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In wake of beheadings, Busch Gardens removes props


TAMPA, Fla. >> Busch Gardens removed some props from their Halloween attractions after people in Virginia complained about decapitated heads, the theme park said Thursday.

The change came in the wake of the beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker.

Spokesmen for parks in Virginia and Tampa said that in light of recent events, some props may have had the unintended consequence of appearing insensitive and won’t be part of this year’s Howl-O-Scream attraction. They wouldn’t say exactly which props were removed.

“Many of the scenes depicted at Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream are graphic in nature, but they are fictional and are not intended to provide commentary on current world events,” wrote Busch Gardens Tampa spokesman Travis Claytor. “The props in this year’s event were designed and purchased several months ago.”

Complaints cropped up recently in Williamsburg when the Virginia Gazette newspaper ran a photo of five severed head props that were part of the attraction.

The props were part of the Cut Throat Cove attraction, the paper said. A video of Cut Throat Cove on the Virginia’ park’s website showed a pirate-themed haunted house with body parts and heads.

“Within this macabre market, the pirates have been slaughtered and mutiny is afoot,” the description on the website reads. “The way out lies with the buried treasure and the blood-curdling screams you hear just might be your own.”

The Virginia Gazette reported that it ran a front page photo of the severed head props Saturday, three hours after media outlets began reporting that the terrorist group Islamic State had posted a new video claiming to have beheaded British aid worker David Haines.

Gazette Editor Rusty Carter defended running the photos, according to a story on the paper’s website.

“The photo was taken last week as part of an assignment to preview a current exhibit,” he said. “The figures are cartoonish in design, and do not look realistic. It is the job of our reporters and photographers to report and photograph the news, not censor it.”

Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Halloween-themed attraction opened in mid-September. The Tampa park’s attraction opens Sept. 26.

Islamic state militants recently released three videos showing the beheading of two American journalists and Haines, the British aid worker.

–Tamara Lush / Associated Press

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