This month’s urban legend is a classic that I have wanted to cover for a very long time. It’s got all of the individual elements of a lasting creepy legend: horrifying setting, unknown and dangerous entity, a genesis seemingly rooted in reality, and some subtle moral leanings (don’t stay out late, don’t disturb nature, etc). Let’s get into the Legend of the Bunnyman Bridge.
The tl;dr version of the legend is that there is a bridge in Fairfax, VA that is either haunted or stalked by a man (entity?) dressed as a bunny. The man chases any gawkers or would-be adventurers away from the bridge with either an ax or hatchet. Now that we’ve got the basics down, let’s look at different variations on the legend.
There are some small variations within the main legend that deserve to be mentioned. There’s the small differences in the weapon, for one – ax vs hatchet. Some retellings of the legend state that the Bunnyman is filthy – the bunny costume is dirty and ripped, covered in gore. Others claim that the bunny costume is pristine.
Bigger variations on the legend stem from whether the Bunnyman is a human, ghost, or some sort of negative entity. We’ll get into specifics more in the next section, but let’s go over the basics of these variations. The idea that the Bunnyman is a ghost is fairly straightforward – something happened to tie the Bunnyman’s spirit to the bridge, and now their ghost chases off spectators and looky loos.
The idea that the Bunnyman is a human or a negative entity is a little less clear cut. I can’t really figure out why a negative entity would be so interested in or tied to this specific bridge. And if the Bunnyman is a human, what are they afraid of people finding? Maybe some exploration into the sources of the legend and how it has evolved over the years will shed some light onto this confusion.
The main story seems to have originated in the 1970s. That’s when the story seems to have been picked up by researchers and journalists, at least. The story states that in 1904, a nearby asylum was being closed down (due the the stigma of there being an asylum so close to residential areas, apparently), and the patients were being transported to new facilities via bus. One bus crashed on what would become known as the Bunnyman Bridge. After the accident, all of the patients were accounted for except one: Douglas Griffin. After the crash, mutilated corpses of rabbits began to show up in the woods around the bridge, insinuating that Griffin was eating them to sustain himself. The following Halloween, several teenagers were hanging out at the bridge. They saw a bright orb of light and then they were gutted and strung up from the bridge in a flash. Now. There is no mention of who survived this ordeal to relay this information. There are no records of an asylum near Clifton. There are no records of anyone named Douglas Griffin in the area. This just seems like a story dreamed up to scare teenagers as they exercised their freedoms – why else would it go unreported until the 70s?
According to the Fairfax County Archivist, Brian Conley, there was an inciting incident that sparked the Bunnyman rumors, and also explains why there was such a surge in reporting on the Bunnyman in the 70s. The incident Brian Conley discovered involved a couple parked in a driveway not far from the Bunnyman Bridge. They reported a man who possibly had “something on his head” screaming at them about trespassing. The man threw a hatchet at the car as the couple fled the scene.
As for the variations, it seems that they spawned in the way urban legend variations typically seem to do – from small town gossip and a large-scale game of telephone. People love to scare each other, exaggerating details over time. Thus, the hatchet evolves into a large bloody ax. The bunny costume gets added after witnesses see the man with something on his head. Then, the bunny costume becomes torn and bloody and dirty. Each element gets added and slowly twisted to add more horror and fear into the mix, simply because that’s the point of the story. To scare.