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Tales from the Script
Handwriting expert Renee Martin can identify a forger and a good executive a mile away. But would you want her to analyze your resume?
This story by Bart Jackson was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
Wednesday, March 11, 1998. All rights reserved.
Six hundred thousand dollars in dark chips ease out
onto the bright green felt. The croupier’s practiced hand spins the
wheel and with a flick sets the ball on its course. The sheik watches
intently, sheltered by the plush velvet cord Bally’s reserves for
its highest rollers. The ball lands — Bally’s gains another
our sheik scribbles a marker, and stalks off.
Delicately but firmly the matter of collection is approached. The
sheik claims he was intoxicated last night and never signed those
markers — this is not his signature. Bally’s quickly refers the
matter to Renee Martin. It is all so elementary. Martin finds the
sheik’s mistake: he had signed a dinner check earlier that evening.
It was a quick, easy, and absolute match. The sheik had to pay.
Over four decades of proven expertise in signature verification and
handwriting analysis have given Renee Martin a national reputation.
Her court testimony stands above reproach. Against her, it is wiser
to fold your tent.
Few clients who come to Questioned Documents’ office at 20 Nassau
Street in Princeton lay matters of such high finance before Renee
Martin, but for each, it is equally vital. Early last month a Mercer
County man brought in his father’s will. To it was clipped an alleged
power of attorney that switched the terms, funneling all the father’s
wealth to the remaining seven siblings. Martin’s recent testimony
in the Trenton court proved that the will and the power of attorney
were not signed by the same hand.
"This forger should have gone to school in Italy," laughs
Martin. "The man who signed the will did." Her hands roam
restlessly around a massive desk littered with files and papers. The
walls hold a patchwork of posters: signatures blown up 800 percent,
arrows blatantly elucidating flaws in the forgeries. Even I can spot
"Ah here, now look," she flips open a small book. "This
is Italian writing." My eyes study the long, flowing letters —
flowery, yet controlled. "See? It’s just like Italians. Now
she flips pages "is the German. Note the strong, sharp angles;
precise, definite crosses."
Every person’s handwriting, Martin explains, is a blend
of this nature and nurture. Each of us learns script in school. For
the first few years we painfully copy the letters as our American,
German or Italian system models them for us. Then we graduate and
spend the rest of our lives straying from this prescribed pattern
as dictated by our own individual personality. Our writing becomes
a physical and psychic thumbprint that we cannot shed even when it
serves our purposes.
Recently a Princeton contractor sought Martin’s scrutiny of a service
order. A client had faxed the signed order for additional work and
then balked after its completion. "I never authorized such work,
This is not my handwriting. You are trying to con me," came the
client’s indignant cry.
Under her 45-power microscope Martin studied the client’s previous
service orders and this current one. The man had tried amateurishly
to disguise his signature so he could deny it later. He used the old
tricks of changing the style of his capitals, the slant of the other
letters. They worked as well as a phony mustache.
For a trained graphologist, three quarters of all document
are obvious and immediate. Judges and juries can swiftly follow
pointer and through her trained eyes discern the differences. For
this reason, graphologists, unlike doctors, rarely battle it out on
the witness stand, staking reputations against each other. One of
her favorite court appearances was depicting a nephew’s attempt
at his aunt’s signature which he had only misspelled "a
"Every forger," Martin is fond of saying, "is trying to
don a coat too small." One cannot study the unstudied. Regardless
of how labored the content, your own script is casually written. The
smoothness is natural, the flow from letter to letter continuous and
the spacing between each falls evenly.
The forger’s hand, however, is finely concentrated on emulating the
shape of each individual letter, "the trait most often
Thus the flow must invariably be broken. The lack of cohesion becomes
increasingly evident as he sweats over each piece. Speed, therefore,
is another element beyond the ability of virtually all imitators.
And finally, even if the forger manages to slip his artistry by and
emulate all the above elements, he will probably fold under the
test. Each person alters the pressure of his hand at certain letters
and junctures. This host of variations reflect thoughts and emotions
only of the original writer.
