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Security Workers Share Their Crazy Airport X-Ray Stories

Phillip Hamilton

Whether you love or hate flying, we can all agree that going through security sucks. Even if you have nothing to worry about it’s hard not to feel nervous when your luggage is rolling through that scanner, or, God forbid, you get randomly selected for a secondary search. It’s the stuff of nightmares and these Redditors, both airport workers and travelers alike, have first-hand experience.

They’ve come together to share the strangest things they’ve seen go through airport x-rays.


1. Rotten Meat and Bleeding Deer

Finding adult toys was always a bit yuck. Especially if nasty. Owners varied from young adults to old folks. (I don’t care what consenting adults do. I still don’t like handling their toys). I also had a bleeding deer head once. It was not allowed into the x-ray. But nothing compares to having your gloves start melting while you’re searching a bag.

Idsbatman

2. Gun

I was flying, and the old guy in front of me took off his jacket, then took his GUN out of his holster and put it in the bin and sent it through the x-ray. Then he was shocked when they said he couldn’t fly with it…It was kinda funny until I was told the disturbing truth. Apparently, this “happens way more than you’d expect”

billbapapa

3. The Old Ferret Under the Shirt Trick

After a while, not much surprises you. But a few of the more memorable incidents would include a bag with human skeletal remains, live and dead animals, diamonds worth millions, chainsaws, inert explosives, guns, drugs, organs, live fish, concept phones/tablets, and the list keeps on going. Of course, there’s more sex paraphernalia than you can shake a stick at (pun intended).

Someone even tried to sneak in a ferret under their shirt. Wasn’t expecting that during a pat-down.

GrissleMcThornbody

4. False Idols

I went through with a carved wooden bull figure that I picked up at a yard sale in Denver last year.

First question: do you have a dog in your bag?

A: No, it’s just some wood in the shape of a bull.

Second question: Can you step over here, ma’am?

They proceeded to remove said bull (which probably weighs about two pounds) from my bag and verified that it was just wood.

They then had to log “bull figure” on a form of some kind (didn’t get a good look at it) and let me go on my way.

soymilkand

5. The Kinky Traveler

I was working a baggage pier in the sorter when a coworker drops off an odd sized item. It looked like a regular folding table at first in one of our clear plastic bags. Coworker tells me it is an S&M table. Being the new guy, I thought he was messing with me, but then I looked closer. It was a folding table, but on one side was a T-shaped item labeled “The Jackhammer” down the side. On the other side of the table were some silver handcuffs. So, it was an S&M table. It was going to Ohio.

MooKids

6. Crabs in the Luggage

I worked in left luggage/lost property in an airport and we found some… weird things. Here’s some I can remember: Samurai swords, a backpack full of live crabs, a suitcase filled entirely of empty Monster Energy cans, I’m talking maybe 30 cans, a bag of reborn baby dolls, a LOT of mouldy food, a LOT of large knives, weird looking sex toys, people’s ashes…like, how do you carry the ashes of your loved one and leave the bag in the airport?

I used to love the days where we got to sort through out of date stuff because we’d see who found the weirdest thing! Sometimes you would come across a bag that just didn’t make sense that had like a towel, underwear and then completely random items that you wouldn’t travel with! The stuff people try and get on a plane with is absolutely crazy.

SatansSlutz

7. For Science, of Course

I’ve seen videos of them finding weird stuff. Once they found a dead premature baby goat preserved in liquid.

Reddit-User-3000

8. Chucky Takes Flight

The creepiest thing you will ever see is a child’s baby doll. Especially the ones with the rolling eyes. The just stare at you on the x-ray like bottomless holes to a dead soul. But nothing compared to my weirdest find. There was a bodybuilder guy with a bunch of toy professional wrestling dolls in his bag. I guess everybody needs a hobby.

athermalwill

9. The Elusive Knife

My father went through security and was stopped because they found a knife in his duffel bag. He swore he never took anything like that out before he got there but he let them check. They couldn’t find the knife, so they ran it through the x-ray again, knife is still there. They continue to go through the bag and still can’t find it, at this point my dad is about to miss his flight and thinks he’s being punked or something. They let him go.

On his return flight the same exact thing happened. My dad explained the story to security but they still had to check. So same routine, rummage through the bag a few times, find no knife, go through X-ray a couple times, no knife. They let him go. He gets home, he’s putting dirty clothes in the laundry and starts emptying pockets, he finds the pocket knife in the little pocket that’s inside your front right pocket.

