Bob Ross, renowned for hosting The Joy of Painting on PBS from 1983 to 1994, was a beloved TV artist. His legacy encompasses over 30,000 paintings and a significant impact on countless lives through his calming voice and optimistic demeanor. Regrettably, he succumbed to lymphoma in 1995 at the age of 52¹.

However, certain online sources have raised questions about a potential dark side to Bob Ross. Speculations include whether he might have been a serial killer who depicted the locations of his victims in his paintings or if he was entangled in a legal dispute concerning his estate and legacy.

The Serial Killer Theory

One of the most widely circulated and contentious theories surrounding Bob Ross is the notion that he was a serial killer who depicted the scenes of his crimes in his paintings. This concept originated from a Reddit comment in 2017, suggesting that Bob Ross painted locations where he may have buried his victims².

The comment garnered considerable attention, leading to the creation of numerous stories and memes based on this imaginative premise.

It is crucial to note that there is no substantiating evidence for this theory; it is entirely fictional and rooted in speculation. No connections have ever been established between Bob Ross’s paintings and any unsolved murders. Bob Ross, recognized for his kind and gentle nature, had a profound love for animals and nature.

Having served in the air force for two decades, he acquired his painting skills from his friend Bill Alexander¹. Furthermore, he generously donated many of his paintings to PBS stations and charitable causes¹.

In essence, the serial killer theory is a myth crafted for entertainment purposes, devoid of any connection to the reality or true character of Bob Ross.

The Legal Dispute

Another facet of Bob Ross’s life that has stirred controversy is the legal disagreement over his estate and legacy. In 2021, Netflix released a documentary titled “Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed,” delving into this matter in depth³.

The documentary uncovered that Bob Ross had relinquished his name, likeness, and intellectual property rights to Annette and Walt Kowalski, his business partners and friends, prior to his demise³. Subsequently, the Kowalskis established Bob Ross Inc., a company overseeing all aspects of Bob Ross’s brand, encompassing his paintings, merchandise, and media rights³.

It was also asserted in the documentary that Bob Ross’s son, Steve Ross, who made appearances on certain episodes of “The Joy of Painting,” was excluded from the arrangement and received no share from his father’s estate³. Steve Ross additionally claimed that he faced harassment and threats from the Kowalskis and their legal representatives, attempting to hinder him from painting or teaching in public³.

The documentary triggered significant dismay and sympathy among Bob Ross’s fanbase, who perceived it as a betrayal by his friends and an unjust treatment of his son. Nonetheless, the Kowalskis refuted any wrongdoing, asserting that they were adhering to Bob Ross’s wishes and upholding his legacy³. They also accused the filmmakers of bias and misinformation³.

Consequently, the legal dispute remains a complex and unresolved matter, generating diverse opinions among Bob Ross’s followers. The rightful claimant to Bob Ross’s estate and legacy remains uncertain.


Bob Ross, a cherished TV artist, left an enduring impact on millions with his artistry and optimistic outlook. Contrary to certain internet speculations, he was neither a serial killer nor associated with any ominous undertones. Additionally, there exists an ongoing, unresolved legal disagreement concerning his estate and legacy. It is crucial to distinguish between factual information and myths when crafting an article about Bob Ross.