The Terrifying True Story Of The Bunnyman, Northern Virginia’s Most Gruesome Urban Legend

The legend of Virginia's Bunnyman might sound like a cute tale of rabbits and whimsy. It's anything but. In reality, the true story of the Bunnyman is one forged from indecency, mystery, and violence. Long have the tales of the Bunnyman Bridge floated around the towns of Northern Virginia, and the stories always change a little in the telling. What we do know, however, is that some urban legends turned out to be true, and there really was a man who inspired the rest of this grisly urban legend. 

There are many Virginia urban legends out there, but what sets this one part is that it's a mix of many genres. It's a ghost story, it's a true story, there's a geographical mark on a map you can visit, and there are even copycats out there who have kept the stories alive. How much of it is true and how much of it is a myth remains in hot debate.

Don't let the name fool you -- this story is not for the faint of heart. So, read at your own risk, and you might want to steer clear of the Bunnyman Bridge.

(Want more floppy-eared fear? Check out The Scariest Bunnies In Movies.)

  • There Really Was A Man Dressed Like A Rabbit With An Axe

    There Really Was A Man Dressed Like A Rabbit With An Axe
    Photo: Cameron Russell / Flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Unlike many urban legends that have surfaced over the years, this one definitely has a basis in actual events. In 1970, a couple was driving and parked near a train overpass bridge for a moment to get their bearings. As they did this, a mysterious and threatening figure appeared out of nowhere. This figure, according the the police report, yelled and drove the couple away with threats of violence. When the police report was written, the couple said that they didn't get a very good look at the person who threatened them. They said that he was dressed in white or light clothing and that he might have had something on his head. Over the next few days, weeks, months, and years, this report became interpreted as their attacker having rabbit ears. This is where the story all begins.

    Everything beyond this is undoubtedly a mixture of truth, speculation, and myth. But that doesn't make the tale any less intriguing. 

  • He Chased A Couple And Threw A Hatchet At Them

    He Chased A Couple And Threw A Hatchet At Them
    Photo: Beherdolf / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    Let's look a little more in depth at the first time people became aware of the Bunnyman. One night in October of 1970, Air Force Academy cadet Robert Bennett was driving with his fiance in Northern Virginia. The pair stopped on the 5400 block of Guinea Road in Fairfax, a location near his uncle's house, and they were sitting in their car when things started to get weird. A man dressed in white, supposedly with bunny ears, approached out of the darkness. He began to scream at the couple that they were on private property, that he was going to report them to the police, and that he'd gotten their license plate number. This would have been merely off-putting except for what he did next.

    All at once, the man hurled a hatchet right through the windshield of the car, nearly hitting the pair. As you might guess, they quickly sped off to a police station, hatchet still in the car. Bennett recalls helping pull bits of broken glass out of his date's hair as they explained to the police what had happened. The police later began looking for a man in a bunny outfit, although, at that time, they couldn't find anyone suspicious in the area. The Bunnyman legend was solidified.

  • He Had A Serious Problem With Trespassing

    He Had A Serious Problem With Trespassing
    Photo: Jeremiah John McBride / flickr / CC-BY-ND 2.0

    There is another police report that mentions the notorious Bunnyman of Virginia, and this one shares a few striking similarities with the first tale. Ten days later, right around Halloween, a construction company near the area became the Bunnyman's new stomping grounds. A security guard named Paul Phillips was on duty, when he came across a man dressed in black and gray with bunny ears, similar to the initial report from the couple. He was vandalizing a house, and when Phillips approached, the oddly dressed man is reported to have said:

    “All you people trespass around here. If you don’t get out of here, I’m going to bust you in the head.”

    This man seemed to really have issues with people trespassing, even if he was the one destroying other people's property. Again, when the police went looking for him, they didn't turn up much. But once that story hit the papers, the floodgates opened. The Fairfax County Police got over fifty reports from people who had claimed to see the Bunnyman, some more credible than others.

    Whether this was in the spirit of Halloween pranks, or if some of these reports were legitimate, is impossible to say.

  • The Man Was Supposedly Sent To An Asylum

    The Man Was Supposedly Sent To An Asylum
    Photo: Unknown Engraver / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    But who exactly is this mysterious Bunnyman? That's where all the accounts seem to really differ. One of the most common genesis legends of the Bunnyman is that he's the spirit of a crazy man who escaped from an asylum way back in 1904. A group of criminally insane people were being transported by bus to a new facility. The bus unexpectedly crashed, and everyone inside was killed... except for one man. This man escaped, vanishing into the night, and he was never seen again. His name was Douglas Grifon, and his memory, and perhaps ghost, lived on long after his escape. He began to kill people and animals (mostly rabbits), but he was never recaptured, and his ghost is supposedly what attacked the couple that October night.

    Of course, 1904 is a little early for buses to be common in transporting asylum inmates, and there were no asylums in the area in 1904, but this is still the story which persists most often.

  • He Supposedly Died Evading Capture

    He Supposedly Died Evading Capture
    Photo: Kohlchester / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

    In some versions of the urban legend, the story doesn't just stop with him escaping and never being seen again. After the body of a man Grifon allegedly killed was found, police decided it was time to bring him in. They searched the train tracks by the bridge near Fairfax Station, and quickly came across the Bunnyman near where the asylum bus had originally crashed. They began to chase him, but soon heard the sound of an oncoming train and had to get out of its way.

    Rather than running from the train, however, Grifon put himself directly in its path. As the train struck him while all the police watched, he let out a burst of devilish laughter. Although his body was never recovered, police assumed he was killed by the train. That makes the bridge his final resting place, and is the reason his rabbit-clad spirit still haunts the area.

  • He May Have Mutilated Wild Animals

    He May Have Mutilated Wild Animals
    Photo: Lakshmaiah.nellore / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

    If these legends are true, what besides allegedly wearing bunny ears earns the killer the moniker of "Bunnyman"? Part of this may have to do with the reports that he began mutilating wild animals. Torn up livestock and forest creatures were supposedly found by locals, as well as police, first indicating that a wild animal was on the loose.

    However, after weeks passed, the kill count continued to rise, with the majority of the bodies being rabbits. It became obvious that Grifon was feeding off of live, raw rabbits in order to survive while evading the police. He was also dismembering them, as if enjoying the act of killing. These mutilated rabbits, more than strange, rabbit-like attire and costume ears, became the reason he was known as the Bunnyman.