Ah, but what about the pros — those great paper hangers who con
millions with the stroke of a phony signature? In reality, a true
con’s expertise comes in avoiding Martin’s scrutiny. The forger goes
to the bank at its busiest hours and picks the most harried teller.
She arranges for shills to create a disturbance when the signing takes
place — anything to avoid it ending up on the desk of Questioned
Documents. Martin knows all the tricks, but even she admits she could
probably not fool another certified document examiner.
So has Renee Martin ever been fooled? "How would I know?"
she smiles. "Nothing in life is absolute. I’ve had some close
calls. Granted, one was a pro who’d been falsifying paper since ’85.
But the other was a nephew. A first timer just seeking his share of
uncle’s will. That’s what I love about this job . . . you never
Martin’s jovial manner, snow white hair, and full figure may not match
the lean, hawklike visage of a Baker Street sleuth, yet they share
many of the same methods. Over her 40 years in the trade, she has
committed to memory scores of ink types, paper styles, and individual
water marks. A quick glance at these clues affords her a host of
And such obsession with detail is the graphologist’s greatest tool.
Renee Martin focuses on me with that tax-auditor’s stare. If I were
a document, I’d squirm. "A stubbornness, precise nature, ability
to notice detail, and an endless willingness to pursue." she
ticks off the traits of her profession. "These are what a
Raised in Brooklyn, the daughter of an upholsterer and a seamstress,
Martin grew up studying the handwriting columns that were then in
vogue in New York’s daily newspapers. After graduating from high
in 1946 and starting a family (she’s the mother of four grown
Martin carried her interest in graphology one step further. In 1955
she became an active member of the American Graphological Society.
(She later became certified with the American College of Forensic
When her then husband was transferred to a job in Princeton Martin
moved to East Windsor. She began grabbing various jobs with various
document examiners and handwriting experts. Some few brief, informal
seminars and workshops existed, but for Renee Martin expertise had
to be primarily self-taught. Her first book "Your Script is
was a serious but readable approach to handwriting analysis that gave
Martin her first public exposure.
In 1960, Martin hung out her own shingle "Handwriting
(forerunner of Questioned Documents). With it came the endless
for reputation. Martin’s knowledge could usher her into court, but
it did not bring lawyers banging at her door begging for her
expertise to save their clients.
Like all infant businesses, Handwriting Consultants slogged slowly
uphill at the beginning. But if you are very good at what you do,
the doors usually open and they did for Martin. Within a few years,
solicitors were banging on her door continually. Juries were impressed
by her rock hard evidence delivered with a casual unshakeable
The word got around: Renee Martin was a winner, a good one to hire.
A flood of writings gave credibility to her career.
— a step-by-step examination of handwriting analysis, came out
in 1972. On the script identification branch of graphology, such
as "Writing of the Aged," "Typewriter Identification,"
"Spurious Changes" helped forge a hard-won national
In the early 1970s she set up her office at 20 Nassau Street. In 1979,
Martin joined with fellow graphologist Phyllis Cook and founded the
National Association of Document Examiners. The goal was to set
for the profession and make sure that new comers would receive more
formal training than had been available to Martin.
Today Questioned Documents’ Nassau Street office stands heaped with
papers each requesting Martin’s expert decisions at a cost of from
$75 to $100 per hour. Trump Taj Mahal, Dow Jones and Robert Gorman,
the lawyer down the street, all call. "She makes a good
notes Gorman for whom Martin has repeatedly testified. "She’s
so credible and sincere."
Carol Hugho, manager of Princeton’s Avalon Properties, agrees that
she’s seldom seen anyone so comfortable or competent on the stand.
"You can tell she really loves the work."
Fine, so Martin can gun down a forger at 20 paces. But does this
make her mistress of my emotions as well? Can she accurately prepare
a list of my personal traits? And can my boss justifiably hire her
to tattle that list to him when I’m up for promotion?
"Fraud" cry some skeptics the instant graphology steps beyond
the basic wing of script identification into actual handwriting
Renee Martin is the first to admit that graphology, like medicine,
is an art, not a science. There is a safety in science. Any lab
anywhere who repeats an experiment exactingly will come to the same
conclusion — every time. No threat, no unknown. But art entails
skill — that enigmatic hand of the artist. We are uncomfortable
with skill. It evokes jealousy, and demands trust that the artist
isn’t conning us with hoopla. So we seek ever to debunk doctors,
sculptors, and psychic friends on the phone.
