Shoes and Palmistry

By beatrice behlen on 9 Nov 2010

I often seem to be more interested in the former wearers of objects in our collection than the objects themselves. That is even more true in the case of former owners who seem to resist revealing themselves. The following (and I’m afraid there will be more than one instalment) could be the script of a silent movie, complete with over-made-up villain, deceivingly pretty villainess and impressively shocked bystanders, although the writer of the title cards for this one would have their work cut out.

Where to start? Well, it’s always good to begin with some lovely shoes. The image below shows a pair made by Ignazio Pluchino (who really deserves his own blog entry) that are part of a small collection of dress items from the 1920s donated to the Museum in 1968. The shoes are now on display in our Galleries of Modern London, as well as a black satin evening coat from Machinka given at the same time.

The objects came to the Museum not directly from their former owner, but ‘through’ someone else, who may or may not be significant (I’m still working on that one). According to the sparse notes in the object file, the shoes belonged to a certain ‘Countess N. de Hamong’. The short entry in our register reads: ‘All worn by the donor, wife of the palmist Count de Hamong, who died 1933.’ As we will see, you cannot believe anything in this story, not even a museum register entry.

As much as this goes against the feminist leanings of a woman of my age and background, let’s continue not with the Countess, but with her illustrious husband. You might want to take a moment to check his wikipedia entry. From this you will learn that Cheiro  [pronounced ki-ro] was ‘an Irish astrologer and colourful occult figure of the early 20th century. His sobriquet, Cheiro, derives from the word cheiromancy, meaning palmistry.’ So far, so good. Let’s now turn to the gentleman’s obituary published in The Times on 9 October 1936:

DEATH OF “CHEIRO”
Count Louis Hamon, who was well known for his works on palmistry and occultism under the name of “Cheiro” died in New York yesterday at the age of 69, states Reuter. He founded
L’Entente Cordiale in Paris in 1901, and was proprietor and editor of the Anglo-Colonial American Register from 1900 to 1914. He had been a correspondent in the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese Wars, had travelled extensively, and was founder-member of the Pacific-Geographic Society. Of late years he had been in Hollywood as a scenario writer.

Much to my amazement, I found one of Cheiro’s many works in our library (once our librarian is back, I will find out, I hope, how it got there), namely Cheiro’s Memoirs – The Reminiscences of a Society Palmist published in 1912. In the chapter ‘On the Making of a Seer’, Cheiro, whose counterfeit from the book you can admire below, briefly turns to his noble ancestry: ‘On my father’s side I am of Norman descent, on my mother’s from a French family, born in Ireland, and I may say almost bred on books.’

In a later tome, Confessions: Memoirs of a Modern Seer, published in 1932 (and available on google books, if you really have nothing else to do), Cheiro elaborates:

On my father’s side I am of Norman descent, and come of a family who can trace their lineage back to Rollo, the first Duke of Normandy.

As he became a Christian in order to marry the daughter of the King of France, I will only mention en passant a Pagan ancestor, known as Hamon the Sea-king, who with one blow from his battle-axe struck of the head of St. Hellier to prevent his converting his sailors to Christianity. Historical records show that this incident took place on July 17th, A.D. 526.

I may, however, add that one of his descendants, the uncle of William the First, by joining “The Conqueror” with a fleet of four hundred ships and a large force of men, decided the invasion of England. He received for his reward six of the largest counties of England and was named Prince of Glamorganshire. Subsequently, this man, Robert de Hamon, became such “a good Christian” that he established the first monastery in Britain, laid the foundation of Tewkesbury Cathedral, and is to-day honoured by a procession of bishops that once every hundred years makes a pilgrimage around his tomb.

I thought it might be interesting to juxtapose this lovely story, that probably contains just the right mixture of truths, half-truths and outright lies, with an excerpt from an article in The New York Times of 7 January 1909:

Hamon’s life before he came to Paris was a mystery. It was known that he had been “Cheiro, the Palmist,” and this “Cheiro,” it was said, had acquired vast sums of money in England and America, but how he had acquired the title of “Count” was not known, nor did that fact cause much anxiety, though he claimed to have inherited it from his father, who had received it from the Pope.

Paris? The Pope? Vast sums of money? You see what we are dealing with here. It will take some time, and arguably a greater sleuth, to unravel the mystery of the “Count” and his “Countess”, but I will do my best to make sense of it over the coming weeks. As Chiromancer Cheiro also seems to have been implicated in some way in the Curse of Tutankhamun, don’t be surprised if you never hear of me again …

26 thoughts on “Shoes and Palmistry

  1. Judith Anne Smider says:

    Hello:

    Actually, Cheiro died in California. My father Norman Lawrence Beerman corresponded with his wife Countess Mena Hamon for quite a few years. I have all her letters to my father. I am also in possession of a manuscript by Cheiro,and another by his wife on her husband’s life.

    In her later years, the Countess didn’t have a lot of money, and my father helped her sell some stories to magazines, in the U.S.A., such as Fate.

    I also have in my possession letters from her lawyers, addressed to my father, when he was trying to help her. This was during the late 1950’s into the 1960’s.

    Regards,

    Mrs. Judith A. Smider
    Saskatchewan, Canada

  2. Judith Anne Smider says:

    Hello:

    I should also have added to the above: and numerous books that the Countess had sent my father, along with the obituary cut from the Los Angeles news paper.

    Judith A. Smider

  3. Judith Anne Smider says:

    Hello again,

    I thought I would give you some information I found in the manuscript written by Countess Mena Hamon, about Cheiro’s connection to Tutankhamen’s Curse.

    In 1922, the Count and Countess returned to London from Ireland. They found the papers full of Howard Carter’s discovery of the steps leading to the tomb of Tutankhamen in the Valley of The Kings.

    The spirit of an Egyptian Princess (see the story of “The Mummy’s Hand” if you can find it)told Cheiro to warn Lord Carnarvon not to remove any relics found in the tomb. If he did so, he would “suffer an injury while in the tomb, a sickness from which he would never recover, and death would claim him in Egypt.

    The story of “The Mummy’s Hand” is about Cheiro being given a mummified hand which he kept for over 30 years. He and the Countess decided to burn the hand. Apparently they released the spirit of the Egyptian Princess that gave them the warning.

    This manuscript, by the Countess, gives more information about Cheiro than what he included in his own stories.

    If you are interested in any more information, I would be happy to help you.

    Regards,

    Judith A. Smider

  4. Judith Anne Smider says:

    More Info:

    The Count and Countess, along with Jack, her son from her first marriage (born Nov. 17, 1900 died Nov.2 1959?), are burried in a church yard in Yorkshire. Where I do not know.

    Her son Jack was a pianist trained at the Royal Conservatory of Music, and was the assistant organist at Brompton Oratory. He was a favourite of Sir Henry Wood.

    Judith A. Smider

  5. Beatrice says:

    Dear Judith, I am so pleased you got in touch. I saw your comment on Amazon about one of Cheiro’s books and was hoping to be able to track you down. I have read about the hand, but with so many things to do with the Count and Countess, I’m a little bit sceptical. They were such interesting characters and I hope someone will do a book on them (have you read Anthony Carr’s publication?). What are you planning to do with all the material? Thanks again. Beatrice

  6. Judith Anne Smider says:

    Hello Beatrice,

    No, I haven’t read Anthony Carr’s publication. If it is the same Anthony Carr that is from Toronto, Ontario, my father knew him, and spoke to him about Cheiro. I think he was very disappointed when he didn’t get all my father’s material after my father died. He called my mother and asked her what she was going to do with it. She told him it was mine. I bet he got most of his information on Cheiro from my father! lol

    My father read palms and also did astrology charts for people. It was his hobby and he was EXTREMELY good at it. He did charts for people all over the world.

    The material has sat in cardboard boxes in my basement for years, and I pulled everything out during the summer for my daughter to look at. Everything forgotten for years, and now this! lol What has fate in store?

    I have no idea what I am going to do with the material. Mena Hamon, in one of her letters to my father, told him he could keep her manuscript/biography of Cheiro’s life, and also all the other manuscripts that she sent him when he was trying to help her, which he did, and she was very grateful.

    I wonder if anybody today would be interested in a book about Cheiro? I know that Mena Hamon tried for years to get her works published, but nothing happened.

