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Rafael Schermann – Graphologist Extraordinary – Superminds 8

Graphology is the study of handwriting, and has many uses. Some businesses ask a skilled graphologist to examine the handwriting of people seeking top jobs in their company. The graphologist would describe the person’s strengths and weaknesses. Individuals often seek help from a graphologist to show what training would be the best use of their natural talents. The police use handwriting experts in cases of forgery.

One of the greatest of modern graphologist was a man by the name of Herr Schermann. From early childhood, Herr Schermann, instead of collecting stamps or badges was fascinated by envelopes. He amassed a huge collection and would sit looking at the handwriting, telling himself stories about the people who had written them, trying to form a picture of them. His interest didn’t disappear as he grew. Although like any graphologist he studied how people shaped their letters, what slant was on the words, how powerful the force used in writing, he also had another dimension to his skill. He appeared to ‘see’ the person who had written the words he studied. Some sense beyond those of sight, hearing, smell, taste and feel was operative. Some intelligence beyond a clever mind was at work.

We write what we are

Whether we are aware of it or not, when we write our whole body takes on a certain posture, a mood or emotion may be present as we write.


Our age and state of health, as they underlie our movements, also express in the subtle actions of writing. Therefore the marks we have made on paper are the result of what is going on in our body and mind at the time of writing. What Schermann did was to project the process backwards to build up a living impression of all the feelings, the movements, and the type of body and mind that created it.


Cornelius Tabori, a journalist who investigated Schermann in Austria, describes in his book My Occult Diary (Rider. UK. 1951) what happened when Tabori showed the graphologist an envelope written by a woman Schermann did not know and had never met. He says, “Schermann looked at it briefly and then started to work. He described the woman’s hair colour, how she looked, her figure, even her face. Suddenly she seemed to come alive before me in Schermann himself, because he imitated her voice and the body movements she made. To my amazement he told me the story of her life. It was uncanny the way he had become part of her, and told me exactly about settings, people and objects important to her, even to talks we had shared. I had never experienced anything like it before.”

Something that no other graphologist had ever managed before Schermann was his ability to look at a person, then reproduce their handwriting. This is one of the clues to his great skill. His insights into handwriting, linked it completely with the person and all aspects of their body and mind. Because of this he was often asked by doctors to diagnose a persons illness by looking at a sample of their handwriting.

An image in the handwriting

Herr Schermann often worked with the police. One of his most famous cases was regarding a bank forgery. His work on this case far exceeded analysis of whether the writing belonged to the person it was stated as. On 28th June, 1922, the Wiener Bank  received a letter from a man signing himself as Herman Zagg. The letter said that on the 23rd of June £80,000 had been deposited in Zagg’s account. It asked the Wiener Bank to transfer all of the money to another account in Anglo Bank.

The account was checked, and the money was there. The transfer would have proceeded except that through the carelessness of the junior bank clerk who was to enter the transfer, the pay slip did not get dealt with for two days. Therefore, to make sure the money was still in the account, and to avoid being caught for negligence, the clerk went to the carbon copy of the entry instead of into the bookkeeping office. He was amazed to find there was no entry for the account. He therefore hurriedly told this to his seniors. It was then discovered that someone had written in the £80,000 at the bottom of the day’s entries. The writing appeared to be that of the young woman who wrote up the entries. She was therefore suspected of forging the entry to get the money. Someone was immediately sent to the address Herman Zagg had given. No one of that name lived there. Obviously someone within the bank was the forger, and was working with an outside accomplice.

The police were asked to investigate, but could not discover who the forger or accomplice were. Schermann was then asked by the bank to help. Firstly he looked at the letter received by the bank from Zagg. “The person who wrote this is a tall, fat man,” he said. “His work calls for much concentration, has led to eye strain, and needs little physical activity. Most of the time he is bending over his work. It is not mental work, but he needs to be precise and accurate. He is probably a watchmaker or goldsmith.”

From this the bank could assume the writer posing as Zagg was not one of the staff of the bank. Even so, whoever made the entry in the bank ledger must be an employee. Therefore Schermann was asked to look at the handwriting of fifty of the people working at the bank. Among the fifty was a man named L.B. who Schermann said was the forger. It was not the young woman in charge of the ledger. “This man,” Schermann said, “is someone who has long planned this crime. He studied the writing of the woman for a long time, and is an artist at copying people’s handwriting. He needed an outside accomplice. I have a mental picture of him persuading the goldsmith, promising much gold for him to work with. L.B. knows the forgery has been discovered. Therefore I need a sample of his handwriting today. To see what he is planning.”

Genius at work

Looking at the new sample, Sherman’s analysis was that “The man knows he is going to be discovered. Yesterday he explained to his parents that he has committed a crime, and asked them to forgive him. Both parents are ill, and his mother said she would commit suicide if he were sent to prison. It would be difficult for his father to survive also. I can see L.B. is going to say he is innocent until the very end. If you agree not to tell the police I will get him to confess. I want him to remain free to support his parents.”

The promise was given as, so far, no money had actually been stolen. The young man was then called to the office and accused of the crime. As Schermann had foretold, he maintained he had nothing whatever to do with the forgery. Then Schermann asked him to write and sign the following:

“Wiener Bank-Verein


I have nothing to do with the hundred millions. Vienna 11 July 1922”

Writing these few words betrayed L.B’s secret motives. The man’s first name was Ludwig, but he had started to sign his name as ‘Loui(s). He quickly crossed out this mistake and wrote Ludwig. Looking at this Schermann faced him and told he had taken a goldsmith as an accomplice, and that he had told this man his plans to escape to Paris and use the name Louis. The forger’s confidence shattered and he gave a full confession. The accomplice he named turned out to be a goldsmith who was eighteen stone (252 pounds) in weight. So Schermann had not only correctly assessed the forger and his motives, but had also given an exact description of the accomplice. The forger also gave details of his sick parents that confirmed Schermann’s accuracy.

The young forger was dismissed from his job, but no police action was sought. Due to Schermann’s kindness, the man was able to continue his life without a criminal record. He later wrote a letter thanking Schermann for saving him from prison and complete disgrace.

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