CHRISTIAN URBAN LEGENDS
Backmasking on records: Real, or hoax?
||"You know what you get when you play Twisted Sister's 'Burn in Hell'
backwards? 'Go to church and pray on Sunday.' " Jay Leno, Comedian
"Subliminal advertising" is a marketing technique which tries to
manipulate people's opinion, without them becoming aware that they are being
influenced. It may consist of a movie clip, image, or sound byte that is
superimposed on an image, sound track or video track. It is inserted in such a
way that the audience cannot detect its presence. It might be a message "Drink
Coke" or "Eat Popcorn" flashed on a movie screen so quickly that it cannot be
consciously sensed. It may be the word "sex" or an erotic image in ice cubes of a gin
advertisement that can only consciously be seen when it is searched for.
"Backmasking" is a type of subliminal advertising. It can
exist in one of two forms:
Intentional backward masking: A verbal message
is recorded, is reversed in direction, and is superimposed on an existing musical passage.
This can only be done intentionally -- by design. It first appeared in the
late 1960s as a result of an accidental tape mixing error
by John Lennon in the Beatles' song "Rain." He liked it and left it
in. It is easy to recognize: when the music is played normally, one hears
a passage that sounds like gibberish -- vaguely word-like, as if it is in
a foreign language. Played backwards, clear, understandable phrase or
sentence is heard. Examples include:
||"The music is reversible but Time is not. Turn back, turn back,
turn back." Electric Light Orchestra, "Face the Music"
at the start of the song "Fire on High."
||"Congratulations. You have just discovered the secret message.
Please send your answer to old pink, care of the funny farm." Pink
Floyd, "Empty Spaces," at the end of "Good-bye Blue Sky."
||"Messin' with things you don't understand," Iron Maiden, "Piece
of Mind" at the start of "Still Life." 8
Unintentional Backward Masking: All lyrics, when played
backwards, sound like gibberish. They vaguely sound like words in a
foreign language. However,
with a bit of imagination, one can sometimes make out sounds that resemble
English words. Occasionally, these will form a phrase or sentence. If you
search enough lyrics, you are bound to come across them. The phenomenon
is similar to the discovery of Bible codes. Messages do
seem to appear in the Bible. However, they are also found in every
other large book, like Moby Dick, War in Peace, etc.
People usually search for backmasking messages in rock music. Often,
listeners honestly believe that they have found
Satanic or Occultic messages.
||Some people believe that these subliminal message are not consciously heard by the listener.
They further believe that repeat playings can influence their thinking
and lead them to uncritically accept Satanic or Occultic beliefs. They
view subliminal messages as a form of brainwashing.
||Some Christians believe that Satan himself inserts backmasking
messages, and that the recording company and band are unaware of this.
||Some believe that some lyrics are carefully written so that they will
give two messages: one when played forwards, and one when played
||Others say that if you play song lyrics or readings from a book --
even the Bible -- backwards, you will occasionally detect words, phrases
What do researchers say about backmasking?
Psychologists, psychiatrists, and advertising experts have reached a near
consensus that backmasking would be useless for three reasons:
||Subliminal messages are generally ineffective or quite limited in
||A message recorded backwards is unintelligible when the record played forwards.
It could not be understood even if it was played apart from the music.
||A backmasked message superimposed on a musical passage would be itself
masked by the music so that it would not readily be heard.
Experts differ about whether unintentional backmasking has ever been done commercially.
