Carl Atwood: The Unluckiest Lottery Winner Ever

Winning the lottery can easily feel like a dream. Almost as soon as you have won, you begin to imagine all the things that you will do with the money and all the friends and family that you will spoil. You allow yourself to picture all the holiday destinations you have always wanted to go to and all the cars that you will test drive before choosing the one—or ten—you like most.

While this is generally what happens to most lottery winners, none of it happened for one player back in 2004. In fact, Carl Atwood is often considered the unluckiest lottery winner of all time.

Hoosier Millionaire Winner Carl D. AtwoodWho Was Carl Atwood?

Little is known about Carl before his win aside from the fact that he was your average 73-year-old man who was living in Indiana. He also did have a fondness of purchasing lottery tickets and scratchers. This fondness is what eventually led him to his win—and demise.

The Hoosier Lottery Show

Carl was one of three lucky contestants who purchased a ticket that won them a place on a taped recording of the Hoosier Lottery in Indiana on January 22, 2004. The show allowed the players to win money during the first recording and then also invited the winner of the first show back a few weeks later in order to play for a grand prize of $1 million.

Carl did really well in the preliminary rounds of the show and managed to secure himself $19,000. In the final round before the end of the show, he hit an incredibly lucky streak and managed to triple his winnings. This left him with a fantastic win of $57,000!

When receiving the money at the end of the show, Carl intoned to the presenter how thankful he was. He also stated that he had never expected to be leaving the show with such a large amount of money. However, as we mentioned earlier regarding how quickly we dream of what we want, Carl already knew what he wanted and told the presenter that he would be using the money to buy himself a nice car.

Not So Nice Car

Later that same day, Carl decided to walk to the grocery store—which incidentally was where he had purchased his winning ticket. Since the store was only a block away from his home, he was not worried about walking in the dark, despite wearing dark clothes and despite the intersection that Carl needed to cross to get to the store being devoid of any lights. You may begin to see where this is going. Only hours after winning $57,000 and with a chance to win an additional $1 million, Carl was struck down by a passing truck driver who failed to see him in the darkness. Carl was soon rushed to a nearby hospital where he succumbed to his injuries shortly afterwards.

The Show Must Go On

Hoosier Lottery TV ShowAs you might well imagine, Carl’s whole family was in shock at the sudden passing of their spouse, father, and grandfather. A day that had started off so well and had shown signs of unexpected luck had suddenly taken a very dark turn and had left Carl’s family with a void that no amount of money could ever fill.

While having to deal with their loss, Carl’s family soon received a call from the lottery operator regarding Carl’s spot on the upcoming show where he would have stood a chance to win $1 million. Shortly afterwards, lottery director Jack Ross announced that the lottery was working with the family to decide who should take his spot of Carl.

At the same time, the lottery got the go-ahead to air the recording of the show in which Carl had won his prize money. At the end of the show, the lottery displayed a picture of Carl alongside the caption In Memory of Carl Atwood. While the sentiment did nothing to bring Carl back, it was still a touching tribute to him.


Carl’s life is a sombre reminder of the fact that we never quite know when we will be enjoying our last day on this floating blue ball we call home. It is also a sad reminder of how often a day that is filled with great fortune and happiness can just as quickly turn into a day that is filled with mourning and disbelief.

One thing that we can thank Carl for is the reminder to enjoy life as it happens and to never stop ourselves from thinking about the things that we want. The mere fact that Carl already knew what he wanted to do with his prize money—only minutes after winning it—shows that Carl was not just a dreamer but also a man who knew what he wanted.

For Carl, one of his greatest days also happened to be his last. For his family, it was a day of happiness that turned into a painful memory. And for us, it is a reminder of the fleeting nature of life and the importance of enjoying the little things—even if that little thing is just daydreaming about what we would do if we are ever fortunate enough to win the lottery.

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