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The Bunny Man is an urban legend that probably originated from two incidents in Fairfax County, Virginia, in 1970, but has been spread throughout the Washington, D.C. area. The legend has many variations; most involve a man wearing a rabbit costume who attacks people with an axe or hatchet.
Many variations occur around Colchester Overpass, a Southern Railway overpass spanning Colchester Road near Clifton. Colchester Overpass is commonly referred to as "Bunny Man Bridge".
Versions of the legend vary the Bunny Man's name, motives, weapons, victims, description of the bunny costume or lack thereof, and possible death. In some accounts, the Bunny Man's ghost or aging spectre is said to come out of his place of death each year on Halloween to commemorate his passing. In some accounts, victims' bodies are mutilated.
Fairfax County Public Library Historian-Archivist Brian A. Conley extensively researched the Bunny Man legend. He has located two incidents of a man in a rabbit costume threatening people with an axe. The vandalism reports occurred a week apart in 1970 in Burke, Virginia.
The first incident was reported the evening of October 19, 1970 by U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Bob Bennett and his fiancée, who were visiting relatives on Guinea Road in Burke. Around midnight, while returning from a football game, they reportedly parked their car in a field on Guinea Road to "talk". As they sat in the front seat with the motor running, they noticed something moving outside the rear window. Moments later the front passenger window was smashed, and there was a white-clad figure standing near the broken window. Bennett turned the car around while the man screamed at them about trespassing, including: "You're on private property and I have your tag number." As they drove down the road, the couple discovered a hatchet on the car floor.
When the police requested a description of the man, Bob insisted he was wearing a white suit with long bunny ears, but his fiancee remembered something white and pointed like a Ku Klux Klan hood. They both remembered seeing his face clearly, but in the darkness they could not determine his race. The police returned the hatchet to Bennett after examination. Bennett was required to report the incident upon his return to the Air Force Academy.
The second reported sighting occurred on the evening of October 29, 1970, when construction security guard Paul Phillips approached a man standing on the porch of an unfinished home, in Kings Park West on Guinea Road. Phillips said the man was wearing a gray, black, and white bunny costume, and was about 20 years old, 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 m) tall, and weighed about 175 pounds (79 kg). The man began chopping at a porch post with a long-handled axe, saying: "All you people trespass around here. If you don't get out of here, I'm going to bust you on the head."
The Fairfax County Police opened investigations into both incidents, but both were eventually closed for lack of evidence. In the weeks following the incidents, more than 50 people contacted the police claiming to have seen the "Bunny Man". Several newspapers reported the incident of the "Bunny Man" eating a man's runaway cat, including the following articles in The Washington Post:
- "Man in Bunny costume Sought in Fairfax" (October 22, 1970)
- "The 'Rabbit' Reappears" (October 31, 1970)
- "Bunny Man Seen" (November 4, 1970)
- "Bunny Reports Are Multiplying" (November 6, 1970)
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The legend has circulated for years in several forms. A version naming a suspect and specific location was posted to a website in the late 1990s by a "Timothy C. Forbes". This version states that in 1904, an asylum prison in Clifton, Virginia was shut down by successful petition of the growing population of residents in Fairfax County. During the transfer of inmates to a new facility, one of the fifteen transports crashed; most, including the driver, were killed, ten escaped. A search party found all but one of them.
During this time, locals allegedly began to find hundreds of cleanly skinned, half-eaten carcasses of rabbits hanging from the trees in the surrounding areas. Another search of the area was ordered, and the police located the remains of Marcus Wallster, left in a similar fashion to the rabbit carcasses hanging in a nearby tree or under a bridge overpass—also known as the "Bunny Man Bridge"—along the railroad tracks at Colchester Road. Officials name the last missing inmate, Douglas J. Grifon, as their suspect and call him "the bunny man".
In this version, officials finally manage to locate Grifon but, during their attempt to apprehend him at the overpass, he nearly escapes before being hit by an oncoming train where the original transport crashed. They say after the train passed, the police heard laughter coming from the site. It is eventually revealed that Grifon was institutionalized for killing his family and children on Easter Sunday.