And both sides shout loud in debate. Most U.S. Government officials
jibe at analysis and even identification. They nickname it
tossing it in the same noncredible ash can as phrenology and tea leaf
readings. They protest its legal standing.
However, in several Midwestern courts, recent juries have been asked
to give handwriting samples which are to help determine a juror’s
state of mind, drug intoxication, and level of duress. Also in the
Midwest, a growing number of large firms routinely ask job applicants
to solve problems in handwritten essays and then, quite quietly, turn
them over to graphologists for scrutiny. Among European companies
such hiring tools have gained great favor. But in the states, most
people not only deny the art, but object to the privacy invasion of
a corporation standing in judgment of one’s personality.
"Actually," Martin notes, "analysis of handwriting reveals
few mysteries and very few earth-shaking traits." Your script
will not uncover you as a secret child molester or predict love in
your future. It will show if you are writing under duress. But whether
it’s because you were stoned on crack or had a pistol to your
remains securely with you.
However, there are some basics, and they unfold most obviously in
those widely orbiting realms of men vs. women. "Protest all you
want, about the progress of feminism and Women’s Lib" smiles
"Women are raised differently and thus write differently. Girls
little and large are taught to please." They reap their greatest
rewards in society by close attention to the rules. ("Keep
that path, sister, and you’ll be VP in no time.") Quite naturally
their writing reveals this.
Girls’ writing is "neater;" that is, closer to that original
script we all learned in school. "The most difficult writings
to distinguish," claims Martin, "come from women who went
to Catholic girls’ schools." Several graduates of the parochial
system assure me that content always came second after penmanship.
Nuns and their rulers still hold mighty sway.
But a boy is not a man, society instructs, unless he breaks a few
rules and learns to stand tall as an individual. ("As a team
you’re a disaster, Sonny, but with your initiative and individuality
you’ll be a VP in no time.") As a result, men more frequently
develop personal flourishes, streaks and slashes which they like,
keep and make their own. They depart further from the rules of
It is not cut and dry, of course and the entire issue gets confused
by those handwriting hermaphrodites whose unhappiness with their
can be read amidst the lines. A CEO signs a letter differently to
his board than he scribbles a memo to a file clerk. Doctors’ legendary
illegible prescriptions indicate a total disregard of piddling
followup to their triumphant diagnosis and statement of cure.
The analysis of handwriting and the attempts to discern the character
behind the words is as old as writing itself. As early as l647 Camilea
Baidi in Bologna, Italy, began to compile types of scripted letters
and relate them to types of people. Several others soon followed suit.
By the mid-1800s until the present, the compilation has expanded
and so has the experts’ belief in what can be revealed.
While correlation is not proof, Martin claims that certain traits
can be seen within a single letter. Sensitivity shows in a fine
hand and light pressure on the page. Curiosity and intelligence show
traditionally in an egg-shaped letter "g." Ambiguity
abounds: large handwriting on a page may show a love of generalities
or it may indicate one’s unfamiliarity with the skill. Analysis is
after all an art, requiring the deft sympathy of an artist, not a
scientist translating from periodic tables.
The maxim one art aids another can currently be seen in graphology’s
very fruitful use in psychology. Herry O. Teltcher, an Austrian
in both fields, has been able to unearth a host of traits in his
that remained hidden or seemed irrelevant in the normal verbal
"You can read in 15 minutes a poignant tendency that might take
years to unfold through traditional methods," Martin notes.
So in the end, would I hire Martin to help my boss choose the best
executive? Martin claims she can save him six months by interpreting
such traits as organizational skills, ease of handling problems,
intelligence, whether the applicant is subjective, fair, aiming to
please, or is a loose cannon. So, my organized, prepared brain tells
me, now is the time for a test.
I beg Martin’s off-the-cuff scrutiny of my own scarcely legible hand.
