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Dark Destinations > Locations by Paranormal Hot Spots > Bunny Man Bridge

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Filed Under: Mysterious Events > The Bunny Man
Mythology/Folklore > Urban Legends
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Added By: Tom G
Added On: April 23, 2009 - 04:37 AM UTC
Last Modified: April 24, 2009 - 03:09 AM UTC
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Fairfax, Virginia, United States
 
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Bunny Man Bridge
The place known as Bunny Man Bridge is actually a railroad overpass tunnel along Colchester Road between the Virginia towns of Clifton and Fairfax Station. The overpass, which was built in either 1910 or 1911, was once a culvert for a stream, but the stream now travels in a pipe below the surface of the road that passes underneath the structure. Due to it not originally being intended for vehicles, the sixty-foot tunnel limits traffic to a single lane. The overpass gets its nickname from a local legend that has spread widely over time. It is said to be the primary spot haunted by a creature known as the Bunny Man. The tales of the Bunny Man vary greatly in detail and while some stories place the Bunny Man in places as far away as Maryland, Washington D.C. and Culpepper, Virginia, most stories place the horrors perpetrated by the Bunny Man at this specific location.

The Legend of the Bunny Man
In some accounts the Bunny Man (the name appears as "Bunnyman" in some written stories) is a lunatic wearing a rabbit costume that commits acts of vandalism and murder. The stories in which the Bunny Man is a living person vary from him being a local citizen who went mad to him being an escapee from a mental institution. The Bunny Man in these stories attacks motorists and others traveling at night with weapons ranging from hatchets to chainsaws. In some tales the Bunny Man seeks out naughty children to fatally punish for their juvenile misdeeds.

In another version of the tale, the Bunny Man is the murderous ghost of a dead maniac who continues to prey on the living. This version of the Bunny Man Story is largely credited to an article on Castle of Spirits.com that was written by a man named Timothy C. Forbes at some point in the late 1990s (see Related Sites below). Forbes' story includes many specific details, including specific dates. This popular version has a local mental asylum being shut down near Clifton in Fall of 1904 (other versions state it was 1903). A number of inmates are said to have escaped during transport to another facility. While most of them were found, two lunatics, named Douglas J. Grifon (alternately spelled Griffin or Griffen in some versions) and Marcus A. Wallster (in some versions his last name is Walster or Lawster) manage to allude the authorities and begin living in the woods near Clifton. The only sign that can be found of the missing men is the half-eaten carcasses of rabbits they have caught and killed. In some tales, Grifon fashions clothing for himself from the rabbit skins.

Months later, in January of 1905, the corpse of Marcus is found hanging next to the railroad bridge (in other versions the body is found only days after the escape). Marcus is discovered with a handmade weapon fashioned from a branch and a sharpened rock clutched in his cold dead hand (In other versions he is found with a note attached to his swinging corpse that reads, "You'll never find me no matter how hard you try! Signed, The Bunny Man"). Finally, the authorities give up their search on April 7, 1905 (in other versions, a feral blood-covered Douglas is discovered near the bridge. Rather than be taken in by authorities, he commits suicide by jumping in front of an oncoming locomotive). On Halloween night of that year, two teenage boys and teenage girl are murdered. Their throats are cut and their bodies gutted and hung. The boys' bodies swing in the wind from one side of the bridge while the dead girl dangles from the other side.

Not learning from what had happened the previous Halloween, another group of seven teenagers gathers at the bridge on October 31, 1906. Only one, a girl named Adrian Hatala, survives the night. Standing at a distance from where the others party under the bridge, she sees strange lights around the bridge at midnight, followed by horrific screams piercing the chilly night air. Within mere seconds, she witnesses the dead bodies of her six friends appear, hanging from the bridge. Adrian is charged with the murder and locked away in an asylum in the nearby town of Lorton, Virginia.

According to the story, Adrian's innocence is discovered when nine more kids are slain on Halloween night of 1913. By that time, it is too late, the incarceration has driven Adrian Hatala insane and she has to remain institutionalized until her death decades later. In this version of the Bunny Man tale, six more teenagers are killed at the bridge on Halloween of 1943 and another three are murdered by the entity haunting the bridge on October 31, 1976.

The ghostly Bunny Man story has one more survivor of a Bunny Man attack, another teenage girl named Janet Charletier. Janet and her four friends linger at the bridge until midnight on Halloween night of 1987. At the last moment, Janet chickens out and leaves the shelter of the bridge. She doesn't leave quite soon enough, and she sees her flesh begin to tear as she reaches the edge of the tunnel. She runs smack dab into the dangling legs of one of her friends who is now hanging from a noose. The impact knocks her unconscious. Upon awaking, Janet discovers that her hair has gone completely white from the experience. The story then goes on to say that Ms. Charletier spends every morning on her balcony staring in the direction of that place where she nearly died along with her friends. At the end of the tale, it is stated that kids will hang out in the tunnel on Halloween, but always leave before midnight. It also goes on to say that anyone visiting the bridge will be able to see where the bridge has signs of wear from hanging bodies rubbing against it and that the stories can be confirmed by looking through microfiche at the Old Clifton Library.

Some variations of the ghost version of the Bunny Man story borrow from the legend of Bloody Mary. According to these tales, the Bunny Man will show up and kill you, if you dare to say his name three times while under the bridge. Another variation on the ghost story has a mentally ill teenager hacking his family up on Easter Morning. While committing this heinous act, he wears an Easter Bunny costume. Still wearing the gore-soaked bunny outfit, the disturbed young man wanders down to the railroad overpass and hangs himself from it. The spirit of the deranged lad then continues to linger about the area, still dressed in the bloody bunny suit.

The Possible Origins of the Bunny Man
Brian A. Conley, a historian-archivist with the Fairfax County Public Library collected stories and put a good deal of research into a paper he wrote on the subject of the Bunny Man legend. The article, titled The Bunny Man Unmasked: The Real Life Origins of an Urban Legend (see Related Sites below), primarily presents and refutes aspects of the Bunny Man legend as presented in the story presented at Castle of Spirits.com. Conley's article makes the point that there were no institutions for the insane in Fairfax County as mentioned in the tale. The Lorton Correctional Complex also did not exist until 1910 (it should also be noted that Lorton didn't house female prisoners until the 1970s and therefore Adrian Hatala would not have been sent there following the murders of her friends). Conley states in his article that his research did not turn up records of a Douglas Grifon or Marcus Wallster or any of the murders mentioned in the tale. The library mentioned as having microfiche articles by Timothy Forbes in the Castle of Spirits story apparently has never existed as well.

Interestingly, Brian Conley presents the articles and papers that he did uncover on the subject of the Bunny Man, possibly narrowing it all down to the specific incidents that actually gave birth to the legend. Conley's article presents three murder cases ranging from 1918 through 1949 that may have had slight influence on the Bunny Man legend, but seem to have little connection. The items that seem to be the most revealing are a paper titled The Bunny Man written by University of Maryland student Patricia Johnson in 1973 and a series of Washington Post articles from 1970.

The author of the 1973 student paper had conducted multiple interviews with others who were familiar with the legend of the Bunny Man. Her paper contained a total of 54 variations on the tale. Fourteen different locations (not just the Colchester overpass) were featured among the stories. It was also notable that of the 54 stories, only three of them had the Bunny Man as a murderer; he was primarily just a guy in a bunny suit who committed acts of vandalism and scared people by brandishing weapons and/or attacking their vehicles. The paper also helped point the way toward the Washington Post as a source for Conley's research into the legend.

An article titled Man in Bunny Suit Sought in Fairfax was printed in the Washington Post on October 22, 1970. The story states that an Air Force Academy cadet by the name of Robert Bennett had filed a report with the Fairfax County police over an incident occurring the night of October 18. Bennett and his fiancée apparently were parked in his car on the 5400 block of Guinea Road (see Bunny Man: First Encounter at Guinea Road) in Fairfax, Virginia (a nearly eight mile drive from the bridge now commonly associated with the legend) after an Air Force-Navy football game. Shortly after midnight a man "dressed in a white suit with long bunny ears" suddenly ran out from bushes near the car. The man is said to have shouted, "You're on private property and I have your tag number", and then thrown a hatchet at the car in which the couple was sitting. The hatchet crashed through a front window of the vehicle and the assailant is then said to have "skipped off into the night."

Another Washington Post article, titled The "Rabbit" Reappears was printed on October 31. In this follow-up article, it is said that a second Bunny Man sighting was reported to police on the evening of October 29. A security guard witnessed the incident at 5307 Guinea Road (see Bunny Man: Second Encounter at Guinea Road). The guard was employed to watch over a housing development that was undergoing construction. The guard spotted the Bunny Man on the porch of a newly constructed home. The guard's description of the Bunny Man varied from the description given by Bennett nearly two weeks earlier. The man the guard described wore a " gray, black and white" suit rather than a plain white one. The guard also described the Bunny Man as "5-feet-8, 160 pounds" and stated that he "appeared to be in his early 20s." After the guard called out to him, the Bunny Man began chopping at a post on the porch with a long-handled ax. The Bunny Man is then alleged to have said "All you people trespass around here. If you don't get out of here, I'm going to bust you on the head." By the time the guard had fetched his gun from his car and returned, the Bunny Man had fled, leaving behind eight chop marks in the porch column.

The events described in these newspaper accounts match up significantly with a number of the story variations described by Patricia Johnson in her student paper written within three years of the articles appearing in the newspaper. Further research by Conley with the assistance of the Fairfax County Police Office revealed a closed case file dealing with the incident from the night of October 29, 1970. The report stated that six officers responded to the call initially, with Investigator William L. Johnson of the Criminal Investigation Bureau conducting a follow-up investigation. After visiting the housing development (known as Kings Park West) during the day, the investigator was called by a person who worked at the development. The employee stated that he'd received a strange phone call from someone claiming he was the "Axe Man." The caller identified the employee by name and stated, "you have been messing up my property, by dumping tree stumps, limbs and brush, and other things on the property." The caller, who sounded like a white male in his twenties, told the employee that he wished to meet with him that night. The police set up a stake out in the area designated for the meeting but the caller never made an appearance. On March 14, 1971, the Investigator Johnson marked the case as being inactive.

On October 25, 2005, The Mason Gazette published an article about Brian Conley and the Bunny Man legend. In the article, it is stated that Conley was contacted by a woman claiming to have been the one in the car during the October 18, 1970 Bunny Man attack. She and Robert Bennett had apparently gotten married in the time since their fateful encounter with the Bunny Man. She sent Conley photos of mementos of their encounter, including the hatchet itself, which the police apparently returned to them.

The Fall 2006 Braddock Byline states that there were two more Washington Post articles on the Bunny Man were run in the 1970s; one titled Bunny Man Seen and another titled Bunny Reports are Multiplying. The articles in question are also mentioned on Wikipedia along with print dates of November 4 and 6 of 1970 respectively, though it is unclear what the content of these articles was. Braddock Heritage.org (see Related Sites below) has oral histories provided by longtime residents of Fairfax County. Among the oral histories are mentions of the Bunny Man legend, including an account by former Fairfax County police officer, Lee Hubbard. When asked about the bridge's connection with the legend of the Bunny Man, Hubbard stated, "...Some kids from around Clifton, I understand, had put a bunch of erroneous information on a web site and made that stuff up about rabbits being hung up and people being killed at an insane asylum..." Hubbard then went on to say, "...I retired from the police department in '79 - it happened while I was working. A young couple were parked in the vicinity of the - what we call Harrison's Crossing, where Guinea Road went over the railroad - it's now close to where the present, the New Roberts Road passes. Supposedly, a guy in a rabbit suit hit their windshield with a hammer or a hatchet and broke the windshield and they fled and he fled. I never believed it, but that's where the story started..."

An item titled Bunny Man Bridge: Research and Legend Analysis was posted to Fairfax Underground.com (see Related Sites). The article, which is attributed to a Robert Greyberg, disputes aspects of Conley's paper on the Bunny Man's origins. The major point of the piece is that while there wasn't a mental institution in the vicinity, "...organizations like mental institutes in the county, two of which were located specifically in Clifton and Fairfax Station, in areas of the region that could have connections to the legend..." Greyberg's article then goes on to name the Ivakota Farm as one of these locations. The farm (which is three miles away from overpass known as Bunny Man Bridge) served as a place of refuge for unwed mothers and a reform school for women in trouble. Greyberg's article then states that Ivakota Farm, "...opened around 1904, in the early 1900s, and closed down around the 1960s and 1970s..." Greyberg tries to link the dates of the Ivakota Farm's operation with the years presented in the Bunny Man Legend. However, the historical marker for the site where the Ivakota Farm once stood states that the farm operated from 1915 until 1962.

