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Early SLI (street lamp interference) reports

The following account of early ASSAP research into SLI appeared in Anomaly 9 (November 1991). ASSAP has not done much research into SLI recently though there seems to have been a revival of interest recently.

SLI or Street Lamp Interference was recently brought to the attention of ASSAP by Hilary Evans. Hilary, a founder member of ASSAP, had formed SLIDE - the Street Lamp Interference Data Exchange. This is an informal body revolving around SLIDINGS, its newsletter. The idea is to collect and publish reports about the apparent effect certain people have on street lights. This effect is an unexpected state change, ie. to switch the lamp OFF if it was on or to switch it ON if it was previously off.

ASSAP decided to co-operate with SLIDE in getting more reports about this phenomenon. SLI does not seem to be well known in Britain, though there have been many reports from the USA. Indeed, it seems to be quite common, as anomalous phenomena go. ASSAP published an appeal for more reports in ASSAP News (Number 39). Ironically enough, most replies came from the USA. This is because the ASSAP News article was reported in Science Frontiers (Number 75).

A report appeared in the subsequent ASSAP News (Number 40) detailing the early reports from 'G' of Norfolk. 'G' seems to be a "classic" SLI person. To repeat ASSAP News: "At about 8pm on 15 October 1987, 'G' was walking with his girlfriend in Chatham. As they passed them, four or five street lamps went off consecutively. Then they noticed that the lights came on again soon afterwards." This is typical of the kind of report that SLIDE and ASSAP are looking for.

Following the appeal for SLI reports, Gary Rowe sent in a practical report on investigating SLI, based on his experience. It is a subject which has interested him for some years. He took ASSAP to task for asking questions like "Are you aware of being in any specific mood at the time (of an SLI event)?". He felt, quite rightly, that it was important to establish whether the apparent SLI event was in fact "normal" rather than anomalous. As a result we produced a new reporting form which contained many questions suggested by his report. This is now being sent out to anyone who reports SLI. An abridged version of Gary's report appears here. It should give useful guidance to people wishing to investigate SLI themselves.

There was an interesting incident at the ASSAP tenth anniversary party in a small town in Gloucestershire. A street light in an alleyway near the church went off when approached. Unfortunately it went off when ANYONE approached it, coming back on again as people went away. Unless we were ALL good at SLI, which is not terribly likely, it would seem to have been a case of "normal" SLI. There was probably a circuit fault which was activated by someone's approach.

Background to 'G''s SLI experiences

Oddly enough 'G' got in touch with ASSAP about SLI before the appeal appeared in ASSAP News. 'G' is nineteen years old (1991) and works in a laboratory. He says that he has noticed that SLI events usually happen when he is in a heightened emotional state. As well as SLI he seems to be unusually lucky with gambling machines.

As reported in ASSAP News some early incidents included:

* In February 1988 at his brother's passout parade in Woolwich. 'G' wrote, "That night we went for a walk and I experienced three or four lights going out - one of which extinguished as I approached. It came back on as we went further away from it. I then approached it again and it went out again. I repeated the process and it happened yet again. At first I thought it was a circuit fault but I watched the light from a distance for ten minutes and it did not go off."

* On his eighteenth birthday 'G' went for a drink with his girlfriend and his brother in Norwich and the first thing that happened was an SLI. "I pointed this out to Sandra, as she had been the witness to several of my accounts. As we were walking to another pub, I looked at one street light and thought about it going off. Sure enough it went out and came back on again a few minutes later. This time I made sure they had seen it go off."

An eventful weekend in Norfolk

'G' was sent the new SLI questionnaires and duly returned them with some reports of new incidents. The accounts detail various SLI events over a few days. They do not normally occur with quite this frequency! All the events took place in May 1991.

* 4 May 00:03 : Two sodium lights fixed to a wall were affected : Approached on foot in Norwich : Weather cold and calm.

"It was Friday night and the lads and I went for some drinks in several different pubs in and around Norwich. As we were walking to another pub through Gentleman's Walk I noticed one light was initially off. When I walked past, still looking at this light, the lamp next to it switched off while the lamp which was off switched on. Both lamps were activated to their opposite status at exactly the same time. After walking about fifty feet away from both lamps, I noticed that now both lights were on and were working correctly."

* 4 May 21:05 : One mercury vapour lamp on a steel post : Approached on foot in Great Yarmouth : Weather cold, windy and very wet.

"We were walking to some arcades and to get something to eat before we went into Rosies Nightclub in Yarmouth. When I walked under one lamp it simply cut out completely for approximately a minute and came back on again."

* 5 May 02:15 : One sodium light on a steel post : Approached on foot in Great Yarmouth : Weather cold, windy and wet.

"This event happened when I came out of Rosies Nightclub. ... we were confronted with driving rain and a cold northern wind off the sea. We started walking to the car and got very cold and wet so we started to run. As I ran under one lamp it went out and came on after a few seconds."

* 6 May 21.05 : A mercury vapour lamp on a steel post : Approached in a car in Great Yarmouth : Weather cold and windy.

"We were driving along the seafront on Bank Holiday Monday.... Three lights all on the same side of the road cut out, then after a ten second pause came on. The lights all went out and came on in consecutive sequence. This event was spontaneous but after this I attempted a conscious effort at extinguishing a light ... (see next event)."

* 6 May 21:10 : A mercury vapour lamp on a steel post : Approached in a car in Great Yarmouth : Weather cold.

"We were in the car and as I went underneath I thought good thoughts and tried to expand my energies and very much to my surprise a light completely went out and then came on again after we departed. This may have been a mistaken effect as the light was in sequence (with) the three previous lights that had gone off but I really felt as though this was a conscious effort."

* 6 May 21:10 : A mercury vapour lamp mounted by a metal bracket to a display board : Approached in a car in Great Yarmouth.

