What's So Scary About Bunny Man Bridge?

Only a hanging, several dozen homicides, and an ax murderer in a bunny suit...

Man in bunny costume
Michael Hipple/Moment/Getty Images

On Colchester Road in Fairfax County, Virginia, just outside the small town of Clifton, stands an unlikely tourist destination known officially as Colchester Overpass, unofficially as Bunny Man Bridge.

To outward appearances there's nothing remarkable about the site, which consists of a one-lane concrete tunnel beneath a railroad track. What draws people to it, despite the fact that tourism is discouraged by local authorities, are the tales of mayhem and murder told about the place.

What draws people to it is the Legend of the Bunny Man.

Who is the Bunny Man?

The details vary in the telling, but there are two basic versions of the story. One begins with the closure of a nearby insane asylum, from which a busload of inmates were being transferred to another institution when two of the most dangerous escaped and hid in the woods. Despite a manhunt they eluded authorities for weeks, leaving the half-eaten carcasses of rabbits in their wake. Eventually one of them was found dead, hanging from the overpass. The other escapee, now dubbed "the bunny man," or simply "Bunnyman," was never found. Some say he was struck and killed by a passing train and his ghost continues to haunt the overpass to this day, killing and mutilating innocent passersby.

The other version begins with a deranged teenager who one day donned a white bunny costume, murdered his entire family, then hung himself from the overpass.

It's his spirit that haunts the bridge, chasing down visitors with his ax and disemboweling them. All told, some 32 people have supposedly died there.

Bunny Man sightings have been reported in other locales as well, not only in Fairfax County but also in rural Maryland and the District of Columbia. When not committing outright murder, he is said to have chased children with his ax, attacked adults in their cars, and vandalized property.

Is the Bunny Man real?

So, is the Bunny Man real? No — not the Bunny Man of legend, at any rate.

No insane asylum has ever existed in or near Clifton, Virginia. That's according to archivist and historian Brian A. Conley, who extensively researched the Bunny Man stories for the Fairfax County Public Library. Nor is there any record of a local teenager murdering his family. No one has ever hung himself on Bunny Man Bridge, nor have any homicides occurred there. Like others who have attempted to verify these tales, Conley concluded they're false. "In short," he wrote, "the Bunny Man did not exist."

However...

Could real-life incidents have inspired the urban legend?

On October 22, 1970, a curious story appeared in the Washington Post under the headline, "Man in Bunny Suit Sought in Fairfax." According to the report, a young man and his fiancee were sitting in his car in the 5400 block of Guinea Road — approximately seven miles due east of the Colchester Overpass — when they were accosted by a man "dressed in a white suit with long bunny ears." After complaining that they were trespassing, he threw a wooden-handled hatchet through the right front car window and "skipped off into the night," the article said.

Just over a week later, the ax-man with bunny ears was spotted again about a block away from where the first sighting had occurred. This time he was standing on the porch of a newly constructed house, hacking away at a roof support.

Here's how it was reported in the Washington Post:

Paul Phillips, a private security guard for a construction company, said he saw the "rabbit" standing on the front porch of a new, but unoccupied house.

"I started talking to him," Phillips said, "and that's when he started chopping."

"All you people trespass around here," Phillips said the 'Rabbit' told him as he whacked eight gashes in the pole. "If you don't get out of here, I'm going to bust you on the head."

Phillips said he walked back to his car to get to get his handgun, but the "Rabbit," carrying the long-handled ax, ran off into the woods.

The mysterious "Rabbit" of Guinea Road was never identified, caught, or questioned, nor was he ever seen again, so far as anyone knows, but there are good reasons to suppose that these sightings formed the genesis of the Bunny Man legend. Not only did the incidents occur in Fairfax County not far from the Colchester Overpass, not only did the perpetrator allegedly threaten people with an ax while dressed in a bunny costume, but these reports were published in 1970, almost exactly the same time the earliest known variants of the story began to appear.

So, yes, the real-life events of some forty-odd years ago served as the basis for this tale, but the rest — not least any supposed connection between the Bunny Man and his namesake bridge — is pure embellishment. That's how a legend is made.

Sources and further reading:

The Clifton Bunny Man
Castle of Spirits

The Bunny Man Unmasked: The Real-Life Origins of an Urban Legend
Fairfax County Public Library

Man in Bunny Suit Sought in Fairfax
Washington Post, 22 October 1970

The "Rabbit" Reappears
Washington Post, 31 October 1970

FAQ: Bunnyman Bridge
ColchesterOverpass.org, 2012

Nightmare at Bunnyman Bridge (2010 Film)
IMDb.com

Last updated 07/05/15