The strangest things people
have tried to take through
airport security

What do a seal’s head, a corpse, a stuffed armadillo and a power saw have in common? Well they’re all objects that people have tried to take through airport security.

Yep, that’s right, your attempts to get away with more than 100ml of shampoo pale in comparison to what these travellers have smuggled (or attempted to smuggle) through the x-ray machines. Let’s take a look at the strangest ones:

  • A seal’s head. A man travelling through Boston’s Logan International Airport was found to have the severed head of a seal concealed in his hand luggage. His defence? He was a biology teacher and he wanted to use it to educate his class.
  • A skeleton. There are various incidences of human remains being taken through airports, including a skeleton that was passed through the x-ray machine at Germany’s Munch Airport by two Italian women. When questioned, they produced the death certificate for their relative who had died 11 years prior, and they were permitted to continue their journey with the skeleton in tow.
  • 10 human eyeballs. In a slightly more gruesome example of human remains being taken through an airport, a jam jar filled with 10 human eyeballs was discovered at London Stansted Airport in 2007. Quite what anyone would do with 10 human eyeballs in a jam jar is anyone’s guess.
  • 200 tarantulas. It’s the stuff of nightmares; upon opening a passenger’s suitcase, customs officers in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport found plastic tubes filled with a selection of insects, including millipedes, crickets and grasshoppers, as well as 200 live tarantulas stuffed into clothing. The creatures were confiscated and handed over to animal welfare.
  • A stuffed armadillo. In 2004, officials in Sydney Airport found and confiscated a stuffed armadillo wearing a hat and holsters and carrying a toy gun. Mounted on a plinth, it was apparently a gift. As the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service jokingly put it, “bad taste should have been enough of a reason not to attempt to bring [the armadillo] into the country.”
  • 420lbs of cow brains. 420lbs of cow brains were found in a suitcase at Cairo International Airport in 2012. The men carrying them said they planned to sell them to restaurants, as in Egypt, cow brains are a delicacy and will sell for a high price. The brains were confiscated and later destroyed.
  • A giant squash. An enormous squash weighing 4 stone was carried through Birmingham Airport in 2014 in an attempt to smuggle it into the UK from Bangladesh. It was 4ft long and was found among 79kg of fish as well as 94,000 cigarettes.
  • A power saw. Amazingly, a petrol-fuelled power saw, taken through New York’s Elmira Corning Regional Airport, was allowed on the flight, just without any fuel in it.
  • A tiger cub. In 2010, a routine bag x-ray revealed a sedated tiger cub hidden among a pile of cuddly toys. The lady carrying the suitcase was promptly arrested and the tiger taken to a local conservation centre.
  • An ancient Egyptian sarcophagus. Perhaps the most intriguing object on this list, an ancient Egyptian coffin was taken through customs in Miami International Airport in 2008 by a man travelling from Barcelona. When the man couldn’t prove he actually owned the artefact, it was confiscated. The subsequent investigation, which lasted two years and involved Interpol, numerous Egyptologists and the Egyptian government, revealed that the coffin had been reported missing over 125 years ago. The sarcophagus was eventually returned to Egypt where it went on display in Cairo.
  • A suitcase full of coat hangers. You might not think there’s anything untoward about the suitcase stuffed full of wire coat hangers that was found at Incheon International Airport in South Korea. However, the hangers turned out to be made from US$80,000 worth of gold, and were part of an elaborate gold smuggling rouse.
  • Snakes. In another incident at Miami International Airport in 2011, a man passing through security was found to have seven snakes in his pants. The snakes were wrapped in tights and were found along with a number of turtles. The passenger was arrested and the animals taken to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • 18 severed human heads. You would think that if you’re going to take 18 severed human heads (with the skin still on them) through security you might keep an eye on them. But in an incident at Chicago O’Hare International Airport in 2013, the heads in question were found unattended. After some investigation, the heads turned out to be legitimate medical specimens and they were allowed to continue on their journey.