Greyberg also mentions that a poor house once operated not far from the infamous overpass and that it may have been the source of the legend. The former presence of a poor house is corroborated by the oral history provided by Lee Hubbard. It still doesn't explain how there is no historical evidence that directly ties to the murders mentioned in the Forbes version of the legend. Greyberg proposes the following as a possible explanation: "In the time that legend supposedly takes place, murder cases were not always recorded, authorities weren't always contacted, and investigations weren't always solved like they are now." The times covered in the legend extend to murders in the late 1980s. This would mean that the media would have had to fail to report on a total of 29 murders (if you include the death of Marcus Wallster) that happened from 1904 through 1987, all the while reporting on other unrelated murders that occurred in that time span.

Greyberg also presents in his article a list of other possible bridges in the vicinity that could be the actual Bunny Man Bridge of legend. Perhaps the most compelling point made in Greyberg's article is that the Bunny Man legend only became attached to the overpass in an attempt to explain otherwise unconnected paranormal activity. He also suggests that the cause of this possible paranormal activity may actually be the result of skirmishes along the railway during the American Civil War. The article concludes by suggesting that there is a conspiracy being perpetrated by the local police and historian Brian Conley to cover up what has actually happened there.

Paranormal Encounters
Beyond the events described in the various Bunny Man legends that involve the overpass on Colchester Road, there have been a few who have claimed to witness unexplained phenomena around the tunnel. There are allegedly Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) recordings that have been taken near the overpass that reveal voices answering in response to questions asked by investigators. Some investigators have also reported photographic anomalies. The witness reports vary from the old culvert giving off an unpleasant vibe to the manifestation of apparitions.

On October 31, 2003 the Washington Post ran a story titled Boo! It's the Bunny Man!; 30-Year Legend Still Spooks Visitors to Fairfax County Bridge. The article included an interview with a woman who claimed she had visited the Bunny Man Bridge back in the 1970s without knowing the story of the Bunny Man. The woman went on to say that she'd seen a pair of children wandering near the overpass. The mysterious children then vanished in thin air and suddenly reappeared, looking in at her through the back window of the car in which she sat.

Scariest Places on Earth
The Bunny Man Bridge was featured in an episode of the television series Scariest Places on Earth that aired on May 11, 2001. The episode, titled Curse of the Roman Gladiators, featured interviews with some locals. Interestingly, two of the people interviewed (including one identified as a historian) separately relate the Bunny Man legend almost exactly as it was written by Timothy Forbes. The segment (titled Terror on Bunnyman's Bridge) in general plays heavily off of this variation on the Bunny Man story, with narrator Zelda (Poltergeist) Rubenstein stating, "Since 1905, twenty-eight deaths have occurred at Bunnyman Bridge."

The segment then shows six local teenagers being led around by the historian interviewed earlier in the segment. The kids are taken to a house the guide identifies as once belonging to Janet Charletier, the woman who survived the 1987 Bunny Man attack in the Forbes version. However, in the Scariest Places on Earth segment, Janet is referred to as being the only survivor of the Bunny Man's attacks and it is stated that she was attacked in 1985 instead of 1987. The teens are led through the house, and are seen to be reacting with fear to things that are mainly never shown on camera. There really isn't a reason given why this house would be haunted. Ultimately, the teenagers are led to the Bunny Man Bridge itself, where one of the girls is given a camcorder and sent into the tunnel alone to say "Bunny Man" three times. The segment echoes the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project strongly in a number of ways. It even goes as far having the girl in the tunnel aiming the camcorder up into her own face in a moment that greatly resembles the iconic image of actress Heather Donahue giving her solo speech near the end of that film.

