Happy Easter: The 5 most terrifying bunnies from Philly and beyond

It came as no surprise to the leporiphobics among us when a Jersey City mall Easter Bunny last year ended up in a brawl.

After all, fear of rabbits -- or, more specifically, fear of unsettling anthropomorphized versions of rabbits -- is totally reasonable. Maybe it's those huge black eyes ("cute," or windows into the depths of pure evil?) staring out at us. Maybe it's the latent, implied threat: This disturbing animal could breed an army in a week, if only there were two of them. Maybe it's because, where'd he get those eggs exactly?

Here are five rabbits you'll want to unsee, from Philadelphia and beyond, ranked in order of likeliness to induce terror. 

5. Easter Bunny

Camera icon Bob Laramie / Philadelphia Daily News
The Easter Bunny in the Gallery at Market East in 1985. Image from the Temple University Library Urban Archive.

I'm not saying the Easter Bunny is creepy. I'm just saying there are some mall Easter Bunnies that would have sent me into tears as a child, and probably still could to this day. 

Here he is, cruising through the Gallery -- perhaps a harbinger of the mall's closure a mere three decades later?

And what could be cheerier than a pair of Easter bunnies in Victorian mourning garb, visiting a child in the hospital? 

Camera icon Jack tinney / Philadelphia Evening Bulletin
A patient in the pediatrics department of the Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital gets a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny in 1980. Image from the Temple University Library Urban Archive.

4. Truant Bunny

The Free Library's Rare Book Department has a few hare-raising specimens in its collection. Please, allow me to introduce you to Truant Bunny. The cover image of this edition, from 1900, depicts the delinquent rabbit with a rifle, as though an unarmed rabbit were not alarming enough.

Spoiler: Things do not end well for Truant Bunny.

Camera icon  Courtesy of the Free Library of Philadelphia
Truant Bunny, from the Little Pleasewell's series by McLoughlin Bros. This edition is in the Free Libary's Rare Book Department, in the collection of Early American Children's Books.

While on the topic of children's literature, here's a bulletin from bunny expert Margaret Stetz, professor of women's studies and humanities at the University of Delaware. She is known for, among other things, occasionally lecturing with rabbit ears on her head.  She suggested The Rabbit Book, a quirky compendium of rabbits undertaking very human tasks, written and illustrated by the British painter Charles R. Pettafor (1848–1911). Her favorite: "Mr. Bunnie R.A., a member of the Royal Academy, the prestigious body of British artists. Like many professional artists, this rabbit is having difficulties with the portrait he has been commissioned to paint and, even worse, having trouble getting the sitter to pay for it."

Camera icon  Courtesy of Margaret Stetz
Mr. Bunnie R.A., from "The Rabbit Book" by Charles Pettafor, gets stiffed for his work.

3. Harvey

Camera icon Universal
Jimmy Stewart in a promotional photo for "Harvey".

The psychic weight of a 6-foot-3 rabbit named Harvey hangs heavy over a classic "comedy" starring Jimmy Stewart in the supposedly lighthearted role of a man who chooses delusion over reality. The film has been remade a couple of times since the 1950 original. There has always been a giant invisible rabbit involved, so I haven't seen it.

Anyway, if you stand by the premise that Harvey is not, in fact, a horror movie, I submit to you an alternative candidate: The 1972 sci-fi film Night of the Lepus. This film was based on a book called The Year of the Angry Rabbit. 

2. Hip-Hop

 

Camera icon G.W. Miller III / Staff Photographer
Former Mayor John Street with Hip-Hop.

Obviously, Hip-Hop -- the creepily muscular Sixers mascot who went missing for years before the team finally admitted he was "dead and buried" -- is on this list.

The strangely built physique, the lack of comforting paunch, and the permanent black sunglasses -- hiding ... what? A hangover? A glowing, blood-red gaze? -- all contributed to no one's wanting to cozy up to Hip-Hop for a photo ever. Except maybe former Mayor John Street. Here they are together. 

1. Frank from "Donnie Darko"

Camera icon KRT Photograph / Newmarket Films
Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, rascally rabbit in cult fave "Donnie Darko."

We'll never know who or what took out Hip-Hop. I think it's safe to assume it was probably Frank, the doomsday-prophet/rabbit in Donnie Darko, a nightmare of a film that really should get more play around this time of year.

If you're near Bethlehem, you can see it on the big screen this weekend at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks.