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?eb ecneicsitna nac yfoog woH

by Phil Plait, Aug 12 2009

One of the funny things about the Universe is, there’s only one way to be right, but an infinite number of ways to be wrong. For example, I know that the science of astronomy is getting better every day at describing the overall state of the Universe, approaching the ability to describe just how things work. We may never achieve that ultimate goal, but we get ever closer. Moreover, I know that astrology is completely wrong, and provably so. Even better, there are a hundred different flavors of astrology, each of which claims to work, yet none of which actually does.

See? One way to be right, lots of ways to be wrong.

So once you slip off that narrow path of reality, you are surrounded by an infinitely deep fog of nonsense which just gets thicker and more difficult to navigate the farther off the path you stray. I suspect there is no actual wrongest thing in the vast reaches of antiscience, because its illogic goes on forever.

But if I had to choose, I bet reverse speech would be in the Top Ten.

You know this idea; you take what someone says, reverse it, and find out that Paul McCartney is actually Bigfoot. Or something like that. The people who claim this is real — and yeah, they’re out there, and just as earnest as any other zealot who kneels at The Pulpit Of Nonsense — never give a reason why this works, or a mechanism that explains how reversing the time variable in a recording should yield anything but comical noises.

And we know why this stuff seems to work when it’s presented to you: if someone primes you with a phrase that they want you to hear when speech is reversed, it really does sound like what they claim. Of course, if they don’t tell you what it is, ten different people will come up with ten different phrases.

But why should logic, reason, and mechanics stop someone from just making stuff up?

Which brings me to the hilarity that is the EVP Reverse Speaking website. They claim that by reversing your speech you can learn The Great Truths (which, if it were true, would be that reverse speech is really, really silly). They even have examples! And what examples they have, oh yes indeed.

On this page, they reverse my own speech. Yeah, me, your host and Beloved Internet Personality™. And not just me, but also sound bites from Randi and Michael Shermer, just to hit a skeptical trifecta.

Now, I hate to make fun of people, but at some point, really, it’s simply impossible not to. In this case, this stuff is truly well and remarkably ridiculous.

An example: they start with an interview I did with Randi at TAM 5. They take the audio, reverse it, and make claims that are… well, here. Listen for yourself:



Did you listen? Try again, a couple of times. What did I say, reversed? They claim I said, "Their walls hit," clearly meaning Randi hit an astral wall when he had his heart attack a few years ago.

Uh, yeah.

Funny. To me it sounds like I’m saying, "They’re all sh*t," which, had they made that claim, might actually sway me to their side. Just a little bit.

And the best part? They didn’t even excerpt the whole sentence I said! They cut the last bit of the sentence out, so what they use is, "Thanks a lot, Rand." Note the missing i at the end; not Randi, just Rand. So they had to edit out part of Randi’s name to make their point… whatever the heck their point is.

The rest of the site is full of incomprehensible gobbledygook just like that. It’s like someone took a bunch of ideas, wrote them down on postcards, cut them up into bits, rearranged them, and then created a website based on what they found. I suggest, dear reader, that you take a look around there. It will remind you of just how silly claims can be, and just how far we skeptics have to go.

!drawrof revE

23 Responses to “?eb ecneicsitna nac yfoog woH”

  1. GL says:

    I find it very helpful that they tell us what the nonsensical backward “phrases” are supposed to mean.

  2. Laih says:

    Personally, I thought it sounded like “the tall skit,” possibly in reference to a performance piece about American lore?

  3. oldebabe says:

    This idea has got to be a 10 on the foolishness scale.

  4. tmac57 says:

    Ah, Phil, you took me back to 1969 when the “Paul is dead” urban legend was afloat. I got taken into it for about a day, until I really started to consider how unlikely it was. They did weave a compelling yarn though, just as most conspiracy theories do on the surface. For those too young to remember the “Paul” tale, just Google and enjoy!

