Esotera Magazine

By Von Ulrich Meyerratken
in Esotera Magazine June 1997
Translated from the German by
Evan Galbraith and edited by Michael George.

"A Nobel Prize-caliber discovery" is how those familiar with the research of David John Oates describe his work. The Australian has discovered something peculiar about our subconscious virtually unknown until now: when taped conversations are slowly played backwards, important and meaningful words and sentences appear, revealing unintended expressions of the sub-conscious, often revealing what the speaker really thinks and feels.

Whenever we open our mouth to speak, we are allowing the thoughts of our subconscious to be spoken as well, and there's nothing we can do about it. In the midst of our "normal" conversation arises a secondary voice, which is said to be the expression of our subconscious. It is best heard when conversations are taped and replayed backwards at lower speed. In between the normal gibberish we expect to hear arise meaningful words and even sentences. These words and sentences are thought to reveal what the person is really thinking and feeling at that time.

Normally these kinds of adventurous claims are received with a degree of disbelief. Do these kinds of phenomenon--for example, the psychological ink-blot tests--arise as a result of interpretation: one hears a message because one wants to hear it? Or is it simply a matter of pure coincidence?

Those same questions were asked by Australian David Oates who now lives in the United States. His 1984 book Reverse Speech discovered and explored these phenomenon. In order to counter prejudices from the beginning of his research, Oates defined clear, quality-characteristic criteria. In group research, Oates proved that most people who heard the messages of the subconscious from the same recordings were able to both hear and understand them. In addition, the researcher discovered that the frequency and clarity of these mysterious messages are dependent on the "style" of the voice of the person recorded. For example, the more emotional the person is whose voice is recorded, the more frequent and clear the "reverse" messages. In very emotional recordings, messages were heard as frequently as every three seconds, whereas normal conversations produced messages about every three minutes. In order to measure the clarity of the messages, a scale from one to five was used, where a grade of "one" represents messages that are " barely noticeable and sound mechanized," and a score of "five" is for "clear, distinct, soft and melodious" words.

Reverse Messages in Advertising

Oates' research showed further that the reverse speech messages contain "commentary" about the normal, forward-spoken message, a result of what he calls an expression of the subconscious. These messages are said to be the thoughts and feelings of a deeper plane.

In the US, this phenomenon has produced quite a bit of interest. Oates has been invited more than a hundred times to appear as a guest on various radio and television interviews. Even the advertisers have gotten hold of the concept. The fast-food chain Taco Bell has recently printed on its placemats the following: "Be careful of what you say backwards." A new toy on the market records a child's speech and replays it in reverse. In Germany, McDonald's recently aired commercials in which some garbled babble was heard in the background with an announcer interpreting: "This is what this sounds like backward: 'Mmmm, that tastes good, people, eat the new...Burger.'"

In order to show that this whole reverse speech concept is not merely fantasy, Oates has begun to collect thousands of tape recorded transcripts for his Reverse Speech Education and Research Institute which he founded in California in 1994. There are many Americans already working in this field, and the occupation of Reverse Speech Analyst is now officially recognized in the U.S.

A critical examination of Oates' research results by other scientists, however, is long overdue. Not in question specifically is the existence of reverse speech but rather the findings of the research and questions regarding the application of those findings. Specifically questioned is how the brain can produce both forward and reverse messages simultaneously. Scientists involved in research of the brain have known for years that forward-spoken messages are produced from the left hemisphere of the brain. Since reverse speech is being linked to the emotional state of the speaker and is said to represent emotional status, it is assumed that these messages would originate from the right hemisphere. In any case, this type of dual-hemisphere effort would be considered an unbelievable associative event, although it is thought to be capable based on the capacity of the brain, which is, theoretically, almost unlimited.

A Nobel Prize-Caliber Discovery

Larry Dosser, who is on the Committee of Internal Medicine in the U.S., and who is the famous author of the book Space, Time and Medicine, seemed to be quite influenced by one of Oates' training courses: "This is a form of communication which lies entirely outside the conscious perception. When this theory is taken seriously--and I assume it will based on previous evidence--it will be considered a Nobel Prize-caliber discovery. It is quite rare that a really new, creative, and extremely important discovery is made in the field of human communication. Such discoveries are uncommon, usually only a few are found every century. Mister Oates' findings seem to fall into this category."

