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reverse speech

"The implications are mind boggling because reverse speech opens up the Truth. " --David John Oates (a.k.a. Stone Adjective or Stow Nods-of-aid.)

The truth is a lie told backwards.--Llorrac Trebor

oates.gif (6122 bytes)Reverse speech is a form of communication arising from the unconscious mind, according to  David John Oates. The unconscious mind, says Oates, is a seat of deep truths, inexorable honesty and hidden meanings. Oates, who credits himself with the discovery of reverse speech, says that the unconscious mind sends out backwards messages to the conscious mind every 10 to 15 seconds. The conscious mind then reverses the reverse message and directs us to speak in forward speech. To grasp the real meaning of our speech we must tape it and play it backwards.

Oates claims that reverse speech is a

form of human communication that is automatically generated by the human brain. It occurs every time we speak and is imbedded backwards into the sounds of our speech. This previously undiscovered function of the mind is the mind's own independant [sic] voice speaking from the deepest regions of consciousness ... forward speech is from the left brain and Reverse Speech is from the right brain.

Mr. Oates claims to have made many discoveries, including that children learn to speak backwards before they learn to speak forwards. He believes that what most of the world has taken to be babbling is actually deep thought from the unconscious minds of infants

Oates is an Australian who calls himself Reverse Speech Enterprises™. He started on his road to discovery by dropping a tape recorder in the toilet while shaving. He "fixed" the recorder, but henceforth the recorder would only play in reverse. However, this electronic incompetence was not without its rewards. He was ready, he says, when teenagers asked him about backwards Satanic messages in rock music. He could play tapes for them and search for the hidden messages. The rest, as they say, is history. Oates not only found Satanic messages in rock music, he found that if one listens very carefully, one can hear reverse messages in every bit of communication that uses words. For twelve years he labored at uncovering the secret of reverse speech. Now he is ready to share his discoveries with the rest of the world--for a price.

Mr. Oates has immigrated to Bonsall, California, where he offers to train anyone to be a reverse speech analyst for a mere $4,500,  plus a few hundred more for a Reversing Machine™, several tapes, and a study guide which must be purchased separately. (He's now back in Australia, still charging hefty fees for his courses. The cost for the course is $AUD395 a weekend, one weekend every 6 weeks (approx $US305 x 6). You will also need to purchase from John a reversing machine (prices range from $AUD399-$AUD499), and the Reverse Speech software ($AUD95).) All prices subject to change, of course. He has numerous products for sale.

Mr. Oates sells tapes for about $10 each with examples of reverse speech from O.J. Simpson, rock music stars, celebrities, and politicians. He also sells books with catchy titles like Beyond Backward Masking: Reverse Speech and the Voice of the Inner Mind (which, in reverse, sounds something like Dante Rentifor: anchovy tulip server by Stone Adjective). This book has an appendix on UFOs, as well.

Oates claims that "reverse speech is the voice of truth" and "If a lie is spoken forwards, the truth may be spoken backwards….It can be used as a truth detector. It will reveal the truth if a lie is spoken and it will reveal extra facts if they are left out, for example, the name of an accomplice in crime or the location of evidence." This claim is reminiscent of certain advocates of  neuro-linguistic programming who claim they can tell when a person is lying by that person’s eye movements. At least with Oates we can avoid detection by speaking only in palindromes.

He also claims 95% of our thoughts are "are below consciousness" and

reverse speech can describe unconscious subjects such as personality patterns and behavioral agenda, it can reveal hidden memory and experiences, and it can also describe the state of the physical body. At the deepest levels of human consciousness, Reverse Speech also describes the state of the human soul and our relationship with God [sic].

He also claims most reverse speech is metaphorical and is communicated in pictures or parables, "similar to dreams."

Furthermore, reverse speech analysis

...can be used as a therapeutic tool for psycho analysis [sic]. Its metaphors will give a detailed map of the mind and often pinpoint precise reasons and cause [sic] for problems experienced. Used in conjunction with hypnosis it can be used as an extremely powerful and pernament [sic] form of behavioral change.

Employers can use it for employee selection, lawyers for deposition analysis, reporters for politicians [sic] speeches. Its applications are endless.

As with his other claims, Oates provides no support for these notions. However, there is considerable evidence against him.

