Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

10 Strange Things People Tried to Smuggle Onto an Airplane

Some of the restrictions on what you can pack in your luggage when flying are a little strict. Most of us would probably like to be able to take more liquids or not worry about whether we remembered to unpack those fingernail scissors before going through security. But there are some things that are just not OK to bring on a plane and everyone knows it — like human remains or live animals in your clothing. Here are 10 strange things people tried to smuggle onto an airplane.

  1. A tiger cub

    One smuggler in Thailand didn’t think her plan all the way through when she put a sedated baby tiger into a suitcase with a bunch of stuffed tiger toys. While at a glance, they may look the same, there is a fundamental difference between the real and stuffed animals when viewed through an X-ray machine — bones. When baggage officials found the two-month-old tiger, the woman who had checked the bag to Iran said she was carrying the luggage for someone else and had no idea the tiger was inside. The cub was taken to the conservation department’s rescue center.

  2. A cocaine cast

    Drugs are a very common fare for smugglers, but this cocaine toter’s dedication and innovation make him stand out. Coming to Barcelona, Spain from Chile, a 66-year-old man was wearing a cast on his leg because of two fractures below his knee. Surprisingly, the man had actually broken his leg in case authorities X-rayed it, but the cast was made out of cocaine. He might have fooled them, but he had more cocaine hidden in his luggage, which then caused them to also test the cast. There’s a lesson to be learned here: when you’re injured with a bunch of drugs supporting your leg, it’s a bad idea to get greedy.

  3. A corpse

    A woman and her daughter were arrested when airport officials in Liverpool discovered that the pair were pushing the woman’s dead husband in a wheelchair to their Berlin-bound plane. They had covered his eyes with sunglasses and said they just thought he was sleeping. This excuse could probably be convincing since the man was 91 and probably often looked dead, but authorities didn’t buy the story. Though the two were arrested for failing to report a death, they weren’t charged in the end because the time of death couldn’t be determined.

  4. A human head

    If you worked at an airport, the last thing you’d want to find in someone’s luggage is a human head. But that’s exactly what baggage screeners in Florida discovered. A woman had brought back a human head with teeth, hair, and skin from Haiti in order to keep away evil spirits,which was in line with her Voodoo beliefs. She was charged with smuggling a human head into the U.S. without proper documentation (apparently this is an actual offense), failure to declare the head, and transporting hazardous material. These charges were eventually reduced, and she was sentenced to two years probation and a fine.

  5. Monkeys in a man’s underwear

    In 2002, when customs workers opened a man’s bag in Los Angeles after he returned from Thailand, a bird of paradise flew out. They ended up finding three more birds and 50 rare orchids in his suitcase. When officials asked him whether he had anything else illegal he was bringing into the country, the man said, “Yes, I’ve got monkeys in my pants.” He turned over the pair of young pygmy monkeys, which are an endangered species in the U.S., that he had been carrying inside his underwear, and they were taken to the Los Angeles Zoo. The man received a 57-day jail sentence.

  6. A crocodile

    This smuggler was successful in getting the crocodile on board a plane traveling within the Democratic Republic of Congo, and he probably would’ve gotten away with it if the crocodile hadn’t crawled out of his bag near the end of the flight. The sight of the reptile caused a panic in the cabin, during which the flight crew and passengers fled to the front of the plane. The sudden redistribution of weight caused the pilot to lose control and the plane crashed. Twenty of the 21 people on board died, and though the crocodile survived the crash, he was killed with a machete soon after.

  7. Another identity

    In an unbelievable case of disguise and deceit, an elderly white man boarded a plane in Hong Kong and emerged in Canada as a young Asian male. The man used a silicone face and neck mask to make himself appear to be an older Caucasian passenger and used someone else’s boarding pass to get on the plane. He also mimicked the movements of an elderly person so as not to raise suspicion. In the middle of the flight, the man went to the bathroom and came back without his disguise. He was taken into custody upon landing, and he asked for refugee status. The mask, along with a flat cap and thin sweater, were found in a bag that the man eventually admitted belonged to him.

  8. Tropical fish

    A woman who arrived in Melbourne, Australia from Singapore provided a whale of a story for customs officials to tell. When they heard a strange flipping sound coming from her waist, they discovered that she had an apron under her skirt filled with bags of fish. There were 51 fish in total, all some kind of tropical species. It appeared the apron, which had plenty of pockets for the 15 bags of water, was made especially for the purpose of smuggling the fish. The woman was sentenced to nine months of community service. The real question is how did she endure the seven-hour flight with all those fish swimming around on her lap?

  9. A nun’s skeleton

    In one of the creepiest stories of smuggling, a monk and some accomplices were caught trying to board a plane from Athens, Greece to Cyprus with the bones of a nun in a suitcase. The monk claimed she was a saint and that he wanted to take her remains back to a monastery in Cyprus, the country where she had served as a nun, but authorities found she wasn’t recognized by the Greek or Cypriot Orthodox churches. The monk was suspended from his monastery for three months, though he wasn’t held in prison after pleading not guilty to theft and defiling of a deceased person.

  10. Snakes in a bra

    A woman in Stockholm, Sweden tried to smuggle 75 live snakes in her bra. How 75 snakes could fit in one person’s bra, we’ll never know. She also had six lizards under her shirt, apparently with the dreams of starting a reptile farm. Customs officers became suspicious when they noticed the woman repeatedly scratching her chest and thought that there was “something weird” going on with her bosom. That weird thing was apparently dozens of snakes squirming around. The 42-year-old woman was arrested and charged with smuggling.