Already the winners are fighting over Friday night’s Mega Millions jackpot, the largest in U.S. history. A woman who claims to be one of the three winners is locked in an argument with co-workers at a McDonald’s restaurant who insist her purchase of a lottery ticket at a Baltimore County 7-Eleven was on behalf of the group. If all of these claims prove true, well, can you spell l-a-w-s-u-i-t?
Meanwhile, other Americans who collectively invested a staggering amount — almost $1.5 billion — on Mega Millions are wondering where it all went wrong for them. (The answer might have something to do with math, like that 1-in-176 million chance of winning.) For them, Monday was tougher than usual, trying to move on with their lives from dashed dreams back to reality.
And to them, we offer this heartfelt “Get well, soon!” editorial. Yes, your money vaporized as soon as you spent it. We fully understand your explanation that you did it “for fun” or “for the thrill.” We also acknowledge that the lottery is a legal endeavor, and people have every right to chase the rainbow. But, honestly, your cash, plus a few drops of lighter fluid and a nearby spark could’ve produced the same result, without building false hopes. Just admit it, next to buying a lottery ticket, spinning the ol’ wheel of fortune looks like buying Apple stock.
Now that the fun is gone and the thrill has evaporated, you might find consolation in learning about what you avoided. There’s a long history of lottery winners who have experienced nothing but heartache, pain, misery and — believe it or not — financial calamities after claiming their jackpots.
There’s Billie Bob Harrell, who won $31 million in a Texas lottery in 1997. Less than two years later, after purchasing multiple houses and cars, making numerous donations to charities, and helping friends, Harrell killed himself.
Back in the mid-1980s, Evelyn Adams miraculously won a combined $5.4 million with two lottery winnings in successive years in New Jersey. Then she spent all that money the same way she got it: gambling. In less than 20 years, she was broke.
In 1988, William “Bud” Post III won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery, then life got worse, not better. His girlfriend sued him, claiming they had agreed to divide the jackpot, and later was awarded $5.3 million. Legal bills continued to pile up, and Post’s brother was convicted of hiring someone to kill Post and his wife. Then Post was sent to prison after being convicted of firing a gun at a debt collector. Eighteen miserable years after “winning” the lottery, Post died.
You don’t even have to be a lottery winner to become a victim of the lottery curse. According to ABC News, Bill Isles of Wichita, Kan., bought a Mega Millions lottery ticket last Thursday and told a friend, “I’ve got a better chance of getting struck by lightning” than winning the lottery. Later Thursday, the volunteer weather spotter was monitoring the weather in his backyard when — that’s right — he was struck by lightning. Isles survived and had a friend buy 10 more lottery tickets for him Friday. No luck with Mega Millions, but at least he’s alive.
Our advice to those who missed out on Mega Millions: Cheer up, and count your mega-blessings.