Give Christine Jordan a handwriting sample and after eight hours of study, she sounds like a sage. Give her a signature and she'll wince and make do. "The strong slant to the right suggests you're persistent," Jordan tells a visitor. "And this loop in the 't' says you're open-minded but sensitive to criticism." To most, Jordan's pat assertions sound like the stuff of psychic readings. How could a signature reveal so much? It's all in how you look at it, Jordan says. Peering through bifocals, the 70-year-old Jordan's small gray eyes reveal exasperation with the meager evidence she's been given. Normally, she requires a $75 fee and at least two pages of script written with the subject's favorite pen on unlined paper. Jordan is a certified graphoanalyst. She studies handwriting to determine not only its legitimacy, but also the personality traits of the author. She's a profiler, of sorts, an alphabet detective. But despite the tedious methods she employs and what she calls a required "compassionate heart," Jordan worries that work like hers will wane if people treat it like a cultlike oddity. Instead, she says, handwriting analysis should be recognized and applied generously: personnel screenings, compatibility tests, parole hearings, genealogy queries. The list goes on. "It's a soft science, not like mathematics," she says. "But just as real." In 1975, Jordan, then a statistical typist with Reynolds Metals, ordered a book on handwriting analysis from Publisher's Clearinghouse. She had been frustrated by her own script for a long time. Like a sticky key that jars the flow of a carefully typed word, Jordan's cursive "y" was out of sync. So was her "g." And her "j." No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't correct what is called a "rejection" of the descending stem. Instead of drawing a normal downward loop that curves up to the right, Jordan's stem on those letters looped like a "q." Jordan hoped the book by famous graphologist Milton Newman Bunker would explain and help correct her troublesome consonants. What Jordan learned helped fix much more. Jordan had always been shy and feared speaking before groups. Her self-esteem wasn't the best. But after an event she asks to keep the details private eliminated some stress in her life, Jordan's irregularly formed letters instantly changed. Oddly enough, so did Jordan's life. Today, she calls the book on graphology one of her "bibles." Its teachings, she says, steer her toward making better decisions about such things as what doctors and political candidates to choose. When her writing changed at the exact same time as the defining event in her life, Jordan's skepticism disappeared. In time, "empirical" evidence hooked letters, erratic loops, untraced extenders jumped out at her like the hidden items in a seek-and-find puzzle. More important, the patterns she came to recognize convinced her that personalities could be sized up more accurately from handwriting than from a person's speech or body language. One of the instruments she uses is a plastic measuring device called an Emotional Response Gauge. It resembles a protractor and it shows Jordan the degree of the slant. In handwriting analysis, the slant helps determine the intensity of emotion that the writing reveals. Jordan claims the methods she uses make graphoanalysis more accurate than lie-detector tests. "If you write a provable lie I can figure it out," Jordan insists. What's more, she says, her methods provide a nearly complete personal profile of a subject that can't be faked. Lawrence Farmer, a handwriting expert in Virginia Beach, doesn't buy any of it. He says graphology, the general term for handwriting analysis, is nothing more than malarkey. "I have nothing but contempt for graphoanalysts," he says. "Those people put on a show." Farmer is a retired Secret Service investigator who inspected forged documents and threatening letters to public officials. Since he retired in 1978, Farmer has worked as a consultant and expert witness in court cases. He scoffs at Jordan's theory that handwriting can tell whether a person is honest, dishonest, hardworking or lazy. "The Yellow Pages has only two listings," says Farmer. "Handwriting experts and handwriting analysts. When you need an expert, make sure you get an expert not an analyst." Jordan doesn't seem to mind such remarks. She says no matter the language or how the pen is held, the process is the same: "I'm reading your mind at the time that you wrote." And sometimes, she says, it's a horrible burden. In the 26 years she's spent studying graphology, Jordan says she's indirectly visited more crime scenes than she cares to recount. She has screened videos of them for dozens of correspondence courses she's taken and says they have taught her a thing or two about aberrant behavior and how to recognize its potential in a person's penmanship. In an instant, she beams and alights from her rocking chair. She darts to a bedroom to retrieve pointed examples. Moments later she returns. "Have briefcase, will travel," she says. She hunts down her black-handled rectangular magnifying glass and finds it on the dining-room table. "This is my right arm," she says. From the briefcase Jordan pulls two photocopied sheets of paper sealed in clear-plastic protectors. They are writing samples of serial killers. In the first, the writing is slanted sharply to the right. The writing is very close and, she explains, displays "surging resentment." The initial strokes of repeated "m's" have lots of hooks. It's a sample of Ted Bundy's writing that she received from the graphoanalysis society. In the second, the writing is printed and letters are far apart. Many, especially the "a's" and "o's," are oddly broken at the bottom. "Bundy's is scary," she says. "But this one's terrifying." This is the handwriting of Jeffrey Dahmer. "We can't predict things," she warns. "Graphoanalysts have no special gifts except the ability to focus and learn." Jordan just started working on President George W. Bush's handwriting. She's received a sample of his script from the graphoanalyst society. Jordan scrunches her face and looks intently at the paragraph before her. She doesn't care what it says. Its meaning is deeper than words. Bush's "t's" are "above the stem," she says. That stroke represents a dream, something he wishes he had accomplished; "it means he's flying rather than having a base in reality," Jordan says. Maybe that will change now that he's become president, she suggests. She adds: "I'll definitely be keeping my eye on his handwriting." Christine Jordan presents a free program on handwriting analysis Thursday, Feb. 8, at 7 p.m. at the Dumbarton Public
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