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Lie detector: Hidden secrets in handwriting

Can he be trusted? Is she a fraud? In  "Sex, Lies, and Handwriting," expert Michelle Dresbold says clues to the truth can be found in a person's penmanship. An excerpt.
/ Source: TODAY books

Can he be trusted? Is she a fraud? In “Sex, Lies, and Handwriting,” expert Michelle Dresbold says clues to the truth can be found in a person's penmanship. An excerpt.

Dirty rotten scoundrelsHe loved to talk about everything. He told you about his favorite foods, his travels abroad, his Aunt Marge in Omaha, his second grade teacher, and his cat Fluffy. The only thing that he neglected to mention was his wife in Wichita, his other wife in Minneapolis, yet another wife in Laredo, and his recent engagement to a widow in Phoenix ...

Your brother-­in-­law the stockbroker offers you a chance to double your investment in six months.

“Don’t pass this up,” he says. “An opportunity like this ­doesn’t come along every day.”

“Are you sure?” you ask.

“Trust me,” he says.

You reach for your checkbook. He ­wouldn’t lie to you, right? After all, he is your brother-­in-law ...

Signs of a lyin’, cheatin’, cold dead beatin’ two-­timin’, double-dealin’, mean mistreatin’ scoundrel
The letters a and o are the communication letters. Think of these letters as little mouths. When a ­writer’s a’s and o’s are open at the top, that writer likes to talk, and will find it difficult to keep a secret.

When they are completely closed at the top, the writer is someone you can trust to take your secret to the grave. But when a ­writer’s a’s and o’s are distorted or unclear, trust not.

Writers with a’s and o’s that are open at the bottom are bottom feeders who will eat you up and spit you out.

They communicate in such a deceptive and distorted way, that nothing they say is believable. Jeffrey ­Dahmer’s o’s and a’s were a sign of his voracious appetite for lying.

Slashes through a’s and o’s, known as “forked tongue strokes,” are signs of a conniving, scheming liar. Notice the slash in O. J. ­Simpson’s O.

O’s or a’s that are filled with ink indicate that the writer communicates in dark, muddied ways. Jack the ­Ripper’s muddied o’s in “bloody” convey the darkness of his message.

The wedding planner
If your fiancé leaves out one or two itty-­bitty details about his life (like the fact that ­he’s already married), can your relationship still work?

Betty told me she was shocked when she discovered the truth about Harry, the man she had dated for two years:

"I recently suffered a most rude awaking when I discovered that the gentle, sweet, handsome man I fell in love with, the man who asked me to marry him, had been lying to me. The biggest secret that he kept from me was his current marriage! I discovered that he had been lying to me by looking up the deed to his house.

"Upon being confronted, his excuse was that he ­didn’t want to tell me until after his divorce was finalized, as he feared losing me. During our relationship, he frequently discussed marriage plans and our future together. He went as far as planning our wedding and putting the plans on paper.

Can you tell me whether this man is safe to forgive and ever trust as a friend?


Handsome ­Harry’s flamboyant script and ornately embellished letters show me that he can be quite the actor, gifted at embellishing the truth.

You know that o’s and a’s that are tightly closed at the top mean that the writer is tight-­lipped and secretive. Look at way Harry made his o in the word “Who.” He not only closed his o at the top, he made sure it was sealed tight by finishing it at the bottom. There is no way this writer would leave even a slight gap at the top. ­He’s so secretive that he ­won’t even tell himself the truth.

Why would a married man make such a show of planning a wedding that ­couldn’t be? Why would he care about the “Wedding Dress, colors, party, food, reception, cutlery, decorations, cake, champagne, music, entertainment ... ”? Given his ultra-­flowery and feminine handwriting, I wonder if Handsome ­Harry’s wedding fantasy is more about proving to Betty that ­he’s the marrying kind — or proving to himself that, all things being equal, ­he’d rather be the bride.

Betty asked if ­it’s safe for her to be friends with a man who pretended to plan the details of their wedding, but forgot to tell her that he has a wife.

There are many things in a friend we should desire ... three of them being that ­he’s not a fake, a phony, or a liar.

The boss from hell
Miriam had worked at the same dental office for ten years. She wrote to me about her new supervisor, who was making Miriam and her coworkers miserable:

“Ever since Dr. Annie joined the group two years ago, ­it’s been hell for all of us. Dr. Annie is the most evil woman I’ve ever met. She has written all the women in the office disparaging notes, belittling them and their work. I am enclosing the note she wrote to me. I realize that you ­don’t know me, but the letter she wrote — it’s like ­she’s talking about herself — not me.”

Following is the text of the letter Miriam received from Dr. Annie:

Your lack of care and commitment to your job and most aspects of your job is profoundly appalling. Your office manager skills are so poor. I am amazed at how incompetent, sloppy, and disorganized you continue to be. You have no leadership capabilities, rather you intimidate and bully anybody who ­doesn’t go along with your personal, self-­centered, power-­hungry ways. You are a con and a fake — a pathetic excuse of a human being.

See that sharp point inside the a in the word “capabilities”? ­That’s a “stinger.” When you find stingers inside the communication letters, o or a, you know that the writer communicates with sharp, piercing words.

Stinger writers also tend to be extreme in their sexual lifestyles — they either abstain from sex entirely, or they become sexaholics.

Now, take a good look at the n in the word “manager.” See how the pointed top of the second hump of the n looks like it could take a bite out of you? This stroke is called a ­“shark’s tooth.” Shark’s teeth appear in the writing of people who are emotionally hungry — not just a little hungry, but voracious. If you get in their way when they are in a feeding frenzy, beware, because you could be in for a merciless bloodletting.

If you happen to see stingers or ­shark’s teeth in the writing of your boss, it may be time to update your résumé.

Are you dating a ‘fake-­out’ artist?
Charlie sat there in front of me with a handwriting sample of Kathy Sue. Charlie was looking for answers. How could he have been so wrong about his sweet Ms. Kathy?

“She seemed perfect,” he said. “She was beautiful, athletic, and smart. I felt very lucky. After dating her for several months I introduced her to my family. Everybody liked her. I was planning on asking her to marry me.

“A few weeks ago, she told me that she wanted to visit her mother, who lives out of town. She said that she was short of cash, so I told her that her visit to her mother was my treat and I let her put her airplane ticket on my charge card. Well, it turns out that the airplane ticket wasn’t the only thing that she put on my credit card. She wound up staying at a very expensive resort and spa at my expense. She told the people at the spa that I was going to join her. I ­didn’t know about ‘our’ vacation, of course, so I ­didn’t show up. I later found out that someone else did show up: her ex-boyfriend.

“She came up with all kinds of excuses. She even blamed the whole thing on me. Needless to say we are no longer together.”

Look at the way Kathy Sue wrote the word “honey.” Do you see that it could say something like “hiney” or “huny” or possibly even “Levej”? Now, look carefully at the way she combines the e and the y in “honey.” Is that an e or a y? Both? Neither? Her ambiguous letter and word formations show that she knows how to disguise the truth. ­She’s tricky and leaves the interpretation of events unclear so that she always has an out when she needs it.

Kathy ­Sue’s numbers are also ambiguous. Notice the way she wrote the date. Is that 3/29/05? Or is it 6/21/02? When you meet someone who writes with ambiguous or trick numbers, you are almost always dealing with a bamboozler or an embezzler.

“Charlie,” I told him, ­“don’t feel too sorry that you missed your vacation. Look on the bright side. You lost your baggage without even leaving home. And in this case, ­that’s a good thing!”

Family business
The Kimes family business was a multinational enterprise with a broad range of practices and services, including arson, con games, forgery, fraud, grand theft, grifting, and the occasional murder.

They ­didn’t need the money. They ­didn’t have to work. Sante ­Kimes’s husband (and ­Kenneth’s father) was worth over $10 million. But this mother and son team had a drive to succeed on their own terms. They conned their way from Hawaii to New York, burning buildings, defrauding friends, enslaving housekeepers, robbing stores, forging documents, and murdering people.

In 1998, mother and son were arrested for the murder of Irene Silverman, a wealthy New York socialite. After Sante ­Kimes’s trial for robbery, burglary, forgery, conspiracy, illegal possession of weapons, and murder, Justice Rena Uviller described her as “surely the most degenerate defendant who has ever appeared in this courtroom.” Sante Kimes, who received a 120-year sentence, will spend the rest of her life in prison.

Take a close look at the first word. Can you make it out? In context, most people will be able to see the word “All.” Now, cover all the other words with your fingers. Does it still look like “All”? Or does it look like “Ell” or “Gee” or maybe “Gel”?

Can you make out the word above “Mom”? Is that also “All” or “Ale”? ­It’s quite different from the first “All.” And ­what’s that comma doing there, before the end of the word?

And ­what’s that little dot to the right? Is it a period?

Not sure? Well, ­that’s how a con artist works.

This sample of Sante ­Kimes’s writing was on a photo she gave to her older son, Kent. She told Kent it was a photograph of her as a young woman. Years later, Kent realized that the subject in the photo was Elizabeth Taylor. Like so many others, he had been conned.

Excerpted from “Sex, Lies, and Handwriting” by Michelle Dresbold and James Kwalwasser. Copyright (c) 2006. Reprinted with permission from Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.