By Marina Shifrin  Fri Aug 27, 2010

The Curse of The Lottery: 5 Winners and Their Demise

If you won the lottery, how would you spend your money? This is a common conversation starter among friends, family and first dates. What if winning the lottery meant years of disaster and heartbreak plaguing you and your family? Would you think a little harder about the question?

Read: Richest Dead Celebrities

The “Curse of the Lottery” is a psychological study to some, a predictable outcome to others, and an unknown phenomenon to many. Here are five examples of winners that probably wish they hadn’t won in the first place:

1. Kenneth and Connie Parker

Happily married for 16 years, Kenneth and Connie Parker quickly watched their marriage disintegrate months after they won the $25 million jackpot. According to ABC News, Kenneth’s “wife turned cold, kicked him out of the condo they had bought, and told him she was keeping all the money.” It was an abrupt ending to what seemed to be a strong marriage.

2. Michael Carroll

After winning 9.7 million British Pounds (about $15 million), Michael Carroll thought he would be set for life. Reportedly “angry at his life of excess,” his wife, Sandra, left Michael about a year after he won the jackpot and took their baby daughter Brooke with her, according to Mail Online. Now, eight years later, Carroll has squandered all of his earnings on drugs, gambling and prostitutes. He is now just as poor, if not worse off, than he was when he started.

3. Billie Bob Harrell Jr.

After winning $31 million in the Texas lottery, Billie Bob, thought he had it all. Struggling to support his wife and teenage children on his Home Depot salary, the winnings seemed a blessing to Harrell. In 1997, he and his wife celebrated in their living room after finding out they had won the jackpot. Two years later, unable to take the pressure of constantly lending money to friends and lamenting the strained relationships in his family, Harrell shot and killed himself in a bedroom at his Kingwood, Texas, home.

4. Jeffrey Dampier

Hailing from Chicago, Ill., Jeffrey Dampier was the lucky winner of a $20 million prize from his home state’s lottery in 1996. He reportedly spent most of his earnings on those around him, even sending 38 members of his family on a seven-day Carribbean cruise.  His sharing didn’t stop there: He also bought houses and cars for his parents and siblings, but not everyone showed their appreciation. In 2005, Victoria Jackson, Dampier’s sister-in-law, kidnapped and murdered him, leaving his body in his truck.

5. Jack Whittaker

At the time of his lottery victory, Jack Whittaker had the highest jackpot ever in the American lottery, with a single ticket at $315 million in the Powerball multi-state lottery. After he won, Whittaker donated a lot of money to churches and charities, but this did not stop the curse from following him. First, $545,000 in cash was stolen from his car while Whittaker was at a strip club. A second time $200,000 was stolen and later recovered. These problems were minor compared to what happened next. His granddaughter’s boyfriend was found dead in Whittaker’s home, reportedly from a drug overdose. As if one death wasn’t enough, several months later, Whittaker’s granddaughter was also found dead from a drug overdose. Five years later, Jack’s daughter and mother to his deceased granddaughter was found dead as well.

These five cases are not unique to lottery winners. In fact, there are multiple other stories similar to this one. Next time you think all your problems would be solved by winning the lottery, think again.

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Add Your 2 Cents

  • Stand4EverTall

    I can assure you that if I were fortunate enough to win something of that magnitude the last thing I would be thinking of is squandering money. You invest it. Let it sit and get comfy in a bank account or IRA fund.
    As for family, I would make sure that my loved ones were well cared for (they're mostly seniors), and their grandchildren would be required to complete their college education before receiving cars, etc. As for drugs I only take aspirin and Nyquil if I'm suffering from a cold or flu. I would however donate to my favorite charities. ASPCA, U.S. Veteran's Association, Susan G Korman, and Jerry's Kids. It's not all about trips to the Carribean, expensive clothes and living to excess. It's about making sure your parents are debt free, that your children are free from want. People go and mess it up with drugs or alcohol. Making sure that the above mentioned are all seen to and carried out is drug enough for me. Peace of mind. Being happy and making others happy. That's what its all about <3

  • Paul

    What I would do is buy a decent house and car, pay for college, and put the rest in the bank and PROMISE myself I won’t touch it. I guess it’s easier said than done and you have to deal with all the people coming out of the woodwork

  • cw.

    What I would do is put mostly all of the money in the bank, I wouldn’t tell anybody about my winnings, Money changes how people feel about you, i would buy me a nice home and car and live as common as I could, and if my family needed something, i would give it to them without them knowing that I was rich, i would give to the churches outreach programs, help with the school program for kids and but all on the low, shhhh..

  • Biznizwoman24_7

    We can all say what we would do & most of us beleive that we would do all the things we say, but until it happens to you truth is you really don’t know what you would do. I am a very level headed person but that kind of money is bound to change you in some way rather good or bad. In what percentage of good & bad you fall into remains to be seen, and the only way the percentage will be determaine is if you actually win the lottery. My suggestion is to seek financial assistance from an experience legitimate financial adviser. Good Luck to everyone who plays. Be responsible & wise.

    From just giving good advise.

  • billy boy

    I would have me a big party. I would rent me out a 747 and turn it into a party plane. I would invite all my friends for the flight and we would party just above the Queen Mary in Long beach in wide circular flight. After that, I would have all my passengers parachute from the plane right down to the deck of the Queen Mary where I would have the entire shipped rented out as a party boat. I would have a Fireworks show on the port side and all guess that leave the ship would get an all expense paid trip to Las Vegas and 10,000 dollars in gambling money. I would spend my first 100 million on just that one party. My second 100 million would be spent on buying gold. My last 100 million would be used on feeding every poor person I know in my state. The last few dollars I have, I would go to Wendy’s and get me a triple classic hamburger with a chocolate frosty dairy drink and some french fries.

  • Vaspers

    Put the winning ticket in a blind trust before you even claim the prize. Remain anonymous, tell no one, secretly give money to family or friends, make them swear an oath of silence.

  • jackie

    I would get a Securities lawyer, a ax lawyer and a Trust consultant. I would pay all my dept, Then I would set it all up so the original money could not be touched. The interest of of the money is what I would help my Family with. Education, health insurance, retirement etc. It all depends on the amount of money of course.

  • Harlean Hall

    First and foremost, when an individual wins a lottery in the millions, fall back. Let the excitement and the media attention as to who is the winner “die” down. Secondly, keep ur mouth shut. Most of the instant lotto million winners “run” their mouths, and sorry to say it’s mostly to family. Third, the lottery officials should allow an individual to “opt out” as to having their gov’t name posted in the media. Once your name is published publically, your are a target. Hire a good C.P.A., invest wisely and move, you can’t stay in a home where you were the most comfortable at. That’s just my opinion.

  • Muffy

    Stupid is as stupid does. Most of these people didn’t have problems before their winnings. Jack was already a millionaire before his win! It’s not the money, it’s the people. Money does not have a brain, it’s just there. I forgot how much is Friday’s MM jackpot, but you bet I’m going to be laughing like the Joker if my ticket is the winner! You won’t hear any bad stories about us. You won’t hear any stories at all. There are many people who won and did right with their winnings. Money doesn’t buy happiness, it buys freedom, which makes life better.