The Facts say:
A Child WroteThe Anthrax Letters
Ed Lake
(January 11, 2009)
(Last revised May 18, 2011)

Facts are facts, whether they are believed or not.

In the Amerithrax case, the preponderance of facts show very clearly that a child almost certainly wrote the anthrax letters and addressed the envelopes.  Yes, it is possible that the writing is that of an adult who knew exactly how to write like a child in every detail.  But, while that may be "possible," it seems extremely unlikely.

NOTE added May 11, 2011 and modified May 18, 2011:

On page 37 of David Willman's new book "The Mirage Man," it says:

Bruce and Diane Ivins appeared to have a stable future in Frederick.  Although he was no longer working as a nurse, she brought in a steady income from a day-care business she ran at the couple's modest home.  The timing seemed right for starting a family.  Bruce, however, could not beget children.  The couple registered with a state agency, and in the fall of 1984 they adopted one-year-old twins, Amanda and Andy.
So, according to David Willman, Diane Ivins was running a day care business in her home for almost two decades, starting many years before and continuing after the anthrax attacks.  That confirms what I've been arguing for years: There were very likely young children in Ivins' home at the time the anthrax letters were being written and the envelopes where being addessed.

The letters in the first mailing (the media mailing) were postmarked September 18, 2001.  The letters in the second mailing (the senate mailing) were postmarked three weeks later, on October 9, 2001.  Changes in the handwriting in the two separate mailings show exactly what a child would learn in first grade during those three weeks in September and October.  It is extremely unlikely that an adult who is simply trying to disguise his handwriting would, purely by chance, duplicate those same specific changes in writing style.

Here are some of the key facts which point to the conclusion that is was not an adult, but a child of about 6 years old - just starting first grade - who wrote the letters and addressed the envelopes

1.  Learning the Uncial style of writing.

According to a web site named “

The style of writing used in the anthrax letters is the “uncial” writing style used in American kindergarten classes. Uncial (pronounced un:shel) is a term applied to a particular calligraphic style based on ancient lettering. Typically, uncial writing features just upper case letters with larger letters used where capitalization is needed.

All upper case block letters are made quite simply from only four components: a vertical line (|), slanted lines (/), horizontal lines (—), and a curve or circle (C).

The handwriting on the anthrax letters and envelopes shows the writer is still writing all upper-case, uncial style as taught in kindergarten.  But, at the time of the mailings, he was evidently just starting to learn some of the new things about writing that are taught in first grade.

2.  Learning how to draw the letter R. 

The fact that points most clearly to a child doing the writing is the fact that, between writing the media letter and addressing the Brokaw envelope, the writer was taught and learned how to properly draw the letter R. 

When the writer wrote R's on the media letter he drew the top of the R's as little circles like this:

The drawing of small circles seems to be a kindergarten style that the writer figured out by copying things written on a blackboard.  It was not taught.  When he addressed the Brokaw envelope, however, he no longer drew the tops of R's as circles, he drew them in a more proper way as is taught in first grade, like this:

One can actually see that the writer was told to start the loop at the top of the vertical line, since the 3 smaller R's show he started the loop near but not directly atop the vertical line.

All forensic handwriting experts agree that the handwriting examples (with the possible exception of the date on the media letter) are from the same writer.  Yet, there is a small difference in abilities between these two writing samples.  One would expect they would be written only minutes apart, but there are clear indications that enough time passed between the writing of the Brokaw letter and the addressing of the Brokaw envelope for the writer to learn the proper way to write R's.  Was it minutes? Hours? Days?  The first line of the text of the letter ("THIS IS NEXT") seemingly indicates the media letter was written on or after 9/11, even though the date on the letter was apparently added later by a different hand.

On the New York Post envelope we can see he was still having a hard time drawing arcs instead of circles:

The fact that he was taught the proper way to draw an R doesn't mean it immediately became automatic for him.  It takes time to get rid of writing habits, even habits developed in kindergarten.

3. Learning to write smaller.

One of the first things you are taught in first grade is to write smaller.  The writing on the media letter is roughly twice the size of the writing on the senate letter.

And the date on the media letter is roughly twice the size of the date on the senate letter.

