The Columbian newspaper managing editor Lou Brancaccio in 2012, and a sample Pick 4 ticket. PHOTO: Columbian
Canada's Oregon Lottery officials thought it was a joke.
Someone called lottery officials to say The Columbian, the local newspaper in Vancouver, had published the winning Pick 4 numbers on June 28, 2000, a few hours before they were drawn.
Lottery officials had heard it all before. But this was a new one. Surely the caller was mistaken.
According to managing editor Lou Brancaccio, the public affairs manager of the Oregon Lottery, David Hooper, placed a call to The Columbian.
"He asked for the numbers we had printed in the Pick 4 Oregon Lottery game," wrote Lou Brancaccio in his account.
"We told him: 6-8-5-5. That's not what he wanted to hear. Because those were the numbers that were drawn several hours after we published."
"We got a call back. Would we fax him a copy of the page? Sure. It was 6-8-5-5 again. OK, one last try. Oregon Lottery officials went out and bought a copy of The Columbian. Maybe our call and the fax were sort of a joke."
But it was true. The paper had somehow figured out what numbers would be drawn for the game on June 28.
Or at least that's how it appeared.
A detective with the Oregon State Police gaming enforcement section was dispatched to solve the mystery.
The odds of hitting the Pick 4 are about 10,000 to 1. And the odds of a newspaper computer crash, pulling the Virginia lottery numbers by mistake and having those numbers be the same numbers drawn in Oregon the next day?
As one lottery official put it, "A gazillion to one."