NEWARK, N.J. – Security screeners at the Newark airport could almost open a department store with all the banned items: nine bottles of wine, three sets of kitchen knives, a replica antique gun, pool cues, golf clubs and baseball bats.
The objects, confiscated from travelers over several recent days, also included martial-arts weapons and a belt with fake bullets.
"Every day is a surprise," screener Janice Hnyda said.
During the busy Thanksgiving travel period, screeners at the nation's airports are prepared to find the unexpected in passengers' carry-on luggage.
Other bizarre items around the country included: a two-headed snake (Newark); 10 human eyeballs floating in liquid for medical purposes (O'Hare Airport in Chicago); and a collection of hermit crabs carried by a family returning from the Gulf of Mexico (San Antonio).
Lara Uselding, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, said airlines can accept some unusual items with advance planning, as long as they are not prohibited by the TSA. That was the case with the snake, which was going through Newark to appear on "Live with Regis and Kelly" with a zoo curator. It was eventually checked.
But other prohibited items must either be placed in checked baggage, given to someone not traveling or left in a car. Some airports offer paid services to mail objects home. Belongings that are voluntarily surrendered become property of the federal government, which discards all food and liquids.
During the holiday travel crunch, screeners are under pressure to move passengers along quickly. And they have learned to anticipate just about anything.
"We get power drills," said Luther Duke, a screener for five years at Newark Liberty International Airport, which expects to handle 547,000 travelers over Thanksgiving.
This year, screeners have intercepted more than 185,000 prohibited items at Newark. Of those, 536 were considered deadly or dangerous. Nearly 160,000 were lighters.
Screeners were criticized last week after a government report revealed that investigators had been able to smuggle liquid explosives and detonators past airport security. The covert tests were conducted at 19 airports earlier this year.
Uselding defended the screeners. "Our people are vigilant every day," she said.
Their vigilance will be tested during the holidays, when planes are expected to be 90 percent full.
At Newark, prohibited items are taken to a state surplus center in Pennsylvania, where they are auctioned on eBay. Since the program began in 2004, Pennsylvania has received about $380,000 from the sales of items taken from 13 airports in five states.
Many passengers forget about the rules in their effort to avoid checking baggage.
"That's the dilemma for short trips or for Thanksgiving, when you want to do what you can to minimize the hassle factor," said Walter Sive of Seattle, who once had to give up a quart of maple syrup from his favorite upstate New York farm when he tried to take it back to the West Coast.
The rules also prohibit canned pumpkin pie filling, honey, or a juicy pie. Snow globes are not permitted and wrapped gifts aren't a good idea, Uselding said.
Sandy Druckman, who will fly with her husband from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Newark, said she plans to check everything to avoid any problems.
"For Thanksgiving, I'm just taking my book and my purse," said Druckman, 75. "We just want to breeze through and get on the plane."