Even the writing on the Senate envelopes is generally a bit smaller than the writing on the media envelopes.

4.  Learning when to capitalize and when not to capitalize.

The handwriting shows that the writer had learned that the first letter of a sentence is supposed to be larger than the rest of the letters, and so are the first letters of names and proper nouns.

While the writer may have learned “uncial” and the rule about proper nouns in kindergarten, the writer isn’t certain about what a “proper noun” is. The word “NOW” is not a proper noun, nor is “TO”, yet they are capitalized in the media letter. In the Senate letter, the writer capitalizes “YOU” and possibly another “TO”.

5.  Learning about punctuation.

Another of the things you are taught in first grade is punctuation.

The media letter has no punctuation, the senate letter does.

6.  Learning about the question mark.

The writing on the senate letter doesn't just contain periods.  It also appears to show the writer's first attempt at writing a question mark.  He used three separate strokes, and each of the strokes is full size

Notice that the arc is the size of a reversed C, the vertical line is the size of the letter I, and the period is far enough below the vertical line to be a separate period.   What adult draws a question mark with three strokes, even if they were making a BIG question mark in order to emphasize the question?

7.  Developing better hand-eye coordination.

When you are about six years old and just starting first grade, it's easier to draw a large O than a small o, because you do not yet have the hand-eye coordination of an adult. 

Notice that on the media letter and the o in Brokaw on the Brokaw envelope the writer draws a circle and continues for about a quarter way around to make sure the circle is complete.  That is something a child does, not an adult.  Plus, there are indications that when drawing larger O's, he often slows down when the circle is nearly complete, and he adjusts to make certain the end of the circle connects with the start of the circle.  Completing a circle is automatic for an adult.  A six-year-old doesn't have that level of hand-eye coordination.

The same holds true with the R's on the Brokaw envelope.   For the small R's, the writer didn't have the hand-eye coordination needed to start the arc of the R atop the vertical stroke.  He got close, but not right on.
8.  Learning to judge how much room you have to write.

When you are first learning to write properly, you do not have the experience needed to judge whether or not you'll have enough room to get an entire line within the available space.  Notice how the writer starts writing smaller when it becomes clear he's not going to have enough room for "of the Americas" on the Post envelope:

And on the New York Post envelope, as on all the envelopes, he steers his writing toward the farthest corner, which will give him the most room.  On the senate envelopes, where there is a return address, he seems to try to avoid running into the stamp.

The writer also didn't abbreviate "Building" when he was running out of room as an adult would do.

Note that when writing on a large sheet of paper such as the letters, where he didn't have a problem with running out of room, and therefore, he wrote in relatively straight lines.

9.  Learning new words.

The writer evidently saw CANNOT as two familiar words, CAN and NOT.  An adult would write CANNOT, using a word that would be unfamiliar to a first grader.

The writer evidently failed to copy the word penicillin correctly, instead writing "penacilin."  When copying unfamiliar words, children are taught to read them phonetically, remember then phonetically, and then to write them phonetically.  In the case of pen-i-cil-lin, the phonetic version ended up as pen-a-cil-in.

NOTE ADDED February 24, 2010: The FBI's case summary released on February 19, 2010, contains some interesting new information about the misspelling of "PENACILIN."  The report says that the misspelling was deliberate and is part of a method of identifying that there is a coded message hidden within the letter.  Key to understanding the identifying code is the fact the A in "penacilin" is one of the A's and T's that were traced over, yet the A in TAKE in the same sentence was not.  The A does not belong, yet it is highlighted by tracing over it.

This new information doesn't alter the basic facts about the handwriting, it just adds evidence to explain something that could previously be interpreted many ways.

The evidence says that the writer wrote the word "penacilin" as directed.  That's all. 

10.  Learning to copy things with confidence.  Eliminating pause marks.

Note that when addressing the Brokaw envelope, the writer seems to have paused repeatedly at the end of many strokes as if he was checking the original to see that he was doing things properly and to see what stroke he would draw next.  He left little balls of ink at the end of each of the strokes underlined in red below.

