Baltimore freelance writer, photographer and train enthusiast Emmett Stanton won “Jeopardy!” for his second day on an episode that aired Monday night. Screenshot via YouTube.

He won again, but not without sparking a controversy over his handwriting.

For the second time in a row, Baltimore smarty pants Emmett Stanton came from behind to win the popular trivia game show “Jeopardy!,” in the program that aired Monday night.

He also used his appearance on national TV to bolster his reputation as a train lover, telling a story about an unpleasant experience he had with an airline. 

Stanton, a freelance writer who travels extensively for work, became the “Jeopardy!” champion in the show that aired on Friday, derailing five-time winner Luigi de Guzman in the first week of the show’s 39th season. He told host Ken Jennings during the show’s interview-the-contestants portion how much he liked traveling by train, and that became a running theme of the show.

On Monday’s show, after Jennings asked more about his travels, Stanton talked about a time when an airline “went out of business” after he bought a ticket.

“It was the first leg of a round trip,” he said. “I had about a month in between” and before the return date, “the flight ceased to exist.”

“We knew from last week that you’re a train traveler and I think I’m starting to understand why,” Jennings said.

Stanton’s win on Monday’s program was impressive because he went into the Final Jeopardy! round in third place with $8,000, behind challengers Suzanne Goss, with $8,600, and Jason Freeman, with $8,400.

Because the dollar amounts were so close, any of the three could have won. But Stanton bet all of his money, $8,000, and doubled that figure when his handwritten question was judged to be correct. Neither of the others had the correct question.

The category was: Historic Documents.   

The clue was: The Governor of Massachusetts wrote it “is a poor document, but a mighty act…wrong in its delay till January, but grand & sublime after all.”

Stanton’s response: What is the Emancipation Proclamation?

The controversy, which arose online after the show aired, involved the legibility of Stanton’s handwriting, since responses in the Final Jeopardy! round have to be written. Jennings read his response as “Emancipation Proclamation” and said that was correct.

After the show aired, some viewers said on social media that they could make out the word ‘Emancipation,’ and the ‘P’ and ‘r’ in the next word, but they couldn’t tell the entire word. They noted that if Stanton’s response had been disqualified and he lost his $8000 bet, he would be down to $0 and Goss would have won.

“I’m not sure how the judges accepted the writing on Final Jeopardy today,” one commenter said on Reddit. “The first half worked but the second half…whew.”

“There’s no possible way to translate that last half in Proclamation, regardless of observed intent,” a second said.

A third called Stanton’s handwriting “illegible”  but said it may have been due to the pressure of the situation. “Panic would likely make me do the same chickenscratch.”

Baltimore resident Emmett Stanton wins the “Final Jeopardy!” on his second day competing on the trivia game show “Jeopardy!” But the legibility of his writing has sparked controversy among some fans. Screenshot via YouTube.

Stanton, who is interacting with viewers on social media, weighed in on the controversy too.

“Re: the handwriting concerns, conveniently the good folks at ‘Jeopardy!’ have a podcast that has, at various times, gotten into the specifics of how handwriting is adjudicated by the independent legal team that looks at everything borderline on the show,” he wrote on Reddit. 

Andy Saunders, a longtime observer who has written about every game of the show on a free website,, called for Final Jeopardy! responses to be typed on keyboards from now on, not written by hand. That way, “we completely eliminate any and all debates,” he suggested, according to an article about the controversy in

According to the official Jeopardy! website — – written responses to the Final Jeopardy! clue don’t have to be spelled correctly to win.

“Jeopardy! is not a spelling test – unless, of course, the category requires it,” the rules state. “Written responses to the Final Jeopardy! clue do not have to be spelled correctly, but they must be phonetically correct and not add or subtract any extraneous sounds or syllables.” The show’s judges “get to make the final call in situations like these,” the rules state.

Stanton’s two-game total is $41,800. He and his handwriting are back Tuesday night, facing challengers from Cincinnati, Ohio and Concord, Massachusetts.

Watch the episode that aired Monday night here:

YouTube video

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.