The Bunny Man is an urban legend that originated from two incidents in Fairfax County, Virginia in 1970, but has been spread throughout the Washington, D.C., area. The legend has many variations; most involve a man wearing a rabbit costume who attacks people with an axe or hatchet.
Most of the stories occur around Colchester Overpass, a Southern Railway overpass spanning Colchester Road near Clifton, Virginia, sometimes referred to as "Bunny Man Bridge".
Versions of the legend vary in the Bunny Man's name, motives, weapons, victims, description of the bunny costume or lack thereof, and sometimes even his possible death. In some accounts, victims' bodies are mutilated, and in some variations, the Bunny Man's ghost or aging spectre is said to come out of his place of death each year on Halloween to commemorate his passing.
Fairfax County Public Library Historian-Archivist Brian A. Conley extensively researched 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 ten days apart in 1970 in Burke, Virginia.
The first incident was reported the evening of October 19, 1970, by U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Robert Bennett and his fiancée, who were visiting relatives on Guinea Road in Burke. Around midnight, while returning from a football game, they reportedly parked their car in a field on Guinea Road to "visit an Uncle who lived across the street from where the car was parked". As they sat in the front seat with the motor 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, the couple discovered a hatchet on the car floor.
When the police requested a description of the man, Bennett insisted he was wearing a white suit with long bunny ears. However, Bennett's fiancée contested their assailant did not have bunny ears on his head, but was wearing a white capirote of some sort. 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 costume, 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: "You are trespassing. If you come any closer, I'll chop off your 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, including The Washington Post, reported that the "Bunny Man" had eaten a man's runaway cat. The Post articles that mentioned this incident were:
- "Man in Bunny costume Sought in Fairfax" (October 22, 1970)
- "The 'Rabbit' Reappears" (October 31, 1970)
- "Bunny Man Seen" (November 4, 1970)
- "Bunny Reports Are Multiplying" (November 6, 1970)
In 1973, Patricia Johnson, a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, submitted a research paper that chronicled precisely 54 variations on the two incidents.