Reverse Speech

First promoted by an Australian named David John Oates, reverse speech refers to the idea that there are hidden, backward messages in speech. For example, when some people listen to the first part of the statement that astronaut Neil Armstrong made when landing on the moon, “That’s one small step for man,” while it is being played backward, they hear, “Man will space walk.” Oates argues that this apparent phenomenon is not a trick of sound perception but a natural part of the process by which the brain communicates. Specifically, he argues that the mind routinely produces two messages simultaneously, one backward and one forward; the forward message comes from the conscious mind in the left brain, and the backward message originates in the unconscious mind in the right brain.

He further argues that babies’ babblings are actually backward speech from the unconscious mind. Oates has catalogued numerous examples of reverse speech, including Satanic messages in rock music. Not all people, however, hear these hidden messages—though some have suggested that in this way reverse speech is similar to clairaudience, a type of extrasensory perception whereby psychics hear voices that others cannot hear—and there is no scientific evidence to support Oates’s theories regarding how the brain communicates.



The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning