An actor dressed as Jack the Ripper sneaks up behind a visitor at the Busch Gardens attraction Howl-O-Scream on Sept. 12. (Hyunsoo Leo Kim/The Virginian-Pilot via Associated Press)

Theme parks in Florida and Virginia are removing bloody severed-head props from Halloween attractions following the videotaped executions of American and British hostages by the Islamic State militant group.

Busch Gardens — which operates parks in Williamsburg, Va., and Tampa, Fla. — said in a statement that it has stopped using the props during Howl-O-Scream, an event that is already underway at the Virginia park.

“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,” Busch Gardens Williamsburg communications manager Kevin Crossett said in a statement. “The props in this year’s event were designed and purchased several months ago.

“In light of recent events, some of these props have the unintended consequence of appearing insensitive and are being removed. Busch Gardens apologizes for any offense they may have caused.”

Howl-O-Scream is scheduled to open in Florida later this month, according to the park’s Web site.

The decision came after the Virginia Gazette published a front-page photo on Saturday of five severed heads from the Howl-O-Scream attraction and soon began receiving negative reader feedback. In a follow-up story, the Williamsburg newspaper reported that “the first of a handful of complaints was sent to the paper late Saturday night, about 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. Another four or five were sent Sunday, all to an email account for anonymous Last Word comment section.”

The front-page photo “showed a group of five severed heads that was part of the Cut Throat Cove attraction in the park’s fall makeover for Halloween,” the Gazette reported, adding that “the display was not made to look realistic.”

Gazette editor Rusty Carter defended the use of the photo, saying in the newspaper’s own story about the controversy: “It is the job of our reporters and photographers to report and photograph the news, not censor it.”

A Six Flags spokesman said in an e-mail that the parks had no plans to use any severed-head props during its annual Fright Fest, but that “with every event, show or attraction, we always take care to be cognizant of sensitivities.”

Representatives from Knott’s Berry Farm, which also operates a Halloween event, and Universal Studios did not immediately return requests for comment.

The videotape of Haines’s death was the third such recording released by the group, which has also filmed the executions of two American journalists. A video showing the execution of James Foley was posted in August, and was followed by footage showing the death of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff.