Fact Check

'Barney' Was Based on a 1930s Serial Killer

A rumor that the children's TV show 'Barney & Friends' was based on a 1930s serial killer is just a bit of fiction.

Published Aug 24, 2016

The children's TV show 'Barney & Friends' was based on a 1930s serial killer.

A number of rumors have circulated about the titular purple dinosaur character in the children's television show Barney & Friends since the program first aired in 1992. We've examined several of these rumors (e.g., an actor in the Barney suit did not hide cocaine in his tail), we came across a new rumor in August 2016 holding that the character of Barney was inspired by a serial kidnapper, rapist, and murderer from the 1930s:

barney killer

There is no truth to this rumor. We found no record of a man named "Barney" who dressed up in a dinosaur costume and kidnapped children in the 1930s, much less anything referencing the dinosaur character's having been (absurdly) based on such a person.

The earliest iteration of this story we could uncover was posted to the WattPad web site in a collection of "urban legends":

Barney is supposed to be "happy, fun, and appealing to younger ones." Right? Well it's not.

Back in the 1930's, there was a man named Barney. He dressed up in a purple dinosaur costume everyday and went to the park. He would lure in little kids and kidnap them. He would force them to be happy, otherwise he would rape and kill them. If they acted bad then he would slice their necks and throw their bodies in a nearby river.

Still like Barney now?

That version was accompanied by a disclaimer noting that the referenced entries "are all urban legends. Some are real, some aren't. Can you decide?"

The true cuddly origins of Barney & Friends were explained in a 1992 Chicago Tribune article:

The Barney concept is the brainchild of Sheryl Leach, a former inner-city elementary school teacher and marketing executive who recognized a void in the market for video programming directed at preschoolers.

Leach, who lives in the Dallas area, also had the connections to bring Barney to life, having worked in sales and marketing for D.L.M. Inc., an educational publishing company owned by her father-in-law.

"My idea was that generally preschoolers go to sleep with a snuggly like a teddy bear, and I thought: Wouldn't it be neat if the thing I loved so much could come to life and interact with me?"


Lev, Michael.   "Barney! Barney! He's Kid Dinomite."     Chicago Tribune.   10 December 1992.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.