Some of his claims are empirical and can be checked against what neuroscientists and physiologists have discovered in their study of the brain and speech development. For example, his notion about reverse speech occurring in the right brain is not supported by empirical study. In any case, if the right brain were a source of reverse speech functioning, as Mr. Oates claims, one would expect to see brain activity in the right brain just prior to the activity in the left brain when speech occurs. Where is the evidence that this happens? And where is the evidence for his claims about infants and speech, claims which contradict everything that is known about the development of the human brain and speech in children? To believe Mr. Oates is to reject science or, at the very least, it is to reveal one's ignorance about some fundamental neurological and physiological facts.

One must also wonder what evolutionary value  reverse speech would have. It is estimated that it was about 100,000 years ago that humans developed spoken language. One has no difficulty in seeing  the utility of speech to the survival of the species. But what possible utility could there be in reverse speech? It is difficult to imagine something so useless taking up a good portion of the history of the evolving brain. Furthermore, if there is a reverse speech, there must be a reverse speech grammar. What is it and how is it known?

Some of Oates' claims are quasi-empirical. For example, his beliefs about the unconscious mind seem to have an empirical grounding in the fact that a person's behavior can be affected by memories of which the person is unconscious. There is substantial evidence of implicit memory in the neuroscientific literature. But the claim that 95% of our thoughts are below the level of consciousness--which implies that most of our memories are implicit memories--seems non-falsifiable. How would one test such a claim? The claim that the unconscious mind contains data which reveal hidden truths about a person's behavior and personality, as well as one's physical and spiritual health, is highly questionable. It seems to be based on wishful thinking rather than scientific evidence.

Nevertheless, Mr. Oates gives some specific examples of how his theory works. For example, he claims that when Bill Clinton says "I try to articulate my position as clearly as possible" he really means "She's a fun girl to kiss." How does Oates know this? He "knows" this because that is how it sounds to him in reverse, or that is what the metaphors mean. We cannot prove him wrong. If it does not sound like that to us or if we don't grasp the metaphors, it is because the messages "are very quick and fast and are often hidden in the high tones of speech. For this reason speech reversals are very easily missed by most researchers." Furthermore, he says the untutored are not familiar with the language of metaphor. (He has two books that can help us here.) These are not ad hoc hypotheses, according to Oates. Furthermore, once he has told you that the reverse speech you are about to hear is "She's a fun girl to kiss", you are likely to "hear" that, regardless of how garbled the message sounds. Call it the power of suggestion or pareidolia for the ears. Call it anything but worth investigating much further. If Mr. Oates went on Larry King or Oprah and claimed that their speech revealed that they were actually child molesters, Oates would have no audience and people would recognize him for what he is. Yet, he will be taken seriously when he says that Patsy Ramsey's forward speech "We feel that there are at least two people on the face of the earth that know who did this [i.e., murdered her daughter] and that is the killer and someone else that person may have confided in" is actually reverse speech for "I'm that person. Seen that rape." (On December 26, 1997, Oates had his first daytime TV appearance on the Geraldo show discussing the Ramsey case.) Oates is taken seriously because he is an entertaining novelty feeding the lust for trash gossip which passes as news and information in our society.

The academic world has so far ignored his great discoveries, though he claims that he has the support of some academics who fear to speak out. Mr. Oates bemoans his fate: "Have we not yet learned from the lessons of history? Many of our great discoveries have come from outside of mainstream [sic]. Einstein, for example, was a high school-drop out." (Actually, Einstein was kicked out of high school and eventually finished his schooling in Zurich, including a Ph.D. from the University of Zurich.) His proposals to test his theory have been rejected by universities not because the university establishment is closed-minded, but because Oates' theories belie a profound ignorance of fundamental matters in neuroscience and physiology. Furthermore,  a good chunk of his theory is untestable metaphysics, psychobabble and gobbledygook.

Mr. Oates resembles a person who is modeling himself after Bandler™ and others in the neuro-linguistic programming movement. They have found that self-confidence and the ability to understand is so diminished in so many people that the more unintelligible a person's communication is the more likely it becomes that that communication can be trademarked and profitably marketed as a gateway to the secret of life.

See related entry on backwards satanic messages

reader comments

further reading

David Oates’ Theory of Reverse Speech By Mark Newbrook & Jane Curtain 1998

Reverse Speech by Mark Newbrook, Skeptical Briefs Volume 15.2, June 2005

The Demon-Haunted Sentence A Skeptical Analysis of Reverse Speech by Tom Byrne and Matthew Normand

REVERSE SPEECH by John Shirley

Welcome to The World of Reverse Speech

Last updated 24-Nov-2015

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