Airports have super-strict security measures for a reason. Typically, that reason is so that people can’t bring anything dangerous – explosives or weapons, for example – onto an airplane. But every now and then, it’s also because certain individuals attempt to carry all manner of insane things onto their flights – from live animals to a collection of severed heads. And whether through brazen ambition or sheer stupidity, these 20 would-be smugglers pushed their luck past its limits. Certainly, they’ll certainly make you think twice before questioning airport security again.
20. Venomous snakes
Even the filmmakers behind the glorious B-movie Snakes on a Plane probably didn’t realize how inspirational it would be. Yes, in 2007, a year after the Samuel L. Jackson-featuring thriller hit theaters, a passenger hauled the dead bodies of 30 poisonous snakes from South Korea to Atlanta. What’s more, all of them had been squeezed into glass receptacles in his baggage. Another classic case of life imitating art…
19. A tiger cub
However, more often than not, the animals people try to smuggle through airport security are actually alive. Take this poor tiger cub, who was sedated and stuffed into a suitcase in Bangkok in 2010, for example. Its carrier, a 31-year-old woman, was trying to bring it to Iran to sell it on the country’s illicit animal market. Thankfully, though, officials caught and arrested the lady before she could do so.
18. A collection of human heads
When you’re packing, you need to make sure you have all the essentials: towels, toiletries, seasonally appropriate clothing and your stash of severed heads. Hang on a minute… In fact, the latter isn’t as unlikely as it sounds – in 2013, a collection of 18 human heads turned up in Chicago. But rather than being the work of a crazed serial killer, it was actually just a sample of specimens that were being used for legitimate scientific experimentation. Phew.
17. Bags of live tropical fish
In 2005 a woman was stopped at arrivals in Melbourne after security noticed something a little fishy about the way she carried herself. And they couldn’t have been more right: under her skirt were 15 plastic bags, containing more than 50 varieties of tropical fish. That must have been one uncomfortable flight.
16. Pygmy monkeys
Meanwhile, June 13, 2002 was anything but another day at the office for security officials at Los Angeles International Airport. After chasing down one of the four rare birds he’d sneaked into the airport and which had escaped from his luggage, Robert Cusack was then asked by customs inspectors whether he was hiding anything else. Cusack gave it to them straight, “Yes, I’ve got monkeys in my pants.” The uncommon pygmy monkeys he was smuggling were subsequently taken to a local zoo. True story.
15. Rare birds
You’d have thought the fact that birds can already fly would be good enough for most people. But, apparently, that’s not the case. Indeed, one woman bundled a couple of rare birds into socks in an attempt to sneak them on a flight to China from Los Angeles in 2011. She had fastened them to her chest and leg in a failed attempt to smuggle them past airport security.
14. Seven snakes and three turtles
Animals stuffed into various articles of clothing seems to be an unnervingly common strategy for smugglers. In August 2011, for example, airport security arrested a man in Miami with seven snakes and three turtles concealed in his pants. Perhaps he just didn’t count on the airport having full body scanners – a rookie mistake indeed.
13. A live human baby
Getting a visa isn’t the easiest process, and for some people the wait is just too much. But that’s no excuse for stowing your alive, breathing, human baby into a carry-on bag and allowing it to pass through an X-ray machine. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what one Egyptian couple did after they heard that they couldn’t enter the United Arab Emirates due to their infant son not having a visa.
12. A human skull
When security officers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport inspected a set of unassuming clay pots in 2013, the last thing they probably expected to find were the remains of a human skull. But that’s exactly what was inside. And, as a consequence, the entire area turned into a crime scene.
11. A samurai sword
In 2014 the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued a statement reminding people not to bring their samurai swords to the airport. And while that might seem obvious to most people, it apparently escaped the notice of one passenger in Boston who stowed one in his carry-on luggage. That must have been one long bag.
10. A throwing star
Of course, a samurai sword isn’t the only insane weapon that people have tried to smuggle through airport security. In 2015, moreover, security discovered a throwing star in carry-on luggage at San Francisco International Airport. Proof that ninja still exist? Sadly, it’s more likely that it was some guy with more money than sense.
9. An anti-tank gun
Still, a throwing star or samurai sword is small fry compared to some of the more extreme weapons that have almost made their way onto flights. This 84mm anti-tank gun, for example, was found in a checked bag in Pennsylvania in 2012. You have to wonder just what its owner was expecting to face at their eventual destination.
8. An artillery shell
Officials pulled this artillery shell out of carry-on luggage at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in 2016. While thankfully it was inert, it still almost certainly caused massive delays. Hiding it in a box and some foam wasn’t exactly the wisest idea.
7. A missile
Apparently, flying tanks are a major problem in today’s society. Why else would so many people pack anti-tank weaponry when boarding an airplane? This beastly missile was uncovered at Tulsa International Airport – and it’s safe to say it didn’t make it onto the flight…
6. A mortar round
There’s self-defence and then there’s carrying a mortar round onto an plane. “Just in case,” obviously. How people expect to get away with smuggling this kind of thing aboard a flight is beyond us. Perhaps they’re the same people who openly chat about explosives in the airport lobby.
5. A live Chihuahua
Meanwhile, in a slightly less dangerous episode, security officers at La Guardia Airport in New York were once greeted with the sight of a live Chihuahua inside a passenger’s bag. Supposedly, the dog had clambered into the case while its owner was filling it. We have a feeling, however, that she may have just wanted to take her canine companion on vacation with her.
4. Live eels
On the slimier side of things, airport workers detected a bag of live eels in checked luggage at Miami International Airport in 2012. Thankfully, though, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service commandeered the slippery critters before any harm could come to them.
You’d have thought that Batman could afford his own private jet, seeing as his true identity is as the multimillionaire Bruce Wayne. But, alas, it seems not, as officials uncovered these Batarangs hidden away in carry-on luggage by a passenger at Buffalo Niagara International Airport. We’re pretty sure, then, that his secret identity isn’t secret anymore.
2. A sword cane
We’ve basically entered the realms of James Bond villainy now, thanks to this insane sword cane that security discovered in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2014. Apparently, many passengers don’t even realize that their cane is actually a sword until security officers show them. The more you know, folks.
1. A stun gun
It doesn’t matter how convincingly you’ve concealed your stun gun – chances are, airport security is going to find it. And if it’s as deliberately masked as this one, which is disguised as a lipstick tube, you’re even more likely to face arrest for it.