Whether it's tales of strange suicides, the ghostly sounds of children crying, or mysterious creatures that reside under them, there are plenty of creepy urban legends that revolve around bridges. While most of these stories follow a fairly common theme, one legend attached to a bridge in Virginia is particularly unique, and particularly terrifying: the tale of Bunnyman Bridge.
The legend of The Bunny Man is one that has been whispered around campfires since the 70s, and to this very day, its still scaring thrill-seekers that dare make the trek to the cursed train tunnel, particularly those who gather to summon the spirit of the murderous Bunny Man on Halloween night. As the legend goes, in 1904, a prison for the criminally insane in Clifton, Virginia was shut down, the victim of a successful petition by the worried residents of Fairfax County. While the county was transferring the crazy inmates to a new facility, the prison transport was in a terrible accident. While many of prisoners escaped into the forest, many others were killed. Eventually, the police rounded up the escapees. Well, all but one.
Before long, the locals began to report hundreds of half-eaten rabbit carcasses hanging from the trees in the surrounding woods. As the reports of freshly-skinned bunnies continued to appear in the forest, the residents of Fairfax County became even more nervous. One day, their worst fears were realized when a local man by the name of Marcus Wallster was discovered hanging under an overpass, completely skinned, his organs eaten. The police believed their suspect to be the one inmate they never apprehended: Douglas J. Grifton, better known by locals as "The Bunny Man" - a nickname he recieved partially due to his penchant for killing and eating rabbits, but also because of he was institutionalized for killing his wife and children on Easter Sunday.
When the police finally confronted Grifton at the now-infamous overpass, he was struck by an oncoming train while trying to escape, splattering him all over the tracks. But while the Bunny Man may have been killed, his spirit is still said to haunt the bridge where he died.
To this day, locals will report seeing freshly-skinned rabbit carcasses hanging from the overpass, now known more commonly as Bunnyman Bridge. It's said that on Halloween, visitors can see the spirit of Grifton roaming beneath the one lane bridge tunnel, but those who dare get too close are chased away by the axe-wielding madman.
While the story is just that, a story, there are a few historical accounts that that could explain how the creepy tale got started. Strangely enough, the well-documented accounts are nearly as bizarre as the urban legend, featuring KKK members, men in bunny suits, and even cat-eating psychopaths.
Fairfax County Public Library Historian-Archivist Brian A. Conley conducted extensive research on the Bunny Man legend. He has located two incidents of a man in a rabbit costume threatening people with an axe. The vandalism reports occurred a week apart in 1970 in Burke, Virginia.
The first incident was reported the evening of October 19, 1970 by U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Bob Bennett and his fiancée who were visiting relatives on Guinea Road in Burke. Around midnight, while returning from a football game, they parked their car in a field on Guinea Road to talk. As they sat in the front seat with the car running, they noticed something moving outside the rear window. Moments later the front passenger window was smashed and there was a white-clad figure standing near the broken window. Bennett turned the car around while the man screamed at them about trespassing, including "You're on private property and I have your tag number." As they drove down the road they discovered a hatchet on the car floor.
When the police asked for a description of the man, Bob insisted he was wearing a white suit with long bunny ears, but his fiancee remembered something white and pointed like a Ku Klux Klan hood. They both remembered seeing his face clearly, but in the darkness they could not determine his race. The police returned the hatchet to Bennett after examination. Bennett was required to report the incident upon his return to the Air Force Academy.
The second reported sighting occurred on the evening of October 29, 1970, when construction security guard Paul Phillips approached a man standing on the porch of an unfinished home in Kings Park West on Guinea Road. Phillips said the man was wearing a gray, black, and white bunny suit and was about 20 years old, 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 m) tall, and weighed about 175 pounds (79 kg). The man began chopping at a porch post with a long-handled axe, saying "All you people trespass around here. If you don't get out of here, I'm going to bust you on the head."
The Fairfax County Police opened investigations into both incidents, but both were eventually closed for lack of evidence. In the weeks following the incidents, more than 50 people contacted the police claiming to have seen the "bunny man." Several newspapers reported the incident of the "Bunny Man" eating a man's run-away cat, including... articles in The Washington Post.
Over the years, the legend of Bunny Man Bridge has become especially popular, receiving numerous newspaper stories every year, its own chapter in several books, and even horror movies that retell the gory legend. As you might imagine, the bridge, actually named Colchester Overpass, has become a popular destination for history-lovers, ghost hunters, and thrill-seeking teens. While its not illegal to visit the spooky overpass, it gets so much Halloween attention that that police have started restricting access to the area around the end of October. To give you an idea of how popular the bridge is, authorities turned away well-over 200 people on Halloween night of 2011.
Kind of makes you wonder what they could be hiding...
Want more creepy locales perfect for a late-night scare? Check out the Marfa Mystery Lights in Texas, visit the spooky Union Cemetery in Connecticut, or the The Alpine Portal in New York, where ghosts, Bigfoot, and even UFOs are regularly sighted!