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Scary True Stories: The killing game

Reality TV…it’s harmless fun, right?

Well–not always.

Imagine winning The Bachelor, only to find out the man of your dreams is a serial killer.

It happened to Cheryl Bradshaw.

The year was 1978, and the ’70s version of The Bachelor was The Dating Game. Bradshaw had her pick of three eligible bachelors, including Rodney Alcala, described as a successful photographer who enjoyed skydiving and motorcycling.

Skydiving is an interesting hobby, but it’s nothing compared to Alcala’s true passion–raping and murdering women. Somehow he was accepted as a Dating Game contestant even though he was a convicted rapist and registered sex offender. By the time he met Bradshaw, he’d already murdered at least four women.

Cheryl Bradshaw

Cheryl Bradshaw

Not only did this serial killer compete for love on The Dating Game, he won! Thankfully, before Bradshaw could go on the last date of her life, her instincts kicked in. She refused to go out with Alcala, reportedly saying he was too creepy. Unlike other sociopaths who exude charm, there was something about this guy that set people off. Actor Jed Mills, who was on the same episode of the reality dating show, said his opponent was a “very strange guy” with “bizarre opinions.”

Robin Samsoe

Murder victim Robin Samsoe

After being rejected on The Dating Game, Alcala continued his murder spree, but the death of a 12-year-old girl proved to be his undoing. Robin Samsoe’s friend was able to describe her killer, and Alcala’s parole officer recognized him from the sketch. Alcala was tried twice for Samsoe’s murder before a California jury eventually sentenced him to death in the ’80s. The conviction was overturned twice, and he was sentenced to death again in 2010 for five murders. As recently as 2003, DNA evidence has linked Alcala to further victims.

No one knows for sure how many women Alcala killed. One investigator believes he’s responsible for at least 50 deaths, but other estimates have been as high as 130. A collection of 1,000 sexually explicit photographs found in Alcala’s possession could be the last images of other victims.

The would-be romeo is still alive today, awaiting his execution at San Quentin. One can only imagine Bradshaw’s reaction when she found out her “perfect date” was a serial killer.

Have you heard of Rodney Alcala? Do you think you’d recognize a serial killer if you met one? Have your instincts ever warned you someone was “off?” 

 

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48 Comments

  1. Just goes to show when that inner voice speaks, it’s best to always listen to it. It’s sad for the families that the killer has had so many sentences overturned and he’s still on death row.

    Thoughts in Progress
    and MC Book Tours

    Reply
    • JH

      It is sad. It’s ridiculous how these guys can play the system indefinitely.

      Reply
  2. How did he ever get on that show? Crazy. It must have been a sick thrill for him to be so exposed and to have such dark secrets. We should always listen to our instincts.

    Reply
    • JH

      I agree, Mary. I have no idea how he managed to get on–the producers must have done a pretty shoddy job of checking their contestants!

      Maybe background checks weren’t done back then.

      Reply
  3. Yes, how did he get on the show? That was really poor judgement on the part of the producers. Terrible he wasn’t caught much sooner.

    Reply
    • JH

      I agree, Alex. I’m guessing they didn’t even check his background. If they had, his criminal record would have been obvious.

      Reply
  4. The producers thought a convicted sex offender would be a great choice to match up with women on a game show? What in the world?

    Reply
    • JH

      Imagine the fallout if she’d gone on the date! I imagine a few people got fired when the truth came out.

      Reply
  5. This story was unfamiliar to me, and as a kid, I loved the Dating Game. It catered to the hopeless romantic in me (stuff that as I aged, I realized was more stalkerish behavior than romantic). When I see reruns of that show, I’m shocked and horrified at the things that get said. So. MUCH. Sexism. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that a killer found his way onto this stage. Frankly, I’m more surprised someone contestant didn’t end up dead or raped.

    As for recognizing a killer, who knows. I’ve met people who felt off to me, and even had experiences where I thought I was in the presence of a rapist waiting to happen. Now I’m wondering if anyone from my past has been uncovered, exposed as a killer.

    Reply
    • JH

      Well, for all we know, maybe someone did end up murdered or raped, but I thought those dates were supervised…weren’t they? Most rape victims don’t report the assault, so it’s hard to know.

      Just watching The Dating Game clip with this guy made my stomach turn. “If I served you for dinner, what would you be and what would you look like?”

      “A banana.”

      “Can you be a little more descriptive?”

      “Peel me.”

      Who serves a banana for dinner? The other guys must have had pathetic responses if that kind of answer won Bradshaw over. Or perhaps I’m too logical for reality TV. 🙂

      Reply
  6. That is so creepy!! The part about the banana is really weird. How did he get on the show?

    I remember watching the Dating Show when I was kid. I guess that dates me 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      Good question, Ellen. I suspect he was a really good interview.

      Your secret is safe with us. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Thank goodness she trusted her instincts. Woman’s intuition.
    So disturbing that the producers of the show didn’t do a background check. Probably more concerned about themselves and their ratings than bothering to make sure their female contestants were safe. If the producers and network was that lax, there must be other contestants with dating horror stories from the show, too.

    Reply
    • JH

      I would think so Lisa, although I’m not sure if they did a background check or not. In a lot of cases, sexual offenders did–and still do–slip through the cracks. It’s something that definitely needs to change.

      Reply
  8. We need to remember that it wasn’t as easy to get background information on criminals back then, especially state to state. This is why the national state/federal databases have become so important to law enforcement. It’s not as easy to solve crimes as it appears on TV.

    Love that her instincts kicked in and she listened to them.

    Heather

    Reply
    • JH

      Most definitely, Heather. I wonder if they did any kind of background check on contestants, though. I’m sure things changed after this came to light!

      Reply
  9. Never knew this story! Of course, now I want even more details.

    Reply
    • JH

      Glad to introduce you to it, Randee! If you find out anything interesting (and how could it not be interesting?) please let me know.

      Reply
  10. That is sick. That’s why I would never do anything like that, not even meet people from social media. Until it was a blogger, like you. 😉 You just never know who people really are….

    Reply
    • JH

      That’s so true. Even bloggers–there’s been a couple who I mistakenly thought were good friends until I got to know them a bit better. Then I was really glad I’d never met them in person.

      I’m totally safe, though, of course. Heh heh heh….

      Reply
  11. I didn’t remember his name, but I did watch a documentary about him, because I remembered how effed up it was that people allowed him on a show like that.

    Reply
    • JH

      Hmm….I love documentaries–thanks for letting me know. I’ll have to see if I can find it.

      Reply
  12. Cheryl had a very lucky escape! How on Earth did the show think it was ok to have a convicted rapist take part?!
    Debbie

    Reply
    • JH

      Good question, Debbie. I can only assume they didn’t know.

      Cheryl was EXTREMELY lucky.

      Reply
  13. That is very scary. You would think a show like that would do an extensive background check. I was home raising my sons in the 70’s and rarely watched TV, unless it was a kid’s show. Did find out several years ago that the former Michigan Governor, Jennifer Granholm, had been a contestant on the show.

    Reply
    • JH

      You would think, Denise. Perhaps it was a more innocent time, or background checks weren’t as efficient back then. I’m sure they weren’t.

      I can only imagine what their PR people had to deal with when this story came to light, though!

      Reply
  14. So creepy!

    As my writer brain kicks in – like it ever stops! – I can’t help wonder what if it was the woman contestant on one of those shows who was the serial killer?

    Reply
    • JH

      That would be very cool, Madeline. And much more creepy. If you write it, let me know!

      Reply
  15. That is frightening. I’m hoping they have stronger entry criteria for today’s shows!

    Reply
    • JH

      I really hope so too. I wouldn’t necessarily trust them to have their contestants’ best interests at heart, though.

      Reply
  16. Even more upsetting than the game show appearance is the fact that he was convicted of assaulting two young girls but served very little time in prison thanks to indeterminate sentencing. After his release he started killing people. Why the authorities thought a twice convicted predator was rehabilitated is beyond me.

    Reply
    • JH

      It happens all the time, Sasha, sadly enough. Sexual offenders NEVER get enough time in prison, if you ask me.

      Welcome to my blog, and thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  17. Hi Holli, that is so scary, how did he ever get onto the show in the first instance? Good on Sharon Bradshaw for trusting her instincts. Have I ever met someone who gave me the creeps? I can’t recall, I don’t think so, though some of our govt. ministers who appear on TV are pretty creepy. You can just tell that they are thoroughly dishonest.

    Reply
    • JH

      Ah, politicians. What’s that saying? You can tell they’re lying because their lips are moving. Ugh.

      I did meet someone who gave me the creeps. I was a little kid, and he was a friend of my friend. She said he was a nice man, and tried to get me to play in the swimming pool with them, but for some reason I couldn’t go near him. A few years later, he was arrested for pedophilia.

      Reply
    • JH

      Good job, little voice! 🙂

      Reply
  18. I have tried many times to leave my post here and it won’t take….this is my test

    Reply
  19. Yippee! It took…ok some saw this episode and you can tell she doesn’t like him from the body language. I have been told by many people that I have good instincts and I have had those strong feelings on occasion

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks for bearing with WordPress, Birgit. Sorry you had trouble leaving a comment!

      If she didn’t like him, why did she pick him? Unless you mean once she saw him in person…? I have to say, he was definitely the best looking of the three. I wonder how bad the other answers were, since his sucked.

      Reply
      • It was only when she actually saw him not the answers he gave. All the answers the men gave sucked but that show was a bit icky actually. If you watch the episode, watch her when she sees him…watch her body language and her eyes.

        Reply
  20. Man, there is nothing more horrifying than real life, is there? This made my flesh creep. I kept thinking, “What if she hadn’t paid attention to her instincts and gone out with that man?”

    I’m locking my doors and it’s only 8A.M

    Reply
    • JH

      😀 I think that’s why I read so much true crime. It’s always scarier than fiction. I find it so interesting to ponder what makes these people tick.

      Reply
  21. I would hope that those responsible for letting a felon onto the show! When we trust that those in authority will, of course, do their job, we place ourselves in jeopardy (and I do not mean the game show!)

    His victims did not receive a chance to fight their death sentence nor should he. 🙁

    Reply
    • JH

      I agree 100%, Roland. Well said!

      Reply
  22. HOLY COW! I’d never heard that story. Didn’t the show vet their contestants at all? In this day and age, they’d be sued. I’m shocked he hasn’t been put to death yet, but at least he remains incarcerated. He’ll get his just desserts eventually.

    Reply
  23. This is one of the “truth is stranger than fiction” stories. I’ve read that serial killers have big egos, but to go on national TV? Oh my.

    Reply
    • JH

      Yeah, what was he thinking? Is she didn’t survive the date, it would have been a tad suspicious.

      Reply
  24. You should read “The Gift of Fear” regarding trusting your instincts, like Bradshaw obviously did!

    Reply

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