If you’re hoping to bring along your pet baby shark on an upcoming flight, it might be fine—the TSA allows people to fly with live fish, as long as they’re contained in water (which can exceed the usual 3.4-ounce limit).
If you’re traveling with a dead shark suspended in a chemical substance, on the other hand, you’ll probably have to hit the road. Last fall, someone tried to make it through security at Syracuse Hancock International Airport with a jar that contained a dead baby shark “floating in a liquid chemical preservative” that TSA officers concluded was too hazardous to permit on a plane. But the specimen’s 15 minutes of infamy didn’t quite end there—it just landed in sixth place on the TSA’s list of weirdest items confiscated in 2020.
The shark outranked a slingshot from North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Roman candle fireworks from New York’s LaGuardia Airport, and an M18 yellow smoke grenade from Virginia’s Dulles International Airport. It was also deemed weirder than a set of knives concealed in a secret compartment in a copy of Brian W. Aldiss’s science fiction novel Helliconia Summer. The cavity was created in part by cutting out pages from a chapter called “A Way to Better Weaponry.” That wasn’t the only artfully disguised item to make the list. The fourth-place finisher, from Boston Logan International Airport, was a bottle of Head & Shoulders shampoo in which were hidden two bags of marijuana. And in second place was an illegal assault rifle and ammunition that agents discovered beneath the lining of a suitcase at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport.
Also on the list was a 9-inch PVC pipe that TSA agents at LaGuardia Airport originally mistook for a pipe bomb in November 2020. Though it was actually a homemade humidor for cigars, the agents confiscated it to prevent it from scaring the plane’s other occupants. And a homemade solar-powered battery was confiscated at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport after an explosives expert testified to its explosive potential.
While many of the aforementioned items are arguably more alarming than weird, the “catch” that took the top spot is neither. Two TSA dog handlers from Newark Liberty tied the knot in July 2020, with TSA explosive detection canines Obelix and Proto standing happily by their sides.
You can see photos of all the contraband catches in the TSA’s video below.