Bunny Man

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Coordinates: 38°47′23″N 77°21′44″W / 38.78985°N 77.36225°W / 38.78985; -77.36225

Actual hatchet used by the "Bunny Man" in 1970.
The "Bunny Man Bridge" in daylight
The "Bunny Man Bridge" at night

The Bunny Man is an urban legend that 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.

Most of the stories occur around Colchester Overpass, a Southern Railway overpass spanning Colchester Road near Clifton, Virginia,[1] sometimes referred to as "Bunny Man Bridge".[2]

Versions of the legend vary in the Bunny Man's name, motives, weapons, victims, description of the bunny costume or lack thereof, and sometimes even his possible death. In some accounts, victims' bodies are mutilated, and in some variations, 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.

Origin[edit]

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 Robert 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 "visit an Uncle who lived across the street from where the car was parked". 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, Bennett insisted he was wearing a white suit with long bunny ears. However, Bennett's fiancée contested their assailant did not have bunny ears on his head, but was wearing a white capirote of some sort. 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.[citation needed]

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: "You are trespassing. If you come any closer, I'll chop off your head." [3]

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, including The Washington Post, reported that the "Bunny Man" had eaten a man's runaway cat. The Post articles that mentioned this incident were:

  • "Man in Bunny costume Sought in Fairfax" (October 22, 1970)[4]
  • "The 'Rabbit' Reappears" (October 31, 1970)[4]
  • "Bunny Man Seen" (November 4, 1970)
  • "Bunny Reports Are Multiplying" (November 6, 1970)

In 1973, Patricia Johnson, a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, submitted a research paper that chronicled precisely 54 variations on the two incidents.[5]

The legend[edit]

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 due to a petition by the growing population of residents of Fairfax County. During the transfer of inmates to a new facility, one of the fifteen transports crashed; most, including the driver, were killed, but ten inmates 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 named the last missing inmate, Douglas J. Grifon, as their suspect, and called him "the bunny man".

In this version, officials finally managed to locate Grifon, but during their attempt to apprehend him at the overpass, he nearly escaped, before being hit by an oncoming train where the original transport crashed. Supposedly, after the train passed, the police heard laughter. It was eventually revealed that Grifon had been institutionalized for killing his family on Easter Sunday.

For years after the "Bunny Man's" death, in the time approaching Halloween, carcasses are said to have been found hanging from the overpass and from trees in the surrounding area. A figure was reportedly seen by pedestrians making their way through the one-lane bridge tunnel.

According to Conley, this version is demonstrably false. Among other inconsistencies, Conley notes "there has never been an asylum for the insane in Fairfax County", and 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, on his blog Cryptomundo and in his book Weird Virginia, in a section on the Bunny Man, wrote about a direct association between the legend and that of the Goatman of nearby Maryland.

Colchester Overpass[edit]

Colchester Overpass was built in about 1906[6] near the site of Sangster's Station, a Civil War era railroad station on what was once the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.[7] Because of its association with the legend, the overpass is a popular destination for paranormal enthusiasts (ghost hunters) and curiosity seekers (legend trippers).[8] Interest increases around Halloween, and starting in 2003, local authorities began controlling access to the area during that time.[9] 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.[10] Visitors from outside the area may be unaware that Colchester Overpass is an active intersection of trains and traffic. The railroad tracks overhead are used by trains of Norfolk Southern Railway, Virginia Railway Express (Manassas Line), and Amtrak. Virginia Railway Express and Amtrak together account for 90 trains using the overpass each week.[11] In the vicinity of Colchester Overpass, Colchester Road is narrow and winding, with limited visibility. In Fairfax County, Virginia, it is illegal to trespass on posted railroad tracks and to loiter in a public roadway.[12]

In popular culture[edit]

"Bunnyman", the final song[13] on Music To Piss You Off, a 2010 compilation album[14] by rhythmic noise/industrial artist[15] C/A/T (Chaos and Terror), centers around the Bunny Man legend.[14]

The 2011 slasher film Bunnyman is an exploitation-style version of the story.

In 2017, Badwolf Brewing Company, of Manassas, Virginia, released their hoppy, red lager known as The Bunny Man in a can that depicted the tunnel, a figure in a bunny suit, and a child holding a red balloon.

The 2017 Amazon original series Lore, based on the podcast of the same name, uses the Bunny Man legend to introduce the second episode of Season 1.

In The Chris Gethard Show episode "Let's Get Scared", host Chris Gethard dresses as the Bunny Man for the full episode.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 38°47′23″N 77°21′44″W / 38.78972°N 77.36222°W / 38.78972; -77.36222
  2. ^ "A tale about a tail: Northern Virginia band explores the bloody Bunny Man myth in a new rock opera". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-01-23. 
  3. ^ "Antics of 'Bunny Man' Start Police Hopping". The Minneapolis Star. October 31, 1970. p. 31. Retrieved 13 August 2018 – via newspapers.com. 
  4. ^ a b "The Bunny Man Unmasked - Page 4 - Fairfax County, Virginia". www.fairfaxcounty.gov. Retrieved 21 June 2017. 
  5. ^ "The Bunny Man Unmasked - Page 3 - Fairfax County, Virginia". www.fairfaxcounty.gov. Retrieved 21 June 2017. 
  6. ^ Netherton, Nan and Wykoff, Whitney Von Lake (1995). Fairfax Station All Aboard. Fairfax Station, Virginia: Friends of the Fairfax Station. p. 42. 
  7. ^ Netherton, Nan and Wykoff, Whitney Von Lake (1995). Fairfax Station All Aboard. Fairfax Station, Virginia: Friends of the Fairfax Station. p. 41. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ "Legend Lives on at Bunnyman Bridge". Connection Newspapers. November 4, 2003. Retrieved May 8, 2012. 
  10. ^ Stachyra, Mary C. (November 17, 2011). "Neighbors Find 'Bunnyman Bridge' an Unwelcome Attraction". CentrevillePatch. Archived from the original on November 22, 2011. Retrieved May 8, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Virginia Railway Express Manassas Line Schedule". Virginia Railway Express. Retrieved 2012-04-28. 
  12. ^ Code of Ordinances, Fairfax County Virginia. "Chapter 5 - Offenses, Articles 1 and 4". Fairfax County. Retrieved May 8, 2012. 
  13. ^ Ben Arp - Topic (26 August 2015). "Bunnyman". Retrieved 21 June 2017 – via YouTube. 
  14. ^ a b "C/A/T - Music To Piss You Off". Discogs. Retrieved 21 June 2017. 
  15. ^ "C/A/T". Discogs. Retrieved 21 June 2017. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]