By Brett Michael Dykes
You’d think that the news that you’d won the lottery would galvanize you to pick up the check–and probably quit your job–with all deliberate haste. Not so for North Carolina lottery winners Raleigh and Erin Hill of North Carolina who waited until the day before the ticket expired to cash on their winnings.
Even though they learned of their good fortune a few weeks after the Aug. 20 announcement of the winning North Carolina Mega-Millions lottery ticket, the Hills put off claiming the proceeds from their million-dollar winning ticket. Instead they spent the next six months or so hiding the ticket away in an assortment of places–inside a Bible, a shoebox, an envelope and a work locker.
Why the delayed gratification? It certainly wasn’t the case that they live in such opulence that they could take or leave their winnings. Raleigh, who bought the ticket, is a baggage handler, and Erin works for the federal government. No, it appears that the couple was haunted by a sense of unease over the many families who’ve won a lottery windfall only to see it destroy their lives and relationships.
Raleigh was so fearful of “the hoopla,” in fact, that he waited several weeks before telling his wife that he had the winning ticket. And then one day, when she was fretting about having an awful day, he let her in on his secret. “Things aren’t all that bad,” he told her after leaving the winning ticket on her computer screen.
Indeed, public reticence now seems to be the new vogue among big-ticket lottery winners. Last month, Holly Lahti, a 29-year-old single mother from Idaho, came forward to claim “a $190 million Mega Millions jackpot, but vanished just as promptly from the public eye after the nine-figure payday had passed.
However, Lahti had some distressingly concrete reasons to retire from the spotlight. According to press reports, she had never divorced or legally separated from her long-estranged husband, Josh Lahti–potentially entitling him under state law to a share of her winnings. The couple had both been arrested in a 2003 domestic dispute, and John Lahti reportedly had several run-ins with the law for alleged physical abuse of his wife.
As for the Hills, they took their money in a lump sum, each receiving $340,000 after taxes. At a press conference to announce the winnings, they hinted that they might use the money to buy a new house and take a trip to Ireland, where Erin’s ancestors hail from. At which point, presumably, they will resume their lives in comparative anonymity.