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Handwriting analysis of serial killers

BY Anna Koren

A diary that was found in Liverpool, signed by Jack the Ripper, which I was called upon to examine its authenticity, had instigated the analysis of serial killers.

A visit to the Public Record House and a direct and unmediated review of about 400 handwriting samples of imposters, who claimed to be Jack the Ripper, has started a study of the subject.

The handwritings of serial killers have been examined in different languages.

Several groups of serial killers were identified as having ideological motivation as well as other handwriting characteristics, which differentiates them from other serial killers whose motivation to kill was out of spontaneous and random selection of the victim.

In a closed article, I must point out that the above mentioned diary, the letters and a few other handwriting examples were, in fact, the only original ones. Once I had set out to investigate the subject, I had realized that my chances of working with original samples would be few and far between, if at all. Therefore, an accurate analysis of such vital characteristics such as pressure or size would be difficult to determine.
Despite the challenge, I had taken it upon myself to try and comprehend what motivates the serial killer.

The Serial Murderer, Mass Murderer, or as he is commonly called - The Serial Killer does not act on impulse. His brain must be extremely organized and his plans well thought out in order for him to be able to commit his heinous crimes time & time again, as well as cover up all evidence of his actions. I found it to be inconceivable that Serial Killers do not share some sort of common ground. I had then reflected on that fact that the human soul is so complex, diverse and consists within itself many elaborate facets. Furthermore - I found that the motives differ. Apparently there is great difficulty in trying to construct a serial killers profile. Nevertheless, I had managed to find some reoccurring phenomenons in the handwriting samples:

In many cases, these killers possess a high level of intelligence, Ted Bundy, and in some cases even genius, Carlton Gary.
Many of the serial killers had suffered separation or abandonment from either one or both of their parents. In many cases we hear of friends and neighbours who cannot believe their friend / neighbour was in fact the notorious serial killer terrorizing the area.

Prior to his capture, John Wayne Gacy, was very much involved in his community and volunteered to entertain children in hospitals. At the same time he had murdered his victims and buried them in the foundations of the house he was building.

It seems these killers possess within themselves multiple personalities, much like the story of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, based on the story of a life saving physician during the day and an infamous murderer by night.

An additional similarity which further proves the connection between serial killers and the Schizoid personality is the fact that many of these killers initially seduce their victims in various fashions. Take for example an article written on Ted Bundy, found in:

"His method of operations (MO) included: luring young women to his aid with a fake cast, posing as a police officer or security guard, or just introducing himself to women who were interested in handsome, charming men.
After 33 innocent women were murdered, Bundy was imprisoned until January 24, 1989, the day he was executed.
One of Bundy's most remarkable features is that he could change his appearance almost at will. I have set up the Faces of Ted gallery to demonstrate this ability."

The largest gaps in handwriting characteristics and personalities were found in leaders such as Stalin, Hitler, Eichmann, Himmler, Mengele, Saddam Hussein and Mussolini. Apart from the difficulty to feel empathy and a need to dominate at all cost, as well as feelings of omnipotence and difficulty to accept boundaries, their common denominator is limited and there is no distinct resemblance, which can account for their murderous actions.

Serial killers tend to prey on women and children of their own race. Prostitutes, drifters and hitchhikers are a preferable choice of prey. Some homosexual killers enjoy hunting young boys and gay men. Female serial killers tend to be "black widows" who kill a succession of husbands, lovers, or other family members. They can also be nurses or other medical professionals who become self-appointed "angels of death" murdering babies, elderly, or the desperately ill in a misguided effort to relieve their suffering. Most serial killers grew up in violent households. As youngsters they enjoyed torturing animals, setting fires and were chronic bed-wetters. As adults, many serial have some type of brain damage and are addicted to alcohol and/or drugs.

Taking into account Stanley Milgram`s 1974 experiment, which proved that 92% of people, randomly selected out of the general population, were capable of committing acts of torture when the environment encouraged it and assumed responsibility for the actions. (The subjects were instructed to administer electrical shocks to individuals who answered questions incorrectly. The individuals cooperated with the experimenters and pretended not to know the answers to the questions and to act and make sounds as if they were being electrocuted. The subjects kept administering electrical shocks disregarding (for the most part) the cries of pain that intensified with every missed question.

With respect to killers who have killed without having any relation to the victim and without any apparent reason, although their background is different, research indicate that many sociopaths have experienced severe abuse during their childhood and developed self-hatred.

At the same time, among the killers there are also many individuals with narcissistic tendencies, which may cause feelings of omnipotence that can produce evil acts. Such individuals often take the role of God and are convinced they have the right to choose who may live and who may die.

Biological psychologists found that abuse leaves behind it physical tracks on the brain. A "screen" of hormones is created which prevents an abused child from feeling certain emotions. The child may lose a sense of empathy or the ability to assume the emotional role of others. One of the surprising findings in a biological research of violence was that many sadists and killers do not respond to stress. They lack the typical characteristics of elevated heartbeat, increased perspiration, or increased levels of adrenaline.

Each serial killer has a different life story and varied motives. The similarities between them are not necessarily in their handwriting; the overwhelming majority is diagnosed with an acute schizoid personality.

What is serial murder?

Ed Mitchell, in his thesis, University of Cambridge, UK. The etiology of serial murder: towards an integrated model. Said:

"Definitions of serial murder / homicide differ between authors, but most agree that to qualify as a serial killer / murderer an offender must kill at least two victims in temporally unrelated incidents This temporal criterion is usually satisfied by a "cooling off" or "refractory" period between killings, ranging from hours to years. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines serial murder as the killing of several victims in three or more separate incidents over weeks or an extended period. Others argue for a higher number of victims (Dietz [1986] requires a minimum of 5 victims), but such a distinction is rarely useful and merely serves to further a "body-count" mentality. Indeed, the only difference between an offender who kills 1 victim (but who might have killed 100 if he had been able) and another who kills 30 may be the latter's good fortune in evading detection. Therefore, distinguishing motive from opportunity may be difficult."

Based on the typology of "The Schizoid Personality"*, we have extended the profile of the schizoid murderer.

The Schizoid Murderer

Out of tens of handwritings of murderers which I have examined so far, more than 80% were schizoids at the highest level. It is important to state that I only related to murderers who murdered in cold blood and who planned their action in advance and not to those who murdered passionately due to either a love affair gone sour, a sudden fit of rage or an unbearable insult. I had mainly examined assassination style serial murderers.

Unfortunately, or perhaps I should say fortunately, I had never met a murderer, certainly not a serial murderer. I truly regret having seen only a few original handwritings belonging to murderers, as well as not having the chance to see the original handwriting of a serial murderer and therefore will not be able to relate to this type thoroughly.

The obvious element would be the total separation between intellect and emotion and between "ego" and super-"ego", otherwise they would not have been capable of committing such crimes. Most of them show lack of judgment and yet possess well developed planning skills and good self-control. All the schizoid murderers share something in common with the rest of the schizoid types.

  1. The charming type - they usually have personal charm through which they manage to contact their victims and gain trust.
  2. The ambitious type - They have strong ambitions otherwise they would not risk their lives and freedom.
  3. The security man - They have the ability to keep their secret to themselves, often they follow their victim, plan the murder or the assault almost always on their own without sharing it with others.
  4. The obsessive - All the serial murderers obsessively repeat their horrible crimes.
  5. The criminal - They have a captivating charm and an ability to pretend and conceal their true intentions. They can lie without even a blink and completely lack conscience.
  6. The destructive type - Their destructive instinct causes them to murder and by killing they destroy their victims and in most cases themselves as well.
  7. We can conclude that the murderer share characteristics with all the types. Their characteristics are at a high leveled and extremely twisted.

Graphic signs of the Schizoid

  • Vigilant and tense handwriting
  • Extremely strong pressure
  • Angles
  • Arcades
  • Separation
  • Narrowness
  • Extremely wide spaces between words or identical to the spaces between letters
  • Covering strokes
  • Emphasized upper zone
  • Left of upright slant
  • Frozen
  • Tense strokes
  • High upper zone
  • Large or extreme height differentials
  • At times - a weak stroke
  • Secondary narrowness
  • Angular connections
  • Similar to the "autistic type" by Odem
  • Emphasize of the beginning
  • Rhythmic writing
  • Covering the whole page
  • Strange ending of letters
  • "Invented" letters
  • Twisted letters
  • Broken letters
  • Corrections, especially "artistic corrections"
  • Abundance of punctuation marks or lack of them
  • Slow writing
  • Peculiarities and exaggeration
  • Printed letters

Between 3 April 1988 and 13 February 1891, the East End of London became the staging place for a series of sickening murders that caused outrage through the entire nation. Although the killer's identity has been wildly speculated upon, to this day the murderer is known only as Jack the Ripper?