She mentions attributes of generosity, love of the physical, anger
close to the surface, love of formality at unexpected times. "So
would I make a good executive?"
"Well, everyone’s executive style is different. . ."
Politely, I am being told to hit the bricks and seek day labor. The
moving finger has written. Ah well, this analysis stuff is probably
all bunk anyway. She’s probably making that all up. I think I’ll take
out my anger by cutting down a tree and giving the wood to the church
— in a fancy cart.
Renee Martin graciously agreed to anaylze the
some Princeton "celebrities." We asked eight business people
to submit handwriting samples for Renee Martin to analyze. The first
sample — plucked from their files by an assistant — was to
be something already written, not written for Martin’s examination.
The second sample was to be a signature.
The way you sign your name, Martin points out, is your public persona,
the face you would like everyone to see. Indeed, the signature of
at least one of the subjects presents a slightly different picture
of his personality than his actual handwriting.
Martin picked six of the eight submissions. She did not know the
of these six subjects when she did her analysis of the samples. In
fact, she pegged one of the men as a woman and one of the women as
a man. Then she looked at the signatures and added comments based
on how the signatures were penned.
James E. Carnes, president and CEO of the Sarnoff Corporation,
Penn State, Class of 1961. http://www.sarnoff.com
with excellent planning abilities and judgment. Because of his
and abilities, he feels somewhat separated from other people, an
hazard for most of the highly intelligent. This writer is true to
himself and his goals. While he is interested in working with others,
he always keeps the goal in sight. He is a dreamer, actively trying
to make all things fall in as perfectly as he can with his ideals
and goals. Sometimes he feels that his dreams are too ephemeral and
he must control them. Because of this, he keeps his mind open to new
ideas and new potential, allowing himself the flexibility to change
direction if the results will be benefited.
Highly articulate, he can work with others in their own language to
explain purposes, etc. without losing his primary independent thought.
He can discuss almost any subject with others on their own level while
retaining his own information. He knows how much information to impart
no matter how much he learns.
He has an interesting sense of humor which sometimes turns dry,
surprising others with his perspicacity. He has a rare understanding
of masculine feminine drives which enables him to work equally well
with both sexes.
J. Robert Hillier, president and CEO, the Hillier Group,
the nation’s third largest architectural firm, founded in 1966,
with 200 employees at Alexander Park. Princeton University, Class
of 1959. http://www.hillier.com.
people and will do anything in the world for them, but maintains a
certain distance which will not allow others to do the same for him.
Mentally and physically active, he is not happy unless he is out
seeing, and doing. Always the inveterate romantic, he will do all
in his power to make everything OK for everyone.
This writer has excellent planning abilities, but often runs afoul
of his own emotional involvement getting in the way of his
He is dynamic and loves people, places and things. He is generous
to a fault, but when he is finished with something, that is the end!
He does not like to go back to situations with which he is finished.
This writer is highly intelligent and always willing to listen and
learn. He communicates what he feels is necessary to get the job done.
He is dependable, and the ones who work with him always benefit.
artistry in the signature. The signature is pictorial: there is a
great beginning stroke showing the premeditation of all his
The final stroke which balances the beginning stroke shows that even
when he is finished with a project, he is still mentally making
on the one hand and looking forward with great anticipation to the
College’s Small Business Development Center; formerly owner of Herman
who employs good judgment in most of his dealings, though there are
times when he allows his emotions to get in the way of that good
He is fairly outgoing and can be quite expansive with people. He has
a strong sense of responsibility, a good sense of his position in
life and can be easy going, managing to control a tendency to
Communication on his own terms is essential. He likes people and,
while highly idealistic, deals with people practically for the most
part. He may have a flash of intuition to which he will apply all
the pragmatic fools available to him. His unusual sense of humor is
almost joking with himself since not everyone is aware of it.
While he knows how to maintain good relationships with people,
a certain diplomacy, he can be argumentative (without being
certainly making his point when he feels necessary.
that this writer was a prelate of some sort because of the high
Knowing who it is, I don’t take it back. He does preach Success!
in Princeton Business Park, with 17 employees, founded in 1985.
uppermost in thinking. As successful and ambitious as this person
is, limitations are placed on self. The ability and the potential
is there, but a ceiling and a floor are placed on activities
the writer from reaching full capabilities. There is a strong sense
of responsibility, a great sense of humor and an idealism that make
it fun to work with her.