Jitterbownes

10. Israeli Straining Device

Not an x-ray scanner, but I watched this go down in an airport:

A very young man who was scanning luggage for a flight began calling for help. When the more experienced female scanner arrived, the young man announced that the person had “an Israeli satellite dish ” in their luggage. She opens the luggage and everyone’s jaws drop. It was just a colander—one of those aluminum ones with the holes in the bottom in the shape of a six-pointed star.

Her: This is NOT an Israeli satellite dish. It’s a colander.

Him: What’s a colander?

Her: It’s a thing you drain pasta with.

Him: Why is it in her luggage?

Her: I don’t know and I don’t care. She’s allowed to have it. NEXT!

Allthenamesaregone

11. Guns & Roaches

Lots of loaded firearms, weapons really. You’d be amazed at how many people try to fly with guns and use the excuse “I didn’t know I had one in my bag.” Tasers, batons, switchblades, you name it. Runner up three sculpted rubber female lower torsos with the liquid still on them in Ziploc bags. The guy was bringing his girlfriends to Hawaii I guess and didn’t feel like cleaning them.

Third place is a bag full of cockroaches skittering among regular clothes with crumbs everywhere. The guy kept them as pets.

PostoftheCentury

12. Checkmate!

As a teen, on a school trip to Greece, I bought my parents some souvenirs, and got them gift-wrapped and thought no more about it. On our way home, I am passing through customs in the UK, and get stopped, and shown the x-ray, and asked why I am carrying bullets. I have no idea, and tell them as much. We go into a side room, and they open up my bag…and tear open my dad’s present.

Chess-sets look a lot like bullets through an x-ray machine.

yodasears

13. Don’t Whack That Orange

I went through security with a Terry’s chocolate orange. I thought it was no big deal, but I was so, so wrong. The entire staff freaked out. Apparently spheres suspended in packaging look just like bombs.

Rednblack99

14. TSA Famous, NBD

My dad works on wildfires and had to fly to Washington once with ALL of his gear. TSA stopped him cause he was traveling with road flares or fuses, which if you don’t know slightly explode to make a very hot flame. They obviously didn’t let him take them on the plane with him. But since they are what they are, you also can’t just throw them away.

So there they are trying to figure out what to do with these fuses. They end up taking care of it and he did his trip and came back. One of my mom’s coworkers works at the airport in TSA as a side job and was telling my mom and some other coworkers about the crazy things he finds. Then he brings up one of the most well known story in TSA for my airport: the flare guy. My dad is semi-famous in TSA for trying to travel with flares.

multi_holiday

15. Cool Knife, Go Ahead

My friend and I went camping in Iceland. We’re sat in the line for security and he just goes “oh no” and discretely produces his ~7cm pocketknife from his jacket. It was pretty funny, we figure he’s going to need to put it in the amnesty bin, he shuffles to the front of the queue and explains to the big Viking looking gate guard he just realized it was in his pocket.

The guard takes it, folds it out, looks at it, refolds it, and hands it back to my friend and just waves him through. Friend actually asks again if he’s sure it’s okay and the guy just shrugs. Great holiday story, would have been a pain to bin as it was a nice knife.

CAElite

16. Strongest Bones Around

This is my favorite TSA story ever. We legit saw a man whip out a whole gallon of milk from his bag, then get angry that he could not have it. Starts chugging it and getting milk everywhere.

TryN2BePositivePolly

17. Last Call for Tyler Durden

I make my own soap and like to take it with me on vacations because I generally don’t like hotel soap. However, it is a problem when I fly. My homemade soap has gotten flagged by the chemical sensors in TSA checkpoints three times and they always have to tear my bag apart as a rest. It’s just a basic fat and lye soap some fragrance added, but on three separate occasions now their machines have flagged it as a freaking bomb.

When they open it up to find a block of handmade soap, the officers inevitably look at me weird while I explain that I’m just a dude who likes to make his own lavender and lemongrass scented soap.

Nnyinside

18. Gold in Them There Bags

I saw a guy come through with legit gold bars. He was Asian and mentioned they had been in his family for a very long time. They were completely black on the X-ray, and he asked for a private screening I was the one who checked out the bag. I don’t remember how much they were, but it was kinda cool since I’d never seen real solid gold bars before. In the four years I was TSA, I never once found a gun. I probably wasn’t a very good agent.

