Located only 20 miles from the Tennessee state line on the banks of Lake Guntersville, the town of Scottsboro, Alabama, is known for many things including its incredible fishing, but the main draw to this tiny Alabama town is a store like no other — the Unclaimed Baggage Store.
As its name implies, the store purchases luggage, parcels, and merchandise from airlines, buses, and other transportation companies that have been left behind by their owners. The luggage is given a fair shot at finding its way home before arriving in Scottsboro. It takes up to 3 months of work to try and reunite the baggage and packages with their owners. After that, it comes to the store where you can get incredible deals on new and slightly used merchandise.
The best part of a visit to the Unclaimed Baggage Store is that you never know what you will find from day to day. There is always something new. Even the staff who sorts and preps the merchandise for sale are surprised at what they find.
Here is a look at some of the most unusual items that have arrived at the Unclaimed Baggage Store over the years.
1. Hoggle Puppet From The Labyrinth
In 1986, the hit fantasy movie Labyrinth was released. The movie starred rock singer David Bowie as Jareth, the King of the Goblins, and was directed and produced by Muppet creator Jim Henson. One of the most beloved characters in the movie was the goblin Hoggle which, at the time, was one of the most complicated Muppet creations to make and operate.
With one person inside the puppet and four people on the outside, the puppeteers would operate 18 motors to make the fictional character come to life with life-like body movements and facial expressions.
As you enter the Unclaimed Baggage store, you will be greeted by the actual Hoggle puppet used in the movie. He arrived at the store with his foam structure in a sad state. Master doll doctor Gary Sowatzka was called in to work his magic and restore the goblin to his original condition.
Say “hi” to Hoggle when you visit the store.
2. Ret Turner Fashions
Ret Turner was a legendary entertainment industry wardrobe and costume designer who put the glitz and glamor on such stars as Cher, Dinah Shore, Dolly Parton, and Diana Ross to name a few. Over his long career, Turner was nominated for 21 Emmy awards and won the prestigious award five times.
As you stroll the aisles of the store, you will come to a wall display that asks you, “Can you guess who these stage clothes belong to?” Spoiler alert: the answer is — the Osmonds.
Turner was one of Marie Osmond’s favorite designers and on display is one of her sequined gowns as well as a matching pair of shoes, a tuxedo, and a floor length skirt. The items came to the store in the mid-1980s in a nondescript suitcase with a tag on it that said its point of origin (or destination) was Utah. It never made it home but has found a new home at the store.
3. Space Shuttle Camera
From 1981 to 2011, NASA’s space shuttle was the workhorse of the American space program, sending 848 humans into space to perform various scientific experiments, observations, and building the International Space Station.
One of the astronaut’s jobs was to photograph the earth and activities aboard the spacecraft. To do that, the Nikon company developed a special camera — the Nikon F, one of the earliest digital cameras that we all take for granted today.
The company developed three of the cameras. One accidentally wound up in lost luggage and found its way to Scottsboro and the Unclaimed Baggage Store. It is such a rare and historic piece that the store returned it to NASA after the store had identified what it had found.
Snakes on a plane? Sure! Why not? Imagine the surprise of the Unclaimed Baggage staff when they opened up a duffle bag and found a rattlesnake. Not just a taxidermy stuffed rattler but a real-life, not too happy rattlesnake.
The snake was not offered to the public for sale.
5. Shrunken Heads
What can be more startling than finding a live rattlesnake in a duffle bag? That’s pretty scary. How about finding a human shrunken head? On a stick, no less.
The shrinking of a human head is a real thing. The process was a ritual perfected by the Jivaro tribe of Ecuador. If one of the Jivaro tribesmen’s relatives was murdered, it was up to that tribe member to avenge the death. After avenging the death, the tribe member would have to prove that it was mission accomplished to the deceased so that they wouldn’t come back and haunt them. The avenger would shrink the head of the killer in a process who details you really don’t want to know.
Enough said about that.
6. Assorted Vintage And Rare Headgear
As you walk into the Unclaimed Baggage store, you’re greeted with a display of some of the unique and unusual items the staff has found in the past. One of those displays is a collection of vintage headgear.
In this glass display case are five examples of the hats and face coverings the store has stumbled upon over the years. There is a GP-5 Russian gas mask with filter that was issued to the citizens of the Soviet Union during the Cold War in 1970. There is also a vintage New York Central Railroad conductor’s hat from the 1930s, a Gallic Roman helmet, a vintage Epee fencing mask, and a cowboy hat that was autographed by boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
7. One Expensive Barbie
In March 1959, the toy world was set on its ear with the introduction of a new doll — Barbie. The doll started off as just a simple doll that girls could dress up but over the years, Barbie has been a trendsetter, not only in fashion but also in careers. Her playsets have had her in innumerable careers including as an astronaut.
Many Barbies have been found in lost luggage over the years, but one was extra special. The doll was found in a lost suitcase, cleaned up, and put on the shelf for sale. A woman then purchased the doll for her daughter who, like many kids, proceeded to pop the head off. When she did, a roll of money totaling $500 tumbled out. Apparently, Barbie needed some spending cash for her adventures.
8. Ancient Egyptian Burial Mask
Every now and then, an expensive looking suitcase arrives at the Unclaimed Baggage Store. One day, what the staff at the store describe as a “well-traveled” Gucci suitcase arrived, and when they opened it, they found an ancient Egyptian burial mask.
The mask dated back to around 1500 B.C., and the time of Moses. The item was sold at Christie’s Auction House along with a treasure trove of other Egyptian artifacts that were found in the same case.
9. 1934 French Newspaper
Almost 25 years ago, a remarkable piece of history was found at the store — a 1934 French newspaper, Noir et Blanc. While yellowed, the 336-page, leather-bound paper survived the ravages of time remarkably well and arrived at Unclaimed Baggage in 1998.
The newspaper is on display under protective glass in the store’s main sales area. The newspaper is a time capsule of stories from April through December of 1934. Its name, Noir et Blanc, translates to “Black and White,” which it is.
10. Violin Made By A Student Of Antonio Stradivari
Antonio Stradivari was one of the most famous luthiers of the 17th century, designing exquisite and stunningly brilliant sounding guitars, cellos, harps, and of course, violins.
He also taught students how to create these classic instruments. The next best thing to owning an authentic Stradivarius violin is owning one designed by one of his students. One of those priceless violins was discovered in lost luggage opened by the staff at Unclaimed Baggage.
11. Tribal Stick With A Bite
Authentic Native American artifacts are highly sought. With intricate carvings and unusual adornments, a pipe or headdress is extremely valuable. One such artifact turned up at the Unclaimed Baggage store — a Native American walking stick with teeth. Real teeth!
The stick features the striking image of a fierce warrior showing his teeth, but on closer inspection, you’ll see that those are actual human teeth in all of their pearly whiteness.
12. Emerald Green
Many visitors to Unclaimed Baggage gravitate to one of two long jewelry counters. Inside the glass cases, you’ll find beautiful, sparkling diamond rings, gold bracelets, and more at amazing prices.
One item you won’t find in the case is the 40.95-carat emerald that was found in one of the lost suitcases recovered by the store. The origin of this exquisite stone is not known, perhaps it was from Columbia. It was appraised at $25,000 and sold for $17,000.
Often, there are other places to find good deals during your travels: