Now She Can Buy More Than Just a Vowel


Sarah Manchester, a math teacher from Silver Spring, Md., is one lucky Wheel of Fortune contestant. On Wednesday, September 17th, 2014, she became the third person in the history of the long-running game show to win the one million dollar top prize with a grand total of $1,017,490.

Since the million dollar wedge was put into play in 2008, many contestants have landed on the sparkly green wedge and many contestants have even picked it up from the wheel. However, there is a reason only three contestants have won the big sum of money. Wheel of Fortune makes it very difficult to win the prize. Unlike other million dollar game shows where contestants only have to answer a certain amount of questions or need to have a lot of luck, there is a long process that involves skill and luck to win the jackpot on the Wheel. First, one must land on the one-peg-wide wedge, which is placed in the middle of two one-peg-wide bankrupt spaces. Then contestants must call a correct letter in the puzzle. Once the player has possession of the wedge, they then need to solve that puzzle. If a contestant makes it that far, they need to avoid bankrupts for the rest of the game, because if they hit one, they give up the chance of the seven figure sum. Players then need to hope they win the game. If they make it to the bonus round with the wedge in hand, players then have a one in 24 chance of landing on the million dollar envelope of the bonus wheel. If a contestant can solve the puzzle, and the envelope from the bonus says “ONE MILLION,” they have just made Wheel of Fortune history. Sounds simple, right?

If you are a huge Wheel of Fortune fan, and if you have a keen eye for detail, you may have noticed these facts related to the three million dollar winners. To start off, all three million dollar winners were women (Michelle Lowenstein, Autumn Erhard, and Sarah Manchester). Next, Michelle Lowenstein, the first million-dollar winner, picked up the million dollar wedge in the first round of play. Autumn Erhard, the second million-dollar winner, picked up the million dollar wedge in the second round of play, and Sarah Manchester, the third million-dollar winner, picked up the million dollar wedge in the third round of play. On the bonus wheel, the first two winners landed on a letter in the word WIN (Lowenstein: W; Erhard: N), and the most recent winner, Manchester, landed on the three star space next to the word WIN. All three million dollar winners had a bonus round puzzle category of THING. All three puzzles were two words long (Lowenstein: LEAKY FAUCET; Erhard: TOUGH WORKOUT; Manchester: LOUD LAUGHTER). With the letters RSTLNE always given to the contestants, all three winners had both the first and last letter of their puzzle given to them, and all three contestants had an adjective in their puzzle.

Here are some interesting facts based on Sarah Manchester’s million dollar win. Of the three million dollar winners, she was the only person to guess an ‘o’ as her vowel in the bonus round. She is the first million dollar winner to pick up the million dollar wedge on its new location on the wheel. She is also the only million dollar winner to have clearly known her bonus round puzzle before guessing her three consonants and one vowel, and, coincidently, Manchester became the third million dollar winner on the third episode of season 32.

Wheel of Fortune just began its 32nd nighttime season, and after being on air for so many years, one would think they have seen it all. It’s moments like these that Pat Sajak and Vanna White, the host and hostess of Wheel of Fortune since the show’s inception, keep coming back for more. They are shocked and get just as excited as the contestants do when the million dollar envelope is revealed. Million dollar wins are hard to come by now, not just on Wheel of Fortune, but on any game show, so when a million dollar win actually happens, it truly is a magic moment of television.


— by Bradley Clarke ‘15