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TSA Agents Reveal the Weirdest Things They’ve Found in Luggage

You won’t believe the things that people have tried to pack.

Weird but true!Getty Images, rd.com

Weird but true!

People are strange. This becomes even clearer when you get a glimpse into what TSA agents deal with every day. Sure, there are some common but surprising things that will get your luggage flagged—and then there are these outrageous items that people have tried to bring through security. From moose poop to Freddy Krueger’s glove, these are the weirdest things TSA agents discovered on just a regular day at the job. Learn from the mistakes of these passengers, and then find out the 13 new rules you’ll have to follow the next time you fly.

A catGetty Images (2), rd.com

A cat

Yes, we realize it’s tough to get your cat in a carrier without getting clawed, but it’s certainly not a reason to put your poor pet into your checked luggage. Still, that’s exactly what someone did in 2018. TSA officers found a live six-month-old cat named Slim in a passenger’s checked bag, according to the TSA’s Instagram account. They rescued the cat and took her to the local humane society, where she received the proper care. Since Slim’s owners had packed her inside their checked bag on purpose, she was removed from their custody.

If you need to travel with your cat, educate yourself about the ways to do this safely. You can bring your cat in your carry-on luggage, though you’ll have to carry her through the metal detector (or walk her through on a leash). A pet should never go through the X-ray machine. The airlines have their own policies about traveling with cats, so check yours for details.

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Samurai swords

Granted, you might not realize you can’t pack a toy foam sword in your carry-on—it’s among the more surprising things you aren’t allowed to take on a plane—but a real sword? Come on, now. However, one person attempted to bring not one, not two, but three Samurai swords onto a plane in 2019, according to the TSA. Looks like he was trying to travel in the wrong century. Just for reference, any cutting or thrusting weapons, along with any sharp objects should be sheathed to prevent injury to TSA workers. Also, they aren’t allowed in carry-on bags, no matter how well they’re wrapped.

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Flares

Someone didn’t have much trust in the plane they were about to board. They packed four flares, possibly in case of a crash. Or maybe they wanted to use them if the call button stopped working, the TSA speculated on its Instagram page. Either way, they were confiscated. And just so you know: Flares aren’t allowed in carry-on bags, nor are they allowed in checked bags. Need a flare? Order one and have it sent directly to your destination. On the other hand, these 10 carry-on items could save your life—and they’ll all pass TSA inspection.

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Snakes

In 2019, a TSA officer found a 15-inch ring-necked snake at Newark Liberty International Airport. The harmless snake was apparently inadvertently left behind at the airport, so the TSA agent popped one of the checkpoint bins over the snake and called the police. While passengers are technically allowed to fly with snakes (news to us!), individual airlines make their own rules. Also, snakes should not be allowed to roam free in the airport. Perhaps you don’t have a snake but you’re still having trouble at security? One TSA agent told us why you’re probably getting stopped.

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Bottled seahorses

Back in 2012, the TSA found an oversized bottle of liquor in a carry-on bag at the Detroit Metro Airport. The oversized bottle of liquor on its own was a big red flag. But inside that bottle were five dead endangered seahorses. Believe it or not, this person wasn’t the first to try to bring sea creatures onto a flight. Check out the 9 craziest things plane passengers have done to cheat the system.

A dogGetty Images (2), rd.com

A dog

Sure, dogs are allowed to travel with us—no biggie, though you might actually want to think twice before flying with your pet. But if you’re taking your dog, you should be aware of it. At New York’s LaGuardia Airport, a TSA officer found a dog in luggage after an alarm went off. The dog had apparently packed himself into the suitcase when his owner wasn’t looking. The TSA agent found the owner and reunited the BFFs.

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Fake IED

We all know you can’t bring bombs onto a plane, but you may not know that you can’t bring fake bombs either. But one looked so real that Newark Liberty International TSA agents reacted by closing six checkpoint lanes. The man carrying the IED in his bag said he was going to Florida to train in X-ray detection of explosive devices. It was still a no-go. Before your next trip, find out the 12 things TSA security agents aren’t telling you.

Moose poopGetty Images (2), rd.com

Moose poop

Some really strange things are allowed through airport security, and apparently that includes moose nuggets (aka moose poop). In 2019, a man had an entire bag of it tucked into his carry-on bag, according to the New York Post. Why? He was planning to bring it to politicians whose policies he disagreed with. The TSA discovered his stash, but since they technically weren’t not allowed, the man was allowed to continue along his merry (and stinky) way. We’re glad we didn’t have the seat next to him.

EelsGetty Images (2), rd.com

Eels

Technically, you can travel with live fish in your carry-on luggage pending a specific airline’s rules. But in 2012, one man took this a little too far when he had 163 tropical fish and 22 invertebrates in his checked bag at the Miami International Airport, according to the TSA’s Instagram page. He was traveling from Florida to Maracaibo, Venezuela, but was forced to surrender his catch. On the flip side, these are 11 things to always pack in your carry-on.

Freddy Krueger's handGetty Images (2), rd.com

Freddy Krueger’s hand

Don’t get us wrong, we love creepy Halloween decorations, but this took things too far. Someone attempted to tote along a glove “decorated” with metal and razors that looked remarkably similar to Freddy Krueger’s hand. You can’t take knives on a plane, even if they’re attached to your hand Freddy Krueger–style. This happened at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, when a man forgot to take it off before going through security, according to the TSA’s Instagram page.

A gun-shaped toilet-paper holderGetty Images (3), rd.com

A gun-shaped toilet-paper holder

The toilet-paper holder didn’t actually shoot bullets, but it looked exactly like a gun. Replica weapons aren’t allowed because they could cause extra investigation and subsequent delays. This particular incident occurred in 2019 at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport, which happens to be the worst airport in America, according to travelers.

Shampoo bottles...filled with cocaineGetty Images (2), rd.com

Shampoo bottles…filled with cocaine

Don’t try washing your hair with this. A man from Colombia attempted to bring 24 bottles of liquid cocaine into the United States via shampoo bottles inside his luggage to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport. The cocaine, worth $400,000, was confiscated—along with the man, who was returned to his home country. The shampoo bottles weighed 35 pounds and were discovered by drug-sniffing dogs. “Our officers are the first line of defense at our ports of entry, so they are trained in the various smuggling methods people use to bring illicit goods before they enter our communities,” said CBP Port Director Shawn Polley in a statement, according to Travel + Leisure. This time, it wasn’t a clean smuggle.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 movie propGetty Images (2), rd.com

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 movie prop

His name is Nubbins, and he is a prop from the actual horror movie. The problem? This fellow looks exactly like a corpse that had been rotting for quite some time, according to a TSA Instagram post from 2016. An odd thing to pack in your carry-on? For sure. Illegal? Nope. So the corpse got to proceed onto the plane. Next, find out what flight attendants want you to know before you fly again.

Sources:

TSA’s Instagram page

TSA: “What Can I Bring?”

NetworkWorld: “26 of the craziest and scariest things the TSA has found on travelers”

New York Post: “TSA finds moose poop ‘for politicians’ in man’s carry-on”

Travel + Leisure: “Man Tries to Smuggle $400,000 Worth of Cocaine in 24 Shampoo Bottles”

Danielle Braff
Danielle Braff regularly covers travel, health and lifestyle for Reader's Digest. Her articles have also been published in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Boston Globe and other publications. She has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and a master's degree in musicology from Oxford University in England. Danielle is based in Chicago, where she lives with her husband and two children. See her recent articles at www.Daniellebraff.com. You can follow her on Facebook @Danielle.Karpinos, Twitter @daniellebraff, and Instagram at danikarp.