Travel

Here's the Wildest Stuff the TSA Has Confiscated From Travelers This Year

Remember when Suicide Squad won an Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and everyone had to accept the phrase “Academy Award-winning film, Suicide Squad”? Right, that was awful. But allow us to cleanse your palate with a much more fun version: you may now address the TSA’s wildly popular Instagram account as, “the TSA’s Webby and/or People’s Choice Award-winning Instagram.”

If you’ve not yet had the pleasure of viewing this account, it posts a delightful mix of sassily captioned photos of confiscated objects and Very Good Dogs. TSA’s Instagram started from the bottom this year (government shutdown-induced hiatus) but now they're here: so popular, they won the internet (according to the TSA). Here are a few of the more mind-boggling confiscated items that helped the account get there, with commentary from the man who runs it, TSA social media lead Bob Burns. I would say that he’s seen people pack everything but the kitchen sink, but he did once see a literal kitchen sink (regrettably there are no photos of this encounter). Kitchen sinks are allowed, FYI.

Um, you post a lot of medieval or ritualistic or otherwise very scary-looking weaponry -- is there really that much of it out there? Or it’s just extra-popular to post?

Bob Burns: We see it regularly. Every day? No. With the photographs I receive, I cherry-pick the best of the best, the items that’ll generate more discussion and catch the eye, so I can have fun within the captions. And like I’ve always said, we’re not in the entertainment business but I do my best to entertain and educate so we can get people to read our stuff.

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What surprising stuff do people always think they'll be able to sneak through?

Burns: Something we see a lot that you just wouldn’t think you’d see a lot of are what we all inert ordnances... you’ll see a mortar shell, you’ll see grenades, and while we have found live ordnance in the past, a lot of times the reasoning when people pack these items is that they’re inert, they’re not real. They think in their minds, "Well it’s not real, so I can take it, I can take it." Well, what they don’t realize is when we see that on the X-ray monitor, it’s as real as real can be. And you don’t just reach into a bag and say, "What is this?" or just take a passenger’s word for it when they say it’s not real. You have to go through the whole process, which can sometimes lead to evacuated checkpoints, which can lead to a lot of missed flights and unhappy people.

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I've always wondered, when people try to hide stuff inside sunscreen bottles or whatever, is the mentality usually that they're genuinely confident that'll work?

Burns: Oh, yeah. They think it'll work. Another thing they think works is the magical mysterious tinfoil -- they think that tinfoil will block the X-rays, so sometimes they'll wrap things in tinfoil. And the majority of the time people aren't doing this for malicious reasons -- they're not doing it because they're going to pull it out in the middle of the flight and threaten anybody. The majority of the time they want to take their knife with them but they don't want to pay $25 to check a bag so they're trying to sneak it in their carry-on bag somehow.

That's why I try to tell people in the posts, I'm not trying to threaten people. The purpose of our account is to educate people. I want to let them know, hey, don’t do this, because you can end up with a fine or even by arrested if you try to conceal an item.

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Because there's a charge specifically for trying to hide it?

Burns: It’s called "artful concealment." If they just had a knife in their bag and we discovered it, as long as it's not an illegal weapon of some sort, then we would just give them their options. We would say, you know, "You can check this, you can take it out to your car, you can hand it off to somebody who might be at the airport waiting with you, you can mail it to yourself." We give all those options, and if they can’t use any of those options they leave it with us, and it gets disposed of.

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I know you must get this constantly, but any recent personal favorites?

Burns: My most recent favorite -- and I think it’s probably because I had a little bit of fun with it -- there was a sword someone brought through San Antonio, and it’s a replica of a Lord of the Rings sword. One of my friends said, "Dude, that’s your opus."

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The oddest thing I always go back to would be a rotting corpse [a movie prop]. The guy flying with it just wheeled it up to the checkpoint in a wheelchair. So of course you can imagine the looks he was getting from everybody, and it just so happened that it fit on the X-ray belt and so we were able to screen it through the X-ray.

Here are a few more recent favorites from the perpetual gold mine that is the TSA’s feed:

Who are these heroes brave enough to attempt moving weed in this manner. One single time in my life I went through security with drugs I’d forgot I had on me, and the memory still gives me flop sweat. I didn’t even realize until later when I was unpacking; if I’d known while I was still physically going through security I’d likely have peed myself.

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“JAZZ CABBAGE.” Also, 80 pounds. In a carry-on.

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Isn’t that that one Skrillex track?

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I’m from Colorado, and I would like to extend my personal thanks to TSA for removing this.

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Can you even imagine calmly trying to stroll through TSA with this nonsense? Last year I forgot I had a pocket knife on my key chain, and the TSA lady who found it looked at me like I was an absolute fucking clown.

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This is unbelievable. We ruined sporks. Sporks. Sporks were a nifty way for ’90s kids to eat lunch, or a weird thing your dad bought for a camping trip and never used. We managed to make sporks bad. Thanks, “tactical.”

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And, lastly, while this post does not depict anything being actually confiscated I have made an exemption on the grounds that Jurgens appears to be an Extremely Good Boy.

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Kastalia Medrano is Thrillist's Travel Writer. You can send her travel tips at kmedrano@thrillist.com, and Venmo tips at @kastaliamedrano.