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Top 10 Craziest TSA Stories and Finds

Snakes on a plane? Yup. Chainsaws, too. The TSA's humorous Instagram account proves there's no limit to what passengers will try to sneak onto a flight.

tsa stories

Since its founding in 2001, the Transportation Security Administration has become known for its agents finding bizarre items during the screening process. To better inform the public, the TSA created an Instagram account in 2013, which recently reached 1 million followers. The page features personal accounts of unusual experiences and hilarious pictures. Many of these wild stories and photos have surfaced on the internet in recent years.

For your enjoyment, we compiled a list of the 10 craziest TSA stories.

Flamingo Fiasco

Those who plan to travel with an inflatable item can learn a lesson or two from this story. The TSA agents at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport had to screen the large pink object with a great deal of care. According to TSA, this particular flamingo was not traveling. It was on its way to work at a display in one of the concourses.

Snakes on a Plane 

It doesn’t just happen in the movies. The TSA has HAD IT with people trying to smuggle exotic pets on planes. In 2011, a Brazil-bound man was apprehended at Miami International Airport with some unusual baggage. The passenger attempted to go through security with seven exotic snakes and three tortoises held in nylon bags that were concealed under his pants. Thanks to the latest technology, the TSA agents caught the man who was later arrested and charged with violating the Lacey Act, which deals with imports of exotic animals.

“While snakes and tortoises may not pose a threat to aviation, non-metallic weapons and explosives concealed beneath clothing remain a concern for security personnel and this discovery demonstrates again the effectiveness of advanced imaging technology,” said TSA spokesman Jon Allen.

Chinese Birds

Animals have a history of passing through airports in extremely strange ways. During a routine screening at the Los Angeles International Airport in 2011, a TSA agent discovered a woman had taped two birds wrapped in socks to her leg and chest. She was apparently attempting to take them to China. Instead, the woman was arrested by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on suspicion of smuggling endangered animals out of the country. Thankfully, the birds made it out alive.

“It was just one of those weird things that happens at our checkpoints,” a TSA spokesperson said.

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No Seahorses Allowed

Bringing a bottle of alcohol through security is a bad idea – it will quickly be confiscated. Passengers routinely attempt this, but TSA agents at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport were surprised to find five endangered seahorses in an oversized brandy bottle back in 2012. They were spotted in a traveler’s carry-on bag. The passenger was later arrested and the seahorses (which, sadly, did not make it) were handed over to Michigan wildlife officials.

Enchilada Mishap

A great way to ruin a delicious batch of enchiladas is by hiding a large knife in it, especially while traveling through airport security. In 2014, a passenger flying out of Sonoma County Airport left TSA in disbelief after officials found an 8-inch long knife inside an enchilada in her carry-on bag. The woman, who was on her way to catch an Alaska Airlines flight, admitted she forgot about the knife.

She was cleared after officials learned she just wanted to eat her meal on the plane. “There’s no word on if the enchilada made the trip,” said a TSA spokesperson.

Chainsaw-Free Zone 

Most air travelers know that knives, guns and other weapons are strictly prohibited. A traveler in 2014 tried to test the rules by bringing a chainsaw through the checkpoint at the Albany International Airport. The chainsaw was ultimately surrendered from the passenger’s carry-on. TSA posted a photo online with a caption stating chainsaws must be packed as a checked item as long as there’s no trace of fuel or fumes.

Catch of the Day 

TSA officials were in for quite a surprise when they stopped an unexpected passenger traveling through Logan International Airport in Boston. A 20-pound live lobster tucked inside a checked bag caught agents’ attention during the screening process. According to TSA’s online security screening guide, “A live lobster is allowed through security and must be transported in a clear, plastic, spill-proof container.”

Dying to Get on a Flight 

TSA agents at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia had caused quite the scare when Nubbins, a movie prop corpse from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2,” went through the line. Luckily for Nubbins, the realistic-looking corpse didn’t have to take off his shoes during screening. Hopefully no one was stuck sitting next to him on the flight.

When Ducks Fly

Service animals have long been a topic of discussion among the flying public. After the TSA shared a photo of a mallard going through security at Charleston International Airport in South Carolina, the debate of allowing animals on board resurfaced online. According to the TSA, the duck was a passenger’s service animal, flying with its owner aboard a recent flight.

View this post on Instagram

If you think these scissors will cut your travel time through the checkpoint, you’ve got the wrong idea. … Please don’t get snippy when our officers tell you that you can’t pack these ginormous ceremonial ribbon cutting scissors in your carry-on. … These were discovered in a carry-on bag at the Nashville International Airport (BNA). And it wasn’t by “shear” luck that our officers discovered them. They’re huge. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, these scissors were big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big they were. … However, scroll to the next picture and you’ll see a run of the mill regular pair of sewing scissors. These are allowed. At one point, all scissors were prohibited, but for the last 10-years or so, scissors have been permitted as long as they are no longer than 4-inches from the fulcrum. This picture is a screenshot of a tweet that was sent to our AskTSA team. … Speaking of the AskTSA team, have you ever wondered whether or not you can pack a certain item? If you're a regular follower of this account, I'm sure you can think of many situations where it would have behooved somebody to send us a picture first. Well, fret no more! Now you can do just that! … Simply snap a picture and tweet it to AskTSA (, or send it via Facebook Messenger ( and our team will get back to you promptly with an answer. … And that's not all! Contact the team about any TSA related issue or question you might have. They can even help you if you don’t see TSA Pre✓® on your boarding pass. … The team looks forward to answering your questions, 9am-7pm daily. #AskTSA #TSATravelTips #TSA … #PSA – While it’s ok to pack scissors, you should never, ever run with them.

A post shared by TSA (@tsa) on

Cut. It. Out.

A giant pair of ceremonial ribbon-cutting scissors was found at the Nashville International Airport in Tennessee. Unfortunately for the passenger, the scissors were not allowed on the flight. According to TSA guidelines, “If packed in carry-on, they must be less than 4 inches from the pivot point. Any sharp objects in checked bags should be sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and inspectors.”

Have you ever seen anything unusual at the TSA checkpoint? Were you ever stopped for trying to bring something out of the ordinary onto a plane? Tell us your craziest TSA stories in the comments below. 

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    We let our son, Jonathan then 7, to pack his own carry on for his toys and stuff for our trip from Boston to LAX. Going through screening we were immediately told to back up against the wall! My husband Patrick said to me what did you do? All of a sudden they started emptying our son’s carry on. The only things he packed were toy guns…some very realistic looking…filling up the whole bag!! We couldn’t believe it!! My husband had to run back and check that bag in! My husband couldn’t believe I hadn’t checked his bag before coming! Ruthelyn Rivanis

  • DAVID W.

    Roughly 5 years ago I had made the typical mistake of not scouring my carry on luggage prior to a business trip from Boston to Denver. Upon unpacking my luggage in Denver I discovered l had a full box of shotgun rounds from a hunting trip I had taken months earlier. Although I I chalked that up to human error on the part of the screener, I wanted to alert the TSA in Boston when I returned (no, I didn’t bring the box back home!). I told an agent what happened. The agent told a supervisor. The supervisor asked if I would share my story with his supervisor so being a good guy I said “sure”. 4 minutes later I was in handcuffs for admission of a crime. An hour after that I had a written apology & glowing “thank you” from the local head of the agency. Truly bizarre.

  • I’m a polymer clay artist and travel with a pasta machine. The first time I went to Israel from JFK, they tried to confiscate my pasta machine. I asked them, “How can this be dangerous? Am I going to roll the pulot’s fingers through a pasta machine to hijack the airplane?” They eventually let it pass after much debate.


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