I’m really getting into American folklore this year, especially American urban folklore. I’m not sure where that shift happened, but I’m really liking it so if you’re wishing that I would leave the American stuff alone for awhile…well maybe I’ll go back to Newfoundland folklore for awhile. Maybe.
The Bunny Man legend is both effectively straightforward, and slightly convoluted. Straightforward in that the legend claims that if you are in certain areas of Washington, D.C. at certain times of the year you face the chance of running into an ax carrying man in a bunny suit who will probably attempt to kill you. Slightly convoluted in there’s actually two legends, the story was originally told in relation to Virginia. and may be based on a true crime.
The most common place that the Bunny Man is linked to is the Colchester Overpass in northern Virginia. The Bunny Man may have been killed on Halloween and the stories of attacks are often linked to his ghost returning on the night of his own murder.
In October 1970, police were called to investigate reports of a man wearing a bunny suit threatening people in Burke, Virginia. At least one sighting took place on the U.S. Air Force Academy, leading to a police report describing a man in a rabbit costume attacking and vandalizing a car while the car’s owner and his girlfriend were still in the vehicle. There was another police report filed later the same week by a construction worker.
These two reports may have been enough to solidify the story in the public imagination. By early November there were at least four stories published in The Washington Post on the Bunny Man. However, once the Internet developed the legend appears to have fully grown into the story that’s most commonly told today. One Timothy C. Forbes is said to have published a version of the story online that linked the sightings to a fictitious asylum and the death of an inmate dating to 1904. The asylum never existed, among other factual problems with the legend.
As with many legends, the factual reality of the asylum is not truly important, and the story has continued to circulate online. Retellings are continuing to involved, often becoming more violent and more graphic.