Emily Sharrer, Editor-in-Chief

Since at least 1903, area residents have been haunted by the legend of the Bunny Man, Fairfax’s own urban legend, fueled by many different incidents reported in Clifton, Va. for over 100 years.

While most Northern Virginians are familiar with the age old tale of the Bunny Man and the infamous Bunny Man Bridge, an overpass of the Southern Railway located on Colchester Road about 20 minutes from George Mason University, many out-of-staters are unfamiliar with the tale.

So for those who don’t know how the story goes, I’ll give you a brief run-down of the legend of the Bunny Man. There are many different variations of the tale, though most involve a man dressed in a bunny suit attacking people with an axe.

In 1903, there was an asylum in Clifton, a small town of no more than 300 people. Residents passed a petition to move the facility to a new location, called Lorton Prison.

On a fall night in 1904, the convicts at the Clifton asylum were loaded onto a bus and driven to the new facility. Somehow, however, the bus swerved off the road and many convicts escaped into the night. Police were able to account for all but two convicts, Marcus A. Wallster and Douglas J. Grifon.

Upon their search for the two men, police kept finding mutilated and half-eaten rabbits, hanging from trees or from Bunny Man Bridge. Wallster was then found dead, similar to the way the rabbits were found and Grifon became known as the Bunny Man.

When police finally found Grifon, he nearly escaped, but was hit by a train right above the bridge. It is said that if you go to the bridge on Halloween night, two bunnies will run under the bridge.

Right when the clock strikes midnight, the Bunny Man’s soul will appear in a flash of light on the railroad tracks above the bridge and then appear standing in the bridge tunnel.

His soul lights up the area so bright that you can’t see him until he slits your throat, slashes your chest and hangs you from the edge of the bridge.

According to local myth, you can even see the spots of the bridge that are worn away from where the bodies were swinging.

Now, every year around Halloween police block off the one-lane bridge since many people try to go find out if the legend is true. Another variation of the tale springs from two incidents in 1970.

On Oct. 20, 1970, around midnight, a couple on their way home from a football game parked near Bunny Man Bridge to talk. They noticed a man behind the car and seconds later, their passenger side window was smashed in.

While driving away, the man yelled at them about trespassing, and the couple found a hatchet on the car floor. The second occurance involved a security guard who approached a man in a bunny suit who was chopping at a porch post with an axe and threatened to hit the man on his head for trespassing.
Fairfax County Police investigated the incidents, though the investigations were closed due to a lack of evidence. In the following weeks, more than 50 sightings of the Bunny Man were reported. To learn more about the 1970 sightings, check out the following articles from The Washington Post: “Man in Bunny Suit Sought in Fairfax” (October 22, 1970), “The ‘Rabbit’ Reappears” (October 31, 1970), “Bunny Man Seen” (November 4, 1970), and “Bunny Reports Are Multiplying” (November 6, 1970).

The Fairfax urban legend has even shown up in popular culture. The 2001 movie Donnie Darko takes place in Middlesex, Va. and the character Frank, a scary man in a bunny suit, is said to be based loosely on the Bunny Man.

To learn more about the Bunny Man, read Fairfax Public Library Historian Brian Conley’s The Bunny Man Unmasked: The Real Life Origins of an Urban Legend, which can be found online.