‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ is one of the most dramatic game shows of all time, but there was no episode more heart-pumping than this one. When Charles Ingram took the stage that fateful day, he seemed on a steady path to winning a million dollars. And viewers had no clue there may have been more than met the eye — until they noticed one small detail.
The Contestant In Question
Let’s rewind the clock back to 2001. At the time, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? was still a relatively new show. Viewers watched excitedly while contestant after contestant sweated in their seats, trying to answer tricky questions under the blinding camera lights.
Across The Pond in the United Kingdom, they also had a version of the popular reality show — and there was one episode in particular that ended up literally changing the game. The contestant in question was Charles Ingram, an army veteran who’d been given the rank of Major, and was thus very respected in society. But all of that was about to change.
His Wife Was Already On The Show
Crazily enough, this wasn’t the first time that an Ingram family member had been on a game show. Charles’ wife, Diana Ingram, had also been on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? a few months prior, where she’d won £32,000 (which equates to $42,700, approximately).
Shockingly though, even with the money they earned from Diana’s success on the show, the couple found themselves in tremendous debt. When Charles was accepted to be a contestant on the show, they’d been given a second chance at nabbing the million — and they weren’t about to leave it up to chance this time.
Playing It Safe
At first, the ambitious couple were confident that Charles would be able to hold his own on the show when faced with the complicated questions that would undoubtedly get thrown his way. An intelligent duo, trivia was something they had both always excelled at.
However, things didn’t exactly go the way they planned. Charles was struggling on the show, and by the time he had reached £4,000 ($5,300), he’d already used up two precious life lines. That’s when he and Diana decided to take matters into their own hands.
Getting Their Hands Dirty
After the filming had wrapped for the day, Charles and Diana didn’t feel comfortable with their position. Charles had already used up two life lines, and there were still plenty of hard questions he needed to answer to get to the million. So they concocted a plan that would allow Charles to get the answer right — every single time. But in order for this scheme to work, they needed outside help.
They had something working in their favor. Diana was a powerful woman who had forged all kinds of connections throughout her years on various game shows. She was friends with Tecwen Whittock, a well-respected college lecturer who was about to tip the scales in their favor.
When Diana Ingram asked her good friend Tecwen Whittock if he could help, he was more than happy to oblige. The next day of filming, both Diana and Whittock could be seen in the audience — but they weren’t sitting next to each other.
Not wanting to attract too much attention, they carried out the plan from their own respective spots, and it worked pretty darn well. Or at least, it worked for a little while, until a bunch of people started noticing something fishy.
A Flawless Plan
Essentially, the plan was for Diana and Whittock to feed Charles the correct answers in a secret way. Tecwen Whittock, who had served as a contestant on countless game shows, had somehow “cracked the system” on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, and had access to all the answers.
He also made sure Diana had all the answers too, so that she could feed them to her husband after every question. The plan seemed practically flawless, and they were stoked to try it in practice. So how did they do it?
Something Odd Was Afoot
Charles Ingram showed up back on the set of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? with the expression of someone who knew he was going to win. He was confident and energized, but there was no reason for anyone else to think there was any kind of funny business going on.
However, when the questions started piling in, that’s when things got a bit interesting. Every time a question was read, a strange sound could be heard in the audience, signaling to Charles what the answer was. But Charles had a sneaky way of hiding it.
A Hollywood-Worthy Performance
Every time a question would get read, Charles would pretend that he was thinking long and hard about the answer. He would tilt his head down and pretend to be lost in deep contemplation. He would then repeat each possible multiple choice answer, slowly but clear enough for the audience to hear.
When he’d get to the right answer, Diana and Whittock would cough loudly for Charles to hear. The method was tricky, but overall very simple. This is how they notified Charles about the answers. But there was a flaw in their plan.
Many People Weren’t Fooled
The first main flaw in their plan was the fact that the coughing was incredibly obvious. It didn’t take long for viewers to pick up on the fact that a loud coughing sound would be mysteriously heard every time a correct answer was stated by Charles.
And it wasn’t just viewers who were picking up on it. The producers of the show were aware of some funny business taking place, and they weren’t about to let Charles get away with it. And there was yet another reason that Charles’ attempt at cheating was so obvious.
Panicking On Stage
Charles Ingram wasn’t afraid to show off to the viewers at home that he was having a good time. Every time he’d get another answer right, his smile would shine brighter than Times Square on New Year’s Eve. However, soon enough, his laughter turned into plain panic.
It’s clear that he was growing worried that the producers were onto him. He started acting jumpy and wore a maniacal grin, like he had something to hide. The show’s host, Chris Tarrant, was put off by Charles’ strange behavior, and he wasn’t the only one.
Tension Running Wild
Diana Ingram, Charles’ wife, was sitting in absolute shock while her husband drew such negative attention to himself. He was acting like a bit of a lunatic, and it was clear to the viewers that she was simply horrified by it all.
Instead of laughing it off and pretending like nothing was wrong, Diana made it clear to everyone watching that they were up to something. If they hadn’t been cheating, shouldn’t Diana have been excited? Her apparent dismay over Charles’ success was clearly another red flag.
The Last Question
Finally, Charles Ingram had reached the final million-pound question. Regardless of how suspicious things might’ve looked to some people, this was simply exhilarating reality television. Most viewers at home felt like they were witnessing a historic run, and they were simply on the edge of their seats.
Like every previous question during that wild episode, Charles contemplated the answer for a long time. But this was the moment of truth. At the last moment, he “unexpectedly” switched his answer to the correct one — and he won a million pounds!
