Haunted Road Trip: Bunny Man Bridge  

Bunny Man Bridge 1

Previously: The Lemp Mansion and Brewery.

You know what a railway overpass looks like, right? Like a random little tunnel in the middle of the road, allowing a train to cross over said road without interrupting the flow of traffic? There’s one of those running over Colchester Road in Clifton, Virginia—but it’s probably not like most of the other railway overpasses you’ve seen. It doesn’t look like much at first glance, but one thing’s for sure: You don’t visit it at night. No one visits the Bunny Man Bridge at night.

The legends surrounding the bridge are said to date back to the early 20th century. It’s claimed that a mental hospital was built in the back woods of Fairfax County in the years following the Civil War; the burgeoning population of the area, however, didn’t particularly like having an “insane asylum” in their backyards, leading to the closure of the institution in 1904. The administration transferred its patients to the newly-built Lorton Prison—but, as is the case with all good ghost stories, some of the patients escaped into the woods during the transfer. Most of them were successfully rounded up and brought to Lorton; two, however, managed to avoid recapture. Marcus Wallster and Douglas Grifon remained in the woods, surviving off of the rabbits and other wildlife that lived there and leaving a trail of animal corpses littering the path behind them. Authorities followed the trail to a tunnel bridge crossing a wide creek—but it wasn’t just a tunnel they found. Wallster had been killed, his body strung up at the tunnel entrance with a note attached to his foot: “You’ll never find me no matter hard you try! Signed, The Bunny Man.” Grifon—the Bunny Man, as he called himself—was never caught.

The view from under the bridge in Clifton.Other variations on the tale claim that en route to the new facility, the transport crashed, allowing the patients to escape; a search party found nearly all of them, but one managed to give his pursuers the slip. Like Grifon, he was never caught. Another claims that Wallster had been hung at the overpass in a fashion similar to that of a number of rabbit carcasses found hanging in nearby trees. In yet another, officials did manage to locate Grifon; as they attempted to apprehend him, however, he was hit by an oncoming train. After the train passed, the police were said to have heard laughter coming from the site of the escapee’s demise; it later emerged that Grifon had been institutionalized for killing his family and children on Easter Sunday. Despite their differences, though, all of the stories agree on one detail: If you walk all the way through the tunnel at midnight, the Bunny Man will grab you from behind and string you up the same way he did Wallster. Hence: Bunny Man Bridge.

Of course, these tales are all easily disproven: Lorton Reformatory, for instance, wasn’t built until 1910; furthermore, it was part of the District of Columbia Corrections system, not Virginia’s. Neither do Marcus Wallster and Douglas Grifon appear to have been real people, as no one by either of those names are present in court records. Lastly, there has never been a mental hospital in Fairfax County, making it impossible for any escaped inmates to have once roamed the area.

There are, however, a number of strange occurrences documented in the area that involve a man in what looks like a bunny suit terrorizing unsuspecting motorists—even if the bridge wasn’t a factor at the time. The most notable ones occurred a mere ten days apart in 1970 as documented by the Washington Post, with the first being reported on the evening of October 19: U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Robert Bennett and his fiancée, who were visiting relatives in Burke, Virginia, were returning from a football game when they parked their car in a field on Guinea Road to “talk” (I assume “talk” is a euphemism here). They were sitting in the front seat with the car still running when they noticed something moving outside the rear window—only to have the front passenger window explode inward a few moments later, a figured dressed in white standing right outside of it. Bennett turned the car around and sped away, the white-clad figure screaming, “You’re on private property and I have your tag number!” as they went. As Bennett and his fiancée drove away, they found a hatchet sitting on the floor of the car. Bennett believed the strange man had been wearing a white suit with long bunny ears, but his fiancée thought it might have been closer to a Ku Klux Klan hood.

Um, guys? What's that?Then, on October 29, a security guard by the name of Paul Phillips reported seeing a man standing on the porch of an unfinished home on Guinea Road. Phillips described the man as 5’8”, approximately 160 pounds, in his early 20s, wearing a grey, black, and white bunny suit, and carrying a long-handled axe. The man began chopping at a post on the porch with the 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.” Investigations surrounding both incidents were eventually closed due to lack evidence, although the police ended up fielding calls from people who claimed to have seen the Bunny Man for weeks afterwards.

It’s also possible, by the way, that the Clifton bridge isn’t the Bunny Man Bridge. The legends have been pinned to no fewer than fourteen different locations (one of which, hilariously, has a Yelp page); as such, if I really wanted to cover all my bases, I’d have to visit every single one on this particular haunted road trip. But I do know this: I won’t be doing it at night

I’ll probably also bring a sturdy baseball bat along for the ride. It can’t hurt to be prepared, right?

Recommended reading:

The Bunny Man Unmasked: The Real Origins of an Urban Legend.

Castle of Spirits: The Clifton Bunny Man.

A Short History of the D.C. Correctional Complex at Lorton.

[Photos 1, 2, 3]

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