Reverse Speech: Hear what you want to hear

Jan of "The Rotten" (

Remember those warnings about satanic messages hidden in rock music, revealed when played backwards? For years, I wasn’t sure what to make of them. Now, I have a much better idea.

I was recently listening to an episode of The Conspiracy Show entitled “Richard’s Subconscious Mind Revealed”, in which Richard Syrett talks to a “certified reverse-speech practitioner and hypnotherapist” Wayne Nicholson. Wayne recorded an earlier conversation with Richard, analyzed it in reverse, and extracted a number of sample phrases.

Here are some samples taken from their conversation. But before you listen, please refrain from listening to the translations below. It’s important that you try to form your own opinions about what the reverse clips say. Each reverse clip is repeated 3 times at different speeds.

Clip 1

Clip 2

Clip 3

OK, wasn’t that easy?


Now here are the interpretations from Wayne, as well as what I heard.

Clip 1

I heard “sad boy’s cattle is eating his eye”, which totally makes sense, because I’d be sad if a cattle was eating MY eye. According to Wayne, the translation is “that old devil deep inside”. OK, that makes sense too… I guess.

Clip 2

What I heard was “ah, Bill knows that he’s here”. I know someone named Bill, and he’d know if he was here, that’s for sure. But Wayne interpreted the clip as “I feel her that he’s here”. Their discussion to make sense of it was rather tortuous.

Clip 3

According to Wayne it translates to “betrayed us”. That exact clip comes from the reversal of “side you have to”. I guess any time anyone uses that phrase, they must also imply betrayal. I did a quick google search on that exact phrase, and came up with this web page about solving simple algebraic equations. It contains the text,

Keep in mind that just like a balance–what you do to one side you have to do to the other.

I know, chilling how the subtext of betrayal is so plainly evident in that tutorial advice. Actually, the reverse speech sounds to me more like “the tradehouse”, in which I can totally see how becoming better at math can get you a job in the tradehouse, a symbolic name for the stock exchange.

My point is that finding and interpreting these phrases is highly subjective, and they say nothing about the speaker’s subconscious. It’s an audio form of pareidolia, our tendency to recognize patterns and objects in random or unrelated media. Don’t believe me? In 1981, a group of researchers published a paper in the journal Science about a study of our ability to interpret random sounds. They constructed artificial noises using random sine waves, and played them to people. Many people heard phrases, even though the sounds were randomly generated. Here is an example… see if you can figure out what it’s saying.

(taken from episode 105)

For an indication of what many people hear, see the bottom of this post. But once you see that answer, it’s difficult to not hear it.

Does this mean that even random processes have subconscious intentions? Or does it mean that recognizing words and phrases in speech-like sounds is common?

The next time you hear someone complaining about satanic messages in music, just tell them “We svelte as each”. See if their subconscious gets the message.

(The random sound clip is often perceived as “It was a sunny day and the children were going to the park.”)

4 Responses to “Reverse Speech: Hear what you want to hear”

  1. Fred says:

    What I heard:

    Clip 1: dabble dabble eep zipe

    Clip 2: aapyulo zhehee zeer

    Clip 3: bitte yowce

  2. AshleyZ says:

    Clip 1: gabble gabble gee-bum zeit
    Clip 2: ahh, beebulbruz is here
    Clip 3: we play gauss

    For clip 2, I thought the practitioner’s answer was going to be “uh, Beelzebub is here”.

  3. I couldn’t pull anything intelligible out of any of them at any speed. The slowest one in each sample certainly sounded demonic. I would recommend an immediate exorcism.

  4. Coalfire says:

    Let’s see:
    1) zapple zapple jeep abzai (Seriously? I couldn’t even come up with imagined words here.)
    2) Have to admit I heard “I feel now that he’s here.” (So, pick your favourite version of “he.” I reckon it’s a reference to Elvis.)
    3) The pig house. (“And I’ll huff and I’ll puff,” has clearly been edited out here.)


  • Jeff Orchard

    Jeff Orchard is an associate professor of computer science at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. He has degrees in mathematical nerdism from Waterloo and UBC, and got his PhD in computing science from Simon Fraser University in 2003. Jeff is 99% atheist, 1% agnostic, and is passionate about teaching critical thinking. One of his research goals is to understand how the brain works (and then use that knowledge to take over the world). He has published academic papers in image processing, and is also an evolution buff.