In today’s high-tech world of email, Skype, Messenger, SnapChat and more, nobody really thinks about good old “snail mail.” Which is a shame, actually, because there are some pretty weird things that have been sent, and can still be sent, through the US mail. Here are our favorites.
Not only is it perfectly legal to mail a potato – no packaging – there are services that specialize it it! Mailaspud.com will send a potato to the person of your choosing, though they don’t recommend the recipient eat said potato. Mailaspud is just one of a surprising number of potato post services, like Anonymous Potato, Mystery Potato (mystery and potatoes go hand in hand, it seems), Potato In The Post (for UK only) and, finally, Potato Parcel.
The last one packages up their potatoes, so it’s hardly the same thing, but at least the potato gift remains edible. Other unwrapped foods that have been successfully sent through the mail include coconuts and limes. The USPS says that fresh fruits and vegetables are prohibited international items, but it seems that domestic vegetable mailings are a-ok.
9. A Tree Trunk
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not (and, believe it or not, that’s a thing that still exists) conducted a Strange Mail contest in 2013 and 2014. 2014’s winner was a tree stump that Pat Moser of King, North Carolina sent in. A storm felled the tree, and Moser found a horseshoe inside when he started cutting it up for firewood.
The 75-year old stump cost $30.45 to mail, and Moser won the year’s worth of “Believe It or Not” publications. With the horseshoe, you know that thing weighed a whole lot. Not sure why Moser decided to mail away a perfectly good lucky horseshoe, but the draw of Ripley’s must have proved too tempting for him.
Have a friend who lives in a warm climate and hates it? Does that friend long for snow? Do they miss shoveling, making snowmen or just spreading some snow around and making snow angels? You’re in luck! You can make their dreams come true by shipping them real snow, anywhere in the US. Ship Snow Yo is a service that will pack the real stuff into a Styrofoam cooler (because who cares about the environment? Snow!) and ship it via FedEx Express.
The snow is sourced from… you guessed it. Snowy places! Places like Vermont, Colorado, and Massachusetts. No word on if you can specify the origin of snow that you’re shipping. The owners of the company live in Massachusetts, so odds are in snowy months there, you’re getting wicked good Massachusetts snow.
So, you can’t technically mail a cat via USPS these days, but it is worth mentioning that in 1897, a very ticked-off black cat was mailed via the pneumatic tube system in New York City. The pneumatic tube system launched that year, and it’s pretty obvious that Rocketeers (the people who operated said tubes) were pretty stoked to see what they could get away with sending. According to an article in The Atlantic, they sent a fake peach, a flag-wrapped Bible, a copy of President McKinley’s inaugural speech and a number of other things through the fancy new postal system. The cat, however, takes the cake.
The aforementioned article references a book by Howard Wallace Connelly where he talks about the cat delivery. He says, “[the cat] seemed to be dazed for a minute or two but started to run and was quickly secured and placed in a basket that had been provided for that purpose.” That first cat was just for lulz. Later, apparently, an ailing cat was sent to a vet via a pneumatic tube. Reportedly, the cat was clearly agitated. Traveling at top speed trapped in a tiny tube is not a cat’s preferred method of transportation. If you have to mail a cat, seek out a private pet shipping service. They do exist. Don’t make cats any angrier than they already are.
No, this isn’t a great way to get back at an ex. Good, but not great. Scorpions are mailable per the rules of USPS, but only when the intent is medical research or the creation of antivenin. The fun part is that the scorpions don’t have to be dead. Nope, you can mail live ones, as long as it’s for the reasons mentioned.
Live ones have to be double packed with no way for the scorpion to escape (because, obvious reasons), and the inner packaging has to be made out of stuff that a scorpion can’t puncture. How does one go about finding a packing material that won’t kill a scorpion, but will keep it from damaging the inner packaging? Surprisingly (or not), there’s a YouTube video with a suggested method. Whether the dude in the video was mailing them for medicinal or antivenin purposes is questionable, but at least now you know.
5. Baby Chicks
Actually, under section 526.3 of the USPS’s “Mailable Live Animals” policy, you can ship a number of day-old animals of the poultry variety. Chickens, quail, turkeys, ducks, emus, guinea birds, geese and partridges can be shipped any time; pheasants between the months of April and August. There are, however, stipulations. The baby birds can’t be more than 24 hours old, and they have to be mailed in an unopened hatchery box from their hatchery of origin.
The packaging has to be properly ventilated, the bird must be mailed early enough in the week to arrive at an office prior to a national holiday or a Sunday (to minimize the loss of baby birds, clearly) and when it can be delivered within 72 hours of when the bird hatched. There are other rules, too, when shipping day old poultry. If that’s something you’re into, check out the USPS website.
4. Live Bees
It’s probably not as fun to mail live bees as you would first imagine. Sure, you get to handle live bees and ship them to people, and who doesn’t love that? Seriously, though, with the worldwide honeybee shortage, we hope people are mailing bees to responsible people who will create good homes for them. The USPS tells us, in 526.21, that only honeybees and queen honeybees are OK to ship.
All shipped bees have to be disease free, and queens are allowed to be shipped via air transportation. Drones have to go surface. All bees must be securely packaged and kept between 40 degrees and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s important to write “Live Honey Bees” on the container, and to let the post office know there are bees in there. If you get worried about your bees, do not consult a beekeeping forum because those people will make you feel awful.
Like cats, it is not technically legal to mail children. But, people used to do it anyway. When the Post Office introduced Parcel Post on the first day of the year 1913, people in rural areas all of a sudden had access to things they hadn’t previously. And they went a little nuts. Take, for instance, Jess and Mathilda Beagle, who mailed 8-month-old James to his grandma, who only lived a few miles away. No big deal, right?
James was less than 11 pounds (the weight limit for Parcel Post packages). It only cost 15 cents to mail him, and they insured him for 50 cents. Baby James’ adventure made the papers and other parents followed suit. It wasn’t ever technically legal, but postal workers in rural areas often let it slide so that children could visit family members.
A service called Ship Your Enemies Trypophobia will ship five trypophobic photos to the enemy of your choice for the low, low price of $9.90. What is trypophobia, you ask? According to an article published by Popular Science, it’s the fear of clustered holes. What’s the big deal, you ask? According to the author of the article, the reaction to clusters of holes can cause nausea, the itches, and panic.
Granted, it’s probably a sickness invented by the internet, since the psychologists consulted for the Popular Science article had never heard of it, but since so many people get the legit willies from pictures of small holes, it must be a semi-real thing. (Admit it, the photo above makes you feel a little uncomfortable.) And, because there are creative people with mean streaks, you can send photos of black drum fish mouths, bloomed lotus pods and more to unsuspecting enemies. Good times.
If gross, holey pictures weren’t enough, a service called PoopSenders will ship gorilla poop, elephant poop or cow poop (or a combo pack) to a recipient anonymously (in that your identity can be protected) for as low as $16. Is it real poop, though? They don’t really tell you. On their FAQ page, they say that there is a “mad scientist’ that mixes the smelly stuff, and that the packages “get the point across to your intended victim.”
They’ve been shipping smelly poop-like substances since 2007. That’s a decade of poop mailing that we didn’t even know about. But is it legal? Apparently, if it’s all in good fun, you can mail poop. It’s when it can be considered harassment that you get in trouble. For example, PoopSenders says their packages are “for entertainment only.” So you can mail poop, just not maliciously.
So, now you know. And just in time for Christmas!