'Wheel of Fortune' Contestant Takes Home Massive Cash Prize Amid Squirrel Phobia

Wheel of Fortune contestant Emma Matthew won big this week after confessing her fear of squirrels on TV. Matthew appeared on the game show's "College Week" representing the University of California, Los Angeles, along with other students from all over the country. She came out a winner and endeared herself to fans with her mistrust of rodents.

Matthew introduced herself with her sciurophobia — fear of squirrels — as an interesting fun fact, but it held host Pat Sajak's attention. She said that she feels the rodents take a special interest in her because she fears them and believes she has been "almost" attacked by them "like, three times." She and the audience had a good laugh about the paranoia, but it did not distract her during the game. Matthew took home a staggering $61,750 when the game was over.

Matthew struck gold on Tuesday night's episode, according to a report by Outsider. She went to the Bonus Round where she was assigned the "food and drink" category, which often trips contestants up. Undaunted, Matthew guessed three consonants and one vowel — P, C, H and I. Only the C was any help, and she had just 10 seconds on the clock. However, Matthew threw out a guess right away, "Waffle Cone," which turned out to be correct.

Sajak must have known she was in for a major prize as he opened up her winnings envelope, grinning and asking: "are you curious about this at all?" Inside was a prize of $45,000, which brought her total winnings up to $61,750. Sajak joked: "I'm guessing that will come in handy," and Matthew replied: "A little bit!"

Viewers were happy for Matthew, who majors in business at UCLA. She made a strong impression with her audition on social media, where she said she has a bit of a crush on Sajak because of his "dad jokes." She then earned sympathy with her squirrel story on the air.

"I'm so afraid of them. They run at me. Nobody believes me, but they do," she said. Sajak joked: "You carry nuts in your pocket? Have you ever been attacked by a squirrel?" Matthew responded: "Almost. Like, three times."


Wheel of Fortune has been on the air for 46 years now and remains a staple of broadcast TV. Sajak has hosted the show since 1981 — 40 of those 46 years — becoming a familiar and comfortable face in households across the country.

Wheel of Fortune continues to air nightly in syndication. New episodes premiere every weeknight at 7:30 p.m. ET. Check your local listings for the correct channel in your region.