Donnie Darko and Bunnymen

Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 14th, 2007

Bunnyman Donnie Darko

The Bunny Man is a local legend based in Clifton, in Fairfax County, Virginia. It goes from a mild folkloric tale to an extreme urban horror legend. The story is about an allegedly real-life man-sized creature or a man-in-a-bunny-suit going around and killing people. The incidents seem to be based factually on some mysterious deaths. One University of Maryland researcher, Patricia Johnson wrote a 1973 folklore paper entitled “The Bunny Man.” She interviewed 33 students, but found only three actually mentioned a murder.


The Bunny Man is one of the strange tales explored in Weird Virginia, due out in March 2007. (The incidents are not told comically, as might be assumed from the image on the Weird US site, but with more Fortean respect, as per all of the Weird books’ treatments.)


An intriguing movie was released in 2001 that has strange images and links to the Bunnyman folklore, not the least of which is the giant figure of Frank (seen at top). This is not your grandfather’s Harvey. No, not at all. All month, February 2007, cable television channels have been broadcasting this independent film, entitled Donnie Darko, sometimes as often as four times a day. The setting for Donnie Darko is in the fictional town of Middlesex, Virginia, so certainly Fairfax County’s Bunny Man seems to have had some influence (perhaps if only in location).

The following cartoon review of Donnie Darko is courtesy of Mark Monlux and his site, “The Comic Critic: Home of the Creative Mind”.

Bunnyman Donnie Darko

One Australian movie review site gave it high marks (no spoilers here):

Donnie Darko‘s 20-something director Richard Kelly likes to say that his first feature is a “science-fiction coming of age tale”….Donnie Darko is set in 1988, in the lead up to the Bush-Dukakis presidential elections with its locale being a plush American tidy-town in comfy suburbia. Surfing a wave of pop references as far afield as Magnolia, Edward Scissorhands, The X-Files TV series, the portraits of Margaret Keene, Harvey and novel Catcher In The Rye, Donnie Darko is a gothic and darkly humorous lament, which poetically drifts into murky a pool of suburbia, mental illness, monstrous apparitions and a parallel universe….There is no doubt that Donnie Darko will be seen as too weird for some, or for those who reckon they’ve seen it all before, it will be written off as a piece of over-indulgent, over-privileged “wank” (don’ count this reviewer as one). Donnie Darko is menacing, dreamy, exciting and it could take you to a deeply emotional place lying dormant in your soul, waiting to be awakened by a film like this one, should you choose to invite it in….Donnie Darko may not be the most important film of the year, but it could be one of the best. What is important is that movies like this are made, and are seen by those open to the great possibilities of life and cinema….Unsigned Reviewer,

Bunnyman Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko (poster above) stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, Katharine Ross, Mary McDonnell and others. James Duval plays Frank (The Bunnyman).

One of the songs in Donnie Darko is Echo and the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon.”

For those looking for a concrete location where the Bunny Man sightings have been said to occur try the “Bunny Man Bridge” (see below), which is located along the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks at Colchester Road, Fairfax County, Virginia.

Bunnyman Bridge

This blog is dedicated to Donnie Darko fan CCCC.

Please, no spoilers in the comments.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

13 Responses to “Donnie Darko and Bunnymen”

  1. Jason P. responds:

    Although DONNIE DARKO’s director, Richard Kelly, grew up in Virginia, I don’t think the legend of this Bunnyman that you mention has much, if any, influence on the content of the film. Kelly has stated in interviews that the costumed character is dressed as a rabbit as an allusion to the book/film ‘Watership Down.’ In the original script for the film, there is a controversy surrounding ‘Watership Down’ at Donnie’s school.

    Also, the song ‘The Killing Moon’ is used because it was era-appropriate and content-appropriate, and because Kelly couldn’t afford the rights to the song he originally wanted.

  2. joppa responds:

    My vote is for a serial killer in a bunny suit, not a cryptid, a la John Wayne Gacy, killer clown.

