The Weirdest Things Ever Found in the Sewers – The Ultimate List
What would you expect to find in a sewer?
It’s a question that most people won’t often think about too closely, but for companies like Lanes for Drains, it’s a day-to-day reality.
Our job is to keep the UK’s drains and sewers clear, flowing and in good working order – and that means making sure that nothing is going down the pipes that just shouldn’t be there.
As you might expect, this is often easier said than done, as a combination of bad habits and random chance means that sewer workers often discover some truly bizarre and inexplicable items down in the drains, ranging from the dangerous and disgusting to the flat-out bizarre.
To open your eyes to some of the strangest (and most unwelcome) inhabitants of the world underneath your feet, Lanes has put together the ultimate list of the weirdest things ever found in sewers around the world.
Take a look below – and then make sure you think twice before tipping anything similar down your own drains!
Don’t worry, nobody is accusing any homeowners of deliberately flushing animals down their toilets – although given the sheer quantity and variety of critters that have been found in sewer systems all over the world, it might be an explanation that makes sense!
It seems there is no end to the constant stream of news of animals of all shapes and sizes being found lurking in sewers or stuck in pipes, from relatively obvious candidates like rats and foxes through to ducks, dogs, cats, lizards, sheep and even entire cows!
In the US, there have even been urban legends of alligators prowling the sewers, though this is generally seen as a myth… well, at least in most cases.
Our sister company UKDN has an entire compendium of wild and wacky cases of animals being found in drains and sewers worldwide, so if you’d like to see more, go and check it out!
Although the sewers are designed as a place for waste, not everything that ends up going down there is without value.
In fact, one famously unusual incident in Japan in 2009 saw workers at the appropriately-named Suwa treatment facility in Nagano retrieve 5 million yen in gold from the sludge they were processing, due to the large number of precision equipment manufacturers in the vicinity that were making use of the metal.
By current exchange rates, this equates to almost £35,000, with 1,890 grammes of gold retrieved per tonne of ash from incinerated sludge. That’s a better yield than most of the world’s most lucrative mines!
There’s more than one way to strike gold in the sewers, as drain technician Arron Large discovered in 2012 after finding four luxury watches in the drains near Chalkwell railway station in Essex.
The collection included an 18-carat gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph worth £21,000, with another Rolex and two more unbranded timepieces found by the same sewer worker only a few days later.
At one point, it looked as though Mr Large might have been in line to keep them all for himself if they had remained unclaimed, but eventually it transpired that one Rolex had been stolen in a burglary, while the others were fakes.
The real Rolex was ultimately returned to its rightful owner, but Mr Large was not left empty-handed, receiving a reward from his employer for his “integrity and honesty”.
Proof, as though any were needed, that you can always trust a sewer worker!
Another more serious example of a sewer find making headlines came from China in 2013, when cries were heard from inside the plumbing system of an apartment building in Zhejiang province, with the pipes subsequently cut open to reveal a newborn baby inside.
The 22-year-old mother of the child was traced and claimed that she had given birth in the bathroom, with the child slipping into the sewer pipe by accident.
The truth behind these circumstances may never be known for certain, but the baby miraculously survived the incident and was eventually released into the custody of their grandparents.
A truly rare case – and thankfully so.
False teeth are a relatively common discovery in pipes and sewers, and it’s easy enough to see why.
They’re small and easy to drop, but once they’re in the drains, they can cause a lot of damage, including by contributing to the formation of monster fatbergs that clog up the entire sewer system.
Such is the scale of the problem that Severn Trent Water launched a Christmas campaign in 2011 to try and reunite false teeth recovered from the sewers with their rightful owners, posting pictures of the dentures online to see who would come and claim them.
It’s unknown how many of the sets of teeth were ultimately reclaimed – given the circumstances, you can rather understand why!
Half a car
When you venture down into the drains, you’ll quickly find that some blockages are bigger than others.
One of the largest individual items was discovered by Thames Water when they came across half of a Mini car discarded in a London sewer back in 2014.
The fact that half a Mini was able to fit into the sewer might be taken by manufacturer BMW as a partial validation of their commitment to compact car design with the Mini range, but this still represents a very significant blockage – and contributed to ensuring that a total of £70 million was spent unblocking the capital’s sewers that year alone.
Unidentified jaw bones
Some things found in the sewer just can’t be identified, no matter how much time you spend examining them.
Such was the case with this mysterious jaw bone retrieved from a sewer in Edmonton, Canada back in 2009, which could have belonged to any one of a number of herbivorous animals.
Bone discoveries are not a big shock in Edmonton, of course, as the region is known for its higher-than-average distribution of dinosaur remains – with prehistoric finds often made when creating new sewer tunnels.
However, finding bones within a completed tunnel is more unusual, especially when their origins remain so vague! At least the finder could rest assured that the remains were certainly not human…
In what might be described as a real-life Toy Story, Scottish Water workers were able to retrieve an entire platoon of toy soldiers from the sewage being processed at Troqueer water works in Dumfries back in 2010, apparently completely intact – besides a coating of grime, of course.
The toy platoon was subsequently cleaned off and mounted on a plaque, where they ended up displayed on the office wall for a number of years after. The soldiers’ mission may not have ended in success, but once again, this incident goes to show that you’ve always got a friend in sewer workers!