Scariest Places on Earth has been criticized by some who claim the show faked scary encounters and created false items of evidence, such as newspapers bearing fake articles. The Bunny Man segment also features a newspaper headline stating "Local Youth Victim of Bizarre Murder" along with a photo of the overpass. A search for this headline in question does not turn up any results for papers in the vicinity of the Bunny Man Bridge. A disclaimer at the beginning of the show also states that "...some material has been recreated for storytelling purposes."

Real or not, the episode of the show has now become part of the legend. Some accounts of the Bunny Man tale now state that six teens had an encounter at the bridge in 2001 (the year the episode aired), however the fact that the kids were there as part of a television show gets left out.

The Bunny Man in Other Media
At this time, it appears that there are at least three independent movies based on the Bunny Man legend that are either in production or preproduction; Dead Man's Bridge, Bunnyman Bridge and Bunny Man. The legend of the Bunny Man has also been said to have been an influence on the popular cult film Donnie Darko. This is primarily due to the character of Frank wearing a creepy bunny costume through most of the film and because the movie is set in Virginia. The connection appears to be a coincidence. Donnie Darko is set in Middlesex, Virginia, which is roughly 130 miles away from Fairfax. Writer/director Richard Kelly does not appear to have stated that there was any influence from the Bunny Man legend upon the film. The fantasy novel Watership Down, with all of its rabbits, seems to have actually been the influence on Frank's costume. The novel by Richard Adams appears in the movie and is referenced in it at points. It has also been suggested that the urban legend of the Bunny Man was an influence on a character in the violent video game Manhunt. It is unclear whether there is any truth to this.

Visiting Bunny Man Bridge
Anyone planning a visit to the Bunny Man Bridge should be careful. The culvert is sixty feet in length, apparently unlit, and only has a single lane for cars to pass through. Anyone standing around inside the tunnel runs the risk of being struck by a motor vehicle. The overpass has also a known place of vandalism, graffiti and a party spot for local teenagers. Due to this, the police monitor the location and may even have a surveillance camera at the site. The camera has been mentioned in newspaper articles as well as the previously mentioned Scariest Places on Earth episode (it was also vaguely stated that the camera has picked up some strange phenomena). The Boo! It's the Bunny Man! article from the Washington Post interviewed on lady who claimed the police showed up within moments of her arrival at the tunnel. The same article mentioned that local police had shut down that section of road around Halloween that year and were going to encourage any "gawkers" to go elsewhere for their Halloween thrills. Anyone intending to investigate the location at night may want to clear it with the local authorities first.

If you happen to be in the area to visit the maniacal man-rabbit's stomping grounds, a stop by Clifton General Store may be in order. The store has been known to sell Bunny Man merchandise from time to time, including Bunny Man T-shirts. If you are visiting Clifton during the month of October, you may also enjoy a visit to the Clifton Haunted Trail (see Clifton Haunted Trail, Clifton, VA), an annual haunted attraction at nearby Eight-Acre Park. Apparently, the Bunny Man appears sometimes as one of the characters haunting the trail.

If you encounter a large rabbit in Fairfax County outside of the Clifton Haunted Trail, it is probably advisable that you head in another direction. It is probably not the Easter Bunny or the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland... and it may just be hiding an ax behind its back.
 
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Related Sites
The Bunny Man Unmasked
Historian Brian Conley's extensive article on the origins of the Bunny Man urban legend.
Historic Clifton: Bunny Man
Historic Clifton's web page about the legend of the Bunny Man.
Wikipedia: Bunny Man
Wikipedia entry for the Bunny Man urban legend.
Castle of Spirits: Bunny Man
The Timothy Forbes version of the Bunny Man legend at Castle of Spirits.
Urban Legends: Bunny Man
Urban Legends Online's page about the Bunny Man legend.
Braddock Heritage: Bunny Man
Items at Braddock Heritage.org pertaining to the local legend of the Bunny Man.
Fairfax Underground: Bunny Man
Robert Greyberg's article at Fairfax Underground titled "Bunny Man Bridge: Research and Legend Analysis."
Colchester Overpass
Web site warning about the legal dangers of visiting Bunny Man Bridge.
 
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Donnie Darko [Blu-ray]
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Manhunt
 
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