Many feel that these messages only exist in the mind of the listener; others
think that backmasking has been tried as a joke by some performers in the music
History of subliminal advertising:
There have been four time periods in the U.S. when subliminal images or
sounds were widely discussed in the media. Some have a spiritual or religious
||At the beginning of the 20th century: The spiritual New Thought movement involved the concept that the human mind contains a
hidden power that could improve one's well being if a person could properly tap
||In the late 1950s: Subliminal ads superimposed on a movie. This
coincided with a public belief in brainwashing and mind control, as
popularized in the movie The Manchurian Candidate. Almost all mental health professionals
have rejected the possibility of brainwashing and mind
control. However, some groups in the
anti-cult movement still believe that they are effective.
||In the 1970s: Subliminal sexual images superimposed on a print
advertising (e.g. the word "sex" buried in the ice cubes of a
Gilbey Gin ad). The rational is that the word would unconsciously arouse
the reader and make the advertisement more memorable.
||Circa 1990: Subliminal self-help tapes. These may have become
popular, in part, because of the New Age
movement's interest in the potential of the human mind. Nine independent studies have
failed to find these tapes effective.
||1990: Judas Priest, a rock band, was on trial for
allegedly placing a subliminal instruction "Do it" in one of their
songs. 10 They were accused of triggering the suicide of Ray Belknap and the
attempted suicide of James Vance. Judge Jerry Carr Whitehead ruled in
favor of the band, saying: "The scientific research presented does not
establish that subliminal stimuli, even if perceived, may precipitate
conduct of this magnitude."
Repeatedly, the media report that subliminal effects have been tried, and
proven successful. This is followed by less well reported accounts of subsequent
unsuccessful attempts to replicate the results by independent researchers. Finally, material surfaces that debunks the original findings. Unfortunately most of the public
appears to remember mainly the initial report. Thus, many conclude that
subliminal advertising really works.
Perhaps the best known example was the "Eat Popcorn - Drink Coke"
message that was flashed for one third of a millisecond every five seconds
during the showing of the movie Picnic in Fort Lee, NJ in 1957. The
duration of the message was so brief that nobody could sense its presence. Advertising
expert James Vicary engineered the study. 45,699 patrons were involved. He reported that Coke sales increased
18% and popcorn scales went up by almost 58%. The study was well reported in the
media. Reaction was swift: "The Federal Communications Commission immediately
investigated the Vicary study and ruled that the use of subliminal messages [by
radio and TV stations] could result in the loss of a broadcast license. The
National Association of Broadcasters prohibited the use of subliminal
advertising by its members. Australia and Britain banned subliminal advertising.
A Nevada judge ruled that subliminal communications are not protected as free
speech." 3 "Concerns about the nature of
subliminal persuasion have been the subject of a United Nations resolution in
1974 4 and a hearing before the [House] Subcommittee on
Transportation, 5 ...in 1984." 6
Vicary refused to release his data. Multiple attempts to
replicate his study failed. 3
Belief in Satanically inspired backmasked messages continues today, mainly
the conservative Christian community.
Does Satanic backmasking really exist?
You can reach your own conclusion. Among the most famous example is a passage from "Stairway to Heaven."
If you have a player that can handle the .wav format, listen to the passage
Some claim that, played backwards, they can make out the sentence: "I will
sing because I live with Satan".
Various versions of .wav players (ranging from free to nominal cost) can be
downloaded from RealPlayer
The Christian Rock Music Defended web site has an additional
example available. 2
In 1985, two psychologists, J. Vokey & J.D. Read, conducted an experiment
using a biblical passage (Psalm 23), Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust,"
and passages specially created for the study. Also used was a passage from Jabberwocky
by Lewis Carroll; it sounds like gibberish both forwards and backwards. When their
subjects heard the sentences played backwards, they were correctly able to differentiate
between male and female speakers 99% of the time. They could identify
with 79% accuracy whether a pair of passages were read by the same person. The
two researchers played the passages backwards many times, carefully listening
for sounds that might be interpreted as phrases. They found that most people can only
hear a phrase when a passage is played backwards, if they are first prompted with
||When the subjects heard the passage backwards, few could hear anything
that made sense.
||When the subjects were primed to hear a phrase that the researchers
had found, about 90% could hear the phrase.
They concluded that if backmasking exists, it is quite ineffective. Listeners
[were] completely unable to
||get any meaning of the message when the tape was played forward,
||determine whether the message was a question or a statement,
||subconsciously get any meaning from the message,
||judge the "type" of message (Christian, Satanic, etc.), or
||be unwittingly led to behave in a certain way. 7
More information on the Vokey & Read experiments, and some of the recordings
used during the study are available online. 7
Involvement by conservative Christians and Muslims:
||During the late 1970s and early 1980s: "...some Christians claimed to find
backward-masked messages even on albums by Christian artists. They claimed that
when listened to, backward masked messages bypass the normal thought processes,
but are decoded and accepted as 'true' by the brain. Rich Buhler, then host of a
popular Christian talkshow on KBRT, Los Angeles, was among those who exposed
this claim as an urban [folk] tale." 8
||1982: Thirty teenagers in Huntersville, NC, had a
record-burning at their church. It was led by a former rock musician who
had left the music field to become a pastor. They believed that Satan
was "possessing the singers and manipulating their
voices so that subliminally implanted backward messages could be placed on
the record to destroy the youth of America." 9
Backmasking mentioned on religious web
||At BibleBelievers.org.au: Alen Gourley writes: "Satanism
is known to practice the backwards expression of messages and so it CAN
NOT be considered coincidental that the use of subliminals and backmasking
find themselves at home with the Rock music and disco scene."
||At ChristianBibleStudy.org: Their web site contains an anti-semitic
essay which has a section describing rock and roll: "But one of the most dangerous and insidious aspect of jungle
noise is the use of a technique called Backtracking. Hidden messages are
introduced into the recordings in reverse. These are just noise to the
conscious brain but they are descrambled by the subconscious and can alter
and shape behavior and promote destructive habits; often unknown to the
||At DemonBuster.com: They write: "If we are weak in our
convictions, our moral values can be changed subliminally by suggestion in
rock music, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, posters, billboards, etc.
One form of subliminal message is the sub-audio suggestions on rock
records saying: Communism is the perfect form of government; hate your
parents; you are no good; commit suicide; kill others: take drugs; they
taste good; your parents hate you; police are pigs; and the whole world is
||End Times Links: Bro. Joe writes: "For the past thirty years science has known that subconscious
(subliminal) messages are recorded and understood by the human brain. Even
if these communications are garbled or spoken backwards (backmasking),
with repetitive listening, they still pass on information that is
remembered. The Devil, being acutely aware of this fact, is using Rock
music to transmit messages which keep people in bondage to him. Some Rock
groups have become open mediums for the Devil and therefore subconsciously
receive satanic inspiration for their lyrics and music. Others have
intentionally placed messages in their music which reveal the ultimate
meaning of their songs." 15
||At: Knowledge of Islam: This is an Islamic web site which contains an
anti-Masonic essay. It asserts that the Masons control the U.S. music
industry and insert subliminal Satanic messages into sound tracks. "...the
listener may be unaware that [their] subconscious mind can pick up and
understand the messages...in the long term these can be stored in the
subconscious mind and may actually effect the person's behavior or
judgment. In many ways back tracking is a form of hypnotism or brain
washing and has the power to be very destructive." 12
||At Ross Olson's Web Site: Dr. Olson is a conservative Christian
whose web site deals with social issues. He comments: "There is the
real possibility that the subliminal suggestion may include appeals to
demonic powers if the results truly include such supernatural phenomena.
If a person can be influenced without his conscious knowledge, then
children may also be influenced by environmental factors without making
conscious decisions. Today some Rock music has taken a real turn toward
the occult and Satanic. Perhaps these groups started the trend as a
publicity stunt, but many have gotten deeply into occult symbols and
probably practice." 17
||At: ProphecyClub.org: Listed on the web site is a pair of video
tapes by Stephen Dollins called: "The occult in your living room."
author "exposes the subliminal messages targeted towards youth through
today's Rock music..." 14
||At: BibleStudy.org lists a book "Ravaged by the New Age: Satan's plan to destroy our
kids," by Texe Marrs. The reviewer comments: "He thoroughly documents
the dangerous, secret messages in kids' TV shows, cartoons, movies, comic
books, fantasy games, toys and even coloring books. You'll also discover
the demonic designs behind Rock and Roll and the hidden, subliminal
messages in Satan's New Age "mood" music."
some rather amusing reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
This book received the lowest rating that we have ever seen on Amazon.com:
1 out of 5.