  5. Paul says:

    forward = “Thanks a lot Rick”
    backward = “They’re always good”

  6. Alex says:

    They say that Hoagland is wrong at least… but maybe not for quite the reasons you would think of.

    • Richard Smith says:

      I like when they say, “We know what is real, but I always feel good to hear validation.” And their veiled derision of such silly notions as the 2012 doomsday: “I put on the (ug) 2012 special [] see how much of it I could actually stand to listen to.”

      Always fun when fields of woo disparage each other.

  7. Brandon says:

    These are like the ultimate examples of cherry picking. What good is claiming that a voice clip played backwards contains a hidden message if the cropped original clip by itself doesn’t even make sense?

  8. steve says:

    these guys arent serious, are they? they cant possibly be serious. I bet they pick quotes from skeptics because they know they can get a response out of you.

  9. Boredagain says:

    I remember the “Paul is Dead” fiasco as well! I got the feeling from it that people thought the Beatles were such geniouses that they were even communicating subliminally and hiding messages in the music. Of course Paul wasn’t dead and it was just people on acid with a lot of times on their hands.

    There was also a lot of this in the 80’s with metal music and secret messages that were making teenagers kill themselves. I guess that has fallen out of fashion, (along with those dirty gyrating hips of Elvis) because I haven’t heard any complaints about it recently, now it’s probably video games killing kids or turning them to killers.

    Never knew that it had developed into a larger meta foolishness. The world gets weirder every day!

  10. AdamK says:

    Are you saying that Zatanna isn’t real? Because that’s just mean.

  11. EvilPoet says:

    Wow. What a blast from the past for me! I haven’t heard/thought about RS for years. What a bunch of crap.

  12. Peggy Kane says:

    I realize this is an old thread and I also suspect that this post won’t be put up, but I’ll give it a try anyway.
    That one little itty bitty reversal by Phil came from my website. Is that it? Is that your rebuttal Phil? One little itty bitty reversal? On my website,, I have about 15,000 along with several thousand recordings of evp (that’s electronic voice phenomena) from reptilian ETs and others interdimensionally and 650+ articles. (Of course as soon as I said reptilians there will be snickers. No real inquiry here, just gafaws!)
    Is this how you do the research? You take one little itty bitty thing out of context and this becomes the basis for your argument?
    If people go to my website and really do the research rather than dismissing it out of hand, they may see that there is something to this.
    Blatant dismissal because of closed-minded prejudice is not “real” science. But then what is “real” science?
    Does “real” science promote open-minded inquiry or is there a certain arrogance in the smug assumption that only what is experienced by the 5 senses is real?

    Here is the link to that whole article with more reversals from both you, James Randi and finally a real prize from Michael Shermer.
    Why don’t you let your skeptical readers listen to more?

    People should listen to Michael’s forward statement claiming our government doesn’t keep secrets. It’s hilarious.
    His reversal about himself is even funnier.

  13. Michael says:

    You also sound funny in Reverse. You were saying some bad things about yourself in the reverse sound.

    • Peggy Kane says:

      I reverse myself a lot. I check on what I hear and what I believe. If you heard bad things from me in reverse, well, so be it. I’ve put tons of audio up on my site for all to form their own opinions. You won’t hide anything in reverse.
      The point is, there really is something to this.

  14. Peggy Kane says:

    Phil is making fun of the idea of reverse speaking. But it is his reversals coming from his mind and mouth.

    There is either some kind of global psychosis or there is validity to my discoveries. To simply ridicule it, is not scientific, it’s stupid.

    Everyone reverses. No exceptions. To simply say it is all gibberish is putting one’s head in the sand. But one has to approach this with an open mind and that is extremely difficult for skeptics to do.

  15. Ron H says:

    Peggy doesn’t make money off of her website or the information on it. What about you Phil?

    Just read the first sentence on her site. “you are your greatest teacher” funny how so called smart people go through years of college and pay a lot of money to get a socially accepted piece of paper and call themselves smart. Yet won’t take a week to learn from themselves.

