It was kind of like Christmas — except it was August, the only presents were vintage television sets and Santa had a TV on his head.
Residents of more than 50 households in Henrico County, Va., woke up this past weekend to find old-style TVs outside their doorsteps, said Matt Pecka, a lieutenant with the local police department. Pecka said police began receiving reports about the TVs early Sunday. By the morning, their phones were clogged with calls.
“Everyone started coming out of their houses, walking around the neighborhood looking at the TVs there on the doorstep,” said Jeanne Brooksbank, one of the recipients, who lives in the Hampshire neighborhood. “It was very ‘Twilight Zone.’”
Each home received exactly one TV, carefully placed so it faced inward toward the door, Brooksbank said. Some deliveries were caught on residents’ doorbell cameras — and that’s where things got truly bizarre.
The givers had TVs instead of faces.
The home videos reveal at least one of the deliverymen: a man dressed in a blue jumpsuit, black gloves and what appear to be brown hiking-style boots. He wears a TV set on his shoulders, positioned so it obscures his face.
Pecka said police believe he had a helper: another man in a white jumpsuit who also wore a TV as he made deliveries.
“We determined there was no credible threat to residents and that this was strictly an inconvenience,” Pecka said. “It was” — long pause — “unique.”
After borrowing a truck from the county’s Solid Waste department, a half-dozen police officers collected the television sets in about an hour Sunday, Pecka said. The county will recycle them.
There was no additional cost to residents, and the incident didn’t impair normal police activity, Pecka said. The department doesn’t plan to investigate further, he said, although officials encourage residents to contact police if it happens again.
Even if police do identify “TV Santa Claus,” as Jeanne Brooksbank’s husband nicknamed the giver, authorities probably will not press charges. The “closest offense to this” would be leaving an unwanted item on public or private property, Pecka said.
“But I mean, one TV neatly placed on the front doorstep of each resident . . . it wasn’t done in a malicious manner,” Pecka said.
At least one doorbell camera video shared with The Washington Post appears to back that up.
The video shows a man in a blue jumpsuit — a TV set perched atop his shoulders — carefully ascending the steps of a porch in the predawn darkness. He clutches a TV in his arms and wears black gloves and brown hiking boots.
The man stops at the top of the stairs, turns and squats — Olympic weightlifting-style — and places the TV on the porch, its screen turned toward the door. He pauses for a fraction of a second, as if to admire his handiwork, and starts heading back the way he came.
Halfway down, he swivels and looks directly at the camera. He cocks his head, waves three times and disappears into the night.