Copied from Fairfax General Forum:
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Bunny Man Bridge: Research and Legend Analysis
By Robert Greyberg
The Legend/ Misconception
For at least 30 years, the Bunny Man Legend has gone from camp fire to camp fire, sleep over to sleep over, book to book, blog to blog, and from Clifton/Fairfax Station, VA to the national spotlight as one of America’s most chilling yet fascinating urban legends. Sightings of the story’s infamous character, the Bunny Man, have been knowingly reported throughout the Northern Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. area.
While sightings have quite a large radius, their one main epicenter is the one lane railroad viaduct at the end of Colchester Road in Fairfax Station, VA. Isolated, and somewhat neglected, this structure has been titled the Bunny Man’s main abode, and is known by locals and thrill seekers as Bunny Man Bridge.
As the story goes, this site is supposedly where the Bunny Man committed his various homicides (circa 1904-1970s/1980s), took his own life, and now resides as an axe-wielding apparition. And for thirty years, all of this was believed to be true. The legend had been passed down from one generation to the next. Bits and pieces were added on, different variations of the legend came about, and then finally someone questioned its validity.
A Fairfax County Historian and Archivist, Brian A. Conley, wrote a detailed and fact-ridden research essay in order to de-bunk the legend. Making statements such as “there never has been or/was a mental institute in or in the surrounding areas of Clifton and Fairfax Station, VA” and that “no such murders are on record”.
He also stated that Lorton Prison would never have been a location to ship mental convicts to since (a. it didn’t exist until after 1904, which means the 1904 version of the legend is fake, and b. it only held prisoners, not mental patients). Citing actual records and historical documents, Conley quieted the legend for the most part, except for one part that has kept it ever so alive since the publication of his essay.
Upon his deep research, Conley stumbled upon a Washington Post newspaper article from the early 70s pertaining to the Bunny Man. The article described the two incidents of a man dressed in a white bunny costume, vandalizing property. One incident he threw a hatchet through the passenger window of a parked car with a young couple in it, on Guinea Road in Fairfax, VA. Another incident, the same man in a bunny costume, vandalized property at a construction site, while at the same time threatening a security guard on site and telling him that he was trespassing.
Both incidents happened within a close vicinity of each other, a few days apart, and were believed to be committed by the same person. While the location and action of these events are nothing like the rumored serial killings that supposedly occurred at the railroad overpass in Fairfax Station on Halloween Night, Mr. Conley blames such events as the main source of the legend.
Many have believed his findings, and majority of the paranoia and fear associated with the myth have disappeared from locals minds. But there still remains the question of if. What if Mr. Conley misguided us accidentally in the wrong direction? What if the man dressed in the bunny costume in Fairfax, was just a copycat of the real Bunny Man? What if the two stories, of the man in Fairfax, and the murders in Clifton/Fairfax Station mingled, and became the story we know today? This question of if has kept this legend alive.
And this question of if has inspired me to prove certain facts Mr. Conley did not notice and did not mention. These facts, be them similar to the legend, are hard to not notice. Is Mr. Conley, someone who works for Fairfax County, trying to cover something up? Something, such as the truth? The question remains, and now is the time for answers.
The Counter Argument
The counter argument to Mr. Conley’s de-bunking the legend case will be split into various sections. Each will start with a statement along the lines of what Mr. Conley said, and others will be common rumor that have been spread to prove certain parts of the legend wrong. While some parts of the legend are by all means fake/ added on gossip, some parts of the story may have some truth/connection behind them. And that is the main focus of this essay; the possibility about truth and connection between the legend and actual events/places.
Mental Institutes in Clifton/Fairfax Station, VA
According to Mr. Conley and other sources, there has never been an organization such as a mental institute in Fairfax County, especially in the Clifton/Fairfax station area. This statement is true in technical terms, for there never actually has been a registered/organized mental institute/hospital in the county.
While such a fact is true, there is a second side to this fact. There have been organizations like mental institutes in the county, two of which were located specifically in Clifton and Fairfax Station, in areas of the region that could have connections to the legend.
