The creators of the TV show Lost are often filling the shows with clues for the audience to figure out what the show is all about. I’ve never been able to follow the show—I guess that’s what happens if you try to jump in halfway through a season—but fans of the show may find this interesting.
In the scene where Karl is strapped to a chair in Room 23, there is a backwards message embedded in the audio. It’s pretty clear (at least in the reversed clip) and the person/people that made the clip wrote what it is your going to hear on the top of the clip, so no sense in saving it until after you’ve watched the video; the message, spoken by a woman, repeats the phrase, “Only fools are enslaved by time and space”.
I occasionally get requests for materials for psychology classrooms based on the backmasking section of my website. I usually don’t send out materials, but I have been known to make exceptions, especially for professors of post secondary institutions.
I should point out that if you are teaching psychology, you may be interested in material intended for classroom demonstrations by writing John Vokey or Don Read at
Department of Psychology, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta T1K 3M4 Canada
and requesting University of Lethbridge, Department of Psychology, Technical Report No. 85. A blank cassette tape should be enclosed if classroom demonstrations are desired.
I imagine a blank CD would also work or maybe an empty USB thumb drive, but I would ask them first just to be safe.
I came across a video clip of a preacher speaking out against the Hip Hop artist Jay-Z. Proponents of the evils of backmasking, like this preacher, argue that the effects of listening to music with backward messages are manifested in an unconscious manner on the listenerâ€™s subsequent behaviour.
He states that:
the heavy metal folks used to do that and they would put the backwards masked messages in your music and theyâ€™d say that your subconscious is smart enoughâ€”that right brain was smart enough to decode and flip that message so by the time it got to your left brain you understood it and you didnâ€™t even know you understood it. You just acted it out. Because they have the song called Another One Bites the Dustâ€”Queen. Played it backwards it said, I like to smoke marijuana. Yeah, and then they interviewed kids and kids say when they listen to it they just wanna get high, they just want to smoke weed and they had no idea that that message was being reversed in their mind and causing them to want to do that.â€
Iâ€™d like to point out that contrary to this preacherâ€™s claims, studies have shown that it is, in fact, impossible for the subconscious mind to â€œdecode and flip that messageâ€.
In volume 40, No. 11 of American Psychologist (November 1985), psychologist professors John R. Vokey and J. Don Read address the possibility of unconscious influence within reversed audio.
The proponents of backmasking argue that the effects of greatest concern are not the consciously perceived meanings of backward messages but rather those effects arising from unconscious or subliminal apprehension of the (forward) meaning of the material. Consequently, we also used tasks that required less in the way of conscious apprehension of meaning. We reasoned that if some subconscious mechanism existed for the interpretation of backward messages and their influence upon behaviour, then this mechanism should allow decisions to be made about content without necessarily revealing that content.
Their series of properly controlled scientific experiments included:
Identifying whether a backward message when played forward was a statement or a question – 52.1% accuracy (50% expected on the basis of random assignment)
whether they believed two sentences had the same meaning with only changes in the active or passive voice or whether the two sentences had different meanings — 44.81% accuracy (50% expected on the basis of random assignment)
identifying a series of sentences into whether or not they would make sense if heard in the forward direction – 45.2% accuracy (50% expected on the basis of random assignment)
categorizing statements of the sort, â€œJesus loves me, this I knowâ€ into one of five content categories: nursery rhymes, Christian, satanic, pornographic, and advertising. 19.4% accuracy (20% expected on the basis of random assignment)
Upon the completion of their experiments Vokey and Read concluded, â€œwe could find no evidence that our listeners were influenced, consciously or unconsciously, by the content of backward messages.â€
Iâ€™m not one to deny that it does SOUND like Jay-Z has an anti-religious message in the reverse clip. Itâ€™s my belief that if such a message is intentional, its purpose is to gain publicity for his album. By pointing it out, this video has actually done a favour for Jay-Z. The prudent thing to do would be to ignore such obvious attention grabbing tactics. Nevertheless preachers like this one continue to disseminate the false claim that backwards messages within music can influence those listening. I think itâ€™s because that message draws big crowds and allows the preachers to more easily sell copies of their sermons on DVDs.
I’m pretty excited because today I was contacted by a reporter from a big newspaper. She would like to do an interview with me for a story about the re-emergence of backmasking.
I did an interview for the Salt Lake Tribune back in April, and while that paper is pretty big, this paper is freaking huge! Wow, I’ve hit the big time and I’m totally thrilled. More details to come after I actually do the interview.
Back in April I received an email about my Stairway to Heaven backwards clip. I know there is probably just as much chance that what this guy says is completely made up as true, but nonetheless he emailed me back yesterday and whether it’s true or not I find the possibility interesting.
Hey dude, amazing what you can find on the net when your bored, pretty cool site, some of the lyrics im really skeptical about but hey thats life.
The main thing i wanted to say was my uncle’s cousin is Robert Plant and the next time they get together i’m gonna ask if i can tag along and i’ll ask Rob about the lyrics, more than likely he’ll say it’s all “Bollocks” but hey — Worth a go.
To which I replied:
I figured it was bound to happen that eventually my site would reach someone from the band. Let me know what he says.
Yesterday I received the following:
Hey, i spoke to Rob a week ago and when i asked him he kindly replied “Not all this bollocks again” but he swore that the lyrics were just as they were and nothing was intentionally there when played backwards.
So words from the horses mouth seems that people are j[u]st reading too much into the song, always good to have a bit of controversy though.
So there you (apparently) have it. Robert Plant, member of Led Zeppelin and the writer of Stairway to Heaven, thinks this whole backmasking controversy is a bunch of bullocks. It’s too bad he didn’t get a photo with Rob, that would have gone a long way in knowing that he really did talk to him.
I received an email a couple of months ago from Michael R., and thought I should share it. Those coming here from my backmasking page may find it interesting. Michael writes:
I saw Simon Singh, author of ‘Big Bang’, use your Stairway to Heaven backwards lyrics in a lecture to make a point about how the brain imposes order on gibberish when it expects to find order, like words, where there is none. I am an ophthalmologist, and specialize in glaucoma. This is exactly the same thing the brain does when a glaucoma patient begins to lose peripheral vision. They are not aware that they have blind spots in the periphery of their visual field because the brain fills in the blank spots by continuing the pattern in the area surrounding the blind areas. This pattern completion is a lot like what goes on in interpreting the backwards Led Zeppelin lyrics.
I was talking to a couple of the other interns here in Malaysia this evening about my backwards music page and they said they had seen my site and were just talking about it a couple of days ago. It’s so awesome to go around the world and meet someone that is familiar with something you put together.