With excellent planning abilities and good judgment, she balances
her materialistic drive with a sincere desire to do the best she can
for the most people, no matter what the effort. Mentally and
active, she enjoys a challenge and pulls out all the stops when
on a project. Despite a streak of independence, she can subordinate
her individuality for the greater good, though I personally feel that
she’s happier working solo.
individual deals with everyone from the heart.
of the Princeton Area since 1974.
true people person, this writer hides behind her sensitivity by being
there for everyone and disguising her natural shyness by covering
all aspects of anything on which she concentrates. This writer is
highly artistic and musical, and never allows her temperament to take
hold of any situation in which she is involved. Balancing her idealism
with everyday practicality is her stock in trade.
To those who look no further, this writer is a gem who completes her
part of any situation intelligently and as perfectly as is humanly
possible. She is highly articulate, enjoying the average conversation
with all types. She also knows how to recast the facts to the best
advantage of all involved.
you get. Perhaps her big secret is her first name.
firm) and Racioppi/Kish (a diversity training firm), graduate of
College and Antioch, founded in 1982, based on George Davison Road
oversee the proper completion of tasks, I would choose this person.
An intelligent, alert individual who is not afraid of hard work and
enjoys a mental challenge as well as a physical one, this writer
emotional involvement to rule activities. In most situations, this
is a patient person, not being afraid of working towards a goal,
individually or with a group. There are periods of impatience,
and the drive to do something meaningful is uppermost in this person’s
thinking. Most impatience is evident when something material is in
the offing — she wants it yesterday! Good sense often prevails,
however and she will patiently go through all the steps necessary
to make the desired goal a fact.
There is an unusual ability to employ masculine drives as well as
her writing except for giving the impression of great self-confidence,
which the rest of her writing does not reflect. This is not to imply
that she is a shrinking violet, just that in order to impress others
with her abilities, she feels she must do more self-promotion than
she really enjoys.
Gods of the printing presses willing, the 1998-’99 edition
of our annual U.S. 1 Business Directory will be delivered to your
office next Wednesday, March 18. That means that one free copy of
the directory will be delivered to every office on our delivery lists
— nearly 4,500 different businesses. It also means that the Directory
will be for sale in our offices and — soon — in bookstores
at the regular low price of $12.95, or $15.95 if you ask us to mail
it to you.
That’s what it means but like a lot of things in life, it can also
get a little complicated. The day after we deliver the directory one
or more people will walk into our office and ask where their free
directory is. They got one last year, they will say, but they didn’t
get one this year.
The sad answer is that after that fateful Wednesday, there are no
more free directories. By definition, free directories are free on
one day of the year only. After that they cost.
This is not our policy but our boss’s, who instituted it to end the
bickering over whether or not a particular person should or should
not pay for a book. We thought the policy was harsh, but then we compared
our book to the other directories typically available. At $12.95,
with 5,100 listings in 186 categories crammed into 272 pages, our
book is not only comprehensive but also — dare we use the word?
— cheap. If you would like to order one by mail, see the order
form on page 47 of this issue.
If you know any of the people whose handwriting was
analyzed as part of Bart Jackson’s cover story beginning on page 16
of this issue, you may or may not agree that there is some insight
to be gained from how we scrawl the written word across a piece of
paper. On the one hand our editors seemed typically skeptical of the
process. On the other, when asked to participate in the process by
submitting samples to handwriting expert Renee Martin they all demurred.
Barbara Fox explained that she would really like to do it, but felt
that it was more appropriate to ask Richard K. Rein to go first. He,
in turn, had some quick excuse about covering the news, not making
So no one from U.S. 1 appears in the handwriting lineup appearing
in this issue. But that doesn’t mean that you should be denied the
chance to perform some armchair graphology. The names scrawled below
correspond to the list in the staff box to the left. What kind of
people edit this newspaper? As always, your opinions are welcomed.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.