The Bunny Man Bridge is a railway overpass in the Washington DC area. Officially, it’s the Colchester Overpass, near Clifton, Virginia – a bridge for the Southern Railway – and consists of a one-lane tunnel that’s been the center of urban lore since the 1970s.
Indeed, it’s a creepy tale passed down to teens who live in Washington DC. While the details may vary, it typically involves an escaped resident of a nearby insane asylum, who killed a man and hung dead rabbit carcasses around the bridge before a train kills the deranged lunatic as the police hunt him down.
Yet his spirit still lingers. Like the strange tale of the Banff Springs Hotel room 873, it seems the Bunny Man appears near the bridge each year around Halloween. You may hear him laughing, too – and catch a fleeting glimpse of a man wearing, well…a bunny suit.
And sometimes, yes, he attacks naughty boys and girls.
An Urban Legend
The Bunny Man Bridge legend tells of an insane asylum around 1904 in Clifton Virginia, in Fairfax County. Fairfax residents, displeased with the thought of dangerous lunatics in their midst, petitioned the asylum be shut down. During the transfer to another facility, one of 15 transport cars crashed and killed most of the party.
Ten prisoners escaped, and all were recaptured. Except one – after which residents noticed a disturbing pattern of cleanly skinned bunnies hanging from the trees around Colchester Overpass – AKA Bunny Man Bridge. A second search turned up the remains of a man killed in similar manner, and hanging from the trees surrounding the bridge.
The dead man’s name was Marcus Wallster. And police named the missing prisoner, Douglas J. Grifon as the suspect in his death and, lore tells us, the identity of the mysterious Bunny Man.
But the Bunny Man never really left the Bunny Man Bridge. Indeed, any teen in the area knows the Bunny Man lingers as the nights grow longer. The dead rabbits come back too, hanging from the trees, or under the bridge itself, and make a foreboding backdrop for this macabre tale.
The Real Story of the Bunny Man Bridge
That’s a good story. Unfortunately it’s just that – a yarn passed down through generations that took a life of its own, like that tale of the killer in the backseat.
A review of historical records tells us there was never an insane asylum in Fairfax Country, nor is there any proof that Wallster or Grifon ever existed.
So what started this infatuation of a bunny man at Colchester Overpass? Two strange encounters, both in the autumn of 1970, during which a man dressed as a bunny threatened residents and committed acts of vandalism.
The first incident was reported on the evening of October 19th, in which a young couple sat in a parked car in nearby Burk, Virginia, in which ‘a white-clad’ man smashed their front passenger window.
The couple then turned the car around to drive away, yet heard the man scream “You’re on private property, and I have your tag number!”. They later found the man’s hatchet on the floor
In the second incident, 10 nights later, a security guard accosted a man – this time confirmed – wearing a grey and white bunny costume – on the porch of an unfinished home in the area. When confronted, the man proceeded to chop the porch’s posts with a small axe, while exclaiming “All you people trespass around here. If you don’t get out of here, I’m going to bust you on the head!”
More than 50 reports trickled in during the fall of 1970 of a strange man in a bunny costume, though evidence was weak in these cases. One report claimed the man feasted on a runaway cat in one encounter, which perhaps bears the origins of the dead bunny twist.
A Creepy Tradition
While some creative license has worked on the bunny man story since those dark nights in 1970, the tradition of strange goings-on continues yearly in the ghoulish days of October.
Bunny Man Bridge features in many a paranormal TV series, and the Bunny Man himself has inspired a series of low-grade horror movies over the years, giving legs to the creepy tale of an escaped lunatic that gave the Bunny Man tradition a life of its own.
So to answer your question: what really happened at Bunny Man Bridge? Your answer – some guy dressed up like a bunny and scared the folks of Fairfax County with an axe in the autumn of 1970. And in the process, laid the roots of one of the most enduring legends of Americana, with ghosts, bunnies and other creepy-crawlies that show up each autumn at the Bunny Man Bridge.