Smoothynobutt

19. Gun? Check. Tent? Get Down!

I don’t work with scanners but I can tell you from personal experience that flying with a camping tent in your checked luggage is a sure-fire way to get pulled aside and made to wait while they yank said tent out of your bag and comb through it like they think you’re freaking MacGyver and you’re hiding parts for a bomb or something in it. This was especially surprising to me since they didn’t even bat an eye about the gun I had in my other checked bag. Before anyone asks, yes, I had declared my gun and was traveling with it legally lol.

WreakingHavoc640

20. Goodbye, Old Friends

Last summer on my vacation, the innocent-looking old man in front of me got stopped and detained. It turns out that they found three small pen knives. The guy had forgotten them from his previous hunting trip. He looked really sad that he’d have to leave them behind.

MMaxs

21. Squeak Squeak

I got stopped and questioned once over a cat toy. Well, part of one. I bought my mom’s cats a pair of toy mice with “real squeaking sound!” and one cat destroyed one of the mice in just the few days I was there. The squeaker turned out to be a disk, like the shape of a watch battery, about the size of a quarter. I put it in my jacket pocket to stop the cat from trying to eat it, and forgot about it.

TSA asked me what was in my pocket and wouldn’t let me touch the jacket to find out, nor would they reach in themselves. I finally remembered, told them it was the squeaker from a cat toy. They didn’t believe me until I got them to take it out and tap it. It made “real mouse sounds” and they laughed but for a moment there I was worried.

ReadWriteSign

22. Are We Not Doing Phrasing Anymore?

My mother was flying to visit my sister in another state. TSA took my mom’s bag out of the x-ray machine. He was shaking as he opened my mother’s bag. I thought he was going to pass out. The agent asked her if she knew there were chopped up baby parts in her luggage. My mother smiled sweetly and said “Yes. why do you ask?”

An alarm must have been set off because there were now a dozen airport police surrounding her, and looking at the fleshy limbs. At the time, she was making life sized, anatomically correct baby dolls. My sister was going to help her assemble them. TSA was not amused.

YBDum

23. Nuclear Drum Kit

Back before Rock Band and other games came to the west, I was in Japan with some friends and bought back a drum game with controllers. I didn’t want to trust them in packed luggage so had them in my carry on. I got to Germany and there was a long wait in the terminal before the flights the next morning and an airport security screener came up to me and explained that he was training a new staff member and asked if he could use my bag as a test.

The bag went through the x-ray and the experienced guy did a double-take but then decided it was nothing suspicious. The lady he was training decided that it was a nuclear bomb or something by her reaction. The whole thing rapidly devolved from that point as he was trying to hand me my bag back, and she was trying to grab the bag back from him screaming the same word over and over (I don’t speak German so have no idea what she was saying).

Fenrir101

24. Never-ending Wrench Trick

I once got pulled because I had some Allen wrenches. Dude takes the biggest one out and says, “You can’t get in a plane with this.” I said: “What about the next one? It’s about the same size.” He says: “You’re right,” and pulls the next one out of the pack. Then I say: “What about the next one?” I had to buy a new set when I landed.

JesusChristSuperFart

25. Anything’s a Weapon if you Try Hard Enough

So, my husband is from another country. I was visiting my in-laws without him, and he asks me if I can bring home this big bronze pan. Like 12 lbs. (I weighed it to see where I could pack it). Apparently, there is this certain dish he wants to make and he just HAS to have this pan. It fits in my carry-on, so I decide that is the best place for this super important pan.

At the airport, I check in, give them my checked bags, and then proceed to security. After my carry-on goes through the scanner, they pull me aside and say something about me having something big and metal. So, I open it and show them what it is. And it isn’t sharp or anything so I’m ok. Wrong. They say it can be used as a weapon and I need to check it.

I wasn’t planning on using it as a weapon, but after having to walk back to the desk and check it in, I did consider hitting my husband over the head with it.

Suzwella

26. It’s Always Sex Toys

We have this tradition of giving a bag of dirty gifts to family members at their wedding. We make them open it at the reception in front of aunts, grandmas, and everyone. It will usually contain some sort of his and hers edible underwear, massage oils, novelty size Kama Sutra, fuzzy dice. Stuff like that.

My younger brother did a destination wedding and were flying straight from there to Thailand for their honeymoon. As far as I know they filled one of their suitcases with all the goodies. So they had to go through international airports with all that.

ShinzoAbeFroman

27. Quick Trim at Airport Security

I am a mere passenger. This is a mechanical nose hair trimmer. I like it for travel because it is tiny and super rugged (solid metal). That’s why it frequently freaks out x-ray staff who think it’s some weapon part. Usually they understand once I explain, but not this one lady. She doubted my explanation and asked me to demonstrate the unknown device’s use. I did thoroughly. She got convinced.

darehitori

28. Riches and Wonders

I got stopped in Alaska one time. They flagged my bag (think serious hiking backpack) and pulled me aside to a table. The lady starts going through my bag, taking forever because it’s jammed full of stuff. Eventually I said, “Umm is there something particular I can help you find?” and she says, “It… looks like there’s a bunch of rocks in here?”