For years after the "Bunny Man's" death, in the time approaching Halloween, carcasses are said to be found hanging from the overpass and surrounding areas. A figure is reportedly seen by passersby making their way through the one lane bridge tunnel.
Conley says this version is demonstrably false. Among other inconsistencies, Conley notes "there has never been an asylum for the insane in Fairfax County", that "Lorton Prison didn't come into existence until 1910, and even then it was an arm of the District of Columbia Corrections system, not Virginia's." Moreover, court records show neither a Grifon nor a Wallster.
Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, via his blog Cryptomundo and book Weird Virginia, in a section on the Bunny Man, wrote about a direct association between the legend of Bunny Man and that of the Goatman of nearby Maryland.
Pedestrians, trains, and cars at Colchester Overpass
Because of its association with the legend, Colchester Overpass is a popular destination for paranormal enthusiasts (ghost hunters) and curiosity seekers (legend trippers). Colchester Overpass was built in about 1906 near the site of Sangster's Station, a Civil War era railroad station on what was once the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. Interest increases around Halloween, and starting in 2003, local authorities began controlling access to the area during that time. During Halloween 2011 over 200 people, some from as far away as the Pennsylvania/Maryland state line, were turned away during a 14-hour traffic checkpoint into the area. Non-local visitors could be unaware that Colchester Overpass is an active intersection of trains and traffic. The railroad tracks overhead are used by Norfolk Southern Railway, Virginia Railway Express (VRE-Manassas Line), and Amtrak trains. VRE-Manassas Line and Amtrak traffic alone accounts for 90 trains using the overpass each week. In the vicinity of Colchester Overpass, Colchester Road is narrow and windy, with limited visibility. In Fairfax County, Virginia, it is illegal to trespass on posted railroad tracks or to loiter in a public roadway.
In popular culture
- The Bunny Man Unmasked - Page 4 - The Breakthrough
- The Bunny Man Unmasked - Page 3 - Fact vs. Folklore
- Varhola, Michael J. (2008). Ghosthunting Virginia (America's Haunted Road Trip). Chapter 2. Bunny Man Bridge (Fairfax Station): Clerisy Press. pp. 15–22. ISBN 1-57860-327-7.
- Netherton, Nan and Wykoff, Whitney Von Lake (1995). Fairfax Station All Aboard. Fairfax Station, Virginia: Friends of the Fairfax Station. p. 42.
- Netherton, Nan and Wykoff, Whitney Von Lake (1995). Fairfax Station All Aboard. Fairfax Station, Virginia: Friends of the Fairfax Station. p. 41.
- Newspaper, Article (November 4, 2003). "Legend Lives on at Bunnyman Bridge". Connection Newspapers. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
- Stachyra, Mary C. (November 17, 2011). "Neighbors Find 'Bunnyman Bridge' an Unwelcome Attraction". CentrevillePatch. Retrieved May 8, 2010.
- "Virginia Railway Express Manassas Line Schedule". Virginia Railway Express. Retrieved 2012-04-28.
- Code of Ordinances, Fairfax County Virginia. "Chapter 5 - Offenses, Articles 1 and 4". Fairfax County. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
- The Bunny Man Unmasked: The Real Life Origins of an Urban Legend from Fairfax County Public Library
- Bunny Man: Artist's Rendition from Braddock Heritage
- Map: Braddock's Historic Sites from Braddock Heritage showing location of Bunny Man incidents
- Mark Moran and Mark Scuerman (2004). Weird U.S. Barnes and Noble. ISBN 0-7607-5043-2.
- the description of "bunny suit" was removed, because it refers to what people wear to protect from biologic contamination, Cleanroom suit.
- Tales of The Bunnyman of Northern Virginia from WeirdUS.com
- The Clifton Bunny Man from Castle Of Spirits
- The Bunny Man Bridge of Clifton Virginia from historicclifton.org
- Public Safety Information at Bunny Man Bridge from colchesteroverpass.org
- The Legend of the Bunny Man from YouTube.com
- Interview with the Bennetts from YouTube.com