William John Warner, known as Cheiro, (November 1, 1866 – October 8, 1936) was an Irish astrologer and colorful occult figure of the early 20th century. His sobriquet, Cheiro, derives from the word cheiromancy, meaning palmistry. He was a self-described clairvoyant who taught palmistry, astrology, and Chaldean numerology. During his career, he was celebrated for using these forms of divination to make personal predictions for famous clients and to foresee world events.
Personal life and background
Cheiro was born in a village outside Dublin, Ireland. He took the name Count Louis Hamon (or Count Leigh de Hamong).
As mentioned in his memoirs, Cheiro acquired his expertise in India. As a teenager, he traveled to the Bombay port of Apollo Bunder. There, he met his Guru, an Indian Brahmin, who took him to his village in the valley of the Konkan region of Maharashtra. Later Cheiro was permitted by Brahmans to study an ancient book that has many studies on hands; the pages of the book were made of human skin and written with gold and it is still guarded and protected with great care. After studying thoroughly for two years, he returned to London and started his career as a palmist.
Cheiro was reluctant to marry but was aware that he was destined to marry late in life. This did happen after a woman took care of him during a serious illness. A separate chapter is devoted to this matter in his memoirs.
Cheiro had a wide following of famous European and American clients during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He read palms and told the fortunes of famous celebrities like Mark Twain, W. T. Stead, Sarah Bernhardt, Mata Hari, Oscar Wilde, Grover Cleveland, Thomas Edison, the Prince of Wales, General Kitchener, William Ewart Gladstone, and Joseph Chamberlain. He documented his sittings with these clients by asking them to sign a guest book he kept for the purpose, in which he encouraged them to comment on their experiences as subjects of his character analyses and predictions. Of the Prince of Wales, he wrote that “I would not be surprised if he did not give up everything, including his right to be crowned, for the woman he loved.” Cheiro also predicted that the Jews would return to Palestine and the country would again be called Israel.
In his own autobiographical book, Cheiro’s Memoirs: The Reminiscences of a Society Palmist, he included accounts of his interviews with King Edward VII, William Gladstone, Charles Stewart Parnell, Henry Morton Stanley, Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde, Professor Max Muller, Blanche Roosevelt, the Comte de Paris, Joseph Chamberlain, Lord Russell of Killowen, Robert Ingersoll, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Lillie Langtry, W. T. Stead, Richard Croker, Natalia Janotha, and other prominent people of his era.
The book Titanic’s Last Secrets includes a detailed account of one of Cheiro’s palm readings with William Pirrie, chairman of Harland and Wolf, builders of the Titanic. Cheiro predicted that he would soon be in a fight for his life, talking about the battle surrounding the Titanic sinking.
“ It becomes a study not contrary to the dictates of reason, but in accordance with those natural laws that we observe in the shaping of the even inanimate objects, which, by demonstrating the effect of a heretofore cause, are in themselves the cause of a hereafter effect. – Cheiro on Astrology
So popular was Cheiro as a “Society Palmist” that even those who were not believers in the occult had their hands read by him. The skeptical Mark Twain wrote in Cheiro’s visitor’s book:
“ Cheiro has exposed my character to me with humiliating accuracy. I ought not to confess this accuracy, still I am moved to do so. – Mark Twain. ”
Other mentions in the visitors book include:
“The study of people gifted with occult powers has interested me for several years. I have met and consulted scores.In almost ever respect I consider Cheiro the most highly gifted of all. He helps as well as astonishes.”- Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
“You are wonderful. What more can I say”- Madame Nellie Melba.
After some years in London, and many world travels, Cheiro moved to America. He spent his final years in Hollywood, seeing as many as twenty clients a day and doing some screenwriting before his death there in 1936 following a heart attack. His widow, the Countess Lena Hamon, said her 70-year-old husband, who had been a friend and adviser to film actors late in life, and to European aristocracy and royalty in his early career, had predicted his own death to the hour the day before he died.
From Time Magazine of October 19, 1936:
Died. Count Louis Hamon (“Cheiro”), 69, celebrated oldtime palmist; after long illness; in Hollywood. Author of a book on palmistry at 13, he amassed $250,000 from rich female clients, owned an English-language newspaper in Paris, The American Register. On the night he died, said his nurse, the clock outside his room struck the hour of one thrice.
Cheiro claimed that he never understood his unique gifts, and he is believed to have lost those in 1906. One charge of mis-handling of a client’s money resulted in his being imprisoned. Some accounts of his later life say that after his release from prison, he retained neither his money nor his friends, with his once rich and powerful acquaintances ceasing to want anything to do with him.
The occult books Cheiro wrote centered on fortune telling. Many of Cheiro’s books on occultism and fortune telling are still in print today and are available in both English and foreign language editions.
In 2006, the University of Tampa Press issued a critical new edition of his fictional work, A Study of Destiny, as the second volume of the series Insistent Visions – a series dedicated to reprinting little-known or neglected works of supernatural fiction, science fiction, mysteries, or adventure stories from the 19th century. The new edition is edited with an introduction, afterword, and notes by Sean Donnelly.