Jack the Ripper was not the first serial killer, and more than likely not the one that killed the most. He was, however, the first to probably commit his crimes in a large city and receive the largest press cover.
The name "Jack the Ripper" appeared on many letters which were mailed to the police and to newspapers.
Some of these letters where printed in the newspapers, with the hope of someone recognizing the handwriting, and at the same time vastly increasing the Ripper's fame.

The press was indeed partly responsible for creating many myths surrounding the Ripper. Millions of Dollars are still being spent in order to solve this mystery. The Ripper was never caught and it is the mysterious effect surrounding this killer that both adds to the romance of the story as well as creating an intellectual challenge for many people who are investigating the case to this date.

Much of the evidence was lost over the years, but the letters were kept safely at the Public record house in Kew, where I had seen them

During the Autumn of Terror around 400 letters were sent to the police and local press purporting to be written by the Ripper. Many Ripperologists believe them all to be hoaxes. Other experts believe some of them, especially the Dear Boss letter, Saucy Jacky postcard, and From Hell letter are genuine. The problem is that they do not seem to be written by the same writer, therefore, there are 3 options:

  1. They were not written by the same person.
  2. The person who wrote it suffered from multiple personality.
  3. There was more than 1 Ripper, ( the chances of that are slim to none).

Many books have been written on the subject. Some concern individual suspects, whilst others are aimed more for the student and researcher, and contain most of the facts available, thus avoiding expensive and time-consuming research.
However, a serious historian would be directed to the primary Metropolitan Police (MEPO) sources listed above, as well as the Home Office files which are also available at the Record Office.

Let's first take a look at the handwritings of a few known serial killers.

Gerald Eugene Stano

Pudgy, short, and not what one would categorize as a looker. In his mind, he most definitely felt the opposite, referring to himself as a, "real Italian stallion". In reality, he was a cold blooded psychopath.
He confessed to 33 gruesome murders. The number has ascended to 41. Twenty-two of the bodies were found and identified.

Note the sharp, needle point like lines which cut through the lower part like a knife, as well as loops, complicating the shapes and creating strange looking letters, much like strange, unconventional behavior.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Albert De Salvo

Violent and abusive home. At the age of 31 killed first several elderly women, then younger women. In 1973 he was stabbed to death in prison.

Notice the extremely narrow letters and the long horizontal bars which are written with greater pressure than the rest.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Kevin Haley

Two-man team with his brother, consisting rapes, sodomy, oral copulation, sexual assaults and kidnapping. In 1979 committed eight murders of elderly and young women over a five-year period.

An example of a strange and deformed handwriting. The writer invents his own original letters with complete disregard of the norm.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

William Heirens

The only child of affluent parents, heard from his mother that "all sex is dirty". During his adolescence used to dress up in women's garments while looking at photos of Hitler and the Nazis. At 16 he started killing, (3 women, one 6 years old).

Handwriting analysis of serial killers Handwriting analysis of serial killers

This is yet another example of a frozen, deformed, compulsively separated and tense handwriting. There are some originally invented letters as well.

David Berkowitz - "Son Of Sam"

Began his murdering rampage at the age of 23. Murdered 6 and injured 7 in one year. Ended up being sentenced to 365 years.
Berkowitz was given up for adoption and subsequently adopted by Nathan and Pearl Berkowitz. Despite the fact that the couple reportedly adored him, Berkowitz grew up feeling abandoned and rejected due to the fact that his birth mother had abandoned him. His adoptive parents did not help matters when they falsely told him that his mother had died giving birth to him, leaving Berkowitz with feelings of intense guilt as a child. After a troubled childhood and a disastrous stint in the Army, he found out his birth mother was still alive.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

His mother wanted little to do with him. It wasn't long after this that he began his murders that until his arrest would be attributed to the fearsome "Son of Sam".