The first organization of interest is Ivakota Farm. Ivakota Farm was a organization set up in the early 1900s that served as a home for single mothers (many of which had children), troubled women, and delinquent women who had either gone their by choice, or were sentenced there by court order.
This opens a gateway of possibilities. Rumors of women being abused by workers (most likely men) at the facility (whether true or not) have been heard of. Such rumors, and the fact that troubled/delinquent women resided there opens another possibility. The combination of the two, could mean that there were murders committed by male workers upon the women at the facility, and violence that could have occurred at the farm. Whether such possible events occurred between the workers and the women, or the women amongst themselves, is up for one to decide. But such possible abuse, possible murder, and a crowd of troubled (possibly mentally ill) and delinquents, sounds a lot like the Bunny Man legend (which mentions a mental institute-like organization in Clifton that was either closed down in 1904 or the 1970s).
Another coincidence is the dates just mentioned. 1904 and the 1970s are key in this legend, for these are the years the mental institute was rumored to close, and the murders supposedly occurred. They also are key in the history of Ivakota Farm. Ivakota Farm was opened around 1904, in the early 1900s, and closed down around the 1960s and 1970s. It is strange, the two dates appear both in the history of this mental institute-like organization and the Bunny Man Legend one might think.
What also is strange, is that Ivakota Farm is located by the railroad tracks that run through Clifton; another key element in the legend (for, the train tracks, is the spot where the buses transferring the mental patients supposedly crashed and where the murders were supposedly committed), and just like in the story is located near several train bridges (where the murders were supposedly committed), some of them being located over creeks (which one variation of the legend states is where the murders actually occurred; at a bridge over a creek). As far out as these possibilities and theories may seem; they are very hard to miss, especially for a professional researcher like Mr. Conley.
The second organization, that Mr. Conley did not mention, is one that is really hard to miss, due to its supposed old location and its mental institute-like set up. The second organization is that of the poor house (the existed circa late 1800s throughout some of the 1900s; just like the time of the legend), that used to sit right near the site of the well-known Bunny Man Bridge.
Like any poor house, shelters like this tended to take in people of poverty, illness, mental instability, occasionally convicts, and those of great age and weakness. Notice the mentioning of people mental instability and convicts. Now how can you miss that! Two very key elements of this legend; the mentally insane and convicts residing in a public organization that is quite similar to a mental institute, located right next to Bunny Man Bridge. This legend could easily have been morphed into what it is now by situations like that.
In fact to make the convict theory even more plausible, would it help to mention that the Sheriff owned land right next to this poor house? Wouldn’t it seem likely, that he might keep the convicts for a night or two in that building to keep them on close watch? And wouldn’t it seem likely, that if he did do that, that there was a good chance of them escaping?
If, this isn’t obvious, then what is? While it is not a proven fact (the mentally insane/convict part) it sure seems likely, or likely enough that it could be the root of such a legend. Yet Mr. Conley didn’t mention any of it! And yet this institution was located right next to where the Bunny Man Bridge is!
How could he miss that key of a detail? It is not t hat hard to discover. If a regular civilian, like me, can find information on the existence of such an organization, then it should have been a piece of cake for a professional researcher like Mr. Conley (who has easy access to county public records) to stumble upon something this significant.
The Wrong Bridge?
With this topic of the bridge on mind, another factor in the case is brought up. What if the location of the bridge is wrong? Different variations of the legend state that the bridge is located somewhere else, either deep in the woods, over a wide creek, or is simply just another railroad bridge in the area. If this is true, the whole legend and investigation can be altered. If one plays the role of investigator in this case, they must now consider every railroad bridge in Clifton and Fairfax Station as a suspect.
Here is a list of known railroad bridges and their locations in Clifton or Fairfax Station:
Bridge Site One: Outside of Clifton Park in Downtown Clifton, VA. It is significant because of its close location to Ivakota Farm (the mental institute-like organization); thus being a good candidate for possibly being a source of the legend.
Bridge Site Two: Crossing Popes Head Creek, this bridge abutment is significant due to its age and characteristics. Like in certain variations of the legend this bridge dates back to the Civil War and post-Civil war era (early 1900s). Not only that, but is also is over a creek, which is somewhat wide (for the one variation of the legend states that the bridge is over a wide creek), and therefore resembles the bridge described in that variation of the legend.
