[adapted from Lying Wonders, Strangest Things]
Clifford Maxwell of Brooklyn is living proof, to hear the media tell it, that you should pay attention to the voices in your head. They could make you forty million dollars richer!
That’s if it’s the right kind of voice.
Is there such a thing?
Holy men receive what they believe are voices of heavenly figures, mainly angels, or Jesus, and in some cases, perhaps they do (but not about money). So do those who are demented—schizophrenics. And spiritualists, who “communicate” in draped and darkened rooms. In one survey researchers at the University of Chicago found that nearly seventy percent of adults claim to have foreseen eventualities through a “sixth sense”—what those in tweed jackets call “precognition.”
Maxwell was none of the above, just a retired father of five who happened to be riding a bus past a regular lottery outlet in 2004 when an “inner voice” nudged him—more like pushed him—into getting off and purchasing a ticket, even though he already had three squirreled away in his wallet.
Sure as fate, several days later, the sixty-one-year-old former transit worker watched in shock as his numbers, seven of them, scrawled across his television.
The impulse to hop off the bus ended up being worth $40 million to him. “I am truly blessed,” he remarked, with admirable understatement, and perhaps no little self-satisfaction. For he did what most of us too often don’t: followed a hunch, even if it was inconvenient and . . . illogical.
Logic is a funny thing; sometimes it helps; sometimes it blinds us to other forms of reality. He recalled how he had been half asleep when the lottery drawing started, but found his eyes flashing open when he heard the announcer, Yolanda Vega, call out the incredible winning numbers. It was almost too difficult to believe. When he was sure it was true, “the first thing I did,” Maxwell told the New York Post, “was pray to God.” The next was to wake up Arlene, his wife.
One can only imagine the look on her face when Clifford dashed into the bedroom. But he soon calmed down. A patient man, he decided to wait until Christmas breakfast with his children to break the unimaginable news. Flabbergasted? Their little retirement fund was about to get a heap bigger. After taxes, the lump sum was still over $20 million—enough to buy two hundred Mercedes SL roadsters, or 666 of his own buses, if he so desired anything of that particular number! (Instead, he planned to give a chunk of it to charities and his local church.)
Then there was the geological statistician from Toronto named Mohan Srivastava, who after winning a small sum via a tic-tac-toe scratch ticket ingeniously discovered, with mere use of his calculator, that the numbers on “scratchers” were not really random.
“I swear I’m not the kind of guy who hears voices,” he said. “But that night, as I passed the station, I heard a little voice coming from the back of my head. I’ll never forget what it said: ‘If you do it that way, if you use that algorithm, there will be a flaw. The game will be flawed. You will be able to crack the ticket. You will be able to plunder the lottery.’” The algorithm he had deciphered—the one in question—was used to formulate the lottery.
At first Mohan tried to brush it off. It couldn’t be true.
The Ontario lottery officials surely knew what they were doing!
But looking at more tickets and stabbing at the calculator, Srivastava learned that visible numbers revealed crucial information about digits hidden under the latex coating!
Nothing needed to be scratched to win, discovered Srivastava—if you knew the secret code. One had only to survey face numbers at the gas station.
The next day, Srivastava stopped at the station, and sure enough saw that every ticket he purchased had the telltale pattern. He picked up other tickets from other outlets and was able to choose winning tickets an astounding ninety percent of the time. The problem: most winnings were a pittance; he’d have to spend all his time buying tickets to make a living . . .
Instead, he informed officials of his discovery.
They altered the algorithm.
More profitable were the voices that reputedly made Arthur Stilwell from Indiana a very rich man. He was a lowly freight wagon driver and had been hearing voices— locutions—since he was a kid. When they told him to move to Kansas City—and build a railroad—he listened!
Finding work as a clerk, Arthur gained enough trust over his first few years for bankers to finance the “idea” he had: a railroad linking the Gulf of Mexico to farms in Kansas. Little by little did he build upon the inspiration.
And the result was the Kansas City Belt Line Railroad—a massive transportation network that led to establishment of forty towns and the City of Port Arthur, Texas (named for him).
Whenever Arthur was troubled or needed to make a major decision, he retired to a quiet place, usually his office, drew the shades and . . . listened. At one point the voices even had him divert his railroad away from Galveston, Texas—a good piece of advice, for Galveston was soon decimated by a hurricane.
But all earthly luck comes to an end.
Store not treasures of this world!
In 1928, age 69, Arthur died of apoplexy. Distraught, wife Genevieve stepped out onto the ledge of a skyscraper window two weeks later (they had moved to New York) and joined Arthur in eternity . . .
Sometimes, bad luck haunts the moneyed . . . particularly those lottery winners. Mammon, mammon. Conmen ring the doorbell. Thieves watch the house.
Relatives unknown—third, fourth cousins—come calling. Wives turn on husbands (and vice versa). There have even been murders . . . as in the case of Urooj Khan from Chicago, who never did cash a lottery check for $425,000; he was pronounced dead of cyanide poisoning the next day.
There was Andrew Whittaker of West Virginia. He won $315 million in 2002 during a Powerball drawing, this on top of the $17 million he was already worth as owner of a construction firm. Inner demons got the best of him, however, and plagued by personal as well as legal difficulties, Whittaker began overdrinking and frequenting sordid nightclubs—where robbers broke into his car and stole $545,000.
That was followed by another theft, and then plain bad family luck: His granddaughter’s boyfriend was found dead from a drug overdose (in Whittaker’s home) and three months after that, the granddaughter followed her boyfriend to the grave (likewise overdosing). Whittaker’s daughter— mother of the ill-fated granddaughter—died five years later.
“I wish I’d torn that ticket up,” sobbed Whittaker, who, we might add, was sued by an Atlantic City casino for bouncing more than a million in checks . . . to cover gambling losses.
Everybody dreams of winning the lottery, unaware that some of those dreams can be nightmares and that money (mammon) is not the only thing, whilst gambling, that one risks.
[resources: Lying Wonders, Strangest Things]