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Beheadings prompt Busch Gardens to tone down 'Howl-O-Scream'

As Tampa's Busch Gardens prepares to open this year's Howl-O-Scream with a preview scheduled for next weekend, some of the more gruesome special effects, including any depictions of decapitations, are being taken down.

The decision came after the Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia, fielded complaints this week about a scene in one of its haunted houses that displayed severed heads.

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The scene hit too close to home for some in light of the recent beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker by the terrorist Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Busch Gardens parks in Virginia and Florida will morph into “Terror-tories” with six haunted houses for Halloween.
Courtesy Busch Gardens
Busch Gardens parks in Virginia and Florida will morph into “Terror-tories” with six haunted houses for Halloween.

While both Busch Gardens parks put on a Howl-O-Scream every year, they are not the same and the depiction of severed heads in Williamsburg was not among displays at Busch Gardens in Tampa.

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Still, some of the local displays were toned down a bit, Busch Gardens officials said.

"There were a couple of minor elements that were revised," said spokesman Travis Claytor.

The theme parks in both locations released the same statement this week:

"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. 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."

This year's version of Howl-O-Scream in Tampa is titled "Cursed" and will play over 18 selected nights in October.

It consists of eight haunted houses with different themes and names such as "The Basement," "Blood Asylum" and "Zombie Mortuary."

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Besides the haunted houses, costumed fiends, monsters and murderers roam the walkways of the park, leaping out at visitors.

According to the Tampa Howl-O-Scream website, the event contains "intense adult content such as violence, gore and blood and is not intended for children."

By The Associated Press