"Winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
Everyone dreams of winning the lottery, even people who have never won a ticket. But there are so many stories of jackpot winners who have gone from rags to riches, then back to rags—or even worse.
Here are five of the most tragic lottery horror stories you’ll ever read. It’ll make you grateful that you’ve never won big, and also wonder: is the lottery curse real?
Before Jack Whittaker won $314.9 million in the Powerball in 2002, he was already a millionaire. He was the president of his own business, and was worth $17 million. However, his business and financial know-how couldn’t save him from tragedy.
He carried around more than half a million dollars with him in cash, just because he could. Soon after he won, thieves broke into his car and stole that money. A few months later, thieves broke into his car again and stole $200,000.
Two years after Jack won the lottery, his granddaughter Brandi Bragg’s 18-year-old boyfriend was found dead in Jack’s home from an apparent overdose. A few months later, Brandi went missing, and her body was later found dumped behind a junked van. In 2009, Jack’s daughter and Brandi’s mum was found dead, and though no one has been charged with her death, officials suspect foul play.
If that wasn’t already terrible enough, in 2016, Jack’s home burned down. Though no one got hurt, the house wasn’t insured, and was deemed a total loss.
Jeffrey Dampier is proof that even if you do everything right with your winnings, the lottery curse can still creep up on you and bite you in the behind. He invested part of his $20 million winnings to open his dream business—a gourmet popcorn shop.
He also gave lavish presents to his family, including his sister-in-law Victoria Jackson, who he was having an affair with. But in 2005—9 years after Jeffrey won the lottery—Victoria and her boyfriend decided to rob Jeffrey, which ended with a bullet in the back of Jeffrey’s head.
Poor Urooj Khan didn’t do anything wrong. When the Indian immigrant to the US won $1 million with a scratch-off lottery ticket, he opted to collect it as a lump sum. Before he collected his check, he had dinner with his family to celebrate. That night, he felt sick and died in the hospital from “natural causes.”
However, after a relative asked the state to reexamine the body, they found out that he had been poisoned with cyanide. Nobody has been charged with his murder, and his winnings were split evenly between his wife and daughter.
When Billie Bob Harrell, Jr. won $31 million dollars, he was broke, and thought his luck was finally turning. He quit his job at Home Depot, donated to his church, gave his friends and family expensive presents, and took his family on holiday in Hawaii.
But this indiscriminate spending soon caught people’s attention, and soon, strangers started calling his home, demanding donations.
Less than a year later, he and his wife separated, and his son soon found him dead from an apparent suicide. Shortly before his death, he told his financial adviser: “Winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
Abraham Shakespeare was an illiterate sanitation worker who won $17 million in 2006. Being illiterate, he had no idea how to handle his new-found wealth, but he had a good heart.
Sadly, people took advantage of his kindness, and he ended up giving away a huge chunk of his money to people who hounded him for money. Sometimes, he’d even let homeless people stay at his house.
A little less than a year after he won the lottery, he met Dee Dee Moore, who offered to help him manage his money. However, she ended up stealing from Shakespeare, and when he found out, she killed him. Moore was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder.
As his boss Greg Smith told Crime Watch Daily, “Abraham don’t [sic] win that lottery, Abraham still [sic] living.”