Couple the Unibomber with Barney, and what do you get? The dreaded Webkinz killer that is rumored to be coming to Webkinz World. In one version, a virus threatens to destroy all Webkinz pets permanently, leaving their owners devastated and mourning over their lost pals. Another version refers to a “Webkinz murderer,” who goes around killing online pets. And with millions of registered Webkinz users, this rumor, if true, would be more devastating than the Great Plague and World War II combined, at least in Webkinz World.

For those unfamiliar with the toys, Webkinz are small stuffed animals, first launched in 2005 by Ganz. Each animal includes a unique code that, when entered on the Webkinz World online site, allows the user to create a virtual version of their pet. Users can make their pets interact with other Webkinz, play games, chat, earn “kinz cash,” and buy virtual accessories for their animals. Hot among the 5-to-9-year-old set, Webkinz is often the first introduction kids have to the online interactive gaming world. With strictly regulated chat and privacy functions, parents typically feel quite secure with letting their kids visit Webkinz World.

So what's with the rumor? Is it possible that a mass murderer is loose in Webkinz World, eliminating other Webkinz pets indiscriminately? Or can someone create a computer virus that would kill all the pets? The short answer: The rumor is false. There is no “Webkinz killer.” There is only the “Webkinz rumor,” which has been circulating the internet for at least two years, and “infects” a new generation of Webkinz fans each time a big brother or sister decides it's time to terrorize the little siblings with stories of how their beloved pets will soon meet their demise.

Ganz is obviously aware of these rumors – there is a post in the “bulletinz” section of the Webkinz World homepage that attempts to dispell the rumor. “Remember that we would never allow anything
to hurt your Webkinz pets,” the message concludes. But despite these assurances, a simple web search on “Webkinz rumor” brings up numerous posts and questions about the possibility of a “Webkinz virus” or “Webkinz murderer.” After all, kids are more likely to get their information from their schoolyard buddies (or siblings) than from the FAQ section of a website.

This is where parents come in – we can reassure our kids that their pets are safe. It's almost laughable – that someone would take the time to create a virus to infect and “kill” millions of Webkinz pets. We ask ourselves what kind of sicko would do something like that? But the unfortunate truth is that there are people out there who would get a huge kick out of spreading exactly this kind of terror.

Thank goodness, this time at least, the rumor is false.