5 Stories of People Delivered as Cargo


You hear about cases of smugglers who traffic in slaves or illegal immigrants as cargo, often with horrific outcomes. But there are a few stories of people who shipped themselves by mail or cargo carrier which turned out relatively happily. It's not so easy to do that with today's regulations. Do not attempt this yourself.

1. 1849: Henry Box Brown

Henry Brown was a slave in Virginia. His wife and three children were sold to another slave owner and sent to Virginia. In despair, Brown collaborated with two white men to have himself mailed to an abolitionist in Philadelphia. Brown spent 26 hours in a wooden crate, most of it upside down! When he emerged from the crate in Philadelphia, where he was a free man, Brown said, "How do you do, gentlemen?" Afterward, he traveled and lectured for the anti-slavery movement and later became a performing magician. The middle name "Box" was added after his shipment to freedom. Although he had the money, he never attempted to buy his wife and children, but instead married a British woman and produced more children. Brown wrote a book about his experience.

2. 1900: W. Reginald Bray

W. Reginald Bray had a peculiar hobby- he sent things through the mail. These were items that were not specifically prohibited, but created a challenge for the British postal service. According to a new book entitled The Englishman Who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects by John Tingey,

At one point or another, he mailed a bowler hat, a rabbit skull (the address spelled out on the nasal bone, and the stamps pasted to the back), a purse, a slipper, a clothes brush, seaweed, shirt collars, a penny, a turnip (address and message carved into the durable tuber), an Irish Terrier, and a pipe, among other curios.

Bray successfully sent himself through the mail twice, in 1900 and again in 1903, the second time by registered mail. He was not packed in a box, but was delivered by postal carriers who walked beside him.

3. 1914: May Pierstorff

Four-year-old May Pierstorff of Grangeville, Idaho was going to visit her grandparents 75 miles away in Lewiston, but how to get her there? Her parents did not want to pay the exorbitant train fare (an entire day's pay!), but checked and found the postal rate for a 48.5 pound "package" was only 53 cents. They also checked regulations and found that there were no laws against mailing a human. Mr. and Mrs. Pierstorff bought enough stamps and a postal clerk attached them to May's coat, and labeled the shipment as a "baby chick". May was never in a box, but rode in the train's mail compartment. She was hand-delivered to her grandparent's address by carrier Leonard Mochel. May's story was the subject of a 1997 book, Mailing May.

4. 2003: Charles McKinley

In modern times, shipping is expensive, but in some cases less expensive than normal human travel. However, air shipment is dangerous, as cargo areas are usually neither pressurized nor heated. In 2003, 25-year-old Charles McKinley had a friend pack him into a crate which was shipped from New York to his parent's home in Dallas. Air cargo took him from Newark airport to Buffalo, then to Fort Wayne, Indiana, then to Dallas. A deliveryman took the crate to the destination address where McKinley emerged and thanked him. The deliveryman called police, who arrested McKinley on outstanding warrants. McKinley had paid $550 to ship the crate because he wanted to save money over buying an airline ticket. He was later charged in federal court as an aircraft stowaway.

5. 2004: Sandra De los Santos

Sandra De los Santos was a law student in Havana when she took a vacation in the Bahamas. While there, she stuffed herself into a wooden crate which was shipped to the United States, taking a cell phone and a jug of water. Six hours later in Miami, DHL workers heard a voice from the box and pried it open. The 23-year-old was in a crate measuring 36 by 26 by 18 inches! De los Santos was granted asylum and allowed to stay in the US.

Bonus: The Delivery That Wasn't

Professional magician Wade Whitcomb made headlines last year when he claimed he had shipped himself aboard a UPS cargo plane. He even posted videos of the stunt. This didn't go over well with the FBI or the TSA, as it appeared to be serious breach of air cargo security. After an investigation, Whitcomb admitted the videos were a publicity stunt aimed at promoting a friend's new website.

See also: A Postal Post: 6 Crazy Stories of Mail Bonding