Hi, Sheila! Thanks for talking with me.
Thanks for the opportunity!
You are an expert in handwriting analysis. Let’s say that I am an evil, psychopathic killer. Is there any way that this could be revealed in my HANDWRITING? Let’s say if I wrote a letter to the police? Or can handwriting be used mostly as a tool after the fact of a crime?
What a great question, and the answer is…maybe. Handwriting is truly a picture of temperament and personality—it’s behavior that’s already happened—sort of like looking into a time machine. It can’t predict future behavior like a crystal ball, but by describing the writer’s core personality, we can talk about the potential for future behavior, both good and bad. I had the unfortunate opportunity to do exactly that in my own life when my daughter met a man and fell in love. When he sent me his writing at her request, I was concerned about the potential for explosive behavior and discussed it with both of them. Having reached the ripe old age of 27 without ever listening to Mom, Jen figured she could deal with it. To cut a tragic story short, within a year she became the victim in a murder/suicide (in 2000). I couldn’t have predicted this outcome from his handwriting, but the potential was there.
Oh my God, that's terrible. I'm so sorry.
I've come to a place of acceptance; I don't even hate Tom, I just hate what he did.
That is an amazingly healthy response. I admire you.
Your expertise is sought for many reasons, and your website says that “for employers interested in human resource management, integrity screening, sales force building, and drawing crowds to their booths at trade shows and conventions. Private investigators retain SLA in cases of anonymous notes, harassment, and screening of surrogate parents/adoptive parents, as well as in employment or other types of background checks.”
First, what is integrity screening? Can you tell whether or not I have integrity by looking at my handwriting?
Integrity screening is a simple term to describe a very complex aspect of my work. Most employers want to know whether they can trust the person they’re hiring and handwriting does contain indicators for potential (there’s that word again) dishonesty. But there’s no “this-means-that” relationship, such as “if you cross your t’s this way it means…” Integrity and honesty/dishonesty require a thorough examination of the whole handwriting sample by a well-trained professional (“don’t try this at home!”). After forty years in the field, I hope I qualify :).
If I got a harassing note from a fan (we’ll pretend I have fans), what sorts of things would you be able to tell me by reading that note?
I’m sure you have lots of fans, Julia; I’m already one. Seriously, one of my private investigator clients provides security services for celebrities. Sometimes fans write letters to their clients and the PI wants to know whether I think the writer is dangerous. So, the sorts of things I would report on are whether the writer understands and respects social boundaries, whether s/he’s in touch with reality; whether I believe s/he may be dangerous. Stuff like that.
How did you get involved in this business?
I was in high school. My boyfriend’s mother analyzed my handwriting and I was hooked. I couldn’t believe how well she described me—how the hell (well, back then it was “heck”) did she know I was emotionally “stormy,” or that I liked to write poetry, or any of the other things she’d written about me? I immediately went to the library and checked out all the graphology books I could find and started collecting handwriting samples. It wasn’t until ten years later that I took some courses and eventually became certified as a graphologist. In 1985 I became qualified to testify as an expert witness.
Now you have started a mystery series based on your experiences. Your protagonist is Claudia Rose. Is there any significance to the name?
Claudia seemed ever so slightly elegant and it’s a name I’ve always liked. Rose is one of my middle names (Rose Mary). I wish I had a more interesting answer.
Claudia is my sister's name; I'll tell her you find it elegant. :)
Your titles, Poison Pen and Written in Blood, cleverly hint at your content. How much is Claudia like you in the process of solving a crime?
When it comes to analyzing handwriting, Claudia and I use the same process. Where we part company is, she’s much braver (or is that foolhardy?) than I am. She goes where I wouldn’t dare. We both consult in criminal cases, but I sometimes turn down assignments. For instance, not long ago, I was asked by an investigator to work a case involving a Satanic cult whose members had framed a man for murder and kidnapped his wife. After learning they had severely beaten one of the witnesses, I asked the investigator how he planned to protect me. When he hesitated, then admitted he really couldn’t, I begged off. Knowing Claudia, she would have charged ahead and infiltrated the cult, then analyzed all the members’ handwritings. Hmmm…do I feel another book coming on?
