Mega Millions Winner Ellwood "Bunky" Bartlett

We all like to think we’d be responsible with our winnings if we were to win the lottery, but the truth is that it’s easy to get caught up in all of the excitement of suddenly being super rich. Of course, this can also result in losses, as being newly rich can often blur the negative consequences of overspending on not-so-solid investment plans. The proof of this can be found in the story of Mega Millions winner Ellwood Bartlett, who spent too much too fast just to be faced with continuous failures.

Mega Millions Winner Ellwood Bartlett at Maryland Lottery Press ConferenceOne Unique Lottery Winner

In September 2007, 40-year-old Maryland resident Ellwood “Bunky” Bartlett was known for being a bit out of the ordinary. Sure, he had a normal life like the rest of us. He was a successful accountant with close friends and family (including his wife and two children), his own hobbies and interests, and so forth. What stood out most about Bartlett was his Wiccan belief system, which doesn’t tend to have as much positive reception as other religious beliefs. When he hit the Mega Millions jackpot, this was certainly a fact about Bartlett that resulted in many raised eyebrows. Regardless, the winner wasn’t exactly worried about that because he suddenly found himself millions of dollars richer. Specifically, he’d won $48.6 million ($32.6 million after taxes) of the $330 million jackpot—and like the original lottery celebrity Viv Nicholson, he was ready to spend, spend, spend.

How Ellwood Bartlett Spent His Winnings

When Ellwood Bartlett was interviewed in 2007, his plans for spending his winnings were fairly modest. After accepting a lump sum, he indicated that he didn’t plan to live lavishly, stating that he’d still shop at regular retail stores and eat at fast-food restaurants. Additionally, he noted that he had no intention of giving money away to anyone outside of friends and family, which likely protected his name from being used in lottery scams. He did end up purchasing millions in real estate; however, the purchases proved to be worthwhile for the winner, unlike many of the ones that followed.

Ellwood Bunky Bartlett in His Mystickal Voyage New Age BookshopA Bookshop and “Hogwarts in Maryland”

Bartlett’s investment plans began with his idea to fund the expansion of a New Age bookshop called Mystickal Voyage that he referred to as his “spiritual home.” This ended up costing him more than $750,000, which included the cost of renovations as well as the hiring of special guests to appear at the grand reopening. Likewise, he publicly released plans to start a spirituality centre, which the media referred to as “Hogwarts in Maryland.” He was passionate about giving to his Wiccan community, so naturally he was eager to begin the process. Strangely enough, the centre never found its footing. The idea died before Bartlett had the chance to follow through. To add salt to the wound, the New Age shop later failed regardless of its history of good business, which was obviously a big loss considering the sizable cost of the investment. Though Bartlett insisted that he wouldn’t continue to overspend, this perspective quickly changed.

Record Label

He went on to start his own record label when his wife, Denise, made the suggestion. At the time, he figured he liked music well enough, so why not? They named the label “Kabunk Records” cranked out two albums—one of which featured reality show contestant, Dilana Robichaux. Despite their high hopes, Bartlett and his wife were disappointed when the business quickly fell apart. Robichaux contributed the label’s failure to Bartlett’s inability to agree on important business decisions and his inexperience in the music business. Although he never publicised his monetary losses, it’s safe to assume he invested in a fair amount of money into the label just for it to fail. This was the first of many financial errors.

Pizza Joint

Perhaps the smartest move the winner made with his winnings was his decision to purchase a pizza franchise, specifically one designated to deliver to his estate. Though it can be extremely difficult to succeed in the restaurant industry, his pizza shop seemed to be the most successful of his investments. In fact, as of 2012, the business was as busy as ever.

Your World MMO Character SketchThe “Your World” MMO

He wasn’t going to stop there, though. He wanted to make an MMO called Your World to bring players together and allow them to create their own virtual worlds through gameplay; however, he wanted help to get the ball rolling. While the winner still had millions in the bank, he’d already made enough poor spending decisions to know he couldn’t execute this alone. So, as many others have done, he started a Kickstarter campaign to receive additional funding in the amount of $1 million. This method made sense for the game itself, especially considering it was community focused. With the community donating to its creation, the interactive experience started long before the game could be made. Still, that didn’t prevent criticism, as many wondered why a millionaire would “abuse” Kickstarter.

Unfortunately, eight years after setting plans in motion, it was revealed that the project funding was unsuccessful. It is safe to assume this game won’t be hitting the shelves in this lifetime.

Where is Ellwood Bartlett Now?

Given his video game’s failure, it’s no surprise that Bartlett has maintained a low profile. However, he still has a heavily active Twitter account, so it can be assumed that he’s just living his life without making plans destined to fail.

Advice from a Lottery Winner

Ellwood Bartlett has recognised that winning the lottery isn’t always a walk in the park, so in light of that, he offered crucial advice to those hoping to win the lottery. His biggest suggestion is that new winners choose to remain publicly unidentified. Of course, that’s easier said than done, as there are only some states where lottery winners can stay anonymous. Fortunately for winners from Maryland like Bartlett, anonymity is an option. There are many benefits to choosing this path, but in particular, protecting one’s privacy is important in order to avoid harassment by the media and the public.

Bartlett also recommends that winners choose annuity payments instead of lump sums, as having limited access to the winnings can prevent expensive mistakes. It’s easy to overspend when millions are readily available. Likewise, he encourages those who win the lottery to place their winnings in a trust fund. Naturally, this will reduce the possibility of impulse spending, especially because trusts are protective and make it difficult to make major purchases by having a lengthy authorisation process.


The story of Ellwood Bartlett is a lengthy one, though it’s not exactly an uncommon one. It’s common for lottery winners to make investments that fail, and oftentimes, it leaves them broke. Though Bartlett was irresponsible in his spending, a least he didn’t leave himself broke and without a dime to his name. Clearly, the accountant in him finally took over. Regardless, his misdoings are a great example of what not to do if you win millions.

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