You’re sixteen years old, caught up in the intoxicating freedom that comes with your new driver’s license, and it’s Halloween night. You and your friends are driving around your small town looking for a quiet place far away from adult supervision. You decide to park on the side of the road near a secluded railway overpass. It’s the perfect place to get “up to something,” as your mother would say: woods creeping up on either side and the complete darkness you can only find on rural roads without streetlamps or nearby houses.
You jump a little when you hear a twig snap in the underbrush. Your best friend notices and makes fun of you for being afraid of the wind on Halloween.
Off to your left, the sound of a large animal crashing through the undergrowth makes everyone forget how grown up and cool you all are. As everyone scrambles to get back into the car, the largest man you’ve ever seen appears through the trees carrying an axe and wearing a white bunny suit. He roars and lunges for the car, but everyone is inside now and you are desperately turning the key to get out of here, back home, back to your parents, back to your bed, anywhere as long as you’re far away from this psychotic figure and his murderous blade.
As you pull away, you realize that one person is missing. Where is your best friend, the one who made fun of you for jumping at the sound of rustling leaves? Someone has called the police, frantically sobbing as she describes the bridge and its terrifying monster.
The next day, a police officer knocks on your door. They found your friend hanging from the bridge, along with the field-dressed corpses of several dozen rabbits. You never go back to the bridge, but for the rest of your life, your dreams are haunted by your best friend’s screams and the vision of a man in a white bunny suit laughing as he swings his axe.
The legend of the Clifton Bunny Man haunted me as a child growing up in Fairfax County. But could the story possibly be true? Is there really a blood-thirsty man in a rabbit suit who patrols the woods by the railroad bridge?
Like many local American legends, the bizarre image of the Bunny Man has some basis in fact. On October 21, 1970, Air Force Academy cadet Robert Bennett was in his car with his fiancée near the Colchester Overpass in Clifton when a man in a white suit with rabbit ears came up to the car and yelled at him for trespassing. As Bennett drove away, the man threw a hatchet through the window of Bennett’s car. Bennett reported the incident to the police, but with only the hatchet for evidence they found no solid leads in the case.
Less than two weeks later, a private security guard named Paul Phillips reported seeing a man in a white rabbit suit in the same area. A construction company employed the guard to watch over a new housing development when he saw the man in the suit carrying a hatchet. When Phillips spoke to the strange figure, he told the guard that developers had been trespassing on his property. If they continued to do so, the “Bunny Man” threatened, he would “bust you on the head.”
Over the next six months, teenagers and children reported sightings of the Bunny Man in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Fairfax County police investigated Robert Bennett’s and Paul Phillips’ claims, but they never identified the Bunny Man. He may have been a local man who deplored the rapid development taking place in his quiet suburban town; in any case, the police dropped the case the following spring.
Over time, the legend evolved to include escaped convicts, murders, and gruesome wildlife mutilation. The legend of the Bunny Man continues to haunt young people in the DC area to this day… so if you want a good scare this Halloween, drive under the Colchester Overpass at night. You better hope you get away before the Bunny Man finds you.