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Exploring American Monsters: Virginia

The commonwealth of Virginia began in 1607 as the Colony of Virginia, the first permanent British settlement in the New World. It was also one of the original thirteen colonies to declare its independence from England. Virginia’s General Assembly is the oldest law-making group in the New World. Virginia was also the capital of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. Virginia and Maryland donated the land that became Washington, D.C., and because of that proximity to the nation’s capital about one-fourth of Virginia workers are employed by the United States government. Virginia’s geography includes the Appalachian Plateau, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and coastal plains; the easternmost part of the state is bordered by Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. And there are trees, lots and lots of trees. Sixty-two per cent of the state is forested, which makes up about 15.7 million acres. Famous residents include Pocahontas (an American Indian who helped the first British colonists in Virginia), Civil Rights activist Booker T. Washington, screenwriter and “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan, jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, explorer Richard Byrd, actors Rob Lowe and Sandra Bullock, and eight United States presidents, including George Washington. It’s also home to the Bunny Man.

Bunny Man

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Robert Bennett and his fiancée were driving home from a football game around midnight 19 October 1970 when they parked in a field off Guinea Road in Burke, Virginia, a town near Washington, D.C. Bennett was going to see if a relative was still awake, but they never got out of the car. As they sat with the motor running, something smashed into the front passenger window, showering them with glass. When they looked, a person dressed in a white bunny suit stood outside the shattered window, and shouted, “You’re on private property and I have your tag number,” according to a 1970 article in The Washington Post. Bennett gunned the engine and sped away. The couple later discovered a strange hatchet inside the car, which they gave to police as evidence of the event.

The Bunny Man was just getting started. Ten days after the Bennett attack, Paul Phillips, a security guard on a construction site, saw a man dressed in a grey and white bunny costume standing on the porch of a house under construction near Guinea Road. Phillips describe the man as being in his early 20s, about 5 feet 8 inches tall, and 175 pounds, according to a paper by Historian-Archivist Brian A. Conley of the Fairfax County Virginia Public Library. When Phillips approached, the Bunny Man started chopping at the porch with an axe telling the guard, “All you people trespass around here. If you don’t get out of here, I’m going to bust you on the head.”

Police investigated, the Bennett and Phillips accounts, but were baffled. They were even more baffled at all the following reports – more than fifty people saw the Bunny Man that year. Sightings allegedly continue, sometimes as far away as Maryland, but mostly around what has been dubbed Bunny Man Bridge in Virginia. As legend has it, the Bunny Man preys on drinking teenagers who hang out near the bridge, although evidence of anything really happening is nonexistent. The legend claims the Bunny Man is an escapee of an insane asylum in 1904. Take that for what it’s worth.

Giant Birds

Enormous birds have a place in many American Indian legends. With wingspans of greater than twenty feet, the Thunderbird is larger than any avian that has existed for 10,000 years. This is when the Teratorn flew the skies of North America. However, according to eyewitnesses, these enormous prehistoric birds may still be seen in the skies of Virginia today.

In 2013, in New Kent County, Virginia, a witness reported seeing an enormous bird standing in the middle of the highway. As the witness pulled around a corner, the bird stood in the center of the road – it was taller than the witness’s car, its wings stretched across the highway. The vehicle startled the bird, and it took off, the flapping of its wings almost deafening.

Birds of this size have been reported in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, and New Mexico.

Werewolf

A resident of a Woodbridge, Virginia, neighborhood saw something unexpected one night in mid-October 2011 – a canine they couldn’t identify. “A coyote, or a werewolf,” Prince William County police spokesman Jonathan Perok told InsideNoVa.com. The witness saw the creature was lurking in the woods near a shopping center just after 10 p.m.  Police were dispatched to the area, but no trace of the mythical creature was found.

In nearby Henrico County Virginia, mostly around the Confederate Hills Recreation Center, werewolf sightings are more common. A doglike creature at least six feet tall and covered in grey fur has been seen running on four legs, and sometimes two legs, through the woods. Although there are no records of deaths associated with the wolf man, it has been known to chase people. Howls are reported around the time of the full moon.

More reports have come from southern Virginia near The Great Dismal Swamp. An eight-year-old boy reported rolling over in bed one night, and looked out his window only to come face-to-face with a monster. The creature, he claimed, had to be standing on its hind legs to be looking into the window. It had a human-like face – except for the nose, which was a snout like a dog’s. The beast stared at him with yellow eyes. The boy shot out of bed and spent the rest of the night sleeping in his mother’s room.

Snallygaster

As far back as the 1700s, Virginia residents claimed a giant reptilian bird would appear in the sky, and swoop down to attack pets, game, livestock, and sometimes children. Eyewitness descriptions of the Snallygaster sound like that of a pterosaur; an enormous flying monster with a wingspan of twenty-five to thirty feet, a long beak, and leathery skin that looks like a reptile. However, the Snallygaster also has tentacles, talons of steel, and carries with it the pungent scent of death. Its shriek resembles a train whistle.

Reports of the Snallygaster continued until the 1930s when they became sporadic, appearing again in 1948, and 1973.

Bigfoot

Seeing as how Bigfoot has been reported in every state but Hawaii, it’s expected there would be Bigfoot sightings in Virginia. In 2014, a Virginia man not only had an encounter with the big furry hominoid, he photographed it on the Intracoastal Waterway, Virginia.

Randy O’Neal was fishing with his father and a friend when they saw the creature and took a picture O’Neal was impressed with, according to WTVR. “Finally, a photo that is not blurry nor hidden behind a tree. A clear photo of Bigfoot standing out in the wide open. You be the judge,” O’Neal posted on YouTube.

Is it a tree stump? A black bear? Or the elusive Sasquatch?

Chessie

Chesapeake Bay is 64,299 square miles of water that stretches from southern Virginia to northern Maryland, and is the home to Chessie.

This sea monster is described as a dark, snake-like creature about thirty feet long that seems to watch people working or playing in the bay. Most sightings of this creature occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. The last big sighting was in 1997.

Up next: Washington.

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Jason Offutt is paranormal investigator, an author of several paranormal books such as “What Lurks Beyond,” “Darkness Walks: Shadow People Among us,” “Haunted Missouri,” and “Paranormal Missouri” and a teacher of journalism at Northwest Missouri State University.
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