The handwriting is strange in the beginnings and endings, as well as an abundant amount of strange letters and covering strokes. It is also slow and tense.

Lawrence Bittaker And Roy Norris

Brutally raped and murdered 6 young girls (13-18 years old).
Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris were both habitual criminals when they first met in a California prison. The two sociopaths instantly "hit it off" and upon their releases, reunited and bought a van, nicknaming it "Murder Mac". Their intentions for the van were simple. They needed room to carry out their plans of kidnapping and murdering young girls.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Roy Norris handwriting -

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Roy's handwriting is extremely narrow and strange with its compulsive punctuation marks, frozen motion and left slant. There is simply no movement, resembling a computer format.

Ted Bundy

Brutally raped and murdered more than 30 women.
One of the most famous killers of all time, Ted Bundy vented his rage on women, mostly college girls, all the while maintaining the facade of a perfectly normal, intelligent, model citizen. His traveling ways, clever tactics, and thorough body disposal methods make it difficult to even say how many women Bundy killed during his reign, but he was definitely one of the most prolific and frightening serial killers of all time.

Note the emphasized lower zone and the deformed letters.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Jeffrey Dahmer

After his parents divorced at the age of 18, he began to murder. The trial was stock full of gruesome details of cannibalism and necrophilia, with police and the defense attorney telling of how Dahmer drilled holes in some of his victims' heads and poured acid into their skulls while they were still alive. He wanted zombies that could not resist and could not leave him. Murdered 17 people. The son of a chemist, Dahmer should have had a normal life. But his childhood in Bath, Ohio, where he and his family moved in 1968, was marked by a growing obsession with severe cruelty to animals, bizarre behavior, and alcoholism.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Most Schizoid characteristics appear in Dohmer's handwriting.

Wayne Williams - The "Atlanta Child Murders"

Murdered over 25 children.
The killings of young black children, mostly males, almost immediately became a nationwide media frenzy as Atlanta police struggled to keep up with
an ever-mounting number of victims.

An example of a high level Schizoid type handwriting. Strange beginnings, very narrow.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Randy Woodfield

In addition to a suspected sixty or more sexual assaults, it is estimated that Woodfield committed as many as eighteen murders of women along Interstate 5 in the late 1970's and early 1980's.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Strange letters, angles, tension and compulsion.

Douglas Clark - "The Sunset Strip Slayer"

Preying on blonde prostitutes and hunting primarily on the well-known Sunset Strip. Murdered 6 people. Douglas Clark coerced his girlfriend Carol Bundy to pick up the women and bring them to him. He then would strike a deal for oral sex and during the act shoot them through the head and engage in sexual acts with their dead bodies.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Another example odd strange beginnings & endings, deformed lower zone, sharp angles, covering strokes and a signature that looks as if two people had written it.

Paul John Knowles

Killed brutally at least 15 people in a 4 months period in 1975. Was shot dead while trying to escape.
Handwriting analysis of serial killers
There is an abundance of Schizoid characteristics as well as invented letters.

Charles Manson

Leader of a brutal killers-family together with 3 girls.
Was tried for 7 murders in 1969.

Manson's handwriting possesses only a few schizoid signs, however, there are strange unnecessary lines. His signature is buried underneath covering lines and it looks like a signatures.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

The Zodiac Murder

The anonymous murderer sent letters to newspapers with a zodiac cross, until 1974. During a 9 months period in 1969, 5 murders, amongst them 2 teenagers.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

This handwriting also possesses most of the Schizoid characteristics.

John Wayne Gacy

John Wayne Gacy was married twice, had a job, and was involved and respected in the community. 29 bodies of men in the ages between 9 and mid-twenties , endured savage sexual torture were found in his crawlspace. Gacy was sentenced to death and executed.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Gerald Gallego

Gerald Gallego was seriously lacking in a positive father figure. His dad was executed in 1955 for the murder of a prison guard. At this writing his son is quite possibly following in his footsteps.
His wife enticed the girls into their car and there he raped and shot them.
Murdered only girls 16 - 21 years old.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Carlton Gary

Carlton Gary was a high intelligent child, malnourished and abused, became a criminal teen.
Killed at least 7 elderly women , left always stockings knotted tightly around their necks.
Was sentenced to death.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Hubert Geralds

Hubert Geralds was charged with six homicides of prostitutes or drug-addicted women. His convictions are pending a new trial.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Eric Elliott & Lewis Gilbert

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Eric Elliott & Lewis Gilbert were charged with 4 killings.

