The internet kinda sucks. I mean, it’s great for finding out important knowledge, like how the drummer of Toto died (freak gardening accident), but I worry that it’s ruining today’s youth. If they’re curious about even the most inconsequential scrap of information, it’s a click away. There’s no longer the thrill of the unknowable. Every wonder of the universe, no matter how perverse, obtuse, or bizarre, is distilled into a single Wikipedia entry. This one covers all three, I think.
I was more fortunate to grow up when I did. When I was in the fifth grade, I started hearing rumblings of this movie called The Shining. Beyond friends’ summaries of the film and catching that one episode of The Simpsons that spoofed it, I had little access to watching it. For weeks, all I could do was reread the blurb in Leonard Maltin’s Film Guide and try to piece together moments from the Simpsons episode in an attempt to create a narrative in my head. I knew my parents would never let me watch an R-rated film, so when my friend Matt casually mentioned that he had a VHS copy of the film, I thought I hit the jackpot. I persuaded him to lend me his copy one afternoon, and while my parents were out on a walk, I popped the movie into the living room VCR.
Matt’s VHS copy was recorded from an HBO telecast of the movie, and as such, wavy lines intermittently messed with the picture, the sound would warp every few minutes, and the recording started halfway through the title sequence. This did nothing to lessen the impact; in fact, these impurities only made the film ten times more frightening. The Blu-ray collector’s edition of The Shining I have now can’t begin to compete with that worn VHS copy.
I sat transfixed by the movie, which for me was like sneaking a Playboy from under your father’s bed, or the twenty-first century equivalent, typing “intercourse” into Google Images with SafeSearch turned off. It wasn’t until the oven buzzer rang that I snapped out of my trance. Somehow the combination of the shrill sound and witnessing an elevator full of blood made me think a super secret fire alarm had gone off and the house was about to burn to the ground. I ran around the house screaming my lungs out until my mom returned home and simply turned the timer off. I returned the tape to Matt the next day without even bothering to finish it – it had done its job and scared the beejeezus out of me.
Every town worth its salt has at least one good urban legend and my hometown is no different. Bunny Man Bridge is less than five miles away from my parents’ house and was the kind of tale that gets passed down from the seniors to the freshmen every year with varying details but the same basic story. Here’s the Cliff Notes version of the story I was told: escaped convict from mental asylum finds shelter in woods, unsuspecting teenagers locate same woods in search of a make out spot, mental case kills aforementioned teenagers. I heard that he got the name Bunny Man because he would eat rabbits for sustenance and leave their carcasses behind as a warning to other teenage trespassers. However the details varied each time the story was told, the closing line always remained the same: HE HAD NEVER BEEN FOUND.
When I ask my sister, who is currently a high school senior, about the Bunny Man, I’m thrilled to find out the story lives on in the gossip of teenagers looking for something to do on a boring Saturday night in Northern Virginia. She mentions that some friends of hers went to the Bridge last Halloween, the one day a year when the alleged crime scene becomes a full-fledged party scene until the cops break it up.
It’s then that I decide to flip the script for this week’s challenge. I will be the MANtor to my sister and take her to the scariest place I’ve ever been. Well, second scariest – the first being my basement at night when I was twelve years old. Hey, don’t make fun, you weren’t there.
Want to read more? You’ve reached the end of the preview, but the full text of this entry and many more can be found in my book, BE A MAN: How I Spent One Year Drinking, Shaving, Farming, and Fathering My Way Toward Masculinity.
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