THE BUNNYMAN! Makes Easter Scary!

I cowered in my tent one summer in 1970 when Pat Danaher, a renter of one of the cottages on our property, told my brother and I the story of the Bunnyman. It was our first campout in a tent that we plunked down between the two slave cottages, so that we wouldn’t be entirely alone on the property. What we didn’t expect was that the mulberry tree would sway and cast reaching shadows that resembled crooked arms tugging at the nylon walls.

Pat stooped down at our tent opening and proceeded to tell us there was a 6-foot tall man in a bunny suit running around Fairfax axing people to death. At the end of his scary tale, he casually announced to us that the last one axed to death was at the end of our very own street of Roberts Road.

I didn’t sleep the entire night. It probably wasn’t the best story for a 7-year-old girl on her first campout. My brother who was all of 12 at the time thought the story was awesome when Pat was there telling it, but when his hero left, Scott’s face turned kind of ashen and he ducked down deep in his sleeping bag, scooting towards the center of the tent. It was my first experience with self-sufficiency in being able to camp without adults, but more importantly, it taught me something about myself. Not only did a scary tale set me on edge, but I found I was also a survivalist, as I studied the contents of the tent for my plan of action should the Bunnyman appear. Finding nothing worthy of defending myself (the flashlight was lightweight plastic) and admittedly Scott would be the first to run, I decided I would appeal to him as a child and pretend I thought he was the Easter Bunny come to chop down a tree. My insight into psychology was precocious, but I found as a cute little girl that it usually bought me a certain amount of charm to soothe even a savage beast.

That was my introduction to the legend. There are a lot of people who still believe in the tale. In fact, it began with one completely different legend and evolved over time. Apparently, historically they are riddled with inconsistencies, but the stories are still terrifying and I, to this day, do not like going near malls during the Easter month when the man in the bunny suit is holding innocent children on his lap...

The legend began in the early 1900s when an asylum in the woods of Clifton Virginia was closed and patients moved to Lorton Prison. Apparently, two had escaped during transport. One had died, the other was never found. Subsequently, the skins of bunnies were found (someone having eaten them) and then one day a few children’s bodies were found hanging at the opening of a single-lane tunnel that went under a railroad bridge. It was thereafter referred to as “The Bunnyman Bridge.” Lots of legends grew from this initial one and everything happening locally was blamed upon it.

Over decades this changed to a story of a man in a bunny suit, axing people in Northern Virginia and Maryland. I do recall a few summers of fear in Northern Virginia regarding the mixing of these two stories. According to sources who studied it, the asylum in Clifton never existed, therefore making the original store null and void. However, there were two vandalism reports associated with a man in a bunny costume.

I will copy this from Wikipedia because they did an excellent job of explaining the hysteria this legend grew when I was of impressionable age. I remember everyone fearing to let their kids out or their pets. I still to this day feel a freaky wicked chill when I see someone in a bunny suit. The ones at the mall used to send me into shivering hysterics and my parents would have to whisk me away from Tyson’s Corner when he’d make his Easter visits. I still see the Easter Bunny as a demented tortured soul. That’s the power of the urban legend.

From Wikipedia:
Fairfax County Public Library Historian-Archivist, Brian A. Conley, has conducted extensive research on the Bunny Man legend. He has only located two incidents of a man in a rabbit costume threatening people with an axe. The vandalism reports occurred a week apart in 1970 in Burke, Virginia.
The first incident was reported the evening of October 20, 1970 by USAFA Cadet Bob Bennett and his fiancée, Dusty, who were visiting relatives on Guinea Road in Burke. Around midnight, while returning from a football game, they parked their car in a field on Guinea Road to talk. As they sat in the front seat with the car running, they noticed something moving outside the rear window. Moments later the front passenger window was smashed and there was a white-clad figure standing near the broken window. Bennett turned the car around while the man screamed at them about trespassing, including "You're on private property and I have your tag number." As they drove down the road they discovered a hatchet on the car floor.
When the police asked for a description of the man, Bob insisted he was wearing a white suit with long bunny ears, but Dusty remembered something white and pointed like a Ku Klux Klan outfit. They both remembered seeing his face clearly, but in the darkness they could not determine his race. The police returned the hatchet to Bennett after examination. Bennett was required to report the incident upon his return to the USAFA. It was later confirmed in Fairfax Police records that the man was in fact wearing a bunny suit with ears instead of a Ku Klux Klan suit. The second reported sighting occurred the evening of October 29, 1970, when construction security guard Paul Phillips approached a man standing on the porch of an unfinished home in Kings Park West on Guinea Road. Phillips said the marn was wearing a gray, black and white bunny suit and was around 20 years old, 5 feet 8 inches (1.7 m) and weighing about 175 pounds (79 kg). The man began chopping at a porch post with a long handled axe saying "All you people trespass around here. If you don't get out of here, I'm going to bust you on the head." The man then ran into the woods.

Both incidents were investigated by Fairfax County Police. The investigations were eventually closed for lack of evidence. In the weeks following the incidents, over 50 people contacted the police to report sighting the "bunny man". Several newspapers reported the incidents.

Have a happy and safe Easter!


  1. I do love those old legends. Sitting around the campfire, listening to ghost one camp away from summer. Hoping you and yours had a blessed day.

  2. Thanks, Mary! Yeah, I love a good campfire tale. In fact, I'd like to start a series of telling campfire tales. I wrote a fictional remake of "The Hook" but local urban legends are more interesting than campfire tales.

  3. I remember all of the old tales too about Bunnyman and the bridge. I have often wanted to go to the bridge and actually see if it is all it is cracked up to be. All of these years and being so close to it, I have never taken the opportunity. It has been one of those trips that get pushed aside for other things. I might just have to set up a little trip there very soon since it is only a few hours away from where I live now.

    Thanks for post!!

  4. Rowan;
    If you go there, you'll not be far from Aspen Grove where I grew up. Roberts Rd. Not far from Braddock Rd. We used to own property in Clifton and we'd go past the Bunnyman Bridge all the time. People still investigate there and say there's lots of spooky things. Last summer, I did a study of 50 haunted places around the country, finding similar features to make a haunted formula. The Bunnyman Bridge had a high score for the right conditions--waterway, train tracks, history, geology... Lucky you! I am anxious to get back and do a ghost study at Aspen Grove, but I refuse to do it until I can get a producer willing to let me put together a team and film it. It's a guaranteed haunting since both my parents, 2 siblings and a family friend passed on, all of them vowing to haunt it.

  5. I love local legends, thanks for the story!

  6. You know I will be going! I think we are also going back to Poor House Road Tunnel in Lexington, VA in the next few weeks. I posted about the tunnel on my blog...just a little tidbit for everyone.


  7. Rowan;
    I so wish I were going with you--want to hear all about it! I think it was Family Channel that used to have that Halloween show about scariest places--they did the Bunnyman on one episode and was really creepy. A lot of historians say there's no basis for the stories, but people have witnessed a lot of weird things there. I'll watch for your postings about the trip. I envy you! I miss the old stomping ground.


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