After listening to a song, one of the last things you would feel inclined to do is listen to that same song in reverse… right? For most people, this idea would seem like a strange thing to do. However, when songs have odd and distorted vocals or puzzling lyrics one just can’t seem to make out, you start to wonder if there’s a hidden message fixed into the recording somewhere. This technique is referred to as backmasking; a sound or message is recorded backward onto a track that is meant to be played forward. The legendary rock group The Beatles are responsible for popularizing this sneaky recording technique with their 1966 album Revolver. Since then, many bands have used backmasking to cloak some pretty creepy messages in their music.
In this list, we will be going over 10 of the creepiest hidden messages found in popular songs. Some of the bands on this list have admitted to deliberately putting in the messages, but some artists claim to have had no hand in the matter, making the backwards message all the more disturbing. Find out what eerie messages have been hiding in some popular songs.
10 Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
A lot can be heard when listening to Nirvana’s ever popular hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. There’s a specific part or verse in a song that holds a hidden message, however when played backwards “Smells Like Teen Spirit” seems to have a completely different set of lyrics. From Cobain yelling “I Hate You” over and over, to him asking “Why Do You Hate Me?” and a demanding scream saying “Say Yes To Me!” All of this is very confusing and begs the question if any of this was actually intentional. Whether it was or not, it’s definitely unsettling to listen to.
9 ELO – Fire On High
Whether you play this song forwards or backwards, the beginning has a very eerie vibe to it, almost like something you would here playing while walking through a haunted house. But after about a minute and a half, the song brakes off into a beautifully composed rock instrumental piece.
The creepy hidden message lies in the beginning of the song. As the song begins, a menacing melody builds until a man’s voice can be heard speaking gibberish. However, when this “gibberish” is played backwards the message becomes clear: “The music is reversible, but time is not, turn back, turn back, turn back, turn back!” The meaning of this message can be interpreted however you may like, but in the end it’s pretty creepy.
8 Judas Priest – Better by You, Better than Me
This British heavy metal band wound up in court after being accused of using subliminal messaging on their 1978 album Stained Class, which supposedly led to the suicide of Raymond Belknap and the attempted suicide of James Vance. The two young men shot themselves in the head after a night of drinking and listening to Judas Priest.
The grief-stricken families blamed the metal band, claiming the song “Better by You, Better than Me” had hidden messages, which encouraged its listeners to commit suicide. The phrases said to be in the song are, “let’s be dead” and “do it” (check out 2:34 in the video), however these words are very hard to pick out and may not even be in the song. Regardless of the actuality of these messages, the song's reputation remains.
7 Pink Floyd – Empty Spaces
Legendary rock group Pink Floyd hid a rather puzzling yet clever message on their highly successful album The Wall. In the middle section of the song "Empty Spaces", a muddle of voices can be heard in the background; what is said remains unclear until played in reverse: “Hello, Luka… Congratulations. You have just discovered the secret message. Please send your answer to Old Pink, care of the Funny Farm, Chalfont – Roger! Carolyne's on the phone! – Okay.”
To most people, this message seems very bizarre or even mysterious. However, if you’re a big enough fan of Pink Floyd, you may be able to connect the dots with what is being said here. This message is most likely a reference to Syd Barrett (Old Pink), a former member of the band who went a little insane and had to spend time in a psychiatric hospital (Funny Farm). This may not sound all that creepy, but just imagine if you stumbled across this hidden message of Roger Waters congratulating you in audio form.
6 Slayer – Hell Awaits
It should come as no surprise that the legendary thrash metal band Slayer wound up on this list. The word “controversy” has revolved around them for years, with claims that their harsh lyrics and violent imagery has influenced devil worship and even murder. While they have been labelled as Satanists and Neo-Nazis, the band finds these accusations rather comical.
In response to these wild allegations, Slayer added a rather daunting message on their 1985 album Hell Awaits. As the album starts, a screeching guitar can be heard along with what sounds like deep growls and angry cries; chaos best describes it. When played in reverse a chilling chant saying “Join Us, Join Us, Join Us!” can be heard.
5 Cradle of Filth – Dinner at Deviant's Palace
This use of backmasking is clearly deliberate and quite obvious when listened to. English metal band Cradle of Filth is known for their lyrical references to Satanism, however it seems all this devil worship stuff is more for impact and shock value than anything else.
Nonetheless, the band recorded the song "Dinner at Deviant's Palace" which when listened to sounds like a bunch of gibberish. When played backwards, the Lord’s Prayer is being recited, which is said to invoke the devil and summon demons. This was clearly an effort to spark conversation between fans, but it’s still pretty creepy when you think about it.
4 Eagles – Hotel California
One of, if not the most popular Eagles song “Hotel California” is said to have a satanic message hidden amongst its adept arrangements. Although the band denies having anything to do with it, the backwards message is quite clear. When the line “In the middle of the night, just to hear them say” is played back in reverse it becomes, “Satan he hears this. He had me believe in him.”
This is a pretty creepy message as is, but just to make it a little more intriguing, there’s also a frightening theory about the picture inside Hotel California’s album cover. In this picture, the band members are all standing next to each other in that classic 1970s band pose, but what’s creepy about this picture is the ominous man staring down on them from the balcony overhead. Many believe this man to be Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan in 1966.
3 Sound Garden – 665
This song was written to be a parody of all those speculated satanic messages hidden in rock music. The name of the song even jokes at being one digit away from 666, the sign of the devil. When listened to, it becomes pretty apparent that you’re meant to listen to this song in reverse, as it already sounds like a song being played backwards.
When played in reverse, Chris Cornell can be heard singing many satanic references such as: “Satan is king”, “Satan is my king”, and “I love you Satan baby.” Even though all this was written as a joke, it’s still a very creepy sounding song and would really freak someone out if they didn’t know it was intended to be a parody.
2 The Beatles – Revolution 9 & I’m So Tired
The Beatles are notorious for backmasking and are considered the ones who popularized the recording technique. Many of their songs are said to have hidden messages, but the most famous examples would have to be from "Revolution 9" and "I’m So Tired".
"Revolution 9" is a very creepy sounding song whether it’s played forward or in reverse; it sounds like something you would hear in an old horror movie. When played backwards, many creepy messages can be heard, but the most memorable and clearest message is that of a man repeating the phrase “Turn me on, dead man” which is repeated multiple times throughout the song.
The second song mentioned, “I’m So Tired”, may not hold as many creepy messages, but the one it does is spine-chilling. In the last few seconds of the song, John Lennon can be heard mumbling something in the background. When played backwards, the listener hears “Paul is dead man, miss him, miss him, miss him!” which later became part of the whole Paul is dead myth in 1969.
1 Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven
Led Zeppelin’s rock n’ roll masterpiece "Stairway to Heaven" has one of the most talked about hidden messages in the history of rock music. But what’s most impressive here is that the section of the song labelled as being a “satanic message” sounds completely normal when played forward. Usually the parts of the song that hold the “secret message” sound strange or out of place, but in this case it flows right along with the rest of the song.
The message is said to be in the verse where Robert Plant sings “If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now. It's just a spring clean for the May queen. Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run; there's still time to change the road you're on. And it makes me wonder.” Now, this isn't just a couple of words and it would be very difficult to implement a satanic message here, not to mention Plant's vocals sound as great as always. However, when played backwards, this chilling message can be heard: "Here's to my sweet Satan. The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan. He will give those with him 666. There was a little tool shed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.”
The band denies any claims and finds it rather ridiculous that anybody would spend time doing something of this nature.