The technique of singing on an album in such a way so that when the recording is played backwards, a different message can be heard. There are two types of backmasked messages: engineered and phonetic. An engineered backmask is created by recording a message normally, and then reversing it. Pink Floyd, apparently not without a sense of humor, put the following engineered message into "Empty Spaces": "Congratulations. You've just discovered the secret message. Please send your answer to old pink, care of the funny farm..."

A phonetic backmask is one in which the creator (supposedly) selects the proper lyrics and alters his speech pattern slightly in order to create a message in reverse. These are the ones that are considered more devious, and often times, Satanic. The most famous phonetic backmask is probably from The Beatles' "Revolution #9", whose lyrics "Number nine", when played backwards, sound a lot like "Turn me on, dead man." Perhaps more proof of the Paul is dead conspiracy. Another famous one is Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust", which becomes "It's fun to smoke marijuana."

After two teens committed suicide, Judas Priest was put on trial for allegedly backmasking messages of suicide into their songs. Christian groups also called for a boycott of Led Zeppelin when they "discovered" that the lyrics "there's still time to change the road your on" from "Stairway To Heaven" became "Here's to my sweet Satan." when played in reverse.

Actor Michael Anderson ("Twin Peaks") can speak in backwards phonetics, and he taught it to some of the actors while filming the show. That's why all the people in Black Lodge speak in a really weird language - they're speaking in backwards phonetics.

The capability of backmasking to subconsciously influence listeners is questionable at the very best, but as a result of sensationalist journalism and the tendency of people to believe the most appealing and interesting option presented to them, it is considered psychological fact by a misguided portion of the population. In fact, most forms of subliminal messaging have failed to hold up in any real way in the lab, and backmasking appears to be one of the most dubious of the bunch.

Much of the foundation behind the myth that its subliminal backmasking comes from the religious sector, particularly fundamentalist christian groups, who make claims that backmasking in today's "rock and roll" music is designed to influence and force satanic beliefs and opinions upon the youth of America. This claim was particularly relevant in the court case concerning Judas Priest, which if nothing else, could serve as a warning to future generations about the role of courtroom demagogs in deciding the amount of validity lended to even the most outlandish of accusations.


In a psychology course, I once conducted the following simple experimental study on 200 students:

Two recordings were prepared, recording A, which is the control tape, and B, the experimental tape.

Recording A (control) was a short instrumental exerpt of no pertinence to the experiment, but softly behind it was the immortal mantra "All your base are belong to us," in reverse. This, too, had no pertinence to the experiment, hence its being the control message. The student was then instructed that the experiment conductor was holding a small ball in his or her hand, and that the student should attempt to randomly guess the color of the ball.

Recording B (experimental) was the same instrumental exerpt, but rather than "All your base," the 100 students heard "The ball is purple." Under the supposed circumtances (in another universe, that is, where backmasking would work...) the students would have been influenced to some degree to respond with the answer purple, when prompted for the color of the imaginary ball.

In fact, the control group responded slightly more often with purple than did the experimental group. That, of course, is a statistical abnormality most probably resulting from a limited subject sample, but it does do something to reinforce the non-entity of backmasking, at least as it would have pertained to the experiment.

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