Walpole, Mass., man is on one of two teams of "regular people" pitted against one another to solve a re-enacted crime pulled from police files.

To those who don't really know him, he's Mark Nicholson. But to his friends, he's Hollywood.

Nicholson, who spends his days hunting down the creepy creatures that invade local homes, recently spent a week in Los Angeles trying to solve the brutal stabbing death of a 14-year-old girl for the Spike TV reality show, "Murder."

Though the opportunity to be a detective and appear on television was a dream come true, Nicholson, 40, came upon the role by chance. One of his pest control customers works for Boston Casting - a company that finds actors for television - and would send e-mails about casting calls to him.

"She always said, 'Oh jeez, Mark, you're so funny. They're always looking for guys like you,' " said Nicholson.

One day, Nicholson's wife, Suzanne, came upon e-mail inviting her husband to try out for the Spike show "Murder." Thinking about her husband's love of cop shows such as CSI and his ability to investigate the critter problems at his customers' homes, Suzanne insisted that Nicholson try out.

"I thought that this would be right up his alley," said Suzanne. "I had a gut feeling that he'd get picked."

There were about 600 people at the Boston casting call and there were similar groups trying out at other spots across the nation. Nicholson was one of 30 selected for the first season.

Nicolson said the show pits two teams of "regular people" against one another to solve a re-enacted crime that is pulled from police files. The crime has already been solved by police, but contestants have the opportunity to examine a replicated crime scene, collect evidence and work together to get as close to the real culprit as they can.

"Mark was picked because of his inherent interest and aptitude towards the crime drama," said Melissa Leung, spokeswoman for Spike TV. "He was an interesting character that we felt our viewers would love to watch on TV."

In May, Nicholson flew out to Los Angeles for a week of shooting the show. After receiving a crash course in crime scene investigation and the television crew's blessing on the wardrobe his wife had picked out for him, Nicholson was set to try to solve the crime.

"When they actually brought you into the crime scene and they show you the girl (the victim, played by an actress) and everything, it kind of makes you want to cry," said Nicholson, who has four children under 10 and a fifth on the way. "But then you realize you're there to collect evidence, and you focus."

Aside from a monetary prize for the winning team, the show will also donate $5,000 to the victim's charity in the name of the team members.

Nicholson isn't able to reveal whether his team solved the case and won the episode, at the risk of a million-dollar penalty from the production company, a fact that makes him chuckle.

"I'm like, 'Buddy, I'm self-employed,' " Nicholson said. "Do you know how long it would take you to get a million out of me?"

Regardless of the punishment's absurdity, Nicholson remains mum on the details, saying only, "This was the most incredible experience I've ever had."

Unlike some who are disenchanted with the entertainment industry after an experience with long waits and big egos, Nicholson came out of his weeklong shoot eager to appear on another show. The crew, he said, was great, and now that he's home and back to work as usual, he misses what he calls "hurry up and waiting."

Nicholson, who said he and the other contestants were paid "a couple thousand" to do the show, even got accustomed to one of the more foreign aspects of being on television: makeup.

"By the end of the week, I was like, 'I'm going to have to get my own beauty kit,' " he said with a chuckle.

While Nicholson is not sure how his Hollywood tale will end - producers from "Murder" are sending his tape to other shows, he said - he is glad to be back in Walpole after his stint in California.

"I really realized there's no place else I could live," he said. "I need all these trees and shade. The palm trees don't give you any shade."

"Murder" appears on Spike TV, every tuesday beginning next week from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. It is not known when the episode Nicholson appears in will air.