    A correction, before I forget: Mena Hamon’s son Jack died in 1942. A casualty of the war.

    Quite a bit of Cheiro’s belongings, such as his books, death mask, portraits, were supposed to go to my father after her death, but there was quite a bit of trouble finding her realatives, and my father wasn’t in the financial position to travel to England to sort things out, so he lost what was promised to him. My father was also an oil painter, and painted two pictures for the Countess. Scenes from northern Ontario. Who knows where they are today. He really wanted those paintings back.

    I am trying to find Mena Hamon`s name from her first marriage. So far no luck. It would also be wonderful to find out exactly where they are burried.

    What would you like to see happen with all the material.

    Regards,

    Judith A. Smider

  7. Stephen says:

    Hi Beatrice.

    I have connections through my ancestors to Cheiro and his wife and I have been researching Cheiro and Mena for many years, and would be interested in knowing who the person was who donated the items to your museum. Could you email me zenliving3@bigpond.com to discuss.

    Thanks,

    Stephen

  8. Ganesh says:

    Hello Judith

    You are right that not everyone would be interested in Cheiro. But to me he was an exceptional person and would be delighted if you were to share your material with someone who would it make it publicly available eg google books. Please guard your priceless treasures.

  9. Hok says:

    Very interesting person.His books has guided me for 16 years.Would love to know more of him.

  10. rajan says:

    He was a Star ! sadly he wrote on simple laymans terms his books but wish he had left the more difficult works behind for an advanced student to study .As he himself said his promise was to the hindus of india to dissipate the knowledge given to him by them to the west ,for 30 years which he did admirably .If his advanced works be published what a priceless treasure the world would have .Wish his advanced astrological papers be published >judith of canada >any possibility ? please? kindest regards

  11. Judith says:

    Hello Rajan:

    I don’t have any of Cheiro’s advanced astrological works. I just have all the books that my father bought from book stores years ago. Many of Cheiro’s books can be purchased through “amazon.ca (.com)”. These books are published by “Kessenger Publishing” in the USA.

    There is only one book that was given to my father by Countess Mena Hammon. I believe that Kessenger is in the process of getting it ready for publication.

    All the letters from Countess Mena Hamon to my father are personal letters and of no real interest to anybody outside my family. The Countess suffered some serious finacial difficulties in her later years. My father tried to help her by selling some of Cheiro’s stories.

    My father also dealt with Mena Hamon’s lawyers after she passed away, but couldn’t get what was promised to him back.

    I do have a manuscript written by the Countess. It’s just the story of Cheiro’s life. No advanced astrological information there. Copies of the same manuscript were given to other people also. She was trying to get it published to help solve her money problems, but never did. The other stories/manuscripts that I have are just short stories taken from his books.

    Regards,
    Judith

  12. Stephanie says:

    Hello all,

    I recently bought a first edition of Cheiros first book “Language of the Hand” (self published) at a yard sale. I knew nothing about him but have doing lots of research. When I the book home I realized it was signed by him! If anyone has any interest in this book please email me @ stephanie040r@aol.com

  13. Michael Kurtz says:

    Does anyone know what movies Cheiro wrote while he lived in California?

  14. roricam says:

    Hello Judith,
    I’ve been reading about Cheiro and his fascinating life since coming across accounts of “The Mummy’s Hand” online. There are many conflicting versions unfortunately.
    Some say he was given the hand by a guide at Karnac, some by Sheik at Luxor. One version says that, when he placed the hand in the fire, the princess entered and leapt into the flames, another account says she simply appeared before him. Sometimes the warning comes from the princess, other times it is Cheiro’s interpretation of the event that leads him to fear for Lord Carnavon.
    I would be very interested in hearing what is the correct version. I purchased Kessinger’s recent edition of “True Ghost Stories” by Cheiro, along with his ” Reminiscences of a Society Palmist” but there is no mention of the story in either unfortunately.
    Kind Regards,
    Rory

  15. Information says:

    Cheiro provides some information and other fascinating real life accounts in another book called Real Life Stories. You maybe interested to read it.

