A Repository of Paranormal Knowledge: Street Light Interference

This series explores the paranormal basics: key terms, classifications, theories, and schools of thought. This will prepare you to be an intellectual ghostbuster. 

Street Light Interference phenomenon is the claimed ability that individuals can turn off street lamps (or security lights) by walking underneath them. The term was first coined by paranormal author, Hilary Evans.

A reader at About.com describes their experience with this phenomenon:

Around five years ago, I have noticed that at times while I am driving down the road at night a street light will go out as I am passing below it. It happens frequently and seems to be happening more.

It has been giving me the creeps. If it happened only once or on very rare occasions, I don’t think I would have given it a thought. However, it happens about once or twice a week. Could it be some electronic thing or could it be something less explainable?

Aaron Sorkin also claims to have this ability, as written in the Hollywood Reporter:

The super-scribe was taking part in THR‘s annual Writers Roundtable at Siren Studios in West Hollywood when the lights suddenly went out, surprising everyone except the Oscar-winning writer of Steve Jobs, who revealed he has the power to burn out streetlamps simply by walking past them.

“I thought this was a crazy coincidence — that I happened to be walking past street­lamps at the very moment that the bulb is done,” he said at the Nov. 2 taping. “There’s a name for this. It’s a real thing.” It’s called “Street Light Interference,” and there are scads of websites devoted to the subject of this strange electromagnetic phenomenon (though, admittedly, scant scientific evidence to prove it actually exists). “I would tell people about it from time to time,” Sorkin continued, “that there’s this strange thing that happens …” Sadly for Sorkin, the power doesn’t work in reverse. “I can’t make lights go on,” he said.

Evans explains that experiences such as these are “not consistent with our current knowledge of how people interact with the physical world.” People who cause the phenomenon, as named by Evans, are called “SLIders.”

Explanations for Street Light Interference

  • static electricity
  • psychic or psychokinetic ability
  • coincidence or wishful thinking

And, according to an io9 article:

There is one thing that might cause certain people to claim SLIder status – living in a place that doesn’t regularly replace its sodium vapor lamp bulbs. This leads to a phenomenon called cycling.

Sodium vapor lamps work pretty simply. They’re a glass tube filled with a gas, and sprinkled with sodium and sometimes with a few other materials like mercury. Electrical current passes through the gas, which heats up and vaporizes the other materials. The gas ionizes, and some of the electrons knock into the sodium, heating it up so it it glows. Sodium is an element that reacts readily with many different materials, and it can grab hold of the aluminum oxide that is used in the material for the lamp. This extra oxygen forms more gas inside the tube, and the pressure builds up, especially as the lamp gets hotter. As the pressure gets higher, more voltage is required to keep the electrical current going, and eventually the streetlight kicks out. When it cools down sufficiently, the gas condenses and the voltage is sufficient once more. The streetlight turns on, only to turn off again when it heats too much. So if you live in an area where the lamps bulbs are not kept fresh, you are more likely to be a SLIder.



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