Friday, March 29, 2013

Supernatural Friday: The Easter Bunny Is Gonna Get You!

Easter is almost here and let's talk about scary Easter legends, or at the very least, symbols of Easter that can be scary.

Rabbits.  Cute, fluffy, in colors of white, gray, brown, black, even more than one color. Nothing wrong with bunnies. Well, you’re wrong!

One such frightening bunny is the Bunnyman of the Bunnyman Bridge, a concrete tunnel of a Southern Railway overpass on Colchester Road in Clifton, Virginia (in Northern Virginia). You heard of the urban legend of the serial killer with a hook haunting lover’s lanes? Well, how about a giant rabbit threatening those with an axe? Any story involving a figure dressed in a white bunny suit armed with an ax, threatening children or vandalizing property is memorable. When the details get juicy—mutilated animals, murdered children, bodies hanging from bridges—well, you have a unique urban legend. 

The story of the Bunnyman, which circulated in Northern Virginia and Maryland since the seventies, may have been kept mostly alive by teens and college students. The story is that if you go to the bridge on Halloween, the Bunnyman’s ghost will appear and kill you at midnight. Teenagers go in groups, or a few, to party as they wait, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. 

The Bunnyman’s fame doesn’t stop there. This unusual ax wielding killer dressed in a bunny costume became the subject of a segment on Scariest Places on Earth on the Fox Channel. The segment, “Terror on Bunnyman’s Bridge,” broadcasted in 2001. The Bunnyman went from local legend to national, maybe even worldwide, status, alongside the legends of Bloody Mary and the hatchet murderers of Lover’s Lane.  

There are even films on him on YouTube. One is the Legend of the Bunnyman, a short film at

There’s even a horror movie that’s a cult film: Donnie Darko. Did the Bunnyman legend inspire this film? There are claims that it did. The movie takes place in the town of Middlesex, Virginia, and features Frank, an ominous character, dressed in a bunny suit. If you’ve never seen this movie, you can purchase it at, or various other places where DVDs for sale. Could be a good way to spend the evening before Easter! Just don’t let the kids see it if you have any—it would be like watching a film where Santa Claus is an axe-wielding psychopath—beloved holiday characters should never be warped for children.
The next on Bunnyman is taken from my book, Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths and True Tales:

The myth first popped up in 1976. The first story has the Bunnyman responsible for the deaths of two children in Clifton. Rumors of the disappearance of other children, plus the horrible mutilations of animals, circulated during the telling of the story that year. No one dared go out at night, at least not near the bridge where this psycho is said to be seen hanging around. 

In 1992, more had been added to the legend, this time telling of murdered children hung from a covered bridge, the supposed killer, an inmate escapee dressed in a bunny suit. The Bunnyman earned his nickname because he nourished himself on rabbits while perused by the police; while other variations of the tale had him hunting rabbits and using their pelts to make clothing for himself.

Years later, when people began using the Internet, this terrifying legend was reborn. Like all urban legends, it rose to new heights. One widely circulated version on the Net has inmates from an insane asylum escaped in 1904 while being transferred to Lorton prison. One of the inmates was named Douglas J. Grifon. He murdered fellow inmate Marcus Wallster and then became the Bunnyman. One of the inmates was named Douglas J. Grifon. He murdered fellow inmate Marcus Wallster and then became the Bunnyman. The location, plus the names of several victims Grifon killed as the Bunnyman and dates of their murders are mentioned. It even adds that anyone could check the Clifton Town Library to verify these facts. It even adds that anyone could check the Clifton Town Library to verify these facts.

Of course, it’s been proven false. There has never been an insane asylum in Fairfax County. Lorton Prison never came to be until 1910. And when it did, it was part of the District of Columbia corrections system, not Virginia’s. Adding to the falsifications, neither Wallster nor Grifon appeared in any court records. Pounding the final nail into this story, no Clifton Town Library exists, either. Is it possible that this story is a fictional account with the makings of a great horror story? Could be. . .

Another Web site, Urban Legends and Superstitions at posted the same story, adding that a note left on the inmate, Marcus, who supposedly was found hanging from the tunnel entrance beneath Bunnyman Bridge. The words on that piece of paper were, "You'll never find me no matter how hard you try! Signed, The Bunnyman." The Web site goes on to say that if you walk all the way down the tunnel at around midnight, the Bunnyman will grab you and hang you from the entrance of the bridge. There’s a story set in 2001 that a guide and six local students (no mention if they were in high school or college) had found mutilated rabbit parts, heard noises, and thought they saw figures moving in the woods. Frightened, they left the area.

There are many stories told by young people about Bunnyman. I mentioned a couple of sites on the Web with some stories, but there are others on the Internet, a great breeding ground for the Bunnyman legend.  Enjoy some of the variations of the Bunnyman legend that I discovered. These are the more up-to-date ones, showing that Bunnyman is alive and well, and still scaring people.