He appears to have written with much greater confidence on all the other envelopes.  Why he didn't leave pause marks on the media letter is a question, since it was evidently done before the addressing of the envelope.  The best explanation seems to be: He felt the addressing of an envelope with a stamp was much more important, and he really needed to do it correctly.

11.  Writing with confidence.  Using fewer strokes to draw a letter.

When writing M's or W's, very few adults write them with four strokes as is done in the anthrax letters and envelopes.  And, N's are rarely written with three strokes.

When you write with confidence, you start to use fewer strokes. 

12.  Adults generally do not doodle when writing death threats.

The letter writer doodled on the media letter, but not on the senate letter.

Why the writer only traced over A's and T's is a good question.    It's been pointed out that one of the 9/11 hijackers was named ATTA, which is spelled with only A's and T's.  But only die-hard True Believers still think that Muslim terrorists had anything to do with the anthrax letters.  And, if it was an attempt to highlight the A's and T's, why isn't the vertical stroke on the T's also traced over? 

This type of doodling is common for children when they've completed a task and are awaiting instructions from the teacher on what to do next.

NOTE ADDED February 21, 2010: The FBI's case summary released on February 19, 2010, contains some interesting new information about this "doodling."  It isn't "doodling."  It's a coded message that Dr. Ivins evidently put into the media letters in order to allow him to prove he sent the letters if he should become a national hero for warning America of the pending bioweapons attacks by Muslim terrorists, which he and many scientists thoroughly expected.

Dr. Ivins obtained the coding method from a book called "Godel, Escher, Bach" which he tried to secretly throw away, but he was under FBI surveilance at the time, and the FBI saw what he did and recovered the book.

The coded "message" is either "PAT" or "FNY" depending upon how you decode it.  "Pat" would refer to a former co-worker with whom Dr. Ivins was fixated at the time of the mailings.  "FNY" would mean "F**k New York," a city which Dr. Ivins seemed to hate and which another former co-worker loved.   Ivins could have been aware of both ways to decode the message.

This new evidence doesn't alter the basic facts on this page, it merely supplies a solid answer to something that was previously more of a puzzle.  The actual fact remains a fact: "Adults generally do not doodle when writing death threats."  As it turns out, the "doodling" wasn't really doodling and seemingly supports the idea that a child wrote the letters, since the "doodling" seems careless and childlike and not like something an adult would do deliberately to encode a message.  If an adult had done the encoding, one would expect that he would be more clear in which letters were highlighted by tracing over.  It looks like the adult told the child to trace over the letters that were highlighted in the original supplied by the adult.  And the child did a so-so job of it. 

13.  The new school year was just starting at the time the letters were written.

The letters were written at a time when children were just starting a new year in school - September and October.  The learning process visible in the handwriting agrees with the timing of the letters.

14.  The prime suspect had a lot of contact with children.

Eulogies for the prime suspect focused on his devotion to children.  His wife filed for a license to run a day care center in their home a year after the anthrax attacks.  People who start licensed day care centers in their homes typically begin by doing baby sitting work for children in the neighborhood.  It is very common for someone like Diane Ivins to take care of a first grader or kindergartener who is dropped off by a school bus a few hours before his or her own parents get home from work.


The preponderance of facts clearly show that the handwriting on the anthrax letters and envelopes is a child's writing   There can be no trial, so these facts will never be argued in court.   However, there's no law that says that until the facts are believed, beliefs override all facts.  The facts are clear.  It's a child's handwriting.

Arguments that the writing belongs to an Arabic writer just learning to write Roman letters simply ignores most of the facts described above.  Adult Arabs have adult hand-eye coordination.  They know how to judge how much writing room they need.  They write in one size.  The question mark is also used in Arabic.   Etc.

Arguments that the culprit was using rubber gloves and writing inside a glove box (biosafety cabinet) doesn't account for  the difference is writing size, the change from no punctuation to full punctuation, the doodling, etc.

Arguments that the writer disguised his handwriting by using the wrong hand don't hold water, since that trick results in very awkward writing.  The Troxler letter may be an example.  FBI handwriting experts think that the writing is the natual writing style of the writer when writing in all capitals.  That's why they sent out a hundred thousand postcards to people in Central New Jersey to see if anyone recognized the handwriting.  Plus, of course, it doesn't explain the difference in writing size, the change from no punctuation to full punctuation, the doodling, etc.

