A classic SNL moment: Chris Farley interviews Paul McCartney.
An article in the Boston Globe published today highlighted my backmasking page.
Remember that guy in high school who was always trying to tell you about the satanic messages hidden in â€œStairway to Heavenâ€ by Led Zeppelin (below) if you played it backward? Turns out he was right. Or so says Jeff Milner, a graphic designer from Alberta, Canada, who has not only posted snippets of the song, and several others, in reverse, but also transcribed the alleged backward lyrics.
See the full article.
Lately I’ve been enjoying the Wiretap with Jonathan Goldstein podcast (official podcast). Today I listened to the November 25, 2007 episode: The New Josh, in which host Jonathan Goldstein interviews David John Oates, the world leader in Reverse Speech studies.
I’ve never been a believer in Freudian slips or subconscious communication, but it’s interesting to listen to Mr. Oates speculate that these kinds of behaviour happen all the time. It’s true that reverse speech sounds like a foreign language and can often even sound like English, but it would take an awful lot of research to convince me his results are anything more than a combination of coincidence and wishful thinking—nevertheless, listen to the interview and form your own opinion.
Back in February 2006, CBC’s The Hour made a road trip through Alberta. They interviewed me for a short segment about backmasking in which they featured my website.
For your viewing pleasure, here is the clip. (Just bear with me getting through the first 15 seconds).
[The Hour: Backmasking – YouTube]
The producer that arranged the interview gave me a DVD with this clip. She said she didn’t have any problem with me putting it on YouTube so please enjoy!
During a segment of The Hour (one in which I was very lucky to be a part of) they showed a backwards clip of a man singing Stairway to Heaven in reverse. Here is some guy doing the same thing, but with a more patriotic song. All the activities he preforms are to add a little spice to the reverse section of the piece.
[What Song is this? – YouTube]
I don’t know if this would count as truly backmasking, but it’s close enough that some of you may find it interesting.
It took me a few days to get around to reversing the backwards message embedded in the I Am America (And So Can You) audiobook, but now that I have, let me just say, Stephen Colbert doesn’t disappoint.
While complaining that seniors are from the library card generation, Stephen complains that “They don’t believe in buying multiple collector copies no matter what kind of rare, bizarre, or coded message appears in the first edition” at which point (about 1:18 of track 3) the following audio is heard:
So there you go, proof positive that Stephen Colbert is a liberal and hates America.
About a year ago a producer from Fox 8 News emailed me and asked if I would be in Los Angeles anytime in the near future or if I knew of any backmasking experts that could help them do a report. I never heard back from them, and no, I never made the trip, but it looks like they found someone because here is their segment on backmasking.
A couple of days ago I got a nice email from an author in the UK by the name of Anne Miller.
She wrote to let me know she had mentioned my website in her new book and to tell me a little something about it.
It sounds interesting, and I’m flattered to have been included.
Here’s what she wrote:
I’m referencing your backmasking site in my book The Myth of the Mousetrap: how to get your ideas adopted (and change the world), as a excellent example of the way that we force fit things to fit with what we expect. This is one of the reasons why, when you tell people your brilliant idea, they ignore it, saying things like “we tried that years ago and it didn’t work” or “thats just like my idea”.
See: www.themythofthemousetrap.org for more info.
The book was published a couple of weeks ago by Cyan/Marshall Cavendish and is available in UK, N America and Australasia.
They are doing an item tonight on hidden messages in music on the BBC show Fivelive. I chatted with one of the hosts/producers this morning about backmasking. Check it out if you have access to the BBC.
Hungry? Eat Popcorn
The interesting thing about the claim of a subliminal influence contained within popular music when played backwards is that the messages are very difficult (if not impossible) to discern unless you’ve been primed to hear them on a conscious level.
I’ve been receiving emails wanting to know how this apparent lack of influence ties in with research that demonstrates subliminal messages can coerce unwary buyers into making purchases they would not otherwise have considered?
A short story is in order, (stop me if you’ve heard this one) Fort Lee, N.J., 1957. Unsuspecting film goers are enjoying “Picnic”, with William Holden and Kim Novak. In the projection room, an important marketing experiment is being staged. Researcher James Vicary has installed a tachistoscope, a machine that can inject subliminal images of tiny fractions of a second—far below that of a person’s conscious threshold. Every five seconds and for a duration of just 1/3000th of a second, Vicary alternated two messages. One read, “Drink Coca-cola” and the other, “Hungry? Eat Popcorn”.
Vicary’s results were spectacular! Coca-cola sales jumped 18.1%; popcorn sales 57.8%. Vicary dubbed this “subliminal advertising”, the practise of manipulating consumers to make purchases they might not normally make.
And if you believe that, I’ve got a pet rock I’d like to sell you.
The great popcorn experiment was a fraud.
Advertisers and regulators doubted Vicary’s story from the beginning, so another researcher, Dr. Henry Link, duplicated Vicary’s experiment and found no evidence that people reacted to the messages. In a 1962 interview, Mr. Vicary admitted the data was all fabricated to gain attention for his business. Some critics have since expressed doubt that he ever conducted the experiments at all.
However, the legend lives on. To this day a great many people still believe Vicary’s claims and will apparently never be convinced otherwise.
As numerous studies over the last few decades have demonstrated, subliminal advertising doesn’t work; in fact, it never worked, and the whole premise was based on a lie from the very beginning.
It is possible to prime the unconscious.
According to a recent experiment, psychologists at Yale were able to alter people’s judgments by simply priming them with either hot or cold coffee.
The study participants, college students, had no idea that their social instincts were being deliberately manipulated. On the way to the laboratory, they had bumped into a laboratory assistant, who was holding textbooks, a clipboard, papers and a cup of hot or iced coffee and asked for a hand with the cup.
That was all it took: The students who held a cup of iced coffee rated a hypothetical person they later read about as being much colder, less social and more selfish than did their fellow students, who had momentarily held a cup of hot java.
As improbable as it may seem, findings like this one have continued to pour forth in psychological research in recent years.
New studies have found that people tidy up more thoroughly when there’s a faint tang of cleaning liquid in the air; they become more competitive if there’s a briefcase in sight, or more cooperative if they glimpse words like “dependable” and “support” all without being aware of the change, or what prompted it.
The article goes on to remind readers that, “studies of products promising subliminal improvement, for things like memory and self-esteem, found no effect”.
If you’re interested in this sort of thing, I recommend reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink—here’s a very short audio snippet from chapter 2 (650k mp3).