Viewers at home started going nuts over Charles’ incredible win — and, of course, so did Charles himself. Was the game show contestant about to get away with this? Had he, Diana, and Tecwen Whittock just successfully made fools out of the entire world?
For a glorious, wishful moment, the three schemers probably believed everything was going to be just fine. However, it wasn’t long before their lofty dream was shattered right before their eyes. And it happened right when Charles walked off the stage.
Placed Under Questioning
Once the cameras were off and Charles Ingram had left the stage, he was essentially escorted straight to a courtroom. He was then immediately questioned about what had just transpired, and why he knew all the answers. The producers weren’t buying Charles’ “win”, and his £1,000,000 check was suspended.
A thorough investigation was then put into place, where he, his wife Diana, and Tecwen Whittock were put in the hot seat. After a proper investigation was conducted, the three defendants were found to be guilty of cheating. What would the court decide to do with them?
Avoiding A Prison Sentence
The main punishment Charles received for cheating on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? was the army taking away his title of Major. The Ingrams were also given heavy fines to pay — but luckily for them, things could’ve been a lot worse.
In fact, the Ingrams were originally sentenced to spend a full year in prison for their misdeeds, but the court let them off. The judge didn’t seem to think their crimes were that serious, or at least not worthy of going to prison for. But the Ingrams were about to get even luckier.
Still In Serious Debt
Charles and Diana Ingram had just lucked out, and managed to evade a yearlong stint in prison for their alleged actions. But there were a few other issues that needed to be dealt with. First off, there were the monetary fines they needed to pay off.
The Ingram couple had already been suffering from crippling financial debt before going on the show, and this made things that much worse. Even though they had avoided jail time, they were about to fall into serious money problems. But there was an angel of hope watching over the both of them.
A Viral Sensation
Even back in 2001, anyone could technically still go “viral”. It wasn’t even close to the scope of how it is today, but if you had a compelling enough story, people took notice. Such was the case with Charles Ingram, who had developed a reputation around the world as the “Coughing Major”.
Whether you loved him or hated him, and despite what he had done, Charles Ingram was now turning into one of the biggest game show stars the world had ever seen. And, of course, this led to more and more opportunities for the army veteran.
A Reality Superstar
Reality stars are just like celebrities in that all publicity is good publicity. So even though “The Coughing Major” was now known around the world for his cheating escapades, the fact of the matter was, people were undeniably entertained by him.
This inspired other reality shows to approach Charles with opportunities to appear on their shows. One of these reality series was Hell’s Kitchen, a cooking competition series hosted by legendary chef Gordon Ramsay. But Charles’ foray into stardom was just beginning.
The ‘It’ Couple
Even though Charles was the more popular star, his wife Diana also had quite the following. In fact, the Ingrams were the new “it” couple of the reality star world, and shows wanted to capitalize on the both of them instead of just one.
Soon they were invited as a pair on the reality series Wife Swap, which naturally improved their social status even more. With the rising couple’s newfound fame, it raised a very possible theory that fans started to wonder about them.
Now that Charles and Diana Ingram were the belles of the ball, fans started wondering something about them. Was it possible that they had cheated on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? simply for shock value? Or was there something else going on?
Did the famous couple do it for the fame that comes with sheer notoriety, knowing full well they were going to get caught? Whatever they did, it certainly had all worked out in their favor. However, the Ingrams weren’t about to give up without a fight. They felt like they were treated unfairly by the producers of the show.
They Claimed Their Innocence
What many people don’t know about Charles and Diana is that they claim they’re innocent. From the start, they’ve maintained their story that they actually never cheated on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, and that they were unfairly accused all along.
They’ve stood their ground from the very start, and used their growing social platform as a means to try and clear their own names. Eventually, they were approached by another group of people who wanted to help them out. And this time, the world was going to learn the whole truth.
Trying To Clear Their Name
The people who approached Charles and Diana Ingram were actually writing a play called Quiz, one that would exonerate them for good. Eventually, this play was turned into a full-fledged three-part drama series. The idea was to focus solely on the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? scandal, and the real reason the Ingrams didn’t go to prison.
Originally, people thought that the Ingrams had just got lucky. But this documentary focused on some interesting aspects of the case that made the couple seem less guilty. By the end of the series, many viewers were convinced that they were innocent.
Still Fighting For The Million
The Ingrams’ documentary mini-series was a massive shock to the entire population. Most people figured that Charles and Diana wanted to leave their cheating past behind them. But now they were declaring their innocence proudly, and demanding justice for what they had lost.
After all, they basically had a £1,000,000 check yanked from their hands quickly and unceremoniously, so their outrage is understandable. In the last episode of the mini-series, it was revealed that the couple were fighting hard to overturn their verdicts — and their lawyers had something interesting to say.
An Intriguing Case
Charles and Diana’s lawyers revealed some very interesting information in their public statement. After another thorough investigation of the case, they divulged “there are some really weird anomalies” with the recordings of the show. Apparently, a lot of the weird coughing was all just a massive coincidence.
According to the Ingrams’ lawyers, the strange coughing and weird behavior by Charles was all nothing more than a big misunderstanding. They claimed that Charles really did know all the answers, and that his erratic performance on stage was due to shock. But not everyone was convinced.
The Common Opinion
As popular as the documentary mini-series was, not a lot of people actually believed that Charles and Diana were innocent. Although most reality show viewers appreciated the couple for the entertainment value they brought, they never doubted that they cheated the system.
Indeed, the evidence against the Ingrams was pretty overwhelming, but kudos to them for putting up a good fight anyway. To this day, they still haven’t received the million pounds they feel they deserve. But although most people think they cheated, they’ll still go down as one of the most famous reality show couples of all time.
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