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Sex, Lies, and Handwriting: A Top Expert Reveals the Secrets Hidden in Your Handwritingby Michelle Dresbold
Synopses & Reviews
Handwriting expert Michelle Dresbold—the only civilian to be invited to the United States Secret Service's Advanced Document Examination training program—draws on her extensive experience helping law enforcement agencies around the country on cases involving kidnapping, arson, forgery, murder, embezzlement, and stalking to take us inside the mysterious world of crossed t's and dotted i's.
In Sex, Lies, and Handwriting, Dresbold explains how a single sentence can provide insight into a person's background, psychology, and behavior. Throughout the book, Dresbold explores the handwriting of sly politicians, convicted criminals, notorious killers, suspected cheats, and ordinary people who've written to Dresbold’s “The Handwriting Doctor” column for help. She shows you how to identify the signs of a dirty rotten scoundrel and a lying, cheating, backstabbing lover. And she introduces you to some of the most dangerous traits in handwriting, including weapon-shaped letters, “shark's teeth,” “club strokes,” and “felon’s claws.”
Dresbold also explains how criminals are tracked through handwritten clues and what spouses, friends, or employees might be hiding in their script. Sex, Lies, and Handwriting will have you paying a bit more attention to your—and everyone else’s—penmanship.
"Much of hucksterism turns on an exaggerated sense of certainty. Wrinkle creams, dietary supplements, vinotherapy, sex enhancers: All are sold not merely on their inflated (if unsupported) claims but also by the evangelical testimonials of their faithful. Michelle Dresbold is one of the faithful. In 'Sex, Lies, and Handwriting,' she takes us on a breathless tour of the slashes and curlicues... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) that tip the philanderer's hand or reveal the serial killer's malignant heart. Renowned in her field for her syndicated column 'The Handwriting Doctor,' Dresbold claims to be able to discern from a signature, or even a letter or two, a profile including 'personality traits, family background, sexual proclivities, emotional baggage, and motives.' This is a tall order, and one at which she, like the discipline she is promoting, ultimately fails. The book, ironically, makes a strong case for grouping handwriting profilers (though not forensic document analysts) with the rest of today's charismatic charlatans. The first section of the book is structured as a tutorial in which Dresbold takes the reader through a series of either/or choices. Ted Bundy, we learn, writes big (outgoing) and Ted Kaczynski small (hermit). Picasso, whose writing sample includes a radiant sun and some flowers, is happy, while Vincent van Gogh, whose writing 'travels downhill,' is sad. This simplistic analysis isn't helped by Dresbold's prose. Exclamation points abound (there is a triple on the very first page); between the 'bonus questions,' the sunny sidebars and the giddy aphorisms ('If you can change your handwriting, you can change your life!'), the book often reads more like a junior high cheerleading manual than a serious investigation of a subject that has life-and-death ramifications when introduced in a court of law. And yet this is a dark book — one that preys on our fears and amps up our paranoia. On nearly every page, some nefarious ne'er-do-well is unmasked by his (or her) unwitting pen strokes. Stranglers use 'strangler strokes,' sad people regularly 'X' themselves out of their own signatures, and those who use a 'diabolical d' (one that slants extremely rightward) are 'unpredictable and prone to extreme emotional outbursts.' After all, that's how the Zodiac killer wrote. A particularly scary section of the book is devoted to the analysis of handwriting samples slyly submitted by spouses and significant others. Here we learn that if his 't bars' slope downhill, it's a 'sure-fire sign that you're married to a control freak.' In a section called 'Signs of a Lyin", Cheatin", Cold Dead Beatin" Two-timin", Double-dealin", Mean Mistreatin" Scoundrel,' Dresbold earnestly warns readers against unclear O's and A's and the fearsome 'forked tongue strokes' (a slash through an 'A' or 'O'). How do we know that these are danger signs? Both O.J. Simpson and Jeffrey Dahmer used them. And herein lies the essential problem: By rendering almost every example in the book descriptive rather than diagnostic, Dresbold constantly confuses causation and correlation. There are certainly moments of interest here. Few will be able to resist the temptation to scribble a few lines and use them as an easy guide to self-revelation. But this is the pleasure of the good psychic or the passable sleight-of-hand magician. In the end, the logic is painfully thin, the science dreadfully lacking and the argument for genuine relevance rather than pseudo-scientific curiosity almost nonexistent. As the book progresses, it gets ever more bizarre. We learn that gay men can be easily spotted by their 'lower zones' (the extensions or loops of 'f, g, j, p, q, y, and z'): 'If his loops swing both ways, chances are he does too.' In the pointy top of Sen. Joe McCarthy's 'J,' Dresbold sees his narrow-mindedness; in a post-Sept. 11 analysis of Osama bin Laden's signature, Dresbold can find an assault rifle, a bomb with a fuse, and 'a dead body with blood oozing from the head.' If only the CIA had thought to call her. Finally, in the least satisfying chapter — enthusiastically titled 'Busted by a Handwriting Detective' — we are presented with four 'real-life' cases. In each, Dresbold explains how handwriting analysis solved them. But the profiling tricks we've just spent almost 200 pages learning play no substantive role in the solution of these crimes. Somehow, with all of history to choose from, Dresbold selects four cases that have nothing to do with hidden swastikas, the 'diabolical d' or downsloping 't bars.' In one case, a man with the mental capacity of a 6-year-old was simply incapable of writing the four-line note used to rob a bank; in another, a dead woman couldn't have reached the place her dying declaration was painted (in her own blood); the third required only an accurate reading of the content of what someone wrote; and the last case (Hitler's forged diaries) was solved despite, rather than because of, the handwriting experts (ultraviolet analysis of the paper revealed the diaries to have been manufactured after his death). Despite the failure of these forensic investigations, Dresbold remains an evangelist to the end, continuing to assert until the final page that handwriting reveals 'the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.' But after this unfortunate tour of pseudo-scientific prognostication, most readers will prefer to rely on safer metrics. Still, with Dresbold and her ilk ready to gawk at my lower zones, henceforth I type." Reviewed by
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About the Author
James Kwalwasser is the cocreator and editor of "The Handwriting Doctor" syndicated column. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA.
Table of Contents
Basic Concepts of Handwriting Profiling (a Fun Super-Condensed Mini Course)
1 Brainwriting 101
2 From the Erogenous Zone to the Twilight Zone
3 The Private I
4 How to Read a Signature
Stop Reading and Start Running!
5 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
6 Sabotage in Their Script
7 Cruel and Unusual Letters
8 Crackups and Meltdowns
9 The Dictator, the Mobster, and Me
10 Is That a Phallic Symbol in Your Handwriting or Are You Just Happy to See Me?
11 Crossing the Line
The Forensic Files
13 Bad to the Bone
14 The Devil's in the Details
15 Mad Doctors
16 Busted by a Handwriting Detective
17 Profile of an Axe Murderer
18 Who Wrote the JonBenÉt Ramsey Ransom Note?
19 The Letter from Hell
Let's Get Personal
20 The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But...
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