Dr. John Grinder, one of the co-developers of NLP, enthusiastically says the following regarding reverse speech: "The fact that we can learn to hear reverse speech and extract messages from it is revolutionary." Merla McElroy, who is on the faculty of the Oklahoma State University Psychology Department, reported the following after studying reverse speech: "Reverse speech will become for clinical psychologists what computers became for statisticians. Although reverse speech will revolutionize contemporary communication, so far we have only seen the tip of the iceberg."

Murderers Betray Themselves in Reverse Speech

The history of the discovery of reverse speech began with the deliberate insertion of messages into the recordings of rock musicians, which became known and "back masking." Back then, a second sound track was laid over the original recording. When played under normal forward conditions, these second tracks were heard only as background noise or gibberish. There are vast examples of back masking found in the rock music industry but such recordings were even found in gospel music.

The Beatles were the first to employ this methods of recording. On the White Album, for example, many mysterious messages about Paul McCartney appeared. At the end of "I'm So Tired", played backward one hears: "Paul is a dead man. Miss him, miss him. Miss him." Or in the repeated phrase "number nine": "Turn me on dead man, turn me on dead man." It is assumed that such manipulations were carried out for marketing reasons. It is possible that they were recorded with the same purpose as the so-called "subliminals": inaudible advertising messages which were allegedly placed in the subconscious minds of listeners in order to increase sales and revenues.

However, in addition to the intentional backward masking, Oates discovered simultaneous reverse messages in the rock music which were not manually inserted by means of a second track. The most famous example is that of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" written by lead guitarist Jimmy Page, a follower of the magician Aleister Crowley.

In the normal forward speed, the song talks about a lady who seeks the purpose of life and how to find the way to heaven. Played backwards, however, several reversals of meaning appear which include the word "Satan." Led Zeppelin was denounced as "agents of Satan." It was claimed that the musicians were influenced by Aleister Crowley's book "Magick", to insert messages in their songs about the "methods of Satan." These suggestions were referred to by readers who found in the appendix of Crowley's book a passage about certain technical issues. Crowley wrote: "He should constantly...listen to phonographic records backwards..." (It is not mentioned, however, whether Crowley was aware of the existence of reverse speech.)

Another example of "satanic" rock music is the song "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC, which includes, among other messages: "Listen to me--I'm from hell--they killed me--I'm the law--my name is Lucifer--I saw Satan's power--she belongs in hell--Lucifer lives--there is war in my head." These aggressive reverse messages can possibly explain why this song was the favorite of mass-murderer Richard Ramirez, who connected his crimes with the occult and satanic direction.

Examples of these reproachful activities had become so common in the U.S. that authorities had to do something about it. In 1982, a bill was authored by the House of Representatives requesting labeling of such music but the bill was defeated in the Senate.

Today it is generally assumed that reverse message "backward masking" is done intentionally with the help of recording technicians. Through his research, however, Oates has discovered that this phenomenon can make its way into messages through natural processes. In the middle of his extensive research, Oates discovered that unintentional reverse speech appears in every human utterance.

Kati Meissner, who is the first non-American trained and authorized by Oates, introduced reverse speech to the German public a few months ago at a lecture in Munich. I got goose bumps as I heard for the first time examples of reverse speech. They sounded unbelievable, as if they came from another dimension. At the end of the lecture, the questions of the audience dealt with the possibility of abuse of reverse speech. It was concluded that the possibility of abuse cannot be excluded altogether but that the benefits of reverse speech far outweigh any possible negative ramifications. Since it is impossible to consciously control the sub-conscious, reverse speech can be best used to bring to light hidden truths instead of trying to conceal them.

