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Maggots just latest airline bag shocker

By A. Pawlowski, CNN
Mundane-looking luggage can have bizarre contents. One passenger brought bug-filled spoiled meat on board a plane this week.
Mundane-looking luggage can have bizarre contents. One passenger brought bug-filled spoiled meat on board a plane this week.
  • Strange things have been found in air travelers' luggage over the years
  • Maggots from a spoiled piece of meat this week forced a flight to return to the gate
  • Store in Alabama has found everything from a live snake to vacuum packed frogs
  • The store buys unclaimed airline luggage and sells the contents
  • Air Travel

(CNN) -- Many air travelers complain about weird seatmates, but they could be more creeped out if they knew what other passengers had packed in their luggage.

Take US Airways flight 1537 from Atlanta, Georgia, to Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday, which was about to depart when a gross discovery forced the plane back to the gate.

Maggots appeared on board and were traced back to a container of spoiled meat that a passenger had brought on board and placed in an overhead bin, said Todd Lehmacher, a spokesman for US Airways.

Once back at the gate, crews checked all of the other carry-on bags for the insects and cleaned the plane, Lehmacher said.

The flight then took off for Charlotte, where the aircraft was more thoroughly cleaned and fumigated, he said. The passenger who brought the spoiled meat deplaned in Atlanta and did not continue on to Charlotte.

Lehmacher wasn't sure if the airline had experienced any similar close encounters with bugs in the past.

"We welcome customers from all walks of life, their baggage and even small dogs and cats on our aircraft, but we don't really welcome insects, larvae or pupae of any kind," he said.

Then there was the strange discovery at Cairo International Airport in Egypt last month. Security stopped a man with an unusually large suitcase and found he had eight live foxes and 50 chameleons inside, the Associated Press reported.

Live snake and vacuum packed frogs

While few travelers get to peek inside other people's luggage, that's all the staff at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, ever does. The store buys unclaimed airline luggage -- bags that haven't been picked up by their owners for at least 90 days -- and sells the contents.

There are some major surprises along the way.

Almost two-thirds of the merchandise is clothing, but the staff has also discovered Egyptian artifacts, including a mummified falcon and a shrunken head; a 40-carat emerald, a full suit of armor and a live rattlesnake.

Then there were the 50 vacuum packed frogs.

"I don't know if somebody was taking them as a science experiment. We never know the story behind these things," said Brenda Cantrell, director of marketing for the Unclaimed Baggage Center.

"It makes you wonder every time you're on a plane and you look around at the people on the plane with you and you think, now what's the most bizarre thing I can think of that somebody might have on here?"

An aluminized fire suit might qualify, as could a neatly packed parachute or a Barbie doll with a roll of $500 in bills hidden inside. All those items have been found in unclaimed bags over the years, along with fossils that the store donated to the local junior high science teacher, Cantrell said.

Given the unpredictable nature of the luggage contents, the staff wears gloves and is very careful when unpacking the bags in case there are sharp items or other potential dangers -- like the live snake. (It was released in a cemetery behind the store.)

Cantrell said she's not shocked anymore by what the store finds inside people's luggage.

"There was one day I was sitting at my desk and I had a farmer's almanac from the 1800s, and about 20 carats worth of diamonds that had been in a bracelet," Cantrell said.

"And you just kind of step back and you think this is really bizarre for anybody who would just walk into my office and see all these things. But at Unclaimed Baggage, it's just another day."

What are some of the strange things you've seen in other people's bags or have packed in your own? Let us know in the comments below.