In Reston, Virginia, there used to be a dirt road leading off of Sunset Hills Road, just before it intersected with Reston Avenue. The kids in town knew that it led to the Bunnyman’s house. Supposedly, one Halloween night he dressed up in a bunny costume, shot his wife and kids, then opened the door to trick-or-treaters all night with the corpses of his family still in the house.

Another tale has a guy in a bunny costume standing in the middle of the road at the bottom of a hill in Clifton. As cars came down the hill, he would throw an ax at the vehicle and somehow, he always killed the person or persons inside.

There’s the tale of a mental patient that escaped from a bus transporting patients when it crashed in the woods near the bridge. The authorities were called in, but when they searched for the man, they never found him. Later, carcasses of rabbits began to be found, scattered around the bridge. It seems that the mental patient was living in the woods, surviving off of the meat of the rabbits. But when they discovered some teenagers gutted and hanging from the bridge, the local authorities put out a manhunt for "the Bunnyman,” as the local children called him. The story goes that they eventually caught up with him. Just as they were about to apprehend the Bunnyman, though, he jumped in front of a train roaring down the tracks. Since then, it is said that the Bunnyman’s spirit haunts the bridge, and that on Halloween at midnight, his spirit becomes visible right over the bridge that bears his name. Drunken teenagers can always be found at the base of the bridge at midnight on Halloween, waiting to see if the spirit of Bunnyman will appear.

 Another take on the legend has a young man from Clifton, Virginia who came upon the bridge while traveling. Later, he killed his parents and dragged their bodies into the woods to hang them from the bridge, and then committed suicide. In 1943, three teenagers, two men and a young woman, went to the Bunnyman Bridge on Halloween night. The next morning they were found dead, hung from the bridge, their bodies slashed open. Notes were found attached to their feet, with the words written," You'll never catch the Bunnyman!"

One witness had his own personal experiences with Bunnyman Bridge. He has been out there about a dozen times, since it’s about fifteen minutes from his house. Most of the time, he and his friends would hang out there, waiting to see if anything would happen. Nothing happened, but they got this feeling that someone or something was watching them. Even though the bridge is located about twenty-five miles from Washington D.C., it is still in the middle of nowhere. Only a few houses nestle within the woods that surround the bridge and railroad tracks.

The last time he and his buddies went out there, they heard voices that came from the woods, whispers that sounded as if they originated twenty feet from where the young men stood. Frightened, they bolted.

Was Bunnyman ever real? Many legends may begin with a kernel of truth somewhere in their murky pasts. Brian A. Conley, a historian-archivist
at the Fairfax County Public Library, haunted by this ‘rascally rabbit,’ pursued extensive research if see if there had ever really been a real Bunnyman. 

And another myth that tells you never trust that rascally rabbit! The Native American tale of “How the Rabbit Fooled the Alligator.”

When the animals talked with each other just like people do today, a very handsome alligator lay sunning himself luxuriously on a log in which we now call the Florida Everglades. Then along came Rabbit, who said to him, "Alligator, have you ever seen the Evil Spirit?"

"No, Rabbit, but I am not afraid of the Evil Spirit. Are you?" replied Alligator.

"Well now, Mr. A., I did see the Evil Spirit. Do you know what he said about you?" asked Rabbit.

"Now, just what did the Evil Spirit have to say about me?" Alligator replied.

"The Evil Spirit said that you are afraid of him," said Rabbit. "Besides, he said you would not even look at him."

"Rubbish," said Alligator. "I know that I am not afraid of the Evil Spirit and I am not afraid to look at him. Please tell him so for me the next time you see him."

"I do not think you are willing to crawl up the hill the day after tomorrow and allow me to introduce you to the Evil Spirit himself," said Rabbit.

"Oh, yes, I am willing and ready to go with you," replied Alligator. "Let us go tomorrow."

"That is just fine with me," replied Rabbit. "But Mr. A., when you see some smoke rising somewhere, do not be afraid. It is a sign that the Evil Spirit is moving about and will soon be on his way."

"You do not have to worry about me," said Alligator. "I told you I am not afraid of the Evil Spirit."

"When you see the friendly birds flying about, and the deer running at a gallop, do not be afraid," said Rabbit.

"Don't you be concerned, because I will not be afraid," repeated Alligator.

"If you hear some fire crackling and its comes closer to you, do not be scared," said Rabbit. "If the grasses near you begin to smoke, do not be scared. The Evil Spirit is only wandering about. Then is the time for you to get a good look at him when the heat is hottest."

After Rabbit's final words of wisdom, he left Alligator sunning himself.

Next day, Rabbit returned and asked Alligator to crawl up the hill, following him. Rabbit led him to the very top and directed him to lie in the tallest grass. Then Rabbit left Alligator, laughing to himself all the way down the hill, because he had led Alligator to the farthest place away from his home in the water.

On his way, Rabbit came to a smoldering stump. He picked up a piece, carrying it back to the high grass, where he made a fire so the wind blew it toward Alligator.