    You actually see things in the sky you can’t explain. Why is that?

  16. Peggy Kane says:

    I suspect that people who have paid a lot of money to be “smarter than the rest” would not like what they say to themselves in reverse. I’m sure they would shut down their own voice chastising them for their arrogance. I’ve been scolded a number of times myself in my own reverse, but I pay attention.

    One has to put ego aside to get the benefits from reverse speaking. And that is a tall order.

    Hard science is a kind of religion in itself. It has it doctrines and dogmas just like any other. It’s sort of the anti-religion religion.

    Peer pressure is immense also, just like members of any religion, stray from the true path and look out. You’ll be a pariah and shunned.

    When one no longer gives a damn about their image, nor will succumb to pressure, but is willing to climb into the rabbit hole equipped with a strong flashlight, well truth may just smile.

    But you have to be willing to give up everything in the search for truth and that is often too much to ask of people.

    Ridicule is easier and safer.

  17. Peggy Kane says:

    I just put up a selection of reversals and evps which are at least a fair representation on my website.
    I would suggest before calling this modality audio pareidolia, go take a listen to these. It’s just a tiny sampling and will only take a few moments.
    Then you will have a little more upon which to base an opinion.

  18. Sam says:

    Why are you behaving like a troll here?
    You have any decency, make your point and go away.
    The RS cant speak clearly and yet somehow the broken words are some gospel of truth?
    It is worse than being a religious fanatic.
    You are angry with Phil because he (like many) cant hear in RS what you claim you can. Clearly it is prone to subjective interpretation.
    In the world of conspiracy, would anyone be stupid enough to listen to noises which might be manipulated (unclear is bad enough)?
    You likely steal other peoples information and then twist it and then lie that you heard it in RS.
    How many times your predictions failed? What a nerve you have calling other people disinfo agents when your own work is possibly even worse than theirs?
    You did create a convenient escape plan after repeated failures. ‘Time is a manipulation’.
    Dont talk about ego please. You are one of the biggest ego maniacs i have ever seen. You want to go on a drive by, attacking anyone and anything in your quest to appear like you are the only human on earth that knows the truth. You stole David Oates creation and then call him a disinfo agent. You insult other RS people who dont get what you do. You are very indecent on many levels.

  19. Sam says:

    I went to this latest article of yours. As usual the same story. Unclear noises which you claim are clear reversals.

    What i hear: i dont hear the word ‘save’. It might even be ‘shares’. But i wont claim it as it is too unclear.
    ‘Planet’. I dont hear that either. It might be ‘plummet’ or even ‘punnet’. Once again too unclear so not worth guessing for me.

    I cant be bothered to show all the exmaples.
    I am arguing with someone who is like a religious fanatic.
    But many of your other reversals under that article are unclear also.

  20. Peggy Kane says:

    Excuse me Sam, I don’t think I can be considered a troll here.
    Did you forget the article to which I’ve responded?
    And I quote:
    “deep fog of nonsense”
    “comical noises”.
    “illogic goes on forever”.
    “The Pulpit Of Nonsense”
    “Paul McCartney is actually Bigfoot”
    “the hilarity that is the EVP Reverse Speaking website”
    “Now, I hate to make fun of people, but”
    “just making stuff up”
    “reverse speech is really, really silly”
    “this stuff is truly well and remarkably ridiculous”
    “incomprehensible gobbledygook”

    Note also, the cute and hilarious pictures of Phil

    So don’t call me a troll here. I’m only putting up a defense for myself and others who study this field. That’s it.

    I originally was reversing James Randi, who attacks many viciously under the guise of being a “skeptic”. Phil was just a sidebar.

    But I take your point.

    I’ve put in enough time here and will now leave and let everyone go back to their own beliefs.

    Good luck in your journey, and to all of those here including Phil.

    May I make a teeny suggestion though? Maybe you need to have your ears checked.