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Health: Teen Speaks To CBS3 About Her Ability To Instantly Say Words Backwards

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s like an easy game for 14-year-old Alyssa Kramer. She can easily say words backwards in seconds. Her video on YouTube quickly got a million hits, and now she has her own channel: CBS3 asked when she realized she had the special ability.

“Whenever I learned how to read, I just started doing it. I have a photographic memory, and whenever someone tells me a word, I can see it in my head. And if I want to spell it backwards then, it can flip and I’ll read it that way,” Alyssa says.

But even with her remarkable ability, she’s still a typical teenager who enjoys hanging out with her friends or family at the beach and playing softball.

To see just how amazing Alyssa’s ability is, we gave her a few random things we like to say around here. Things like ‘Go Phillies,’ ‘City of Brotherly Love’ and ‘I love Philadelphia,’ and she easily said them backwards quickly.

“I’m sure it’s quite uncommon,” said Dr. William Schetman with Lankenau Medical Center, who watched Alyssa’s video.

He says her ability probably is not a memory function, like it is for people who have something called Superior Autobiographical Memory. It’s been shown that people with that ability have slight differences in their brain structure. With Alyssa, experts think her mind has a special ability, but they don’t exactly know what it is.

“Different areas of your brain serve different purposes, and in this very distinct area that’s taking in language, that she has this ability again to sort of interpret language on a two way street,” Dr. Schetman explains.

And it might not be as rare as you think.

“I could do just as well,” says CBS 3 Reporter Nicole Brewer, who can also instantly say words backwards. “It’s definitely weird; my family always got a kick out of it. They were always giving me words…it’s a little stupid human trick.”

Nicole and Alyssa’s ability isn’t called anything, and there is no official diagnosis. It’s a special kind of mental and visual process. And while doctors say that most of us probably won’t be able to learn how to instantly reverse words, we can keep our brains in good shape with things like reading, writing, and doing puzzles.

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  • Pat

    I am right handed, but I can write anything backwards with my left hand, and normally with my right hand, simultaneously, without hesitation in the left hand. It’s not pretty, but it’s legible, and the key thing is that there is no hesitation or forethought in the execution. It’s something I discovered I could do when I was a little boy.
    Her ability is similar, and though I can’t do it, I can sense how she does it because of my own similar ability.

    • Rational Db8

      When I was young I could write anything in mirror image upside down just a hair slower than I could write normally. Over the years since I didn’t keep practicing what was a fun trick as a kid, I’m no longer able to do it quickly. I’ve got no problems reading upside down tho. I’ve always wondered if it wasn’t because I’m ambidextrous.

      • Mary

        Redrum, red rum!

    • rlh83

      I can do the same thing.

    • Scott

      I can pat my head and rub my tummy at the same time.

  • Joe Public

    You people are too much…. This really made my day reading some of these comments… a bunch of comedians… lol….. ;)

  • Sybrsean

    wlel tihs is athoenr itnetrseig hmaun bairn tcirk. You can plobrably raed tihs bcuesae the biran olny tkes itno auoncct the fsrit and lsat lttres wehn ridneag.

    • Marbran

      Actually, the first and last letters are the primer letters, and the brain compares the remaining letters to choose the correct word. But context is very important as well. Without conext, many words would be lost in translation.

      Togrhuh and Togrohuh could be interpreted the same without context.

  • March 2, 2012 | Another Slow News Day
  • cm

    i’m curious to know if she is actually reversing the phonemes (so that a backward recording would sound like the forward message) or reversing the letters, and converting them to words.

    • Gerck

      I can speak backwards fluently and can say without a doubt that she is merely flipping the words around and reading it. If you played this backwards it would be mostly gibberish. The true art to speaking backwards is to do it phonetically so that you can play it back in reverse and it’s legible, albeit a little weird. This is how I do it and a friend of mine can as well. Convenient when you don’t want people nearby knowing what you are talking about. An example of this is the word “the” it becomes “uth” or even “I” which you would kinda say like “ya.” Good article.

    • Troy

      Reversing the letters and saying the words like that. Anyone can do this. This news report is fit only for the bottom of a virtual bird cage as virtual bird cage droppings protection.

  • D Sarnoff Farnsworth

    A few years ago, the ABC TV show “That’s Incredible!” featured a guy whose recorded voice that sounds like gibberish is intelligible when played in reverse.

    Now, THAT’S back-talking.

  • Eric

    You can say any English word to my wife and she can recite to you, quickly and without hesitation, all of the letters in that word in alphabetical order. Any word that she can spell, anyway, and she’s a very good speller.

    It has no practical application whatsoever, but it’s pretty cool.

    • SketchCat

      I’m sure it has a lot of practical applications. Short term memory + Categorizing + Critical thinking + etc.

  • Mark Simpson

    !looc s’tahT


    O bama does this every time he opens his mouth, so why are the “experts” not so puzzled about that? I mean, every time he talks, the exact opposite of what is spoken, is the truth, and the “experts” have a word for this, it’s called “pathological”.

    • Rational Db8

      Yea verily, brother!! Of course, in the literary world, it’s called Orwellian, and Obama has that down to a tee.

  • Me

    Yoda, she is.

  • Ben Dover


    • Mot

      Ben, did you hear the one about the dyslexic atheist who just couldn’t come around to believing in Dog?

      • shempus

        ffffttfftfffft dummmm crashhh (post-punch line drum lick)

  • Rob

    My twin brother and I did this intentionally in the 6th grade so we could talk without grown-ups understanding us. But we decided to speak phonetically. Our goal was, if someone recorded it and played it back, it would be intelligible. This girl is flipping the spelling, but if you played it back, it wouldn’t sound like the actual words. I’m not sure it’s a brain function as much as it is a learned skill. We just grew out of it because the novelty had worn off.

    • Ben Dover

      Learned skill.

  • Da Poots

    Congratulations on your silly talking, I guess. Not sure what you’re going to do with your amazing talent, but neato. Question, though – why is this news?

    • CoachHouser

      The same question I ask about 90% of what’s on CNN, Fox, etc.

  • gerard pawling

    Is she good at doing the JUMBLE?

  • BOB


  • Charles Dearing

    That’s nothing! My ex-wife could instantly TWIST my words!

    • Rational Db8

      I’m sure spouses of either sex lay claim to that! Meanwhile, some would say their spouse’s or ex’s just instantly make their words disappear, as if the words were never spoken.

  • Brad


  • Mr. Polen

    In the 1950-60’s there was a “Professor Backwards” comedian who made a great living doing this. He was on numerous variety shows.

  • Eric

    Yeah “little person” from Twin Peaks could do this too. Not news, really.

  • Laura

    My next-door neighbor could do that as a kid. I ran into her a few years ago and she can no longer do it. She said it stopped around age 25 or so. Odd, that.

  • koloij

    My wife remembers every thing I ever said.

    • dohboy


  • Bruce G

    Yeah, but can she speak pig Latin?

  • Rob

    I used to be able to do this as a kid too. I lost the ability when I got older. No idea why. I thought I was the only one,hah!

  • Kim Taylor

    My son has been able to instantly alphabetize words. He started doing this in high school.

    • BOB

      I learned the alphabet much earlier than high school

      • JudyChop

        I waited till college to learn the alphabet.

      • SketchCat


      • Gummint Skooler

        What’s the alphabet?

    • Sharon

      Kim, I understand what you meant.

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