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The 10 strangest confiscations TSA has posted on Instagram, ranked

(Washington Post illustration; iStock)

Since the Department of Homeland Security founded the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in 2001, the agency has been working hard to ensure the public travels as safely as possible. It also has been making sure you’re not getting on planes with anything too weird — or at least weird and dangerous.

In 2013, TSA joined Instagram to share important things like travel tips, pictures of explosives detection canines and reminders of busy travel periods. But it’s the content featuring fascinating confiscated contraband that helped the agency amass a whopping 1 million followers on the platform.

To celebrate the social media milestone, we rounded up and ranked the strangest carry-on finds the TSA Instagram has documented.

Over the course of this story, you’ll see that sharp objects are a common occurrence in TSA’s world. What’s less common is finding them sheathed in cartoon paraphernalia. In 2014, TSA posted about a bizarre combo of utility knife blades found in a Scooby-Doo greeting card. The photo and the terse caption left followers with more questions than answers, and also prompted a lot of “ruh roh” comments.

We may never know what inspired the flying perpetrator to sneak blades into a greeting card. And they would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for that meddling TSA.

These confiscated shoes and matching ammo bracelets bring the phrase “dressed to kill” to mind.

The owner of the shoes should have tweeted to @AskTSA before their trip to learn that although they’re prohibited in a carry-on, they’re totally fine to pack in checked luggage, per the Instagram caption.

Continuing on the violent fashion train is this lipstick tube that’s actually a knife.

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In honor of #NationalLipstickDay, here's one that will make your lips a stain of RED... annnnd potentially make things RED all over!? What would you call this shade of lipstick? Hemoglobin Red? Blood Red? ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ All jokes aside, you WON'T have a beautiful day if you try to bring this "lipstick" through airport security. Our officers at Nashville International Airport (BNA) recently discovered this lipstick knife in a carry-on bag at a security checkpoint. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ No matter the size, shape or intended use, knives are prohibited from being packed in your carry-on luggage. If you do have a knife that you'd like to bring along on your next trip, make sure you place it in your checked luggage. Otherwise, leave it behind. You can find out what other items are prohibited by visiting our website. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #airportsecurity #prohibiteditems #airportdiaries #instatravels #TravelTips #lipstickknife

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This one — complete with a rhinestone carrying case — that TSA posted in July isn’t even the only one they’ve caught. In 2013, a curvier, spookier lipstick knife was found in a carry-on bag passing through San Antonio. Some lipstick tubes have also been disguises for stun guns.

Nothing to see here folks, just a bag of eels. Miami International Airport TSA discovered this incredibly disturbing bag of eels in 2012. To the credit of the smuggler, at least they didn’t try to sneak this bag of eels in a carry-on bag. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was called in to handle the situation, as the traveler had also packed 163 marine tropical fish and 22 invertebrates to Maracaibo, Venezuela.

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It’s #TBT time, and we thought we’d give a shout out to our good friends at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (@USFWS). If you love wildlife, you’ll love their account! … The following pictures are from when officers discovered smuggled wildlife in luggage. When we find animals being smuggled, we contact the USFWS who respond to the scene. … Eels!!! The eels were discovered in 2012 in a checked bag at the Miami International Airport (MIA). Among many other things, the traveler was attempting to transport 163 marine tropical fish and 22 invertebrates to Maracaibo. The passenger surrendered the items to the USFWS. One could say this was a really good catch. 🎣 … Snake In a hard drive! Discovered earlier this year, a traveler on her way from MIA to Barbados attempted to smuggle a snakelet inside of an external hard drive. The USFWS responded and took possession of the snake and cited the traveler. Both the traveler and the snake missed their flight. As we said in our original post, this python had not gone full monty. It was wearing a nylon stocking. … Bottled Seahorses. There’s nothing funny about dead seahorses. In 2012, an oversized bottle of liquor was detected in a carry-on bag at Detroit (DTW). Not only was the large bottle of liquor prohibited, but so were the five dead endangered seahorses inside the bottle. … Smuggling is not for the birds! Two birds were discovered during a pat-down in 2011 at LAX. They were wrapped in socks and taped to the leg and chest of a woman who was traveling to China. The USFWS responded and arrested the woman on suspicion of smuggling and exporting an endangered species out of the United States. … Snakes almost on a plane! In August 2011 at MIA, seven small snakes stuffed in nylon stockings were discovered in a traveler’s pants after being screened in a body scanner. In addition to the snakes, he also had three small turtles [Insert inappropriate jokes here]. The USFWS officers arrived on the scene and took custody of the reptiles. The passenger was arrested and charged with violating the Lacey Act. … #TSA #USFWS #SnakesAlmostOnAPlane 🚫 🐍 ✈️ @usinterior

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In the caption, TSA also notes that animals have a history of passing through airports in extremely strange ways. A woman traveling from Miami to Barbados tried to sneak a snake in an external hard drive. Also caught in Miami was a man with seven snakes hiding in nylon stockings shoved in the traveler’s pants, along with three small turtles. And a woman traveling from Los Angeles to China taped birds (which were wrapped in socks) to her leg and chest.

With marijuana legalized in some states, there may be some confusion as to how to transport the stuff — like the traveler who tried to fly with an impressive 80 pounds of marijuana in their checked bag at California’s McClellan-Palomar Airport.

