Recordings of Barbara Lowe's long lost tapes have been found, and the champion opens up about her experience on the show.
New light has been shed on one of the greatest game show mysteries of all time. An article in The Ringer detailed the decades-long mystery of Barbara Lowe, a Jeopardy contestant whose episodes went missing after they aired in the 1980s. Years later, the tapes have been found, and Lowe has gone on the record about her experience on the quiz show, but the evidence provides a puzzling contrast to the narrative that has formed about Lowe over the past decades.
Barbara Lowe was a five-time Jeopardy champion in 1986, competing in the second season of the show’s reboot with Alex Trebek. But through decades of syndication across multiple platforms, Lowe’s episodes have been mysteriously absent.
Game show enthusiasts searched far and wide for the lost Barbara Lowe tapes, but they had been seemingly erased from history. Fans not only wondered what happened to the tapes but why the episodes had been so blatantly omitted from archives and syndication. It seemed that someone wanted Baraba Lowe’s run on Jeopardy lost to time.
A legend grew around Lowe. Alex Trebek had alluded to her being difficult on and off camera. Lowe had allegedly corrected Trebek on air, disputing his ruling on one of her answers over a pronunciation disagreement.
Other rumors about Lowe surfaced over time. She allegedly lied about her identity on her Jeopardy application, withheld information about her appearances on other game shows, which conflicted with Jeopardy’s eligibility policy, and even took the game show to court.
Without the context of the actual episodes, the fan perception of Barbara Lowe was that she was difficult, rude to other contestants, and hyper-emotional. Then, the tapes were found.
Adam Nedeff, a research consultant for the National Archives of Game Show History, long believed the Lowe tapes could never be found. In 2022, a fan came forward with a closet full of Jeopardy tapes from the show’s earliest seasons. If the tapes still worked, they would contain Lowe’s episodes.
Nedeff and a team of researchers took the tapes and digitized them. Nedeff skipped ahead to March 6, 1986. There, with preserved picture quality and sound, was Barabra Lowe.
The controversial Jeopardy champion was not what anyone expected. She was emotional but not in a catty or rude way. She was bubbly, excited, and blowing the competition away, soon it became clear to Nedeff that the legend of Barbara Lowe had been exaggerated.
Eventually, Barbara Lowe opened up publicly about the experience. She had not watched Jeopardy in years and had no idea that anyone was looking for her episodes. When she learned of the controversy, she attempted to set the record straight.
According to Lowe, Jeopardy host Alex Trebek did not like her. Her exuberance on the show had apparently been irritating, but Trebek became really frustrated when Lowe had to walk away midway through a taping for a bathroom emergency.
Lowe returned, and her emotional reaction to winning her fifth round of Jeopardy was apparently the last straw for the show’s producers. Lowe’s winnings of $35,192 were withheld for months until Lowe finally hired a lawyer.
The Jeopardy producers were withholding Lowe’s winnings to make up for the money she cost the show by delaying the taping. She was also disqualified from the Tournament of Champions for allegedly lying on her application to the show.
After a short legal dispute, the case was settled, with Lowe and the show splitting the earnings. After her legal fees were paid, Lowe was left with about $5,000. She also explained that she had appeared on other game shows, including Wheel of Fortune, but was honest about those appearances on her application.
Records of the ordeal are sparse, and since Alex Trebek passed away in 2020, it is hard to corroborate anyone’s stories. As far as Nedeff is concerned, Barabara Lowe was just another champion who made for compelling episodes of Jeopardy. She got more than she bargained, becoming one of the most compelling mysteries in game show history.