Friday, September 8, 2017

The Complete Idiot's Guide to "Kurt Cobain" Handwriting Analysis

[updated July 21, 2022; highlighted in red color, added faxes from Tom Grant]
[updated August 15, 2019; highlighted in red color, added a radio interview with Sheila Lowe]

by Silvia K.

Correspondence between the author and Sheila Lowe, a forensic handwriting examiner, who worked briefly with Tom Grant in 1994, illuminates the 23 year old conspiracy theory that Kurt Cobain's suicide letter was forged.

Sheila Lowe is a certified forensic document examiner with more than forty years of experience in the field, and currently serving as president of the nonprofit American Handwriting Analysis Foundation. Lowe holds a Master of Science degree in psychology and has been an instructor in document examination at the University of California Riverside Campus in the Crime Scene Investigation Certificate Program and at the University of California Santa Barbara Campus in the Discovery program.

Since the 1990s her Handwriting Analyzer software has been used around the world. Sheila Lowe is the author of the internationally acclaimed „The Complete Idiot's Guide to Handwriting Analysis“ and also author of six books of her forensic handwriting murder mystery series featuring handwriting expert Claudia Rose. Sheila's analyses of celebrity handwritings are often seen in the media.

In a Vice article from December 2008 "Written in the Writing" by Milene Larsson, Lowe was asked what her weirdest assignment was she ever got. She responded that Tom Grant asked her to analyze Kurt Cobain's suicide letter and that she couldn't confirm his concerns. Lowe said that Courtney Love did not write the suicide note but Grant still went to the magazines.

Excerpt Vice article "Written in the Writing" from Dec. 2008
Sheila Lowe Vice interview
I contacted Sheila Lowe about the issue. Lowe responded that Tom Grant called her in the middle of the night about 3:00 am, asking her to examine some handwriting in the Cobain matter. He wanted to contact the Seattle Police Department in the morning. Lowe accepted the job and allowed Grant to fax her the materials and she compared then several handwritings to the Cobain suicide letter to determine whether Kurt or Courtney wrote it. It was her professional opinion that the note was genuine and written by Cobain after she found better samples than the bad quality faxes Grant sent her. Her first opinion on the bad quality faxes note matter was "inconclusive". Lowe explained that the apparent differences in the last four lines in the note are suggestive of strong emotion and/or drugs/alcohol and not necessarily a different writer. As a handwriting analyst Sheila Lowe is, the note looked like the handwiting of a depressed person.

Sheila Lowe told the author that Tom Grant was unhappy with her results and wanted a second opinion. He contacted a colleague of Lowe. But her colleague came to the same conclusion. Lowe told the author that Tom Grant never paid her for her work and he did not pay for the work of her colleague either.

Lowe provided correspondence papers between her and Tom Grant from 1994 to the author which confirm that Grant tried to avoid to pay her. In very long argumentative letters he explained himself why he couldn't pay but will try to do so. However, a payment of $1,575.00 never occurred. Lowe as well doesn't know why her name appears handwritten in the Kurt Cobain death case files of the Seattle Police Department Homicide Unit.

Notebook1.pdf, Page 22, Handwritten Detective Note: "Sheila Lowe"
Seattle Blotter Notebook1, page 22
I asked Sheila Lowe if she knows a handwriting examiner who goes by the name of "Dorothy". Tom Grant mentioned "Dorothy" in his latest book "The mysterious death of Kurt Cobain" in Chapter 32. He claims Dorothy confirmed his concerns over a forged note and sat down with her in a hotel room to wait for the gossip reporter Harvey Levin (founder of celebrity news website TMZ), to tell him the latest news about a forged note. However as indicitated by Grant in his book, Dorothy seemed to paddle back when Levin showed up with a camera crew. However, Grant still insists today that several document examiners concluded that the note had been written in two different hands. Grant as always fails to provide evidence for his claim.

Excerpt from Tom Grant's book, Chapter 32, "Dorothy"
Lowe told the author she knows Dorothy Morrison, who died quite a long time ago. She described her as a "sweet elderly lady who was not qualified to provide a questioned document examination". Lowe indicated that she believes Grant talked her into a certain opinion she ended up giving.

Sheila Lowe has never watched Benjamin Statler's fictitious docu drama "Soaked in Bleach" and will not do so. She was not surprised that the interviews of her colleagues Carole E. Chaski and Heidi Harralson ended up on the cutting room floor. It seems a common procedure when it comes to Tom Grant's "forged suicide note"-narrative. However, Sheila Lowe provided her professional opinion to Tom Grant and fulfilled her part of the contract.