"We decided to park up along the seafront to talk to some friends we had met and as we pulled into the car park a light, which was positioned on a 'Pay and Display' board, went out. I could see the light trying to relight as it dimmed for a while then completely cut out. After we left, the light did not not relight, but unfortunately we did not stay for much longer to see if it was OK."

General comments from 'G'

In response to the questionnaire, 'G' made some overall comments about his apparent SLI 'gift'. He does not think the time of night is relevant. Different types of lamp are affected in the same way. The effect can happen either in a car or when walking. SLI events only seem to happen when he is experiencing a strong emotion such as depression or excitement. He thinks the weather may have a part to play, with cold conditions apparently best. The lamps involved always seem to be old, never newly installed ones. The SLI events seem to come in groups over a few days, rather than as single isolated incidents.

From the USA

'H' of Seattle in the USA wrote in with his experiences of SLI. He wrote of his experiences: "When I encounter a lamp subject to my SLI, the lamp will extinguish every time I pass by it, without fail. This is, of course, subject to the lamp's being on in the first place. I have never experienced passing by a lamp, turning it off, then immediately turning around, passing it and subsequently turning it on. Occasionally I have turned them on, but this is probably no more than 5% of the total incidents. Each lamp has always (no exceptions) either gone on or off but never both. This occasionally occurs when a lamp happens to be on during daylight hours. I should state that when I encounter a lamp subject to my SLI, the phenomenon invariably occurs at each encounter."

One particular street lamp, near 'H''s apartment, has provided a case study into his SLI. He writes, "It was in 1985, while living at an apartment very near here, that I noticed a street lamp that invariably began to switch off when I walked by - then I began to notice others.

It was right outside the apartment on the corner. What I noticed that was peculiar was that the range of distance for the street lamp interference was not at all circular... When I walked across Boylston Avenue (from east to west) the light invariably failed. The distance from the lamp to the north-east corner in the diagram is about 7.5m. The lamp is about 2m from the north-west intersection. It is about 6m tall, with the lamp at the apex of the lampstand. However, when I walked east and turned north on Boylston to go to my apartment; the light never once failed. When I crossed the street from my apartment, to the north-east corner, again the lamp always failed. I could influence it from 6m across the street, but not within 0.3m of the base on the north-west corner."

The "zone of interference" in Seattle

"As I lived in the apartment for fifteen months, I had plenty of time to make further observations. Just watching from the porch of the apartment building I noticed that most people who passed by the lamp in the zone of interference did not affect the light at all. Some did but only in the zone of interference. I never saw anyone walk by (in the zone) and turn the lamp on after it had been off for a while - including myself.

There was a street lamp in downtown Seattle that used to turn on as I walked by, but it no longer does that. Nor does the lamp in the diagram turn off anymore."

'H' is 44 (1991) and works as a manager in a warehouse. He causes considerable interference to televisions. He also seems to have an unusually high rate of problems with cars and electrical appliances, usually old ones. He does not associate any particular mood or emotion with SLI events. His SLI experiences do not seem to be related to geography or any particular time. He often gets accurate premonitions but not to "any astonishing degree." He has a high degree of interest in matters paranormal. He was born with a deformed spine. The top seven vertebrae are fused, which is an unusual condition.

Some possibilities

So what are we to make of the SLI phenomenon? As far as ASSAP and SLIDE are concerned, these are early days. We simply do not have enough detailed information to come to any informed conclusion as to the cause of SLI.

One question which can surely be answered at this stage is that of delusion. SLI events are frequently witnessed by several observers. There seems no reason to doubt that street lamps really do go on or off when certain people walk by. Clearly street lights are meant to go on and off at certain times. SLI is the apparent change of state caused by the proximity of certain people.

Gary Rowe, in the accompanying article, describes the various forms of "natural" SLI. It seems highly likely that most apparent SLI incidents fall into this category. The real question is - are ALL SLI events "natural"? This "natural" category divides into two groups. Firstly there is coincidence - street lights go on and off automatically and people are often walking by at the same time. Secondly there are various faults with electrical, mechanical or environmental causes.

Do any of these causes apply in the cases reported here? Without a detailed examination of the street lamp at the time it is not possible to say. What can be stated is that both 'G' and 'H' seem to experience lights changing state more than most people. It is interesting that both 'H' and 'G' refer to old equipment (the street lamps themselves in 'G''s case and electrical appliances in 'H''s). It seems likely that certain street lamps, perhaps those no longer in the best of mechanical and electrical condition, are more prone to SLI. While this would seem to support the case for faulty equipment, it does not really answer the question of why 'G' and 'H' regularly experience SLI and not other people.

Coincidence is clearly a strong possibility to explain SLI. However, 'G''s weekend of seven incidents seems a big coincidence. Even more interesting is his apparent success in 'willing' SLI on at least two separate occasions.

Some people seem to affect naturally electrical equipment. I once knew a salesman for a computer company who only had to approach a printer or terminal for it to go wrong. I think he was probably in the wrong job! 'H' too seems to affect electrical appliances. It seems likely that there may be a link between SLI and the phenomenon of 'electric people'. Exactly how such people affect electrical equipment is a bit of a mystery in itself. People can accumulate static electricity and discharge it in suitable circumstances. Static electricity, generated by people, can certainly damage particular types of electronic component, when handled carelessly. When such components are installed in an electrical appliance they are normally earthed which protects them from such damage. Static electricity seems unlikely to be the cause of some of 'G''s SLI incidents which occurred in pouring rain!

It is quite likely that SLI is in fact caused by a whole spectrum of possibilities. These may range from the purely natural to the paranormal. It is simply too soon to say.

Hilary Evans published a book on SLI which available here free in PDF format.