It's been called a tax on people who can't do math, but that didn't stop millions of Americans from taking a shot at the 1-to-176-million odds for Tuesday's $355 mega-millions jackpot. This morning it was announced that two tickets, one in Idaho, the other in Washington, matched all five numbers and the mega ball from last night's drawing (4, 8, 15, 25, 47 and 42), taking the drawing for Friday's jackpot back down to $12 million.
25,587 tickets won $150 each for matching three numbers out of five plus the Mega Ball with the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42 - the same series made famous by the ABC series Lost. It's interesting that anyone would want to play the numbers, especially considering the sinister plotline surrounding character Hugo "Hurley" Reyes, whose life was plagued by a string of epic misfortune after winning the "Mega Lotto" jackpot with the cursed digits, gained from the mumblings of a fellow patient in an mental health facility.
While Hurley's situation was one of fiction, there are quite a few examples of real life tragedy surrounding multi-million dollar lottery payouts. So many, in fact, that the often disastrous effects on individuals and their loved ones following a large financial windfall has come to be known as "the lotto curse."
So if you, like many Americans, awoke this morning to find yourself a few dollars lighter, perhaps you'll take some comfort in the knowledge that sometimes more money leads to more problems.
At least that was the case for these five famous lotto winners.
5. Billy Bob Harrell, Jr., Texas Described as "a family man" by those who knew him, the former Home Depot shelf stocker hit it big in 2007 to the tune of $31 million dollars. Harrell spent his prize on lavish purchases, real estate investments, his church congregation, and anyone who asked for help (which was everyone). He committed suicide less than two years later, the threat of divorce and bankruptcy looming ahead. In an interview shortly before his death, Harrell said, "Winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me."
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4. William Hurt, Michigan Hurt won $3.1 million dollars in 1989. Two years later he was divorced, broke, and facing murder charges for killing a woman over crack cocaine.
3. Jeffrey Dampier, Illinois Dampier used the $20 million he won from the lottery in 1996 to move to Florida and open a popcorn shop. His sister-in-law and her boyfriend were charged with kidnapping, robbing, and murdering him in 2005.
2. William "Bud" Post, Pennsylvania Post, a former circus cook, told the Washington Post, "I was happier when I was broke." The $16.2 million dollars won in 1988 went to lavish spending, lawsuits, and his sixth wife (she sued, and won for one third his jackpot). His own brother would be arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit murder for hiring a hit man to kill him. By the time he died from respiratory failure in 2006 Post was living on $450 a month and food stamps. On hitting the jackpot, he said, "I wish it never happened. It was a nightmare."
1. Jack Whittaker, West Virginia Whittaker's is perhaps the most famous tale of post-lottery demise. In 2002, his $315 Powerball jackpot was the largest takeaway by any one individual. The years that followed were marred by misfortune, gambling, DUI, lawsuits, and death. The boyfriend of his granddaughter (to whom he gave a $2000 a week allowance) was found dead in Whittaker's home in 2004. His granddaughter, Brandi Bragg, would meet a similar fate just months later, both deaths believed to be the result of drug overdose. In 2009 his daughter, Ginger Whittaker Bragg, was found dead in her home.