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Headless chicken paralyzes downtown

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Downtown commuters had a brush with the occult Tuesday morning. About 8:30 a.m., police sealed off several blocks of downtown Orlando, including streets surrounding Orlando Weekly headquarters at the corner of Jefferson Street and Garland Avenue, after an anonymous source called in a report of a suspicious device on the train tracks nearby.

The "device" was a sealed, brown-paper bag. These being dangerous times and all, police called in the fire department, which declined to open the bag. Instead they called in the arson and bomb squad to "disrupt" it.

What that means exactly is unclear. Orlando Fire Department assistant chief Kathy Miller said "disrupting" might include shooting a water cannon at the package. Miller wouldn't get anymore specific.

The "disruption" produced a small, almost silent explosion. Then the bag was left undisturbed for about 20 minutes, its contents strewn about the tracks, until firefighters moved in to inspect the package.

A close look revealed that it contained a headless chicken. Contacted for this story, a poultry expert said the chicken could potentially have been delicious, however leaving it unrefrigerated in a closed container raises the possibility that it harbored the salmonella virus.

Miller speculated that voodoo could be involved."We have a lot of people from Haiti in the area practicing Santeria," she said.

Santeria -- which originated in west Africa and spread during the slave trade to Cuba, Haiti, Trinidad, and Puerto Rico -- is a blend of Catholicism and voodoo complete with omens, curses and spells.

"Have you done any stories on Santeria lately?" Miller asked.

A Weekly spokesman declined comment. Sources close to the paper indicate that Santeria has not been a topic for the alternative weekly.

Firefighters placed the chicken in a biohazard bag and removed it from the scene. Police have no reports of a missing chicken.


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