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With all the buzz about #420 today, we wanted to offer a #ProTip. If you’re considering traveling with marijuana or cannabis-infused products, don’t. We’re not looking for your jazz cabbage, but if we find it, we’ll have to notify local law enforcement. ... TSA doesn’t have any regulations that address the possession or transportation of marijuana and cannabis infused products, but under Federal law and many State laws, it’s a crime to possess or transport any detectable amount of marijuana. ... Having a State-issued cannabis card or other documentation indicating that the marijuana is for medical purposes doesn’t exempt you from TSA’s requirement to notify law enforcement. It’s up to the responding officer, not TSA, to determine if possession of the marijuana is authorized under State law, or whether to make an arrest or confiscate it. ... This picture is from 2014 when 80 pounds of marijuana was discovered in a checked bag at the McClellan-Palomar Airport (CLD) in California. … #TSATravelTips #marijuana

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Even though TSA doesn’t have regulations on weed possession and transportation, some state governments and the federal government do consider them a crime. In cases like this, TSA has to notify local law enforcement.

We’re taught to never judge a book by its cover. Well, we’re here to tell you never judge a cane by its sheath. Thanks to the TSA Instagram account, we now know that a whole lot of canes are more deadly than they appear.

On multiple occasions, TSA has confiscated canes that were actually swords. And just when you thought you’ve seen it all, this cane got a high-tech upgrade to double as a stun gun.

If scanning through the Instagram account taught us anything, it’s that way more people use throwing stars than you’d think. They come in all different shapes and sizes, prompting us to think that the slogan for throwing stars should be: “Throwing stars, there’s something for everyone!”

Once you pick the right throwing star for you, you’ll want to travel with it properly. That does not mean to store it in your smartphone case, for example. TSA’s friendly reminder? “All martial arts weapons are prohibited in carry-on bags.” Some could even get you arrested by being in your checked bag. Tweet at @AskTSA for any specific throwing star packing questions.

No, you can’t bring your chain saw in your carry-on bag, as one Albany International Airport traveler thought. However, you’re usually okay to bring them in your checked luggage. But with exceptions ⁠ — your packed chain saw can’t be leaking fumes.

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Happy Throwback Thursday! Today’s picture dates back to 2014 when a traveler tried to bring a chainsaw through the checkpoint at the Albany International Airport (ALB). We’re not exactly sure why. Zombie defense, perhaps? Lumberjack goals? … What we can tell you is that chainsaws are not permitted in carry-on bags. They may only be packed as a checked item as long as there’s no trace of fuel or fumes. If any trace of fuel is detected, the chainsaw will be treated as hazmat and will not be permitted to fly. It’s best to contact your airline prior to your flight if you’d like to travel with your chainsaw. … Wondering what’s up with the officer in the photo? That’s not #Leatherface, that’s Supervisory Transportation Security Officer Ron Babbit! He’s displaying the chainsaw at a media event where a TSA spokesperson explained to reporters what can and can’t be brought through TSA checkpoints. … When prohibited items are discovered, our officers give travelers several options so they can keep their item. As long as the item isn’t illegal (think guns and explosives), our officer will ask if you would like to take the item outside of the checkpoint and check it, ship it, take it to your car, or hand it off to a friend or family member who isn’t traveling. … If the traveler can’t take advantage of any of the options, the item is surrendered to TSA. A popular misconception is that TSA officers get to keep these items. That’s not true. In fact, keeping a prohibited item is a zero tolerance offense. … Prohibited items are usually transferred to another federal agency without reimbursement, donated or abandoned or destroyed. Typically the items are donated to state surplus agencies for their disposal (typically sale), in which case the state keeps any profit from sales of those items. You may want to check with the  surplus agency in your state: ... #RandomThought - It could be argued that chainsaws are cutting edge technology. ... #TBT #TSA

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A person discovered this exception when traveling through Chicago O’Hare. Fuel vapors wafted out of the traveler’s bag, and the saw was removed from their luggage. Make sure you clean your chain saw before packing it, or else TSA will remove it from your luggage and you’ll be left with no chain saw.

Cognac has a history of causing controversies at the airport. In 2015, a woman at the Beijing Capital International Airport chugged a whole bottle of Rémy Martin XO Excellence when she was told she’d have to throw it away at airport security.

In 2012 in Detroit, TSA had a very different cognac run-in when it caught a traveler trying to bring this oversize bottle of the French spirit on a flight. Not only was the bottle of “Very Superior Old Pale” cognac larger than TSA regulations, but it was also filled with five endangered sea horses. The encounter required TSA to call in Michigan wildlife officials to confiscate the bottle.

TSA deals with bones all the time. Animal bones and parts are fair game at the security checkpoint. What’s particularly crazy about this 2013 TSA find at Fort Lauderdale International Airport is that the passenger was allegedly unaware that they were carrying a skull in the first place. They bought a pot, put it through the X-Ray machine, and discovered fragments of a human skull inside.

There are too many oddities to capture in one list alone. We had to leave out spear guns and a bag of moose droppings. To relish all of the peculiar finds of the TSA, follow the account yourself. Browse it on a rainy day when you’re feeling down and find solace in the realization that at least you didn’t try to bring a bag of eels on an airplane.

Carry-on checklist: Here's what you can pack (Video: Taylor Turner/The Washington Post)

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