I told her where to go and she pulled out one of several large chunks of very nicely formed quartz crystals that I hammered out of a boulder the week before. Her eyes went wide as saucers and she immediately stuffed the crystals back into my bag and said have a nice day. To this day I’m convinced she thought I was transporting a fortune in diamonds.

Arctic_Ranger

29. Turkey? Nah, Lion

In British Columbia here. I had this hardcore dude come up to security. As I scan his bag, I realize that there’s something very strange in there. At first, I had no idea what it was. It honestly looked like a turkey, but nope.  I was about to send it for a search when the guy leaned over and told me the grisly truth. Turns out he was a hunter.

He’d killed a mountain lion, dismembered it, and stuffed it in two coolers. One cooler had the head that he brought on for carry-on (where I was) and he checked the body under the plane. No ice, wasn’t frozen, just the head decomposing. Apparently it’s good meat, according to him. It was cool and disturbing at the same time. I could see the brain, its eyes, its bones. It was…yeah.

maskedkiller215

30. Sugar Addict

I was stopped before because they thought my PlayStation 3 charging station was a gun. And on a separate instance, I was stopped because I ate powdered donuts beforehand and all my stuff had powdered residue all over it. Didn’t realize why I was questioned until after I got to my terminal.

SM1334

31. This Coffee is the Bomb

There’s a specific type of coffee my family gets from Puerto Rico. We could technically get it where we live but it costs a lot more so we try to bring it back with us. Well, they were all bundled up and mixed with my clothes and I had joked that they actually looked like cocaine bricks. Well TSA pulled me aside, patted me down and swabbed it for explosive material. I thought it was a joke, but I was wrong. Somehow IT CAME BACK POSITIVE.

They called an explosives expert and he explained that it was the fertilizer. They agreed to let me take it on the plane if they cut open each package (about 15) searched through it and taped it. It also doesn’t help that I forgot I had a card knife in my wallet. I managed to get it out of the US but couldn’t bring it back in.

LonelyCabinet

32. Duct Tape? I Don’t Think So

Not so much disturbing, but entertaining. I was coming back from a trip to China. I had purchased an amethyst geode. A big one. Like, 80lbs. I couldn’t say no to the price—I teach geosciences, so it was both pretty and useful. I didn’t trust it to be shipped or checked, so it was my carry-on, in a piece of luggage purchased just for it. It went through scanning.

The agent running the machine laughed nervously and turned the screen so I could see it. It looked like a mortar shell. Like, a big, bullet-shaped artillery projectile. Before opening my bag, she asked me if I wanted to say anything. I explained, we chuckled, and she confiscated the duct tape I had used to reinforce the bag and sent me on my merry way.

VinnieMcVince

33. Ashes and Bad Timing

The airport people did not approve of my Mom’s cremains. It was probably 10 days give or take after 9/11 and I was flying on the East Coast… Dallas to LGA. It was in my carry on and all I remember was begging the TSA and National Guardsmen to please not open the container. They were upset I didn’t have her death certificate with it.

She had been dead over a year, and I took it home with me after I buried my Dad. I grabbed it off his nightstand on the way out the door. I was in a fog of grief and didn’t even think it would be an issue. It was such a mess.

somethingblue331

34. Zombie Prepared

I was flying from Albany, NY to Tennessee and I always have knives and whatever on me and Allentown’s I simply forget I have them…so when they went to search my pocketbook because their radar went off, I was thinking oh whoops I forgot a knife. The guy is searching like he’s looking for a grain of sand and I’m suddenly panicking wondering if maybe I have something illegal lol…turns out I had one of those credit card knives. It’s like a metal credit card shape thing with a knifed edge. I said, “Kudos for finding that man, it was buried in my wallet and I totally forgot about it!” No prob, just got rid of it.

The kicker is this…I’m on the plane and I go in my pocketbook to get something and my 4in pocketknife is sitting right there!!!

[deleted]

35. Check Your Brain, Please

One time a dense organic came up on the X-ray. When we went and checked it, it turned out to be a mould of a dragon’s, er, intimate part. But that’s not the worst part: It was a guy traveler. Things got awkward quickly. Another time an image came up of a human head and right arm of a human as well. The person on load position forgot to mention that human remains were coming through and while we would stop that normally this was for biological research, the kicker was that the brain was still in the head.