Arguments that the writing is that of an adult pretending to be an Muslim terrorist or a child doesn't hold water, since it doesn't explain the fact that learning took place between writing samples and that particular type of learning is exactly what is taught in first grade.

I'm open to any proof that the writing is not that of a child.  But all the arguments I've gotten are simply a total dismissal of the facts because no one can accept that an adult would use a child that way.  And they evidently assume that all children watch TV news shows and would immediately spot their own handwriting on TV and run to tell their parents.

Maybe the anthrax culprit thought it was something no one else would think of.   From his point of view, the cleverest and most sure way to completely disguise his handwriting may have been to trick someone else into doing the handwriting for him.  Who would believe that anyone would do such a thing?  Very few, evidently.

For an analysis of some counter arguments, click HERE.

NOTE added February 28, 2010: I've added a new supplementary page about the hidden code that was found in the media letter.  I've been asked if this new information about the hidden code changes my views regarding a child having written the anthrax letters.  It doesn't in any way.  It merely provides addition evidence to support the finding.

The explanation for why the word "PENACILIN" is misspelled is just a better explanation than that it was purely accidental.   There are more facts to support the idea that it was deliberate.

The rest of the "additional evidence" consists mainly of the way the "doodling" was done.  We now know that it was not doodling but a way of highlighting certain letters which were used in a code.

But, what's clear when looking at the letter again after getting the new information is that the writer wasn't very careful about doing the highlighting of the letters in the code.  It's as if he didn't realize how important it was.  But the person constructing the code would know. 

For example, in the first line of text, the tracing over of the horizontal line in the T in NEXT seems to be done fairly lightly compared to the T's in THIS and TAKE.   The traced line is dark enough to see, but one would think that if it was so important, more care would have been taken.

Another example is the fact that the H in the first use of the word DEATH seems to be slightly traced over.  And it isn't part of the code.  That seems to be either carelessness or something outside of the coder's control - as if someone else was doing the writing for him.  There's no way to control every stroke of a pen if someone else is holding the pen.

Also, as stated in the main part of this page, the writer wrote his small O's in a very childlike way, completing the tiny circle and then tracing over a small part of the O because he evidently didn't have the hand-eye coordination needed to stop in the right spot.   If tracing over letters is the coding technique, an adult wouldn't make that kind of mistake.   It seems to be another instance where the adult could not totally control every stroke of the pen held by the child.

Lastly, it seems very important that the new information only affects two things about which there could be some debate - the purpose of the doodling and the reason for the spelling error.  Most of the other facts are not really open to debate, they are only open to contrary evidence - if such a thing exists.   Example: The writer changed the way he drew R's between the writing of the letter and the addressing of the envelopes.  He changed from kindergarten style to first grade style.  No debate.  If there is any evidence proving this is not true, that would be a different matter.

NOTE added April 2, 2011: I changed a sentence in Section 2 from this:

The text of the letter ("THIS IS NEXT") clearly indicates the media letter was written on or after 9/11, even though the date on the letter was apparently added later by a different hand.

To this:

The first line of the text of the letter ("THIS IS NEXT") seemingly indicates the media letter was written on or after 9/11, even though the date on the letter was apparently added later by a different hand.

The time it would take to construct the very complex coded hidden message very strongly suggests that the coded message was developed long before 9/11, perhaps after some other event where Muslim terrorists attacked or attempted to attack America -- such as the plan to blow up Los Angeles International Airport on New Years Eve, 1999.   The actual post-9/11 letter wasn't written at that time, but the 3 word sentences and the highlighted characters were compiled.

Plus, there is significant handwriting improvement between the writing of the Brokaw letter and the addressing of the Brokaw envelope.  That suggests that Ivins may have persuaded the child to write the letter in late August, as part of some vague plan of his own that he never carried out.  Then, after 9/11, he revised his thinking and went forward with a new plan which involved addressing letters to Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, The National Enquirer and The New York Post.

NOTE added April 3, 2011: I added information to item #14 about about Diane Ivins running a day care center in her home, and how such work typically begins by doing baby sitting work.

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