Hard to imagine that a multi-million dollar lottery win would be anything but a good thing. Most of us, if asked, would quickly come up with a dream “bucket list” of ways to burn through that big pile of cash (think how good you will look on that brand new island of yours).
With the Mega Millions jackpot now at $454 million, you may be busy fantasizing about the riches to come, but sometimes when those fantasies become reality, it can all take a nasty turn.
Consider these lottery winners and their horror stories (so many there was actually a TV series about them).
Jack Whittaker, a millionaire from West Virginia, became a much bigger millionaire when he won a $315 million lottery in 2002. Sound’s great, right? Not so fast. After four years, Whittaker was broke and had lost both his daughter and granddaughter to drug overdoses (which he blamed on the lottery winnings). In addition to all that, Whittaker was robbed of $545,000 in CASH, as he sat in the parking lot of a strip club. Whittaker said, in hindsight, “I wish we had torn the ticket up.”
Abraham Shakespeare suffered far more than Jack Whittaker when after winning a $30 million jackpot in Florida. Shakespeare was murdered. Shakespeare was found buried under a slab of concrete in his backyard. He had been shot twice in the chest. A woman named DeeDee Moore, who Shakespeare’s brother said befriended him after his lotto win, was found guilty of his murder.
She split a $224 million Powerball jackpot with about a dozen co-workers, then Sandra Hayes went on to write a book. Not one you might imagine, it’s a book about how the lottery ruined her relationship with family and friends. She told the Associated Press, “I had to endure the greed and the need that people have, trying to get you to release your money to them. That caused a lot of emotional pain. These are people who you’ve loved deep down, and they’re turning into vampires trying to suck the life out of me.”
Jeffrey Dampier Jr.
Jeffrey Dampier won an estimated $20 million jackpot from the Illinois Lottery in 1996. Not long after, he and his wife divorced, and Dampier remarried. The newlyweds moved to Tampa. In 2005, he was kidnapped by his sister-in-law and her boyfriend. Three days after he went missing, he was found dead in the boyfriend’s van. Victoria Jackson and boyfriend Nathaniel Jackson were arrested were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
At least I’ll be happy
If you don’t put much stock in these stories, then how about a scientific study? According to NBC News, a 2008 University of California study that measured people’s happiness six months after winning a relatively modest lottery prize didn’t exactly produce the results you may have imagined. The study looked at those who won an amount equivalent to about eight months’ worth of income. The winners had taken the money it in a lump sum. The study found that winning the money, “had zero detectable effect on happiness,” according to Peter Kuhn, one of the study’s authors.
But, wait, there is hope
Richard Lustig is a seven-time lottery game grand-prize winner who really likes being rich.“Obviously it’s changed my life big time,” Lustig told TIME in January. “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor, and I like rich a whole lot better. We’ve lived in big, fancy houses. I drive a Jaguar. We’ve gone on cruises. I can’t complain.” Lustig’s biggest payoff came with an$842,000 Mega Money win. He’s kept most of his winnings and wrote a book, “Learn How to Increase Your Chances of Winning the Lottery.”