Richard Cottingham

Richard Cottingham was a nearsighted, father of three, worked as a computer operator.
Tortured, raped and murdered, was sentenced to hundreds of years for dozens of crimes, one of which was a multiple murder.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Danny Harold Rolling

Daniel Harold Rolling suffered physical and emotional abuse by his father, shot him but he did survived. At forty he was found guilty for five first degree murders and was sentenced to death.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Harrison Graham

Harrison Graham was a mentally-retarded drug abuser.
He was convicted on seven first-degree murders and 7 abusing a corpse and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Despite the apparent mental challenge in the handwriting, the schizoid characteristics can be detected as well.

George Putt

George Putt, physically and emotionally abused was one of 7 children, emotionally abused beaten by his drunk father, sustained permanent brain damage due to a game accident. He got married.
Putt was found guilty of 5 killings and given death penalty.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Gregg Putt is a high-leveled schizoid. However, weakness can be detected in the apparent under developed, narrow handwriting.

William Suff

(1984-1993), aka "the Riverside Prostitute Killer" or "The Lake Elsinore Killer" was a 41-year old government stock clerk from Riverside County, California who liked to impersonate police officers, write books, drive fancy cars, and do community service work. His neighbors described him as "a friendly nerd who was always doing things to help people". He had, however, spent some time in prison during the 1970s in Texas for beating his 2-month-old daughter to death along with his wife. In the orange groves of Riverside County, he dumped the bodies of 13 victims, all prostitutes, and authorities suspected he may have been responsible for as many as 22 deaths in the local area.

Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Another schizoid with an emphasis on the lower part, strange shapes and cover strokes. Narrow, frozen and tense handwriting. Notice the difference between the upper and lower zone. That may explain the difference between his demeanor at work and as a serial killer.

When examining this collection of handwritings, one can clearly see they are most connected to the schizoid personality. Let us return to "Jack the Ripper".

Jack The Ripper

Handwriting analysis of serial killersHandwriting analysis of serial killers
Handwriting analysis of serial killers
Handwriting analysis of serial killers

Now that we had gotten to know the serial killers, let us try and determine which of the handwritings received by the London police, were in "fact Jack the Ripper's". Out of 400 samples, "Jack the Ripper's" identity may never be determined. There is no guarantee he is even included in the collection. As someone who has seen the collection, I must say that those who had declared themselves to be "Jack the Ripper", indeed possesses serial killer signs in their handwriting. Assuming they had no way of knowing what serial killers signs were and therefore incapable of forging their handwriting in accordance, I must return to the basic, well known assumption that if someone were to believe they are "Jack the ripper" for whatever twisted reason, there handwritings will have the sign of a murderer.
Handwriting = Brainwriting.


  • Mitchell, E. W. (1997). The aetiology of serial murder: towards an integrated model. Unpublished M.Phil. thesis, University of Cambridge, UK.
  • Essays in History, volume 35, 1993, published by the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia.
  • Jack the Ripper.A-Z, by Paul Begg, Martin Fido, and Keith Skinner, published by Headline, 1996. (Still in print).
  • The Complete History of Jack the Ripper, by Philip Sugden, published by Robinson, 1995.
  • Signature Killers, Robert D. Keppel, Ph.D, with William J. Birnes, published by Pocket books, 1997.
  • The Criminal Hand, An Analysis of Criminal Handwriting, Patricia Marne, published by Sphere books limited, 1991.
  • The serial Killer Letters, a Penetrating Look Inside the Minds of Murderers, Jennifer Furio, The charles Press, Publishers, 1998.
  • Serial Killers, the face of evil, Sheila R. Lowe, CG, 1993.
  • Eritten In Crime, An Overview of Criminal Handwriting, Reed Hayes, 1997.
  • Anna Koren, B.I.G Symposium, Oxford, 1999, Proceedings of the sixth symposium on graphology. The schizoid personality.*

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