Previous experiences seem to confirm that concept. Although the reverse speech methods are not officially recognized as an investigative tool, Oates was able to assist police several times by explaining the meaning of the testimony of criminals. In the first case in the late 1980's as a part of a study, Oates taped a television interview of a man who was a suspect in the murder of his wife's lover. During the interview the man declared his innocence. In playing the tape backward, however, the man unknowingly talked about the murder and of knowing where the murder weapon was hidden. One of his reverse messages included the following: "revenge, killing the lad." Another mentioned "firearms in the cellar." The murder weapon was found as a result of the reference and it turned out the son of the murderer had knowledge of the crime.

On the Internet site at, one can hear actual examples of reverse speech that proved valuable to police in solving crimes. Some have to do with the sensational murder case of O.J. Simpson. Immediately after Simpson was found innocent, he participated in a one-hour interview with the cable channel BET which was reverse-analyzed by Oates. He found approximately 190 reverse speech messages. Here are two examples:

Revolution in Psychoanalysis and Therapy

The reporter said: "White Americans believe that you are guilty." Simpson responded (in forward speech): "Perhaps there are many people out there who feel that way." The reverse message is understood as "Al was against the crime." (Al is a friend of Simpson's.) In another example, in the original forward version: "I think I'm ahead of the game; I think that if all American families were like mine..." The reverse: "The law will forgive criminals."

In order that I might more personally experience and graphically understand this reverse speech, Kati Meissner volunteered to meet with me individually after our first meeting at her lecture. It began by taping a casual get together with my wife and our son Laurin, who was just beginning to formulate words. In the days that followed, Kati analyzed the hour-long recording, which meant many hours of concentrated effort on her part. The results were documented both on tape as well as on written transcripts. The forward-spoken content followed the reverse messages so that we could easily refer to the related messages.

The reverse messages were heard in varying degrees of clarity, even for my untrained ears. The clearest of them were audible the first time we listened. Here are some examples of some of the things that were "spoken" in reverse. Little Laurin babbled in forward mostly non-discernible sounds, but in the reverse he was heard to articulate "Mommy." In forward Laurin cried; in reverse speech he cries out "Help." My wife asked him: "Should we put on your diaper?" He answered in forward: "Diaper on," which was heard in reverse to say, "Who will hold me?"

The fact that Laurin could speak words in reverse speech which he seems not yet able to understand in forward speech, falls in line with the results Oates obtained while conducting experiments of reverse speech with his own children. With his children, the experiments began with kids as young as four months, who in normal speech only spoke gibberish but were heard in reverse speech to clearly voice words such as "Mommy," "Daddy," "hungry," or "help."

Oates has developed a specific questionnaire process to be used in therapy situations. The clients discuss their problems for a period of about 30 minutes. The conversation is recorded and later analyzed in reverse speech. From the recordings he gets an introduction to the subconscious behavioral patterns of the person recorded. The results are discussed with the client, a process which can sometimes be quite painful for them. Oates says: "Sometimes it's very hard to look in the mirror."

The final process involves the compilation of a tape called the "Pre-trance Tape," in which Oates confronts the reverse messages found in the tape with specific questions and possible solutions. It is assumed that the sub-conscious knows right from wrong. By means of the instructions found in the reverse messages, Oates sends the clients on three or four metamorphic "trips" in an effort to therapeutically work through their problems.

Unity of Forward and Reverse Speech

An important sign of a healthy personality is the concurrence of forward and reverse speech. With the growing visibility of one's "dark side," one is able to become aware of one's potential and is able to then get both voices going in the same direction. Concurrence here means that the speaker actually says what he means and means what he says. The theory says that such a person will be considered to be in "harmony" because the reverse is sending the same message as the intended forward message.

Of course, police investigations and psychological analysis are not the only fields that stand to be enriched by reverse speech. The possibilities of its application are many-fold. For example, the prospect of hearing what politicians are actually thinking when they give nomination speeches. The old Indian proverb of the "forked tongue" has possibly regained a new respect from an unlikely source.


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David John Oates
Founder and Developer of Reverse Speech Technologies
PO Box 678, Noarlunga Centre, SA 5168. Australia
phone: 08 83824372 - international: 61 8 83824372

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