  16. Matt Pluchino says:

    I am proud to say that these shoes were made by my Great Grandfather, Ignazio and his son John was my Grandfather and also a shoemaker, who I called Nono. Whilst John Pluchino had retired, he was alive when I was young and I remember lasts and shoemaking tools hanging in the cellar in his house in Wansdworth, London. I used to play with a piece of leather that fitted pefectly around a last in the dark and cold basement and line up the tools as if they were ready to be put to work. Whilst unfortunately we no longer have these items I do have a 1954 Vogue magazine with an article telling readers about the experience of having a pair of she’s made by Pluchino & Sons. I have, for many years, thought about trying to make a pair of shoes myself and today I finally booked a place on a shoemaking workshop so that I can experience the process and see if I have inherited their creative genes.

    1. Beatrice says:

      Thanks for commenting, Matt. Glad to hear you are learning to make shoes! As I said when we spoke a long time ago, if you want to come and see the shoes, let me know.

  17. Rebecca Galvin says:

    For years, I have found Cherio an amazing gifted person. I was first introduced over 20 years ago when I read an accurate account of a book on Sun Signs introduced to me by a friend. I think there is an amazing story to be told including a movie of his life, as he met so many famous people. One of the the stories of his early beginnings was when he arrived back in London and met a Politician who’s palm he read to which he predicted he would rise to the top and fall.

    Hollywood needs some new scripts and this story is a rise and fall starting in India, Egypt (Mummies always intrigue) London and LA and even if some of his life was false as the title, it still makes it very interesting reading.

    Found an early book of his years ago in a Jumble sale, at the back of the book he listed all the testimonials of people he had read for. Would like to know where he he lived in Los Angeles and where he died.

    1. Beatrice says:

      Hello Rebecca, I’ve been meaning to reply to you for months and now I am finally getting round to it. Thank you for comment! Cheiro died at 7417 Hollywood Boulevard, but I do not (yet) know whether he lived there since his arrival in 1930. I am hoping to do some more research into his and the Countess’ life this year.

      1. Isadora says:

        Beatrice,
        I find it interesting that more than a century later people talk about Cheiro. I first ran into this fascinating historical figure in an episode of Histories Mysteries in the late 90’s & have been interested in his life ever since. My opinion today is that he is certainly telling a tall tale in some cases, but there are times that I think he really does believe in his own exceptionality.

        My research eventually led me to a book by Charles Gattey called Visionaries & Seers: They Saw Tomorrow. That does give the Hollywood chapter of his life. I believe that he lived at Cudahay Mansion after Norma Talmadge & her former husband Joseph Schenck divorced and Schenck was renting out the property in the 1930’s. Although, it couldn’t have been for long that he stayed at this address. It was for certain one of Talmadge’s properties, though.

        1. beatrice behlen says:

          Thank you for commenting and for providing really useful information. I only saw excerpts of Gattey’s book but have just ordered it. And how interesting that they mentioned Cheiro on History’s Mysteries, I wonder which episode it was. I might do some digging on YouTube. I agree, he is fascinating, and so is his wife. I hope to get back to them some time soon.

  18. Charles thompson says:

    I looked through 2 boxes of cheiro material paper, books, and death mask. These items came from an old book store in hollywood. The owner , paula, had been a big fan. There were several photos of a death mask and hand. There was a mask in a box but the hand was missing. According to papers the sculptor, diya, or someone by a similar name had taken cheiros wife to court to collect 2,500 he had supposedly been promised. The books 4 or so by cheiro were in fair to good condition 2 were water damaged. This material is for sale in palm springs, ca. By private party.

  19. Chuck t says:

    Years ago a friend was offered the contents of an old book store in hollywood with the requirement he remove it quickly.i just returned home from looking at the items relating to cheiro that he still has. Lots of misc paper, photos, books, and a death mask. There are several photos of a death mask and hand but although i found the death mask the hand was missing. According to paperwork the sculptor took cheiros wife to court to collect $2,500 he had been promised. The store owner, paula, described herself as quite a follower. Elvis presley was a regular customer and paulas claim to fame.

  20. Sankaravelayudhan Nandakumar says:

    Kindly find out whether Museum of London is having the statue of Lord Krishna and brain scanning machine which were in possession of Cheiro.
    Thanking you.

    1. beatrice behlen says:

      Sadly the Museum does not have the statue or the brain scanning machine.

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