Rabbit heads, toy trucks, and hockey sticks are not great things to flush down the toilet. But folks still do it.

Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

“Anything you can flush down a toilet, ” said Butch Burnette, manager of Tucson Plumbing, “someone will eventually find it.”

A whole host of plumbing calamities from across the nation are outlined in a new book, “Chilling Tales from the Porcelain Seat,” with commentary by two Roto-Rooter guys, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, who double as stars of Ghost Hunters on the SciFi Channel.

The book makes for great bathroom reading – especially since it was custom-sized to fit atop of the toilet tank – as long as you don’t read about the tree frog that snuck up on a man’s privates while he was sitting on his throne.

False teeth were at the top of Burnette’s list of the weirdest things pulled from Old Pueblo potties.

“It’s actually fairly common, believe it or not,” he said. “People end up getting drunk and they puke then wake up and can’t find their teeth.”

Yes, it’s funny, he said – except, of course, for the people who lost the teeth.

Another body part Burnette has been sent to retrieve is a glass eye, with no explanation as to how or why it got there.

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Some of the stuff found by Roto-Rooter in the book has included a live Civil War cannon shell, hats, toupees, eyeglasses, drug money, cell phones, garden hoses, prisoner pants from an Ohio jail, doorknobs and a hummingbird feeder.

Animals or their parts, like a rabbit head that clogged a toilet after being flushed as the rest of the rabbit was served for dinner, are another strange sewage find.

Burnette once pulled a baby roadrunner from a sewer line, surmising it must have fallen in through a vent or grating.

“I didn’t know what it was,” he said. “I saw a lot of skin at first and then long feathers. It was very strange.”

While Burnette says he never found any dogs, cats or even alligators in the sewers, one of his family members did discover baby coyotes that got in through a drainage canal.

Rattlesnakes and a 4-foot boa constrictor are on the Roto-Rooter guys’ list, as are frogs, pigs, skunks, squirrels, mice, rats and Cornish game hens.

Live kittens have also been rescued from sewer drains, using a fiber optic camera and lots of patience.

Tucson’s eucalyptus trees and oleander may look dandy on the surface, but they, too, are killers when it comes to pipes.

“You can drive anywhere in Tucson and find some really bad root systems,” Burnette said.

“Chilling Tales” explained how pipes, especially old ones, will get miniscule cracks which are quickly filled by roots seeking underground water. More roots will thrive off the tendrils and the next thing you know, you’ve got hundreds of pounds of roots clogging up the waterlines.

The largest root record in “Chilling Tales” is held by a 201-foot, 1,500-pound root that was pulled from a drain in Monterey, Calif., back in 1997.

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

I wanted yet another reason to hate Bermuda grass, but Burnette said the grass roots only reach about 6 inches deep, while pipes are nestled at least 1 foot underground.

As fun as all this sewage pipe stuff may be, one of the most amusing—and disgusting—discoveries was in women’s outhouses near California’s Shasta Lake, “Chilling Tales” reports.

The find was a man who sat at the bottom of the outhouses in a lawn chair with an umbrella.

When police finally confronted the guy, who was donning thigh-high fishing boots and waders, he had a simple explanation for his antics.

He had just been looking for his wife’s wedding ring.


Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster who hates when her pedometer falls in the toilet. Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX 96.1 FM. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. E-mail rynski@tucsoncitizen.com.

logoWhat’s the strangest thing you ever flushed or heard about being flushed down the toilet?

Are any items important enough to you to retrieve from an outhouse?