5 NoVA Local Legends To Learn Before Halloween
Virginia is home to many fantastic ghost stories and legends. Even Bigfoot has been sighted around the area once or twice.
As we prepare to crack open the apple cider and turn up the heat in our houses, it’s time to gather round and share some stories, tall tales, and lore about the Town of Vienna and it’s nearby haunts. Whether you believe the details of the legends or not, you can’t deny that the historic old town and its old windy roads house years of history and curiosity.
Maybe we’re talking about that haunted house on Hunter Mill Road, but maybe that’s a story for another time. So sit down, have some sparkling cider, and enjoy the narratives that have been tucked away in the Town of Vienna, Virginia.
1. Bunny Man
The Bunny Man is one of the most popular urban myths to come out of Northern Virginia. There is apparently some grounding in fact when it comes to some of the bigger details, but students, teens, and story-writers have fashioned it into the tall tale it is today. An asylum in Clifton, Virginia, was forced to close in the early 20th century, and its inhabitants had to be put on a bus and taken elsewhere. The bus crashed in Fairfax Station, and while all survived, one asylum inhabitant escaped, never to be seen again.
In 1970, a man wearing a white suit and bunny ears came upon a couple sitting in a car. He waved a hatchet at them and told them to leave, which they then did. Since then, there were a handful of police incidents about a man in a bunny costume waving a hatchet, but no one was ever arrested.
There never was an asylum, and the person named as “The Bunny Man” didn’t exist. But the Bunny Man Bridge in Fairfax Station is now famous for being the haunt of the furry hatchet wielder. You can buy merchandise featuring the Bunny Man in the Town of Clifton, just a few miles away from Vienna.
2. Foxstone Park Bridge
Unlike the previous story, the tale of Foxstone Park Bridge is actually a real story of spies and intrigue in the heart of Vienna. FBI agent Robert Phillip Hanssen chose that bridge, located on Creek Crossing Road, to meet with agents of the Soviet Union for around 22 years. He would use his information gathered as a member of the FBI Soviet Analytical Unit to find the names of defected KGB members and gave them to whomever he met on that bridge.
Hanssen even investigated himself at the request of his unit and of course, pinned the blame of the leaks on another agent. But eventually, in 2001, he was arrested while hiding a bag stuffed with documents under the bridge itself.
Not much marks the bridge, other than a QR code that says “history” on it. But the tale is still worth re-telling.
3. Midgetville, Vienna
There used to be a set of tiny cottages located near the W & OD trail in Vienna. However, these six little houses were torn down in 2008 and never really heard of again. That didn’t stop the legends surrounding “Midgetville” from cropping up.
In 1930, six cottages were built in a Spanish style. They used to be rented out, but eventually became so old and broken that they were no longer usable for the public. But because of the closeness to Tysons Corner, where Barnum and Bailey’s Circus winter headquarters used to be, residents believed that very small people associated with the circus lived in Midgetville.
The tiny people were of course very territorial, according to legend, and would throw rocks at visitors who got too close. Aside from the fact that the cottages did exist, nothing else about this tale is true. But it does lend an atmosphere of quaintness to the W & OD trail.
4. Old Man Johnson (George Mason)
Around the Occoquan River, there are ghost stories told about Old Man Johnson, a rower who in the 1970s discovered his wife having an affair. He left his home, got into his boat, and was never seen again. Rumors said he threw himself over the dam and died of a broken heart.
While no one has been able to verify this story, George Mason’s rowers have said that they’ve found equipment moved around and boats missing from time to time.
5. The Gray Ghost
This story could be considered a real ghost story that happened along Hunter Mill Road during the Civil War. Col. John Singleton Mosby, “The Gray Ghost,” and his Confederate guerilla followers, would target Union soldiers and Union sympathizers who lived in the area, particularly those that chose to travel down the trail that later became Hunter Mill Road.
Mosby and his “Rangers” hunted down a preacher near the actual Hunter’s Mill close by and killed him around the mill.