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Originally published on August 15, 2019 7:47 pm

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. And it lies in Henrico County, Va. That's near the state capitol, Richmond.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEANNE BROOKSBANK: We woke up Sunday morning on August 11. I looked outside and saw an old small-styled tube TV sitting on our front doorstep.

KELLY: That is Jeanne Brooksbank, and she was not the only one to open her door and find an ancient television sitting there.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BROOKSBANK: Within 10 minutes, I received a call from a neighbor across the street. And he's like, Jeanne, did you get a TV? And I said, I did. Did you get one? He goes, I did, and the guy next door got one, and his is even bigger than mine.

KELLY: Henrico County Police report 52 vintage TV sets had been left at 52 front doors.

CHANG: As the late Rod Serling, the voice of "The Twilight Zone" might say, it was the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and between totally weird and an elaborate prank.

KELLY: Definitely totally weird. But the question, is who would do such a thing? Well, Brooksbank has no idea.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BROOKSBANK: No notes, no nothing, just these mysterious TVs had appeared in the middle of the night.

KELLY: Here is what we do know - there were two perpetrators dressed in nondescript clothes. Their heads were covered by TVs like the ones they were leaving on doorsteps. One of them was captured on video.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BROOKSBANK: He takes time to walk up, put the TV on the steps, position it in the right position. In one video, there's even a view of him waving at the Nest doorbell, giving a wave like, hey, here I am.

CHANG: So what did these TV Santas, as they came to be known, intend with this elaborate scheme? Was it an effort to terrorize the neighborhood, or were they just hoping for the opposite effect?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BROOKSBANK: You know, it was neat because it brought the community kind of together. And it was kind of mysterious and "Twilight Zone"-ish.

KELLY: It also might be a crime of sorts, according to Henrico County Police Lieutenant Matt Pecka.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MATT PECKA: When looking at the Code of Virginia, we would compare this to illegal dumping.

CHANG: But there is another lingering mystery for Jeanne Brooksbank. Did the TV work? Could she have watched an old episode of "The Twilight Zone"? She doesn't know because she never plugged it in.

(SOUNDBITE OF "THE TWILIGHT ZONE" THEME MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.