In an interview on March 9, 2019 with Alan Warren from the NBC News affiliate "House of Mystery Radio Show", Sheila Lowe explains a lot about her profession as a forensic handwriting examiner,  handwritings in general, handwritings of serial killers, of left handers and talks as well about Kurt Cobain's suicide note and her involvement with Tom Grant in 1994. Listen to the interview [~ 50 minutes long]:


Forensic Handwriting Examiner Sheila Lowe interview about Kurt Cobain's suicide note from Silvia K. on Vimeo.

Another Snippet by "Heydedalo":

Forensic handwriting examiner Sheila Lowe talks about Kurt Cobain's suicide note from Silvia K. on Vimeo.

Below are the correspondence papers between Sheila Lowe & Tom Grant, Mrs. Lowe has given to me for publication. Certain names blacked out by the author for data protection.

Additional faxes from Grant to Sheila Lowe; includes random letters he collected from the Cobain Carnation property (updated July 21, 2022):

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Aftermath of "Soaked in Bleach" - Part III

by Silvia K.

Seven months after this blog published two articles exposing the heavily edited interviews featured in the docu-drama “Soaked in Bleach“, fans of the fictitious movie still tweet on a daily basis how impressed they were after watching it. Nonetheless, there are still other people presented in the movie who haven’t had the opportunity to tell their experience in the involvement of the film. One of them is Ryan Aigner, an old friend of Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselić who attended Aberdeen High School with them.

In August of 2015, Ryan Aigner was interviewed by Trevor Joe Lennon, almost a year before this blog was established. The interview was buried in the Aether of the Internet. But digging sometimes brings forth a piece of Gold. Mr. Lennon describes himself as a "marketing and radio personality“ and while browsing through his many interesting interviews, Lennon appears to be a dedicated man of 60s music.

During the interview Lennon and Aigner talk about the music scene of Aberdeen, Washington in relationship to Seattle and how Aigner’s relationship with the founding members of Nirvana developed. Aigner became close to Krist after attempting to start a band with Krist’s brother Robert. Krist later became something of a mentor to Aigner, sparking an interest in independent music. Later he dedicated his time managing Nirvana without a contract or any kind of financial support. The experience was a symbiosis of learning from Krist, Kurt and others and learning on the job. He therefore thinks the title of Nirvana’s “first manager“ is a little “misconstrued“.

Aigner was also encouraged by both musicians to develop and create his own musical projects. Nirvana supported Aigner's band Psychlodds and the band returned the favour, supporting Nirvana as an opening band on two shows. Before the days of the internet, Facebook, Twitter and smartphones, publicising gigs and bands was a very different experience. It was small, slow, lethargic and low budgeted. The shows were poorly attended, with scant advertisement running. The guys were “perfectly happy“ within their own world and “thrilled“ at having 20 metal heads attending a show. Later on Aigner helped to put on shows for several other bands such as Mundhoney, Melvins and Soundgarden.

Screenshot from "Soaked in Bleach"
Near the end of the interview Ryan Aigner tells Lennon a little bit about the docudrama “Soaked in Bleach“ explaining that he wasn't involved in the later years of Nirvana and had already stepped back prior the Geffen relationship. He thinks “the producers of Soaked in Bleach didn't realize that“ and “didn't do their homework“. The amateurish preparation for the interview led to an uncomfortable situation for Aigner.

We contacted Ryan Aigner for further clarification about his time on the set of “Soaked in Bleach“. Aigner is experienced in giving interviews. He told us that “usually people do not know how to interview“, they come ill prepared and don't know their subject matter. The familiar “Here we go again“ feeling was the case during the filming. He told us he has never watched “Soaked in Bleach“ but feels he has offered the producers a positive reflection on Kurt Cobain “as they were digging for negatives“. Three fourths of the questions they asked him he could not answer. He feels the producers hoped he would reflect on issues that he was not involved in. Frustrated and befuddled by his answers they tried a “classic bait“ but it didn't work out for them. Although the interview lasted about half of an hour the majority of it ended on the cutting room floor, and the result was not even a whole minute of the interview. Aigner thinks the movie might have the only purpose to sell something the public wants and would pay for, a niche for good sales. Aigner adds “I guess the truth can be kind of boring.“ When the time comes Aigner would like to share more stories about the “creative genius“ that Kurt was and about the whole group of people he met in the 80s. Some of those fascinating stories you can already read in the book “I Found My Friends: The Oral History of Nirvana“ by Nick Soulsby.


Ryan Aigner talks about movie "Soaked in Bleach" from Silvia K. on Vimeo.