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THE DELIGHTFUL ONES: A REPORT

Here's what I've seen as far as the streetlights thing goes, where they go off as people approach, and come back on as they move away [October 28]. Senior Week in '93 down at Ocean City, Maryland, my girlfriend and I were hanging out with another couple. This other couple had been having a rocky relationship over the preceding few months, but then about three days into the week they had some incredible love thing happen. Both later said that that was their most memorable time in their relationship. Anyhow, as the day wore into night we went to the boardwalk for a little fun, and as we walked down the boardwalk we noticed that the streetlights would flicker and go off as we approached, then flicker back on as we walked away. After a while the other couple separated and went off to do something. As I watched them walk away I noticed that a ratio of about eight out of ten streetlights would go out as they walked beneath and then come back on as they passed by. It had stopped happening to my girlfriend and me, so obviously it was the other couple who were causing this. They later mentioned that it continued all night.... Weird shit, man. --Mutant, via the Internet

While a student in Boston, I often experienced the streetlights shorting out as I passed under them (sometimes three and four in a row). This was witnessed on several occasions by friends. However, I am unable to make this happen at will. In my case, this phenomenon occurs when I go hyperactive. During this period, usually brought on by binge drinking or a full moon, I have no choice but to exist for long periods of time without eating or sleeping. This hyperactive state is when the lights go out, in more ways than one. --Michael Burns, also via the 'Net

It used to happen to me, too. Then it began to happen less and less. I'm only 30. Too young for electropause. Then I read your column, and on Saturday night I get this whole bank of streetlights to come on. Not as a group, but one after the other just preceding my path down Ashland Avenue. --Lon Ellenberger, Chicago

I have caused streetlights to go out in North America, Africa, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Nepal, New Zealand ... --Anonymous

Chicago, New York, Athens (Georgia), upstate New York, and Arizona ... --Nina Keinberger, Chicago

If I had a few in me it became clear I had some secret, but uncontrollable, power over the streetlight ... --Joe Wackerman, Washington, D.C.

This is an example of what we in our lab call "the van is always at the corner" because one only notices the van when it is indeed parked at the corner, not the times when it is gone. How many lamps does one walk under that don't go out? You just notice those that do. --Josh Telser, Chicago

Much as I admire your steely logic, Josh, I'm never letting you sit around the camp fire when I'm telling ghost stories. I'm charmed by the thought that powerful physio-emotional emanations may be behind HLS (human light switch) syndrome. Lest you think my mid-life crisis has put me completely off my nut, I realize it's a crock. But it's a fun crock. Now, since my contract obliges me to insert at least one fact per column, this word from a top high pressure sodium engineer at General Electric: "It is a combination of coincidence and wishful thinking.... Cycling [on and off] occurs because the [lamp] ballast is only able to sustain an arc with a certain maximum voltage. As high pressure sodium lamps age, their voltage increases as sodium is lost by various chemical processes. [The lamp starts at a low voltage, which climbs to a steady-state value as the lamp warms up.] It is the steady-state voltage that slowly increases with burning hours due to sodium loss. Eventually, the ballast will only be able to start a cold lamp and warm it up to the dropout voltage." Then it goes out until the lamp is cool enough to restart. The GE guy preceded these comments with the note: "Here's one explanation. Space aliens is another." Hmph.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Slug Signorino.

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