Now and then, bits of legend enter the cultural consciousness and get passed off as real history by uninformed or unscrupulous parties. Whether it’s stories of Soviet ape soldiers or ancient super weapons, these stories are more fluff than fact. But now and then the opposite happens and something that is laughed off as nothing more than a silly story turns out to be rooted in fact. Ask anyone under the age of twenty out in Fairfax County, Virginia if something lurks in the night under the Bunnyman Bridge, and they will tell you most assuredly that something does. Be he a flesh and blood maniac or a being of a more ghostly variety, the Bunnyman is said to haunt the Colchester Overpass, now better known as Bunnyman Bridge.
Legend of the Bunnyman
The legend began somewhere around 1970, and the information that I have seen claims that it has spawned upwards of fifty-four variants(!). The most common version of the story goes as follows. Around 1904, the residents of Clifton, Virginia successfully petitioned to have the local asylum/prison shut down. Since you can’t just release a bunch of violent crazy folks out into the countryside, the prisoners were to be transported to another facility. All went well, at least until the transport crashed, killing several of the prisoners and allowing the rest to escape. All but one of the escapees were rounded up. Skinned, half eaten rabbit carcasses left hanging from trees and the Colchester Overpass began to appear soon after. Officials then found the body of Marcus Wallster, left hanging from the Underpass in a similar manner to the rabbits.
Understandably concerned, the police ramped up their efforts to find the madman and soon discovered that the culprit was none other than Douglas A. Grifin, who had been put in the asylum for killing his family on Easter Sunday. When the climactic confrontation came between the authorities and the madman, Grifin was hit by an oncoming train in an attempt to escape. Ever since, around Halloween when the veil between our world and the spirit world is thin, locals claim to see rabbit carcasses hanging from the Colchester Overpass. Some have even claimed to see a figure standing there in the shadows. Nobody ventures beneath the Underpass to see who it is though because the Bunnyman makes no distinction between rabbits and people–many variants of the legend have our costume-clad friend going Jason Vorhees on curious teenagers who come calling on Halloween Night, leaving their mutilated corpses dangling from the Colchester Overpass like Marcus Wallster so many years before.
The strange truth
Of course, this is all sorts of urban legend-y fun but how much of it is true? Is this story, like Cropsey, more of a way to scare teens and preteens away from danger? As you might suspect, the bulk of this story is false. There never was an insane asylum in Clifton, and county records have no men named Marcus Wallster or Douglas A. Grifin on record as ever having lived.
However, there are some elements of the story which are true. Namely, there really was a crazy guy dressed in a bunny suit terrorizing (actually more like confusing the hell out of) people in Fairfax County. Two separate incidents from 1970 report a man dressed in a bunny suit yelling at people he felt were trespassing on his property. In one incident he tossed a hatchet through a car window, and the other he attempted to chop down a porch post with a long handled axe. No suspect was ever detained, but in one related incident a man calling himself the “Axe-Man” accused a representative of the Kings Park West Subdivision of dumping trash on his property. To this day no one knows the mysterious costumed man’s identity.
Not coincidentally, after these events in 1970 the Bunnyman story took wing. It isn’t often in researching folklore and urban legends that you find their origin, but in this case it seems that the truth really was stranger than fiction.