a checked baggage alarm sounded at Dallas Fort Worth. TSA officers discovered an old military bazooka round. Was it live or inert? The TSA didn’t know. An explosive ordinance team was called in, and the item was removed to a remote location where it was deemed inert. Oddly, a World War II–era bazooka round was also found at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport in 2013. According to TSA agent Bob Burns, dangerous-looking military novelty items (grenades, cannonballs, replica Claymore mines) are found in passengers’ bags on a weekly basis.
4. A Mace
While a bottle of self-defense pepper spray has no place on a carry-on, that’s not the kind of “mace” TSA agents at Chicago Midway discovered on a passenger in 2013. Whether or not this person was a curator at a Medieval museum or auditioning to be an extra on Game of Thrones, either way traveling with the type of old school weaponry barbarians used to swing over their heads as they stormed the castle is not a good idea. With a thick, heavy wooden handle and a long chain connected to a spiked metal ball, the “Midway” mace measured over 30 centimeters.
3. Eels, Snakes, and Other Rare Sea Creatures
In 2012, a TSA agent unzipped a traveler’s carry-on luggage at Miami International Airport only to find a bag full of slithering eels. Further investigation unearthed plastic sacs containing 163 tropical fish, tiny sea turtles, and pieces of live coral. Apparently the smuggler was attempting to transport the rare sea creatures to Maracaibo, Venezuela. It seems Miami International Airport is a hotbed for wildlife contraband. In August 2011, a man flying to Brazil tried to slip past a body scanner with seven small snakes in his pockets, each tied separately in nylons. In each case, the men were arrested and the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife confiscated the animals. No word on whether or not the unidentified man heading to Brazil had just watched Samuel L. Jackson’s Snakes on a Plane.
2. Human Skull Fragments
TSA officers were having a routine day at a checked baggage post at Fort Lauderdale (FLL) Airport. That quickly changed when passengers tried to check a bag filled with clay pots. However, it wasn’t the clay pots that triggered the scanner alarm. It was the old skull fragments discovered in one of them. While human skull fragments aren’t a security threat, the area quickly became a crime scene. The bizarre find caused screening to slow to a crawl. The passengers, who were on their way to Baltimore, told TSA agents that they had just purchased the pots and had no idea that the skull fragments were inside.
1. Deceased Relative
In 2010, two British women were arrested at the John Lennon Airport in Liverpool for attempting to smuggle a dead relative onto a flight bound for Germany. The women, aged 41 and 66, tried to fool TSA agents by pushing their 91-year old deceased relative in a wheelchair and disguising him with sunglasses. The women told airport staff that the man was sleeping; however, agents became suspicious and the man was prevented from boarding the plane. While the Weekend At Bernie’s disguise failed to fool TSA officers, apparently pulling the wool over the eyes of a taxi driver is easier; the women were driven 35 miles to the airport by taxi from Oldham, Greater Manchester. According to Reuters, the women were arrested for failing to give notification of a death.