"Holy" messages in backmasked lyrics:
James Barrett reports that he found backmasking in a recording of his
song "Wake-up; Wake-up; It's Christmas."
He feels that he was able to decipher English words and to detect other
words that may be in Hebrew, Arabic or Latin. He has posted the forwards and
backwards versions of his song on his web site.
References used in the above essay:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Charles Rollins, Jr., "Backmasking myths" at:
http://www.mosquitonet.com/ His essay
includes the following references:
||F Borgeat MD et al, "Psychophysiological response to Masked
Auditory Stimuli", Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Vol 30, 1985-FEB.
||J. Vokey, & J.D. Read, "Subliminal messages between the devil and the
media," American Psychologist, Vol 40, No 11, Pages 1231-1239 (1985-NOV).
||T E. Moore, "Subliminal advertising: what you see is what you
get," Journal of Marketing, Vol 46 (1982-Spring), Pages 38-47.
||A. Greenwald, "Unconscious Cognition Reclaimed," American
Psychologist Vol. 47 No 6, Pages 766-779
"Backmasking, mind/body control & subliminal messages,"
Christian Rock Music Defended web site at:
A.R. Pratkanis, "The cargo-cult science of subliminal persuasion,
" Skeptical Inquirer, 1992-Spring, at:
- United Nations Economic and Social Council, Commission on Human
Rights, E/CN.4/1142/add.2, 1974-OCT-7
- Subcommittee on Transportation, Aviation and Materials of the
Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, 98th
Gary P. Radford, "Subliminal persuasion and the mass media."
"The Vokey & Read experiments," at:
David Oates & Greg Albrecht, "Backward Satanic messages in rock 'n
"Backward masking," Apologetics Index, at:
T.E. Moore, "Scientific consensus and expert testimony: Lessons
from the Judas Priest trial," Skeptical Inquirer, 1996-NOV-DEC, at:
Alan Gourley, "Singing death - Chapter 3," at:
"How the world has been intelligently controlled?," at:
"End-time deliverance center - DemonBuster.com," at:
"Video tapes," at:
Bro. Joe, "Secular demonic rock and roll: Hidden messages in rock
'n' roll," at:
"How the Jews have repaid America...Introduction" at:
R.S. Olson, "Satan and demons: A biblical perspective," at:
James G Barrett, "Reverse Recording Deciphering," at:
||N. Epley et al, "What every skeptic should know about subliminal
persuasion," Skeptical Inquirer, Vol 23, No. 5, Pages 40 - 45, & 58.
||Tom Byrne & Matthew Normand, "The demon-haunted sentence: A
skeptical analysis of reverse speech," Skeptical Inquirer, 2000-MAR,
||Books (all by conservative Christian publishers):|
||Jacob Aranza, "Backward Masking Unmasked,"
Huntington House, Inc., (1983)
Out of print, but may be available used
||Jacob Aranza, "More Rock, Country and Backward Masking Unmasked,"
Huntington House, Inc., (1985).
Out of print, but may be available used
||Jeff Godwin, "The Devil's Disciples: The truth about rock
music," Chick Publications,
Out of print, but may be available used
||Texe Marrs, "Ravaged by the New Age: Satan's plan to destroy our
kids," Living Truth Publishers, (1989).
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
||Dan & Steve Peters, "Rock's hidden persuader: The truth about backmasking," Bethany
Out of print, but may be available used
Copyright © 2001 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on
Creation date: 2001-JUL-14
Last update: 2005-MAY-19
Author: B.A. Robinson