Updated: Aug 03, 2023

The Curse of The Lottery: 5 Winners and Their Demise

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

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.

5 Reasons You Don't Want to Win The Lottery

I hate to be a total buzzkill, but winning the lottery may not be exactly what it's cracked up to be (unless stress, heartache and death is what you're imagining — then it's totally cracked up to be the right thing). Here are 5 reasons you may want to rethink your dreams of winning the lottery.

1. You Like Being Married

Debt can put a lot of strain on a family, but a few unfortunate lotto winners prove that riches can cause just as much strain. 

Juan Rodriguez thought his life had finally turned around when he won the New York State Lotto jackpot totaling $149 million.

This win couldn't have come at a better time considering Rodriguez had filed for bankruptcy the month before and, at the time, had $0.78 in his bank account.

Even his wife reconciled with him, now that he had a chance at paying the $44,000 in debt he owed to creditors after his $88.5 million bailout.

The reconciliation didn't last long though, a month later his wife filed for divorce and for rights to half the $88.5 million, which resulted in frozen access to his funds.

Eventually, the divorce went through and Rodriguez doled out half his prize, but hey, at least he settled his debts!

William Hurt's life turned upside down after he won the $3.1 million jackpot in Michigan's 1993 Lottery.

It only took 2 years for Hurt to relapse into a cocaine addiction, literally blowing through his earnings.

The relapse caused his wife to leave him in a bitter divorce and he lost custody of his children, leaving him with nothing.

2. You Don't Want To Be Killed

Abraham Shakespeare, a 43 year-old truck driver's assistant and middle school dropout, ended up winning $30 million Florida jackpot in 2006.

He only enjoyed the money for three years before he disappeared in 2009. His body was found a year after his disappearance, in the backyard of Dorice Donegan "Dee-Dee" Moore's boyfriend.

Moore, a business partner, was later charged with the murder of Shakespeare. Before his death, Shakespeare disclosed to a childhood friend, "I'd been better off broke."

3. Bankruptcy is Unappealing to You

Wait, what? Winning the lottery is the exact opposite of bankruptcy but these next few individuals experienced just that when they won big.

Evelyn Adams, a New Jersey native seemed to be the luckiest person on earth — she won the lotto TWICE, within four months.

Her winnings came out to a total of $5.4 million combined.

She had full plans to go back to school, and possibly even open up a music store.

None of these plans came into fruition, and 16 years after winning Adams had to move into a trailer park having given away and spent all her winnings.

This isn't a unique story in the lotto winner community, William "Bud" Post, won $16.2 million in 1988 and quickly watched his life disintegrate in front of him.

On top of that, his girlfriend broke up with him and successfully sued him for 1/3 of the jackpot, his brother hired a contract killer to murder him — not the best results.

Post ended up going bankrupt due to poor money management.

Eighteen years after winning Post told the Washington Post, "I was much happier when I was broke."

4. You Are Superstitious

Are you beginning to see a pattern in these stories? Winning the lottery sucks.

Even though it seems like just a bunch of freak-coincidences occurring to people in the spotlight, there is a whole "Curse of the Lottery" theory out there.

If you don't believe in curses, tell that to Jack Whittaker. Whittaker is one of the most infamous individuals plagued by the curse.

After his $315 million winnings, he was a victim of grand-theft, his granddaughter was found dead under a van due to drug overdose (just months after her boyfriend died from the same reason inside Whittaker's home).

These deaths proved to be too difficult for Whittaker's wife, Jewell, and she ended up filing for divorce.

As if the story isn't depressing enough Whittaker's daughter (mother to the deceased granddaughter) died 5 years after her own daughter had passed for the same reason.

Whittaker currently has no family or fortune, his account was been emptied by thieves according to Whittaker himself.

CafeTerra reached out for comment on the situation to which Whittaker stated, "I wish I'd torn that ticket up."

5. Your Life Isn't That Bad

Debt is horrible, there is no way of getting around it.

Many people are in extremely dire situations and would give up their left leg to be able to pay off student loans, credit cards, medical bills and so on.

But take a moment to think about it, do you really want to win the type of money that will have friends and media constantly on your tail?

I don't want to use the overstated clichè 'Money doesn't buy happiness' but...

If you really think that money will solve all your problems, become proactive about your debt and look for ways to get back on track.

A good way to start is to look into Personal Financial Management tools. Some may cost money to use, others come in free apps.

Even if you don't have a smartphone to download an app, you can always take to the web for free advice and guides.