Located northeast of Clifton, and visible from Chapel Park, this bridge has two sister bridges that are of the same or similar age and characteristics (one of them for sure being over a creek). One of these bridges is located very close to the known Bunny Man Bridge. Funny enough it looks very similar to Bunny Man Bridge, and therefore poses the theory that the known Bunny Man Bridge, is a mistake, due to its similarity to this other bridge, and that this other bridge is in fact the real bridge.
Bridge Site Three: Located within Hemlock Overlook Regional Park/ Bull Run Regional Park this bridge is significant, because it too is around the same age as the legend (circa post-Civil War/ early 1900s). Located somewhat near Ivakota Farm (the mental institute-like organization), this bridge can be associated with the possibility that something violent occurred involving people from Ivakota Farm, and happened at this bridge, thus sparking the roots of the legend.
Other Bridge Sites: There are many other bridges in Clifton and Fairfax Station, that withhold the same or similar age and characteristics of the bridges listed. Due to their hard to reach locations (many times being on private property) or bad conditions (i.e.: falling apart, rotting, or nearly disappeared) such bridges, and their possible ties/connections to the legend cannot be looked into more.
Bunny Man Bridge’s Other History: Another Explanation For Paranormal Activity?
Another problem with Mr. Conley’s research is that he fails to explain Bunny Man Bridge’s other history. Such history that it happens to occur right around when the legend supposedly began (post-Civil War era). In the Civil War, the site of Bunny Man Bridge was the location of a train station, owned by the U.S> Military. This railroad track had been one of the Union’s main supply routes in the region. Confederate attacks on such bridges and stations were common, and in one case a small skirmish with some known casualties occurred at this train station right next to where Bunny Man Bridge was. The station’s name was Sangsters Station.
Easy to look up, yet forgotten in history, this station may be a partial cause in paranormal activity at the bridge (due to the casualties experienced there during the Civil War, in other words Civil War ghost may haunt the bridge). Once again, Mr. Conley failed to mention this about the bridge, along with not mention the old poor house either.
This structure once existing (even after the Civil War) leads to the possibility of another possible murder site, that could have helped sparked the story that developed into the legend. How a man in bunny costume wielding an axe comes into the story, beats me. But, there is always possibility!
While there are no recorded murders of such deaths as described in the legend, as stated by Mr. Conley, this does not mean an end to the issue. Who said the murders, or murders that morphed into the legend, were recorded? In the time that legend supposedly takes place, murder cases were not always recorded, authorities weren’t always contacted, and investigations weren’t always solved like they are now. Once again, such circumstances lead to a greater chance of the legend actually being based on some truth.
Ending Statement and Conclusion
While the situations and theories I have presented are based on few facts, and are more so hypothetical and possible situations, it still doesn’t mean their probability of occurrence is extremely low. It is from these facts, locations, and theories listed that most likely is where the roots of the legend began.
Events and locations could have occurred years ago. Something as simple as a town murder could have been blown out of proportion and caused this legend of an axe-wielding maniac in a bunny costume. But it is not the whole idea of the legend, I’m trying to prove is possibly true; it’s the simple events and locations it’s based off of that I’m trying to prove true.
This story has to be based off of something; somebody just didn’t get up out of bed one day and write this legend. And even if they did; they couldn’t have based it that simply on the report of a guy who showed up in a bunny costume in Fairfax. They had to get the mental institute, the bridge, and gruesome murders story from somewhere. Even if the part about the man in the bunny costume is fake, and the part about the mental institute, the train bridge, and the murders is true; then at least there is some truth there.
And that’s what matters; the truth. What is the real truth behind this legend, and why do people like Mr. Conley and Fairfax County Police Officers skim over the certain factors like Ivakota Farm, the old Poor House, Sangster Station, and the other bridges when they talk about the legend? Is comes off as mysterious. It appears there is more to the story. Truth. Yes. Truth. And the situations, facts, and locations stated here, are just a little bite of what could be the actual truth.