Marilyn is taking a break from the blog this week to finalize her preparations for her Cancer-Free Party this Saturday, so she asked me to step in.
What started as a train ride in Europe with a bench seat all to myself and a fairly quiet sleeping environment (as quiet as a cheap seat in a low budget, overnight “clickity clack”, kind of train can be), became increasingly more crowded as dawn approached.
At each stop, more and more people boarded with more and more stuff. At one of the stops at about 7:00 a.m., with a few hours until I reached my destination, an elderly woman wedged in next to me carrying two live chickens. Yes, LIVE chickens – on her lap! No one seemed to bat an eye, including the chickens… except me.
I got to wondering what kind of crazy things people have brought on planes, trains, or ferries. Back in the days before TSA and, apparently, before carry-on restrictions, I remember seeing a family bring on a HUGE (pre-flat screen) TV in a box – they wrestled that thing into the aircraft and got it all the way to their destination! On my way back from Switzerland in 1981, one of my travel mates brought back an antique oxen collar – she wore it around her neck so she could still carry her other luggage!
My curiosity got the best of me, so I googled “craziest things people have tried to bring on a plane.” I found a few articles that highlighted some of the items that were documented on the TSA’s blog (yes, they have a weekly blog, too!). Every week they post items that passengers try to bring on aircraft.
Last week alone, across the US, 85 firearms were seized, 77 were loaded, and 25 of them had bullets in the chamber! Who, on earth, thought THOSE would make it through the X-ray machine! All kinds of other weapons get confiscated – an abundance of cane swords (so James Bond-ish!), hair brush and comb daggers (is that a thing?), hatchets, throwing stars, cross bows, spear guns, grenades, smoke bombs… and the list goes on and on.
On the “WTH” side of the spectrum we find the following:
- Dead bodies – Apparently, it’s not unusual for passengers to try and pass off a body as a “sleeping” passenger, like the mother/daughter team that tried to smuggle a 91-year-old dead man onto a flight by putting him in sunglasses and propping him in a wheelchair. Upon discovery, they said they thought he was just asleep.
- Is that a pygmy monkey in your pants or are you happy to see me? In 2002, employees at LAX were tipped off to a smuggler when a bird of paradise flew out of his suitcase. But that wasn’t all: The man’s baggage held 50 orchids and three more birds tucked into nylon stockings. And that still wasn’t all. When asked if there was anything else, the man admitted to having a pair of pygmy monkeys in his pants.
- Snakes on a plane… well, almost! In August 2011 at the Miami International Airport, seven small snakes (stuffed in nylon stockings) were discovered in a traveler’s pants. In addition to the snakes, he also had three small turtles.
- A baby – yes, a baby. One couple was busted at an airport in the United Arab Emirates when they tried to smuggle their young son (who did not have a visa) into the country by packing him inside a carry-on bag. Unsurprisingly, the jig was up when officials spotted the boy on X-ray. Did they think the X-ray viewing employee wouldn’t see a baby??
- Tiger cub – Which one of these things is not like the other? In August 2010, authorities found a sedated two-month old live tiger cub tucked into an oversized bag amidst stuffed animals. The Thai Airways passenger who was heading to Iran from Bangkok claimed she was carrying the bag for someone else.
- 18 Severed heads (yes, you read that right, I said SEVERED HEADS!). Packing 18 severed heads in your luggage? Not a problem, as long as you have the right paperwork. In 2013, some misplaced human noggin’s made headlines (no pun intended) when they were misplaced at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. As Brian Bell, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesman, told the Chicago Sun-Times, “Everybody here is, ‘Oh my gosh, you got a box of heads,’ and everybody thinks that it’s unheard of. It is a potentially legitimate medical shipment. We’ve seen it at various ports in the nation.” Alrighty then!
- There’s a big, big difference between a crocodile handbag and a crocodile in a handbag. In late 2009, a man was arrested upon landing in South Africa after a flight from Thailand with 70 live animals in his bags. Eight tiny Caiman crocodiles, dozens of snakes, a turtle, and scorpions were among the animals confiscated and quarantined at a South African zoo.
With security as tight as it is – don’t even THINK about getting the sixth 3.4 oz. bottle through Heathrow! – I wondered what kind of things we are still able to bring on (carry on) a plane or train. I did a little research and here are some of the things that you CAN (according to the TSA site) carry on a plane – and they’re not what you’d expect:
- Antlers – as in deer or elk. As long as they fit in the overhead compartment or under your seat, you’re good to go!
- Balls – Basket, bocce, foot, soccer, base, and even bowling!
- Condiment packets – as many as your heart desires.
- Corkscrew (yes, really) – as long as there’s no foil-cutting blade.
- Cremated remains – as long as they are in a plastic or wood container.
- Eggs of any kind – even fresh and raw. Whew! That’s a relief, I mean, who doesn’t like to travel with a dozen raw eggs?
- Fishing poles – just no hooks.
- Handcuffs. Yes, handcuffs.
- Knitting needles and crochet hooks. Shoot, these could do some real damage!
- Scissors with blade shorter than 4”. Tweezers and nail clippers are okay, too – but please don’t clip your nails on the plane, that’s just gross.
Like TSA, Amtrak has a blog, but it isn’t nearly as entertaining (from a “weird stuff left behind” perspective). I did, however, find some fun information about the weirdest things people leave on trains from a UK website. Here is the full list:
When I told Marilyn my blog idea she immediately said to me, “Oh my gosh, do you remember the ‘Legend of Crocky?’” “Whhhhaaaattt,” I replied. She excitedly pulled up a blog that she had written in 2011 – The legend of Crocky and why the monkeys got mad.
Apparently, while one is prohibited from bringing LIVE crocodiles on a plane, there is absolutely no issue with bringing a Solar-Powered Floating Crocodile Head! And so it happened, Crocky made the flight from the US to Panama (and back) and made her debut in the waters adjacent to Monkey Island!
I often wonder what the airline and customs staff thought as they opened Marilyn’s suitcase only to find a giant crocodile staring back at them! Of course, after reading the TSA blog, they probably just chuckled and thought, “at least it’s not a severed head!”
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen or brought onto a plane or train?