If I were a criminal and I wanted to DISGUISE my handwriting, would it be possible? Or would my deceit itself be evident in my handwriting?
We write the way we do because of who we have grown up to be, and handwriting changes naturally as we experience life. Trying to change our handwriting to look like someone else’s (or simply not like our own), though, is akin to changing the way we walk or talk, which is harder than you might think. For one thing, you’d have to consciously remember to keep up the changes, which would slow down the handwriting considerably. Slow handwriting (when it’s not due to lack of education or poor health) is one of the key signs of dishonesty. Most people, when attempting to disguise their handwriting, change the size, the slant, and the capital letters. A professional who looks at literally thousands of variables is unlikely to be fooled for long.
How much psychology is involved in handwriting analysis?
As the exploration of human behavior as manifest in graphic communication, handwriting analysis is entirely psychology. Anyone who studies handwriting analysis also needs a good foundation in developmental and abnormal psychology to be really competent. Otherwise, all you’d get is a laundry list of traits without a context for the behavior, and what good is that?
Good point. Did you study the handwriting of famous people while you were learning the craft?
Yes, I’ve always found it interesting to look at the handwritings of people we see in the media and discover whether they’re showing their true self or not. My second book, Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous, has handwriting samples from Galileo to Princess Diana and beyond. My latest non-fiction book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis, Second Edition (excuse the BSP, please), which was just released, has dozens of celebrity samples as illustrations.
What sorts of things would you expect to find in, say, Hitler’s handwriting?
As it happens, Hitler’s handwriting is in my non-fiction books, and it shows exactly the sorts of personality traits you’d expect—brutality, intense anger, need to be in control, yet lack of emotional control; depression. Hitler’s signature deteriorated over time until it was barely more than a slash. Interestingly, the same thing happened to the signatures of Napoleon and Richard Nixon.
Wow. That is really fascinating.
Do people ever feel reluctant to write something in front of you?
People sometimes say they don’t want to write in front of me, but I think that often they really want to, and would like to know what their handwriting reveals. They shouldn’t worry—unless it’s a really unusual sample, I usually only analyze when it’s work.
What’s the most interesting thing that you ever encountered in handwriting analysis?
This is the hardest question of all. After analyzing more than ten thousand samples, how in the world can I answer? Hmmm…I can’t pick on any particular handwriting, but I’ll share something important I’ve learned overall. Handwriting reveals a lot of significant information, but it can’t tell everything about the writer; people are just too complex. But handwriting doesn’t lie. There’ve been times when I’ve met someone and gotten a certain impression, then I’ve seen their handwriting and thought, “No way! She can’t be like that.” Then, later, as I got to know the person, I discovered, Oh yes, she is. So, I’ve learned to trust what I see in the writing.
How many Claudia Rose books do you have planned?
Book two, Written in Blood, is finished and I’m currently outlining Dead Write. If those sell well, I’ve got a bunch of ideas for future books. It all depends on the readers.
What sorts of books do you like to read?
I confess—I’m not at all well read. 99% of the time the book on my nightstand is a mystery. Recently, though, I’ve branch out and enjoyed Memoirs of A Geisha, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and The Lovely Bones. A friend gave me Dean Koontz’ Odd Thomas, which really resonated with me because of what I’ve learned about the spirit world after my daughter’s death. I actually wrote Mr. Koontz a fan letter and guess what—he wrote back! He gets 20,000 letters a year and he sent me a handwritten letter. Imagine what that meant to me, on several levels. From a graphologist’s standpoint, he has beautiful handwriting (I’ve shared a bit of it in the Idiot’s Guide, 2nd Edition).
How can people find out about you and your books?
Your readers would be very welcome visitors at my web sites. http://www.sheilalowe.com/ has information about handwriting analysis, and http://www.claudiaroseseries.com/ is dedicated to my fiction books. And anyone is welcome to email me at Sheila@sheilalowe.com
Thank you, Julia—you made me think, and believe me, at this time of night, that’s a challenge. :)