When Lotto Dreams become Nightmares

Powerball, Lotto 50, Lotto for Life…these are some of the things that dreams are made of, to win and win big! It can change lives. And for many it has, but not necessarily for the better.

When Lotto dreams become nightmares

Many who win lotto games find the windfall ruins their lives. Most who win find themselves cheated, wheedled, even threatened. A surprising percentage find themselves broke in less time than any reasonable person would believe. The most common reason for lotto dreams becoming nightmares is the inability to manage the new found wealth.

The curse of the big jackpot

Statistics and studies, the media claims, reveal that a big jackpot’s sudden wealth can be followed by sudden, violent death. Does such a disturbing connection exist?

Statisticians laugh over the idea of a curse. They point to sensationalized news coverage that creates a correlation and tends to focus on winners who experience bad luck later while ignoring winners who are merely richer.

Yet the Paris School of Economics released a study that should make cynics reassess their skepticism. The research reveals windfalls—like those experienced by major lottery winners—do raise the risk of untimely death by a significant degree.

Sudden wealth and sudden death

Stories of lottery winners meeting terrible ends are rife in the world’s newspapers. Accumulated, the stories might fill volumes, and maybe they have.

Stories about people meeting death soon after winning lotteries go back centuries. Some of the more recent ones include:

Abraham Shakespeare hit the $31 million Florida lottery jackpot in 2006. Later he disappeared. Police found his remains buried in a shallow grave. Following an intense investigation, police suspected Shakespeare was done in by a friend, Dee Dee Moore. The $2 million of the lottery winner’s money somehow ended up in her bank account.

The first-degree murder trial is underway as this is being written.

William Curry of Boston could barely contain his excitement upon discovering he’d won the $3.6 million jackpot in the Massachusetts Megabucks lottery. The 37-year-old Curry had trouble eating, sleeping, and his friends remarked he seemed under terrible stress.

Just two weeks after taking possession of his money he died of massive cardiac arrest.

Carl Atwood of Elwood, Indiana, a 73-year-old, hit the jackpot for $73,450 after playing the Indiana lottery.  Receiving his winnings, Atwood beamed with pleasure, saying, “I am very thankful. I must admit that I never expected to be leaving the show with this amount of money. Now I can purchase a very nice car.” After appearing with smiling lottery officials to tape a TV show about his big win on 22 January 2004, Atwood was killed-run over by a swerving truck.

Deborah McDonald, 47, of Crystal Rock, Ohio, won a big jackpot in the state’s “Cash Explosion Double Play” lottery game. The day she received her check she bought wedding rings for herself and husband, then went to party with friends at a neighborhood bar. Later, as she walked home, she stepped into the street and was instantly killed by a speeding car.

The famous story of 29-year-old Stuart Donnelly shocked a nation. Donnelly was the youngest winner of a lottery in the history of the UK National Lottery, having won a major jackpot in 1997. Yet scant years later his decomposing corpse was discovered after local police broke into his home after neighbors reported him missing. He had been drinking heavily and choked to death on his own vomit. Donnelly couldn’t handle his winnings and had become an alcoholic.

Different deaths for different winners

Some lottery winners are killed in accidents when they do things they never would have done if they hadn’t won. Others die from excesses caused by unrestrained addictions, while still others commit suicide or are murdered by people who want the money for themselves.

Sudden, unexpected riches have sent some lotto winners to the hospital, while many others start escalating their bad habits into a fast track trajectory towards death.

Maybe the real curse of winning a big lottery jackpot is the money allows undisciplined people to adopt a completely wild, unrestricted lifestyle leading inexorably to a downward spiral of loss, ruination, even death.