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.