Soon the fire surrounded the place, burning closer and closer to Alligator. Rabbit then ran to a sandy knoll and sat down to watch the fun, chuckling over the trick he had played on Alligator.

Only a short time passed when the smoke rose in thick spirals, and the birds flew upward and away. Other animals ran for their lives across the field.

Alligator cried out, "Oh, Rabbit, where are you?"

"You just lie there quietly," replied Rabbit. "It's only the Evil Spirit prowling about."

The fire began to roar and spread rapidly. "Oh, Rabbit, what is that I hear?" asked Alligator.

"That's just the Evil Spirit breathing hard," replied Rabbit. "Do not be scared. You will see him soon!"

Rabbit became so amused that he rolled and rolled on the sandy knoll and kicked his heels up in the air with glee.

Soon the grass surrounding Alligator caught fire and began to burn beneath him. Alligator rolled and twisted with pain from his burns.

"Do not be afraid now, Alligator," called Rabbit. "Just be quiet for a little while longer, and the Evil Spirit will be there for you to get a firsthand look at him."

Alligator could not stand any more toasting! He started to crawl as fast as he could down the hillside toward the water. He wriggled through the burning grass, snapping his jaws, rolling in pain, and choking from the smoke.

Rabbit, upon his sandy knoll, laughed and laughed, jumping up and down with delight at the trick he had played on Alligator.

"Wait a minute, Alligator. Don't be in such a hurry. You said you were not afraid of the Evil Spirit," called Rabbit.

By that time Alligator had reached his home in the water, tumbling in to stop the pain of his roasted skin.

Never again did Handsome Alligator trust that trickster, Rabbit, or any of his family, ever!

Some films concerning creepy rabbits for that freaked-out Easter viewing:

Donnie Darko: Donnie Darko doesn't get along too well with his family, his teachers and his classmates; but he does manage to find a sympathetic friend in Gretchen, who agrees to date him. He has a compassionate psychiatrist, who discovers hypnosis is the means to unlock hidden secrets. His other companion may not be a true ally. Donnie has a friend named Frank - a large bunny which only Donnie can see. When an engine falls off a plane and destroys his bedroom, Donnie is not there. Both the event, and Donnie's escape, seem to have been caused by supernatural events. Donnie's mental illness, if such it is, may never allow him to find out for sure.

Night of the Lepus: A 1972 horror film about giant monstrous rabbits terrorizing the Southwest. Janet Leigh (Psycho (1960) and The Fog (1980)), Stuart Whitman, and DeForest Kelley (Star Trek)  are among others starring in the horror movie. The storyline has Cole Hillman's Arizona ranch plagued with 'mongrel' rabbits, and he wants to employ an ecologically sound control method. As a favor to college benefactor Hillman, college president Elgin Clark calls in zoologist Roy Bennett to help. Bennett immediately begins injecting rabbits with hormones and genetically mutated blood in an effort to develop a method of disrupting rabbit reproduction. One of the test subjects escapes, resulting in a race of bloodthirsty, wolf-sized, man-, horse-, and cow-eating bunnies. Eventually the National Guard is called in for a final showdown with the terrorizing rabbits.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail:. The movie starts out with Arthur, King of the Britons, looking for knights to sit with him at Camelot. He finds many knights including Sir Galahad the pure, Sir Lancelot the brave, the quiet Sir Bedevere, and Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir Lancelot. They do not travel on horses, but pretend they do and have their servants bang coconuts to make the sound of horse's hooves. Through satire of certain events in history (witch trials, the black plague) they find Camelot, but after literally a quick song and dance they decide that they do not want to go there. While walking away, God (who seems to be grumpy) come to them from a cloud and tells them to find the Holy Grail. They agree and begin their search. While they search for the Grail, scenes of the knight's tales appear and why they have the name they have. Throughout their search they meet interesting people and knights along the way. Most of the characters die; some through a killer rabbit.

And a good film you can watch with the kids: Harvey (1950—there is a later TV movie of it, starring James Stewart too): The classic stage hit gets the Hollywood treatment in the story of Elwood P. Dowd who makes friends with a spirit taking the form of a human-sized rabbit named Harvey that only he sees (and a few privileged others on occasion also.) After his sister tries to commit him to a mental institution, a comedy of errors ensues. Elwood and Harvey become the catalysts for a family mending its wounds and for romance blossoming in unexpected places.

So when you grab that chocolate bunny Easter morning, take another look at that candy bunny. After all, he just might be looking back, revealing a mouth full of fangs so instead of you biting his ears off, he just might beat you to it and bite yours off!


Naima Haviland said...

Pamela, this was so fun to read! I enjoyed Donny Darko & Monty Python's Holy Grail. I'd never heard of the Bunnyman. Let me recommend to go along with scary bunny considerations Echo & the Bunnymen's cover of The Doors "People are Strange" from the soundtrack of the 80s vampire flick Lost Boys!

Pamela K. Kinney said...

Glad you enjoyed the post, Naima. And yeah loved The Doors and that song of theirs.