Phrenologist Analyzes Murderer’s Head

Phrenology is the study of the shape of the head to determine a person’s personality. It is, for the most part, a racist, sexist, and bogus “science” that was popular back in the early 1900s. However, it is interesting to read how phrenology was used to read the characteristics of a murderer after he had already committed the crime.

Slayer Richeson’s Head Analyzed by Jessie Fowler, Noted Phrenologist

How His Black, Animal Nature Overcame the Good and Made Him Passionate, Selfish and Cruel Is Told in This Remarkable Signed Statement

By Jessie A. Fowler

Daughter and Successor of L.N. Fowler, the Founder of Phrenology

The Rev. Clarence V.T. Richeson, murderer of Avis Linnell, has a strong melanic dark racial type of temperament, which shows in his dark hair, eyes and eyebrows, and his square set face, strong features and positive lips.

He has a strong emotional nature. His whole contour of face indicates that his basilar brain (or animal nature) has now the ascendency over his character, whatever the superior qualities had at an earlier stage in his career.

There is remarkable width between the ears, which is calculated to give severity, energy and even executive ability. This power, if uncontrolled by the higher and finer sentiments of the mind, is capable of inflicting pain and suffering, even where the person himself suffers no twinges of conscience.

The fullness of the central part of his forehead, where the hair parts from the forehead, gives him a great advantage in estimating his power over others, and an understanding of the weakness of anyone in whom he confides and with whom he does business.

His human nature gives him immense institutional power. This a person can use for a right or a wrong motive. In his case, it would be liable to work with his basilar qualities.

His ear is low set on the side of his head, and if an imaginary line were drawn from the opening of the ear forward, it would show great intensity of mind. All persons possessing this indication are strong in their motor power.

If another imaginary line were drawn to the center of his forehead, between his eyes, it would form with the horizontal line an angle equal to 45 degrees taken with a craniometer.

This indicates the depraved type of head, as was shown in Thurtell and Palmer, both murderers. But it can also be seen in men when the moral region of the brain is also well represented.

Generally speaking, however, this angle in a normal head is 25 degrees, as it was in President McKinley and Abraham Lincoln.

If we draw a line through the center of his forehead, it will be seen that the principal part of his brain lies below rather than above that line, and instead of the height of his head being equally distributed between his moral and basilar faculties, we find on the photograph much more space devoted to the basilar or animal region, than to the moral group.

In a normal head the measurements show a brain power equally distributed, and in a strongly moral type the ratio is reversed.

The eyes indicate great intensity of mind and passionate power. We might almost call them hypnotic eyes, and when used in a social and affectionate way they could have great influence over unsophisticated minds.

The lips are full and voluptuous and irregular in type, indicating passion and jealousy. These correspond with a large cerebellum, and a strong social nature which, if uncontrolled by moral forces, bring disaster.

The jaw is of a strong, square type, which gives relentlessness and lack of sympathy or tenderness, and on the other hand severity and courage. It should have had something of the round element to give tenderness of regard.

The jaw is long and curved, and half way from the lower lobe of the ear to the center of the chin there is a projection which indicates bull dog tenacity, and has always been found in persons capable of doing any strong courageous act.

The width of the side head shows acquisitiveness, or desire for greed and personal possessions, which a narrow head in this respect would fail to indicate.

The whole contour of the face indicates shrewdness, depth of intellect, cunning and reserve, through secretiveness. It is the face of one who could easily take advantage of trusting and sympathetic natures. The great wonder is that anyone would be influences by such a strong and passionate nature. But fluency of speech, which the portrait indicates that the Rev. Mr. Richeson possesses might easily deceive a credulous mind.

—J.A. Fowler,

Vice President of the Am. Inst. of Phrenology, New York.

Source: Fowler, Jessie A. (1912, January 10). Slayer Richeson’s Head Analyzed by Jessie Fowler. The Day Book.