TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. — Disturbing discoveries are being made at a popular vacation destination in Georgia.
Someone is leaving what appears to be animal sacrifices on the beach at Tybee Island. Channel 2 Action News has learned that police have found headless birds on the beach five times in 2021.
“I touched one, but it sure looks like blood to me,” said a witness on police body camera video. “Yeah, those would be roosters,” replied the officer.
Police said two headless roosters and six red plastic cups with dried blood were found on the beach in late September.
“Oh, cups of blood! No, I don’t know if they were performing some type of ritual or what, but I don’t like it,” said Stephanie Keeler of O’Fallon, Illinois, who was visiting Tybee Island’s beach.
Channel 2 Action News filed an open records request with the City of Tybee Island and learned that headless birds were found on the beach five times in 2021.
“We don’t know exactly why it keeps happening. The way appears to be ritualistic, but we don’t know whether it’s part of organized religion or what the intent might be,” said Lt. Emory Randolph with the Tybee Island Police Department.
It happened most recently in October. “Was it already wrapped up like that?,” the officer asked about the headless bird. “Yeah, I haven’t touched that one,” answered the witness.
Police told Channel 2 Action News that the public health threat is their biggest concern.
“That would be a concern, especially with COVID going around. People were extra cautious now, so having blood on the beach would be concerning,” said Keeler.
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In 2019, Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston traveled to Miami for a story about people leaving dead chickens and coconuts near railroad tracks in metro Atlanta. It appeared to be part of a Santeria ceremony. The religion is a mix of West African culture and Catholicism.
According to Akinton Shingods Anjoula, a priest of Shango, an African Yoruba faith, the sacrifices are given to spirits, with each animal having specific meaning.
“We use a he-goat as a victory,” he explained. “Then we use she-goat for the baby, also for the blessing. That is the significance of all these animals that we use.”
In August, Channel 2 Action News reported on dozens of headless goats dumped into the Chattahoochee River.
“Lately, it’s become a lot more frequent, and on Friday, we were out here and saw 30 of them floating down the river,” said Jason Ulseth, the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.
Animal sacrifices aren’t illegal. “In the early 1990s, the U.S. Supreme Court actually decided the animal sacrifices were being protected under the Constitution as far as free religion goes,” said Lt. Randolph.
They’re actually common in some cultures. “Back in India, we do sacrifice goats for God in the Hindu religion, so yeah, I heard about sacrificing animals before, but not in the United States,” said Mounika Madai, a SCAD student visiting the beach.
But animal sacrifices are unusual in the United States. “It just seems weird that people can go around killing animals, even for religious reasons,” said Jennifer Hoffman, who lives in Savannah. “Do it on your own church grounds, or maybe they need a beach to do that?”
“I have no idea, certainly don’t want it here,” said her husband, Brooks Hoffman.
Tourists like Stephanie Keeler said animal sacrifices won’t change their plans to visit the beach. “Nope, I’ll just be looking around making sure there are no heads,” said Keeler.
Police said they’ve been finding animal sacrifices on the beach for the past several years. They said if you find any, call them so they can investigate.
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