When I was about 7 years old, I was shivering inside of a tiny nylon tent with my 12-year-old brother on a real adventure. When you have a lot of property, you could camp anywhere, in the arbor, the thicket, the orchard, the boxwood mazes. My brother and I were only daring enough to park the tent directly behind one of the carriage houses. The carriages houses were rented out by students at George Mason University, and at this time a nice guy named Pat Danaher was living there.
Pat decided to check on us campers and was kind enough to squat down in the opening of the tent and tell us a story. He assured us that campers always tell scary stories before bedtime.
This story involved someone called the Bunnyman. My first impression upon hearing the name was, “Wow! There’s an Easter Bunny running around here in the summertime?”
Pat informed us that the Bunnyman was a killer who had terrorized Clifton, the nearby town. He was 6’ tall, wore a bunny suit, and carried an ax, killing anyone who wandered near his bridge in the woods. Of course, later upon learning more of the legend, the man in a bunny suit was not accurate, but it sure made for horrifying images.
All intentions aside, Pat managed to give me my first camping terrors, which continued long after that night. Every time I ever camped, I stayed up all night studying the nylon walls of the tent for dancing shadows in the moonlight and planning my escape route.
The tale was built on an actual local legend in those parts. The town of Clifton, Virginia had an asylum down the roadway and the citizens of the tiny town along the railroad tracks were not pleased by it. They signed a petition to get rid of it. A new prison was built in Lorton and in 1904 prisoners were placed on a bus to take them there for relocation. The bus, unfortunately crashed into some trees and the prisoners escaped into the woods. All of them were rounded up, except for two prisoners; Marcus Wallster and Douglas Grifon. During the search, the police kept finding half eaten and massacred rabbits. They eventually found Marcus Wallster dead near the Fairfax Station Bridge (which later becomes known as the Bunnyman Bridge). Dead rabbits continued to be found and apparently on Halloween of 1905, three teens were found killed with their throats slit and hanging by ropes to dangle before cars on the roadway. Many legends of his appearance since then have continued.
For a really great and creepy accounting of this, check out http://historicclifton.org/BunnyMan.htm
The details offered there are very hair-raising.
I readily admit that I never looked at Easter the same way again. The Easter Bunny became a man in a suit. No, a stranger in a suit. No, a stranger in a suit capable of murder.
I don’t fear the Bunnyman when I camp anymore. Probably because I don’t camp anymore.