Phenomenon the Movie


By David John Oates
Copyright © 1996

New Reversals on movie soundtrack posted below (4/16/00)

Authors note: Recently I have been contacted by several people wanting to use this article and other reversals I have found on "Phenomenon" to bolster an argument that Scientology are using subliminal programming in this and other publications. I do not believe this to be the case! What you are seeing is the Reverse Speech phenomenon in action and it occurs in all forms of human speech. The deliberate "backmasked" section on Peter Gabriel’s song is a common recording trick used by many artists for special effects. There is nothing sinister in this at all. To those people wanting to use this as an arguement, I say the same thing to you as I said to the fundamentalist christians when they went ballistic over reversed messages in rock and roll songs. Look at your own speech and publications before you jump to rapid judgement at others. You will find the same messages in your speech as you claim others are deliberately putting into theirs. Reverse Speech is everywhere – in the goodies as well as the baddies. It is a natural function of language, no more and no less. (DJO 4/2000)

In the middle of 1996, John Travolta’s new movie Phenomenon was released. The movie was about a simple farmer who was hit by a strange beam of light from the sky. This gave him amazing new intelligence and unexplained powers.

Since the movie’s release, controversy has begun to arise concerning its real message and purpose. According to the Globe tabloid, which quotes two disc jockeys from Flint Michigan, Phenomenon is riddled with secret references to John Travolta’s belief in Scientology. Click here to see a reprint of the Globe article.

One of the specific claims is that the movie’s theme song, "I have the touch", sung by British rocker Peter Gabriel, contains hidden backward messages. The most obvious, according to Mitch Gill and Tommy Walker (the Michigan DJs) is the very clear phrase, "Don’t you miss Ron?" This is supposedly a reference to Scientology’s founder, the late Ron Hubbard. I spoke with Mitch and Tommy by phone and was curious enough to do some of my own research.

As charges of intentional backmasking were denied by Peter Gabriel’s publicist, I initially assumed that the song contained the standard speech reversals that I have discovered occur in all music and speech. As these reversals are a natural function of the human mind, they appear in all songs and are, naturally, unplanned by the recording studio or artist. It seemed fairly logical to me that speech reversals would occur that supported Travolta’s belief in Scientology. There seemed to be nothing too sinister in that.

However, I was in for a shock when I finally obtained a copy for the album after being approached by the nationally syndicated TV program, "Extra", for my opinion on the controversy. The very first thing I noticed as I played the song forwards was an intentionally backmasked message right at the beginning of the album. Intentional backmasking is totally different from Reverse Speech. Reverse Speech naturally occurs in the human mind as an automatic function of language. Backmasking is a recording technique where the studio superimposes a soundtrack backwards over the forward soundtrack. It is easy to recognise. It sounds like gibberish when the track is played forwards and becomes an intelligible sentence when the track is played backwards.

Reverse Speech has no superimposed soundtrack and occurs solely by the way the words are sung or spoken at the time the recording is made.

[Play Stream] [Download File] Listen to the first example of a hidden message on this song. Notice that is sounds like gibberish forwards. When it is played backwards at three separate speeds, the words "Don’t you miss Ron?" can be heard. It sounds a little strange because it has been hidden somewhat by echo effects. This is an example of an intentionally backmasked message (Backward Masking) at the recording studio level. I am somewhat surprised, therefore, that Peter Gabriel’s publicist has denied putting this in because it is an obvious technical insertion. Maybe it was done in the recording studio after the song was made. Either way, there is nothing sinister in this. The message is meaningless.

[Play Stream] [Download File] The next thing I noticed as I listened to the soundtrack forwards is that there is also an example of a hidden subliminal message in the song. It is forwards, faint and fast, and occurs right at the very end of the soundtrack. It says: "Ron Hubbard, Ron Ron Ron, Ron Hubbard make contact." It is unclear whether this was intentional or not.

[Play Stream] [Download File] Finally I checked the soundtrack for Reverse Speech and my eyes really opened wide. I first found a very clear example of a speech reversal (unintentional) a third of the way into the song. It says: "Poor people, Ron is stupid." As you listen to this example, notice how there is no superimposed soundtrack, and the reversal is formed by the precise way the forward words were sung at the time of recording. Also notice how clear and precise the reversal is. It is clearer than the forward lyrics as well as the two examples of intentional insertions previously discussed.

[Play Stream] [Download File] Two other speech reversals (unintentional) occur on this song that have little to do with Scientology but which reflect the attitude displayed in the previous reversal. They say "The cops, they’re all stupid," and "Often live by night."

So, my overall conclusion about this song, is that at least one backward message has been placed on the soundtrack but its subliminal effect is unclear and its message is not manipulative anyway. My 18 years research with Reverse Speech suggests that the subliminal effects of intentionally engineered messages are minor compared to the brain’s ability to hear its own form of communication – Reverse Speech. My research has shown many instances of direct communication with Reverse Speech, as well as definite registrations in the brain when speech reversals occur.

I do not know who commissioned this one backmasked message to be placed onto the song, but according to Peter Gabriel’s publicist, the British rocker is "not and never has been a Scientologist." This is a statement I believe because his speech reversals support this – "Poor people, Ron is stupid."

To conclude, I have one question for Peter Gabriel. Why are the cops all stupid and what do you do at night?

[Play Stream][Download File] David Oates on Extra TV 1996 talking about Phenomenon 


Below are some examples of real Speech Reversals found in the movie soundtrack.

Snake, you’re ugly

See Ramtha, God

I wanted to know

Yes slime chose this movie / Still I want luck / George is my cinema

I can seal the spy

They’re fucked

Its at war / They’ve seen his madness now

Are you running the lock

I wrote nothing