On a similar toy-related theme, here’s a discovery made by Lanes engineers that should inspire nostalgia and bewilderment in equal measure.
After all, we all know that Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po do prefer to live in an underground house – but this stretch of sewer pipe where we found this solitary doll of red Teletubby Po is a far cry from their traditional Tubbytronic Superdome home!
As with the toy soldiers found in Dumfries, it’s unknown whether these plastic playthings were flushed down the pipes by accident or for some other mysterious reason – but one way or another, it’s always interesting to meet celebrities like these when you’re deep in the drains!
For a more “exotic” sewer-based find, look no further than Palermo, Italy, where police officers discovered an entire underground cannabis farm in the sewer system back in 2015.
A total of 77 cannabis plants were found growing in the tunnels beneath the Sicilian capital, cultivated by a heating system, lights and an air conditioner to provide the plants with an ideal microclimate.
Needless to say, this setup – ingenious as it may be – was highly illegal, and the couple responsible were arrested. Even more so than many of the other examples on this list, please do not try this at home!
Here’s a particularly stomach-churning example – back in 2009, authorities in Illinois had to issue a warning to the public after a number of human placentas were found in the city’s sewage system.
The organs kept being discovered in a filter that keeps large objects out of the sewage treatment plant, and all appeared to have been removed cleanly and surgically as part of the birthing process, leading officials to wonder whether they were being flushed as an alternative to proper medical disposal.
This prompted state Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Maggie Carson to put out a general notice that this practice had to stop, saying: “It is never acceptable to put placentas into the sewer system. Never.”
Hopefully, this is not a lesson most people will need to learn once, let alone twice!
It’s perfectly natural that a bit of blood may get washed down the sink or toilet from time to time, whether from a cut finger or some other household injury. But when Lanes staff encountered a full-on blood river down in the sewer, it certainly proved to be a hair-raising discovery.
We can’t begin to imagine why blood would be sloshing around a British sewer in this kind of quantity – certainly, we’d hope that this was the result of a medical supply being improperly disposed of, rather than anything more sinister or vampiric.
Nevertheless, it should really go without saying – please don’t tip litres of blood down your sink, unless you want to give your friendly local Lanes worker some horrible nightmares.
One can only imagine just how many items of jewellery must end up languishing in the sewer pipes as a result of slippery fingers, poor coordination or carelessness every single year.
It’s a thought to chill the bones of any jewellery-lover – which is why the occasional story of a successful retrieval feels so heartwarming.
Take, for example, the time when an Idaho woman’s $6,000 custom-made diamond wedding ring was accidentally flushed down a toilet in 2010, proving impossible to retrieve even when her husband dismantled the entire latrine and inspected the plumbing himself – only to be successfully found by utilities workers during routine maintenance 18 months later.
The ring was found just in time for the couple to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary – a truly happy ending!
In another incident from the US, a commemorative university class ring was found by a sewer worker in 2018, with the item bearing the name of the owner and a volleyball emblem.
Thanks to a social media outreach effort, it was subsequently reunited with its owner, who had originally dropped it in the shower 27 years earlier.
Sewer workers – or miracle workers? You decide!
An American Civil War cannonball
This isn’t an item we come across often when cleaning Britain’s sewers here at Lanes, but for the US history buff who discovered a Civil War cannonball in an underground sewer in Cannelton, Indiana, this must have been quite a treat.
Found when cleaning out a pipe, the cannonball is theorised to have been fired by a Union gunboat in a conflict with Confederates over a cotton mill, and has since been put on display in the local Perry County Museum.
Proof that sewer work can truly be enriching to the whole community in more ways than you might imagine!
A mysterious “sewer monster”
Another discovery to test your gag reflex, this incident from North Carolina saw local residents – and the internet at large – whipped into a disgusted frenzy by a seemingly alien growth in the sewers of the state capital, Raleigh.
Footage captured by a snake camera during an inspection of the sewer piping below the Cameron Village shopping centre revealed a writhing, pulsating fleshy mass growing inside the piping.
This gave rise to suspicions of an “unknown lifeform” having been discovered, perhaps imagining that the mass was the larval form of some kind of sinister sewer monster.
In truth, the growth was nothing more than a colony of tubifex worms, simple organisms that are often found in sewage and pond sediment, and pose no threat to the sewage system beyond a potential blockage risk.
Their slithering appearance, meanwhile, was explained by the worms’ aversion to the light and heat given off by the camera used to film them.
A more mundane explanation than the initial suspicion of an alien invasion – but probably a preferable one!
Some things belong in the sewers, others don’t!
So, what’s the lesson to take from all these examples of strange sewer and drain denizens? Hopefully, you’ll have learned that some things belong in the sewers more than others!
Always remember the golden rule: when flushing or washing items down the drain, you should stick solely to water and the so-called three Ps – pee, poo and (toilet) paper.
If anything else goes down there, whether this be wet wipes, food scraps, kitchen fat or oil, it risks creating serious blockages in the drain – including enormous, concrete-like fatbergs that are just as monstrous and distasteful as anything on this list!
By looking after your drains, you can help keep the sewers clear and in perfect working order.
But if you are in doubt – or you have a reasonable suspicion that your pipes might contain a cow, a car or an alien – then you can always give Lanes for Drains a call!