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 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 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 identify “TV Santa Claus,” as 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 some porch steps 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.
“I think it was awesome, lighthearted and so great to have a fun story like this, even though there are so many tragedies occurring,” said Brooksbank, 48, referring to the deadly shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso. “I feel lucky I got a TV.”
Brooksbank said the neighborhood has floated a few theories to explain the TV dump: a college sports team, maybe, or a fraternity prank. Pecka declined to elaborate on any theories police may be considering.
It’s not the first time this has happened. There was a similar TV delivery last year in Glen Allen, in the Grey Oaks neighborhood of Henrico County, which is near Richmond. The TVs appeared around the same time of year — in late August — but there were fewer of them, Pecka said.
CBS 6 News reported that about 20 TVs were left on Glen Allen porches on Aug. 23 last year. Henrico police looked into the unexpected gifts, according to CBS 6, but never identified the giver — and, unlike in the Hampshire neighborhood, there appeared to be no video footage.
In the hours after Brooksbank found a TV on her porch at about 7 a.m. Sunday, her family cycled through surprise, curiosity and momentary fear, she said. Her son, 18-year-old Chase Brooksbank, at one point suggested leaving the house.
“My son was like, ‘Mom, we have got to get out of here, this is crazy, this is strange,’ ” she said.
But he reversed course, eventually piling into a car with a few friends and driving around the neighborhood to film a YouTube video documenting the event.
Chase Brooksbank leaves soon for the University of South Carolina, the family’s first child to depart the nest, and his mother had been feeling a bit down.
“It was a nice distraction,” she said. “It certainly lightened the mood around here.”
As news of the TV-giving spree spread this week, some took to social media to share their confusion. Others loved it. Still others opined this could happen only in Virginia.
A handful of Reddit users proposed designating Aug. 11, the date of the TV drop-off, a holiday dubbed “TV Day.” The United Nations beat them to the punch decades ago, however: In December 1996, the U.N. proclaimed Nov. 21 “World Television Day.”