  3. theo responds:

    Hmmm. Urban legend and truth about the Bunnyman have since long been separated and placed into perspective in this excellent essay here: The Bunny Man Unmasked

    The actual, real Bunnyman never killed anyone. So this assumption: “…an allegedly real-life man-sized creature or a man-in-a-bunny-suit going around and killing people. The incidents seem to be based factually on some mysterious deaths…” is simply false and urban legendry. The Bunnyman legend was borne out of the couple of sightings of a five foot tall man in bunny suit being upset because people were “trespassing”.

    Nor is Donny Darko the first film with a Bunnyman subtheme; after the famous Harvey film, there was the 1971 episode of Bonanza titled “Caution: Easter Bunny Crossing” where Bonanza star Dan Blocker hippety-hops along the trail in an easter bunny outfit, and then there was the excellent film Gummo – with the boy in the pink bunny suit. Preceding all this is, of course, the white rabbit of Alice in Wonderland.

  4. richard_from_idaho responds:

    Always liked that tune – what a weird place to feature it.

  5. Jason P. responds:

    Richard, I think it’s the perfect place for the song! Have you seen the film? The song deals with a battle between ‘fate’ and ‘will,” which is one of the major themes of the movie.

  6. turk responds:

    ‘Donnie Darko’ is one of my all time favorite movies. It was a flop at the box office, mostly because it got lost in the dearth of teen slasher films (inspired by the success of ‘Scream’) that it was marketed alongside but had nothing in common with. Thankfully, it has become a big success on DVD and spawned quite a cult following.

    The director’s cut of the film has ‘Killing Moon’ replaced with INXS’ ‘Never Tear Us Apart’, Kelly’s first choice of song for the opening of the movie (although, personally, I prefer the Bunnymen’s tune). The ‘Watership Down’ reference is also in this cut of the film (I thought it made the theatrical cut as well, but I could be wrong). The director’s cut also has a key scene with Donnie’s therapist that really clarifies the movie, IMO.

  7. Raptorial responds:

    I don’t get what the heck a psycho in a bunny suit has to do with cryptozoology, but I’ve heard of this legend before. Interesting piece of urban legendry Loren.

  8. RockerEm responds:

    So funny, I was just remembering Scariest Places on Earth going to the Bunnyman Bridge and was just looking on youtube last night for something on this place. Great blog 😉

  9. Raptorial responds:

    I like to lump the Bunnyman in with a group of urban legends I call the bridge haunts. You have San Antonio Donkey Lady, a woman who supposedly went crazy after being disfigured and now lives in the woods near a bridge, attempting to kill anyone who looks at her. Then there are the various others ranging from nasty monsters to human psychopaths.

  10. Loren Coleman responds:

    Well, that certainly opens the door to lots of “trolls under the bridge” motifs, now doesn’t it? Remember Ohio’s Loveland Frogman and Leonard H. Stringfield’s Trolls.

    The thing about bridges, of course, is that bridges are usually associated with water, and creeks, streams, and rivers are easily linked to weird creatures from the Dover Demon (Charles River) to Mothman (Silver Bridge, Ohio River), from the more mundane like the Fouke Monster (Boggy Creek) to the classic Bigfoot (Bluff Creek).

  11. bccryptid responds:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the film as well, but then again, I”M WEEEERD….;)

    Drew Barrymore features prominently, she is one of the main characters and also the main producer of the film, so it’s as much hers as the directors.

    If you like time travel dilemma movies and puzzle movies, you’ll like this. It is NOT a cryptid movie, however.

  12. billc responds:

    I had no idea that Donnie Darko’s bunnyman was a cryptid/urban legend. That makes the movie even funnier and now I understand why the bunny looks so malevolent…. Now I no longer laugh at just comments about Baby Mice (awwww), the 80’s nostalgia, Kiddie Porn Dungeons (with Mary McDonnell’s cynical little “hmmm”) and of course my favorite line: “Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!!!”

    A very weird film but a very neat one!

  13. dontgd responds:

    I grew up in that general area and am familiar with many such legends from that era. While all petrified me, I mostly remember mutations of the Charles Manson story, where hippy teenagers attacked either parents or children while on drugs. It took me until age 10 or so to realize the stories weren’t true and a few years later to attribute them to Manson misunderstandings.

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