At the stroke of midnight on Halloween, a killer in a white rabbit suit awaits. Lore has it, if speak his name three times, he’ll appear. Bunny Man, Bunny Man, Bunny Man. But don’t expect to survive. He’ll slash your throat and leave your body dangling from the bridge.
Another rendition: The spirit of an escape mental patient haunts the railroad bridge. He escaped hell bent on avenging the murders of his wife and child, who were slain nearby. Living in the woods near the bridge, he killed and ate rabbits, wearing their skins and leaving their mutilated bodies hanging in the trees. One Halloween night, taunted by some town children, he killed and mutilated them, too, hanging their corpses from trees around the bridge.
In another spin on the same theme, he’s the ghost of an escapee of a long-closed nearby asylum. Dressed in a rabbit suit, he throws axes (or chainsaws or hatchets) at the cars of young couples who park by the bridge late at night.
There are plenty of versions of the Bunnyman Bridge legend, all equally eerie, making the one-lane tunnel such a popular spot that police stake it out each Halloween night, chasing off trespassers searching for a scare.
The Bunnyman Bridge was featured in the Fox documentary “Scariest Places on Earth” and is mentioned innumerable times across the Internet.
The tale arguably brings commerce to the town of Clifton, tucked away in the woods between Manassas and Fairfax Station. Thousands come to thrill at the Clifton Haunted Trail, which on its website features a creepy illustration of a man in a bunny suit holding an ax beside the silhouette of the Colchester Road bridge.
But what’s the truth behind the lore? Brian Conley, a historian-archivist for Fairfax Public Library, heard about the Bunny Man all his life. When he returned from college to work in the library system, the haunting tale seemed to follow him. After several patrons asked him about the truth of the stories, he set out to find out.
First he delved into Fairfax County police records, searching for reports of old and sensational murders, he wrote in his December 2008 paper, “The Bunny Man Unmasked: The Real Life Origins of an Urban Legend.”
He found one that might help account for some of the Bunny Man’s background. It happened in February 1949 and made headlines for months -- the gruesome slayings of a mother and her 8-month-old baby girl.
The two were found in a shallow grave in Fairfax after disappearing during a car ride with the husband.
Police soon found the victims in a shallow grave. The woman had been beaten and shot; the baby girl buried alive. The husband and father was eventually arrested, convicted and sent to a mental institution.
Next, the librarian searched for any evidence of a man dressed in a rabbit costume terrorizing people in the Washington region. According to his paper, he found a gem in the Washington Post, on Oct. 22, 1970. The headline read: “Man in Bunny Suit Sought in Fairfax.”
The story detailed the harrowing experience of an Air Force cadet who went “parking” with a girl on Guinea Road in Fairfax.
The military man told of a man in a white suit “with long bunny ears” throwing a hatchet through the car’s windshield, then “skipping off” into the night, according to Conley’s paper.
The Bunny Man made another appearance, according to the Post, on Oct. 30, 1970.
Neighbors on Guinea Road reported seeing a man in a bunny suit hacking away at a house under construction with a hatchet. Confronted by a security guard, the “bunny” ran off.
Police investigated, but never found any evidence of a Bunny Man in the area. After a few weeks, the case was filed away forever.
“Who the Bunny Man was and what motivated him to act in such a bizarre manner is still a mystery, however, the available evidence points to the October 1970 events as the genesis of the Bunny Man legend. And there you have one interpretation of the story,” Conley’s paper concludes.
The librarian’s research uncovers some truth in a story that has become part of the area’s folklore, and its creepy reputation continues. In April, a man was found dead – the victim of a still unsolved homicide – about 900 feet from the bridge.
It makes you wonder, what other terrifying bits of Bunny Man lore may be true?