There exists among the schoolchildren of the Washington area the urban legend of The Bunny Man. It tells of a deranged killer who escaped long ago from a local mental institution; this person's particular mania manifested itself first as an obsession with rabbits -- locals reported finding hundreds of butchered and skinned rabbit carcasses -- and later with the adoption of a bunny-rabbit costume, worn while wreaking murderous havoc among, oh, you name it: lovers parked in cars, children lost in the woods, solitary motorists -- the usual urban-legend fare. His ghost is confidently reported to return every Halloween night to a certain bridge between Clifton and Fairfax Station his foul murders to perform -- making the bridge, naturally, a favorite "I-dare-you" spot for intrepid local teens.
I hadn't ever heard this legend -- though born on K Street, I grew up far from here and spent only brief periods here during my years of susceptibility to urban legends. However, this afternoon I mentioned this story to a young designer I work with, and he immediately knew what I was talking about: "Oh! That's the Bunny Man. Everybody who grew up here knows that one!"
A local librarian, Fairfax County Public Library Historian-Archivist Brian A. Conley, decided to investigate this legend and see if he couldn't find a source for it. The link my friend sent me this morning is the story of his investigation.
I'll spare you the details of the librarian's story (you can read the whole thing here -- and trust me, it's a fascinating one), save to say that he did trace the legend to a pair of reports that appeared in the Washington Post in October of 1970. In the first story, a man in a bunny costume appeared out of nowhere on Guinea Road in Fairfax, accused the car's occupants of trespass, and heaved a hatchet through the car window. No one was harmed. The second story states:
A man wearing a furry rabbit suit with two long ears appeared — again — on Guinea Road in Fairfax County Thursday night, police reported, this time wielding an ax and chopping away at a roof support on a new house....And an Urban Legend is born...
Thursday night's rabbit, wearing a suit described as gray, black and white, was spotted a block away [from the location of the first incident] at 5307 Guinea Rd.
Paul Phillips, a private security guard for a construction company, said he saw the "rabbit" standing on the front porch of a new, but unoccupied house.
"I started talking to him," Phillips said, "and that's when he started chopping."
"All you people trespass around here," Phillips said the "Rabbit" told him as he whacked eight gashes in the pole. "If you don't get out of here, I'm going to bust you on the head."
Phillips said he walked back to his car to get to get his handgun, but the "Rabbit", carrying the long-handled ax, ran off into the woods.
While investigating these incidents, a county investigator was told that someone who worked at a development company had received an irate phone call from someone calling himself "the Axe Man." The Axe Man had said, "You have been messing up my property, by dumping tree stumps, limbs and brush, and other things on the property."
Look at one detail of the second story: The house the Bunny Man chopped at was new but unoccupied. Before the Second World War, Fairfax County largely resembled where I live now: Rural, sleepy, bucolic. I remember seeing a 1930s photograph of Tysons Corner -- the intersection of Chain Bridge Road and Lee Highway -- and it was... a gas station. After WWII, developers began to make inroads into the county to build homes for the hundreds of thousands of government workers who served the newly exponentially larger postwar federal government and its attendant Military-Industrial Complex. Tysons Corner is now a gigantic, hideous miles-wide morass of concrete and glass, and is home to two of the world's largest shopping malls.
The investigating librarian concludes:
Who was the Bunny Man, and what was he trying to accomplish? Sadly, we will likely never know his identity. Likewise his true motivations are known only to himself, but there are a few clues contained in the foregoing sources. On October 18 the Bunny Man accused Robert Bennett of trespassing. On October 29 the Bunny Man told security guard Paul Phillips that "You all trespass around here," and on November 4, the self-styled "Axe Man" accused the unnamed representative of Kings Park West Subdivision of dumping debris on his property. If we assume that all three incidents involved the same individual, then it appears that this young man was disturbed by the development of the area. Said development was extensive in 1970, too....And how!
Being forced to watch helplessly while the face of your community changes around you can elicit strange behavior in some people.
Anybody have a bunny costume lying around you're not using?
(Concise summary of the Bunny Man Legend at Wikipedia)