(Submitted by reader Bob Carroll, of The Skeptic’s Dictionary)

A few years ago I was working on an article for The Skeptic’s Dictionary about a guy who worked as a teen counselor in Australia named David John Oates. He’d accidentally dropped his tape recorder in the toilet and when he repaired it, the thing ran backwards. He started hearing all kinds of messages in his tapes, which led him on a quest to understand all kinds of backwards communication. Oates developed a hypothesis about the unconscious mind sending out backwards messages to the conscious mind so that, for example, if you wanted to know what Bill Clinton really meant when he said “I try to articulate my position as clearly as possible” then you have to play his speech backwards. His unconscious mind, which cannot lie, spoke in backwards speech to his conscious mind and said “She’s a fun girl to kiss.”  Anyway, this is the kind of pseudoscientific gibberish that readers of The Skeptic’s Dictionary have come to expect me to cover.

I was using Microsoft’s FrontPage for my HTML editing in those days and was using a template that had a graphic in the upper left-hand corner that just said “The Skeptic’s Dictionary.” While typing fairly rapidly I hit some sort of key combination that reversed the graphic so that it was backwards. At the time, I didn’t realize either that there was such a key command in FrontPage or that I had accidentally typed it. For a few seconds I was completely taken aback. What’s going on? I’m working on an article about backwards messages and suddenly my logo is reversed? Were there gremlins in my computer? How could this happen?

Once I figured out what had probably occurred, I liked the idea of the backwards graphic so much that I left it in and added another one. I use a different template now but you can see the reversed graphic at http://www.skepdic.com/oldreversespeech.html

[EDITOR: People love to focus on the fact that there are great mysteries in the universe, and forces at work that we don’t understand. And this is quite often true, even when those mysteries are why Microsoft hid their features behind such deep menu structures, and the forces at play are our cat walking across the keyboard. Reality’s frequently just as startling as anything we can dream up.]

« »