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A unicycle, a Nasa camera and SHRUNKEN HEADS: The wackiest of unclaimed airline luggage over the last 50 years

schiphol airport lost and found
schiphol airport lost and found

What does a unicycle, a camera from Nasa’s space shuttle and a shrunken head all have in common?

Bizarrely, they are all items lost by airline passengers that, because they remained unclaimed, were sent by carriers to be resold by the Unclaimed Baggage Center – a 40,000-square-foot store in Scottsboro, Alabama, that houses millions of orphaned objects.

Here are some of the most bizarre items the company, which started in 1970, has ever processed…

ALUMINIZED FIRE SUIT

The Unclaimed Baggage Center says one of its ‘hot’ finds was a shiny, silver aluminized fire suit used to shield firefighters from ambient heat. They are traditionally either used in factories (approach suits), aircraft fires (proximity suits), and situations where a firefighter must be fully engulfed in flames (entry suits).

BEAR PELT PACKED IN SALT

The lost luggage company once received a ‘terrible-smelling’ bear pelt that had been packed in salt prior to travel. It notes: ‘Hunters and taxidermists salt animal pelts to preserve them after a hunt, but there are specific methods they must follow to do this successfully. It can take almost two weeks to properly cure an animal hide, so it’s possible this bear pelt had not been completely cured before it was lost in transit.’

CAMERA FROM THE SPACE SHUTTLE

A modified Nikon F camera from Nasa’s Space Shuttle programme is an item that the Unclaimed Baggage Center deems one of its ‘out of this world’ finds.

Designed in the late 1980s, the unique model was one of the earliest iterations of the digital camera – and only three were made. Because of its rarity, the company sent the camera back to Nasa.

DUNG CHEN FROM TIBET

In 2002, a ten-foot-long Tibetan dung chen – a ceremonial horn that’s often used in religious rituals – arrived at the Unclaimed Baggage Center.

The company says: ‘They’re well-known for their low powerful notes that resemble an elephant’s call.

‘Historically, the dung chen was often given as a political gift by the Chinese to impress bordering nations. The dung chen is collapsible for easy storage and travel.’

Unclaimed Baggage says it has received several shrunken heads over the years, including one that served as decoration on a medicine-man stick.

It is unsure where this bizarre item came from but notes: ‘Headhunting has been documented only in the Amazon rainforest’s northwestern region (Ecuador and Peru). Tribes such as the Aguaruna, Huambisa, Achuar and Shuar have been known to shrink and collect human heads.’

EGYPTIAN BURIAL MASK

One of the most ‘unique and incredible finds’ is an Egyptian burial mask.

The company reveals that the antique ‘arrived in a well-travelled Gucci suitcase that was filled with artefacts from the time of Moses – about 1500 BC’.

The find went on to be sold through a specialist sale at Christie’s auction house in New York City.

‘FLIRTING’ FAN FROM THE 1800s

A ‘beautiful’, hand-painted ‘flirting fan’ from the Victorian period once turned up at Unclaimed Baggage. Gilded in gold and reinforced with intricately-carved bone, ladies throughout Europe used these fans to subtly communicate with men at social gatherings from the 16th to 19th centuries. The company adds: ‘A small “flirting mirror” in the fan’s top right corner allowed a lady to discreetly see whether her flutters were achieving the desired effect.’ schiphol airport lost and found

HOGGLE FROM LABYRINTH

One of Unclaimed Baggage’s most well-known finds was a four-foot-tall goblin puppet known as Hoggle, a key character from the Jim Henson fantasy film Labyrinth. The character arrived at Unclaimed Baggage in a deteriorated condition, with the company noting that the materials used to build him ‘weren’t meant to last long-term’. He was ‘lovingly restored’ by doll artist Gary Sowatzka and the puppet now resides in the Unclaimed Baggage store entryway, where he ‘greets thousands of guests every year.’ Sydney Airport lost and found

IVORY SCULPTURES

Unclaimed Baggage has found many ‘beautiful, intricately-carved’ ivory sculptures and figurines over the years. It highlights that while ‘each piece is unique and lovely in its own right, ivory is obtained through the illegal hunting of wild elephants’. The company points out that selling ivory in the United States is therefore illegal, in most cases.

LUTE

An intricately-carved, 15-string Renaissance lute was a source of ‘delight’ when it turned up at Unclaimed Baggage. The company notes that the instruments were ‘popular stringed instruments during the Renaissance period’ and ‘it was common for noblemen and women during the Renaissance period to learn to play the lute as part of their tutelage’.

UNICYCLE

In 2011, a unicycle wheeled its way to Unclaimed Baggage.

The company jibes that the item was ‘a great reminder that we all need a little more balance in our lives’!

NEWSPAPER FROM FRANCE 1934

A leather-bound, 1934 compendium of the French newspaper titled Noir et Blanc (‘black and white’) arrived at Unclaimed Baggage in 1998.

It had 336 pages and contained news from April through December of that year.

OPIUM SCALES

A set of antique Chinese weighing scales once cropped up at Unclaimed Baggage. The luggage specialist reveals: ‘[These] were used for centuries to measure medicines, herbs, precious gems, and more… but in the 19th century, these scales were also used to measure opium – thus earning the nickname opium scales. Opium scales were designed to fit into compact, wooden cases carved into the shape of a violin or a fish.’

TRIBAL STICK WITH REAL TEETH

Another odd item that reared its head at Unclaimed Baggage was an intricately-carved walking stick featuring the fierce face of a warrior. The firm said the carvings were ‘detailed and high-quality’ and upon closer inspection, it was apparent that the warrior’s bared teeth were real.

HANDMADE AMISH QUILT

Over the years Unclaimed Baggage has received an array of handmade Amish quilts. It transpired that some of them originated from Lancaster, Pennsylvania’s Amish Country, which is known for producing beautiful quilts.

LIVE RATTLESNAKE

One of Unclaimed Baggage’s more sss-urprising finds was a live rattlesnake. The company notes – ‘we did not send him to the sales floor!’

VIOLIN MADE BY A STUDENT OF STRADIVARIUS

A violin made by a student of Antonio Stradivari, a world-renowned 17th-century maker of stringed instruments, was once found at Unclaimed Baggage. As well as violins, Italian Stradivari built guitars, cellos, harps and violas. Unclaimed Baggage highlights that Stradivarius violins are ‘among the most prized instruments in the world – making a violin built by one of his students the next best thing’.


Lost something at Airport or in a flight? Click here to report online

Dedicated investigation manager for every successful lost report. We work with more than 15000+ Airports & Airlines lost and found offices worldwide. Increase chance of locating your lost property TODAY.

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