According to legend, a very strange figure haunts a railway overpass outside Clifton, Virginia. The sinister soul, sometimes dressed in a white costume with long ears and wielding an axe, is the inspiration for Colchester Overpass’s more widely-used nickname: Bunnyman Bridge (or Bunny Man Bridge).
Like any good urban legend, there are countless variations on the story of Bunnyman Bridge. One of the most common asserts that in 1904 an asylum for the criminally insane in Clifton was closed down and the inmates there transported to other facilities. During relocation, one of the transport vehicles crashed right near what would become known as Bunnyman Bridge.
The driver and most of the inmates were killed in the crash, but a few managed to escape. A manhunt commenced, and all but two of the inmates were rounded up. In the days that followed, rabbit carcasses were found, skinned and mutilated, hanging from the trees surrounding the Colchester Overpass. The rabbits were said to be missing chunks torn out by human teeth.
Authorities redoubled their efforts to capture the remaining inmates. The first, Marcus Wallster, was found hanging from the bridge, killed just like the rabbits. The other, Douglas Grifon, remained at large. Dubbed “the bunny man” by authorities, Grifon continued to stalk the woods of Clifton until police boxed him in at the overpass. He made a last-ditch effort to escape, but was struck by an oncoming train and killed.
Police supposedly heard laughter as the train barreled past. Soon thereafter, they uncovered just why the Bunny Man had been imprisoned to begin with: he killed his whole family, either on Easter Sunday or Halloween night.
Online accounts claim that the legend’s ghastly events can be corroborated at the “Old Clifton Library” and its microfiche collection. Local historians, however, maintain the tale is easy to disprove, at least in its particulars, starting with the fact that there was no such asylum in the area in 1904.
Yet the dark story refuses to die in Clifton. Some reports claim that every year around Halloween rabbit carcasses appear on and around the bridge, while others assert that the Bunny Man can be seen standing under the bridge or at a curve in the road, hurling an axe at passing cars.
The story of the Bunny Man has even found its way onto film, most overtly in the 2011 horror film and its sequels. A sinister bunny man also appeared in , which is set in the fictional town of Middlesex, Virginia.
What makes the tale particularly chilling—as if an axe-wielding maniac in a bunny suit isn’t chilling enough—is that, in spite of its incredible details, the bunny man legend does seem to have some basis in fact.
Historians investigating the Bunny Man legend found two separate incidents about a week apart in October of 1970 that may prove to be the true genesis of the strange stories surrounding Bunnyman Bridge. On October 19, a young couple driving home from a football game stopped their car near the bridge.
Shortly after they had parked, a man dressed all in white smashed their car window with a hatchet, shouting at them about trespassing. They sped away, later finding the hatchet on the floorboard of their car.
The young man, an Air Force Academy Cadet named Bob Bennett, reported that the attacker had been wearing a white suit with long bunny ears, while his fiancée described something more closely resembling a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood.
Ten days later, a construction security guard saw a man wearing a bunny costume on the porch of an unfinished home on the same road near the bridge. When the guard approached the man, he started chopping at one of the porch posts with an axe, shouting about trespassers. Police investigated both incidents, but both cases were closed due to lack of evidence.
During the investigation, more than 50 people contacted police with reports of the Bunny Man, and several major newspapers, including the Washington Post, ran stories on the case. Some articles even reported that the mysterious costumed figure had eaten a local man’s cat.
The Bunnyman Bridge remains a popular destination spot for ghost hunters and legend trippers. If you decide to go yourself, beware. The police heavily patrol the area, especially around Halloween night, to discourage vandals and troublemakers. And if the police aren’t present, there may be something even worse waiting for you beneath Bunnyman Bridge…