What happens when winning the lottery turns into a nightmare?

Winning the lottery was their worst nightmare.

What happens when winning the lottery turns into a nightmare?

We all have the dream. We get five numbers plus the Powerball. We find all the instant win symbols on our scratcher game and the multiplier. We watch the clerk's eyes get big when he scans our ticket and sees the fortune we've won.

We dream about everything we can buy and the problems we can solve once we have our seven-, eight-, or nine-figure fortune.

But for some people, winning millions was the worst thing that ever happened to them. These are their stories.

Unlucky 7s

1 in 17 trillion. That's how unlikely it was for Evelyn Adams, the manager of a 7-11, to win the New Jersey lottery not once but twice in 1985 and 1986. The two jackpots combined were worth $5.4 million, which she intended to use to return to music school and open her own store.

Instead, she gave away money to friends, invested in bad business ventures, developed a severe gambling addiction, and lost most of her fortune at the gaming tables and slot machines of Atlantic City.

“Winning the lottery isn't always what it's cracked up to be,” She told the Mirror.com. “I won the American dream, but I lost it too. It was a very hard fall. It's called rock bottom.”

After losing her fortune, Adams was broke, living in a trailer park and hoping for a third jackpot.

Lesson Learned: If you have impulse control issues, get help. Whether it is gambling, drugs, or shopping, high-spending addictions can destroy even the biggest fortunes.

Split the marriage, not the jackpot

After winning $1.3 million playing the California Lottery, Denise Rossi thought she had the perfect plan for keeping her fortune away from her husband; she wouldn't tell him about it.

Because California is a community property state, Thomas, her husband, was legally entitled to half of what she had won. Rather than split up her prize, Denise decided to pull a fast one and asked Thomas for a quick divorce without telling him about the money.

The story might have ended there, but Thomas received a letter meant for his ex-wife mentioning her lottery fortune. He took Denise to court, and the judge determined that Thomas was entitled to her entire reward because she had acted out of fraud or malice.

Lesson learned: Whether it's your spouse or the tax man, no fortune stays hidden forever. Pay what you owe now, or you'll probably have to pay even more later.

No is a complete sentence

Unlike many people who have blown vast lottery fortunes, Janite Lee didn't lose her money gambling, doing drugs, or buying too many luxury cars. Instead, she gave it all away.

Lee won $18 million playing the Illinois lottery, and her generous heart proved to be her undoing. She donated money to charitable causes and made immense contributions to politicians she supported. The Washington University School of Law named a reading room after her because of her financial gifts.

Eventually, she had given away most of what she had won and had to file for bankruptcy protection. When she filed for Chapter 11 just eight years after winning her jackpot, she claimed to have only $700 to her name and $2.5 million in debt.

Lesson learned: The most important word you can learn as a lottery winner is “no.” You can't help other people if you can't help yourself first.

Lost and not found

Technically, Martyn and Kay Tott never lost a fortune because they never had a chance to collect it. The UK couple purchased a ticket worth $5 million, but when it was time to take home their winnings, they realized that they had no idea where they put the ticket.

An investigation by the organization that ran the lottery confirmed that they had, in fact, purchased the winning ticket, but because they had missed the 30-day window to report a lost ticket, they weren't able to collect the prize.

Mrs. Tott told the Daily Mail:

Thinking you're going to have all that money is really liberating. Having it taken away has the opposite effect. It drains the life from you and puts a terrible strain on your marriage. It was the cruelest torture imaginable.

Lesson learned: Always keep your ticket in a safe place so you don't have to spend the rest of your life wondering, “What if?”.

Blow your stack

Unlike most players, Jack Whittaker was already a wealthy man when he won his fortune. The West Virginia native ran a successful construction company and was reportedly worth $17 million when he won a $315 million jackpot from the Christmas night Powerball drawing in 2002. At the time, this was the largest prize in American lottery history.

The list of lottery-related tragedies that befell him after that fateful night is almost too long to relate, so we'll just share some of the low lights.

Whittaker had hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash stolen out of his truck in the same strip club parking lot at least three times.

He gambled away millions more in Atlantic City and was sued by Ceasars for bouncing a $1.5 million check he wrote to cover his gambling losses.

His wife of decades left him, he was arrested twice for DUI, was sued repeatedly, including by three female casino employees who accused him of assault, and in 2016, his home burned down in a fire.

He gave his seventeen-year-old granddaughter a $ 2,000-a-week allowance, which attracted unsavory people into her life. She was later found dead, wrapped in a tarp behind a van. Her cause of death was undisclosed.

By the end of his life, Jack claimed to be broke, and he passed due to natural causes in 2020. The last twenty years of his life were filled with tragedy and heartbreak, much of it relating to his massive lottery win.

Lessons learned: Winning a fortune can be a tragedy if you don't know how to manage it.

The dream becomes a nightmare

Kentucky resident David Lee Edwards said that winning a $27 million Powerball jackpot was “a poor man's dream.”

Edwards had had a rough life up until his big win. He was a convicted felon who had spent a third of his life in prison for crimes such as armed robbery. However, by the time he won his fortune, he claimed that he had turned his life around, learned from his past, and was living an honest life.

He worked with financial advisor James Gibbs to invest his fortune and generate a return that would have provided him with a luxurious lifestyle.

Gibbs told the Palm Beach Post:

If he followed my advice, he'd be pulling in about $85,000 a month for the rest of his life.

Instead, Edwards developed an obsession with fast cars, big houses, and high living. He burned through his entire fortune in a matter of years and lost most of what he bought in bankruptcy.

After blowing through his massive jackpot, Edwards died broke and alone at the age of 58 in hospice care.

Lessons learned: The best financial advice is worthless if you refuse to follow it.

Just say no

Maintenance supervisor Ronnie Music Jr should have been set for life after he won the $3 million jackpot playing the scratch-off game 100X The Money in February 2015.

In a statement released by the Georgia State Lottery, he said:

I buy tickets every once in a while. I couldn't believe it, and I still don't believe it yet.

And that should have been the end of his story, except that Music decided that three million just wasn't enough.

Instead of investing his fortune in something traditional, such as stocks or real estate, he put his money into a high-risk/high-reward asset: drugs.

Members of his drug ring were busted in Georgia with eleven pounds of crystal meth with a street value of $500,000.

The ensuing investigation traced the money behind the drugs back to Ronnie, and he had to face the music. He was arrested, pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy and firearm charges, and was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

Lessons learned: Dealing drugs is always a bad idea. Dealing drugs after you've already legally won $3 million is an even worse idea.

A sad ending

Sadly, lottery winner Jeffery Dampier lost something even more valuable than his fortune.

His downward spiral started on what he probably thought was the greatest day of his life when he won a $20 million prize from the Illinois state lottery in 1996.

Dampier divorced his wife at the time and gave her half of his fortune in the process. He then remarried to a woman named Crystal Jackson and moved to Florida with her and her two sisters, Victoria and Terri.

Dampier showered all three sisters with presents and eventually began an affair with Victoria. On July 26, 2005, Victoria and her boyfriend, Nathaniel Jackson, murdered Dampier with the hopes that they would be able to collect his lottery fortune.

Instead, Victoria was charged with his murder, found guilty, and sentenced to three life sentences in state prison.

Lesson learned: Greed can turn people into monsters. Be careful who you trust after you win your fortune.