But the weirdest was when a relatively young lady came through with a baby. In her purse (her only carry on) she had an oversized liquid with a big orange lump attached (dense organic is dark orange). We thought it was for the baby, maybe food and wipes most likely. Nope, it was a bottle of vodka and a bible. That was all she had for her and the baby, nothing else, no gum, no wallet, no lip chap, no keys, no change even, nothing!

Triveon

36. From Weird to Weirder

1) Asian guy walks up with a hockey bag, looks heavy and full, going through the scanner (it separates metals by color) we couldn’t make out what was inside. It looked like a giant complex puzzle? So, we open it and holy moly, the bag was FILLED TO THE TOP with dog food. No idea. Not in bags, just like 100 pounds of dry dog food.

2) Family, looks to be a father, mother, and two teenagers, bring in what looks like an expensive luggage case. Again, we can see some plastic but in the middle,  we had no idea what it was. So, we bring it through and open it.

Before I end this story, this whole family was dead silent, not a peep other than, “Yes that’s my bag.”

Inside was a dead fetus. I kid you freaking not.

Now, we assumed they were traveling back hope maybe to have a proper funeral?

After seeing this, we passed it on to you manager, who just had a small talk with the people and let them go. The only information we got from him was he also believed they were bringing it back home.

It also did look like the man had paperwork of some kind, I never seen it.

That was the two weirdest ones I ever had,

viodox0259

37. Maybe a Bad Idea

In high school I went on the German exchange program to a town near Munich. On one of our days in the city we were given some time to shop so we spilt off into our usual friend groups and explored. One of my school friends was a bit of a punk and dressed as such (chains, bracelets and most importantly, those square studded belts with massive interchangeable buckles). Well on our shopping trip he found a shop selling his kinda stuff and decided to buy a grenade belt buckle.

Of course, when we try to fly home, everything goes crazy. The security people thought it was a real grenade. They pressed the alarm and several large, heavily armed German policemen surrounded my friend and barked at him in thick Bavarian German. My poor German teacher was rapidly trying to interpret before his bag was pulled apart to remove the buckle, to which they gave a very dry “ha, funny man” and let him go on his way, minus the buckle and in need of some fresh underwear. Needless to say, I was crying with laughter by the end of this.

Finlaywatt

38. Vape Nation

A few years ago my friends were flying to go skiing and this was in Russia where all baggage gets checked right at the entrance to the airport. So back then the vaping thing was quite new and not many people knew what it was. One of the girls had packed her vape (that’s what it’s called right?) in the luggage and it supposedly looked like a grenade to the person looking at the x rays. Of course my friends didn’t know this then so they saw a following picture:

As they go through the metal detectors, the woman looking at the screen stops the line, picks up her radio and says something along the lines of “code 6, entrance 3.” Within seconds the place was swarming with heavily armed police, who stopped everyone and opened up the bags. They just stood there holding the vape having absolutely no clue what it was lol. They then made the girl use it to prove it’s not a weapon and luckily it all ended well and they were let through after a few minutes.

az9393

39. Yeah, I’m TSA: Totally Stressed Always

I worked for TSA both on the checkpoint and in checked baggage. I have stories upon stories. Ranging from a five-gallon bucket filled with live eels—a small rocket engine filled with kerosene—a lady claiming she had a medical need for a giant bottle of Drano—finding fentanyl concealed in a bag. Much more but I don’t have the time to write too much out right now.

But I’ll never forget the absolute scariest one I encountered. It was a huge firework mortar (which is SCARY if you know how to interpret images.) My heart fell into my gut and I about puked. Even slamming the breaks on the scanner I struggled to find my voice to call over the radio. I felt this way every time I found something of such a large potential threat.

In my two-year stint with TSA, I personally found eight loaded handguns and one disassembled rifle hidden in hair styling tools. I’m happy to be out of there now. I took my position seriously, so it was very stressful to constantly bear that responsibility. Like…what if I hadn’t found that rifle? His wife had ammunition found in her bag.

Cloverhen1

40. No Questions Asked

My bag got dug through at TSA. This was not in secondary screening; it was in full view of all passengers waiting for their bags and shoes to roll out of the machine. Screener had pulled out my most embarrassing item: one of two adult-sized diapers covered with cute nursery prints. I’ll never forget the look on her face as the gears in her head turned to try and process what she was looking at.

ConcernedEarthling

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4


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