Electronics Assembly Knowledge, Vision & Wisdom
Mysterious Flickering Lights
Mysterious Flickering Lights
Main Street's neon lights would flicker off and on but always after midnight. What was causing these mystery lights to go on and off?
Mysteries of Science
Dr. Gilleo
Mysteries of Science by Dr. Ken Gilleo
Dr. Gilleo is a chemist, inventor and general problem solver. Ken has been tracking industrial forensics and collecting case histories for decades. These cases are taken from the vast world of industry and commercial enterprise.

Check out Dr. Gilleo's eBook, 100 Mysteries Solved by Science. We hope you enjoy these case histories. You need not be an engineer or scientist to understand the problems and appreciate the solutions.
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Transcript
In a small southern town where stores were closed and sidewalks were rolled up by 9:00, Main Street's neon lights would flicker off and on after midnight. The ghostly lights would appear in the same pattern night after night. Flicker for a minute then stop and then start again. This would happen regardless of whether or not they were unplugged at the time.

The light show always began after midnight. Vandals and neighborhood pranksters were quickly ruled out as the culprits.

While the town's people joked that the mystery lights must be caused by aliens, this was the only theory that they could come up with that made any sense.

What was causing these mystery lights to go on and off?

There must be some kind of invisible energy that was activating the lights. But where did it come from and was it a threat?

Here's the rest of the story.

The state trooper described the events to people in the crime lab hoping for a solution. The best theory was that TV or radio waves were exciting the neon lights. One fellow, who had worked at a TV transmitter location, told how they could light fluorescent light bulbs by taking them near the transmitter tower.

As strong radio waves are absorbed by neon gas atoms in a fluorescent light, it makes them glow, or fluoresce. He showed the effect by placing a tiny neon indicator bulb inside a microwave oven and made it glow by turning on the oven.

The theory sounded reasonable. They needed to look for a transmitter. The following week, two state police cars arrived at midnight to help track down the radiation source. They rigged up small neon bulbs with 1 foot wires connected to leads to act like an antenna.

As the lights began to flicker, a radio voice was heard from one of the police cars. As soon as the voice stopped, the lights stopped flickering. The trooper went back to his car. "Breaker, breaker, anyone copy the Copper Man, he spoke into the mike.

Right away, there was a quick response that was right in sync with the flickering lights. "Grain Man's got ya', said the radio voice. "What's your 10-20?" asked the trooper. "I'm up on top of a grain elevator at the end of town, and I'm running 2 Kilowatts. I have to wait till the boss leaves and everyone turns off the lights to get enough power for this rig", offered the CB-er.

End of mystery. The operator had his illegal CB station hidden away on top of the grain elevator just down the street. He had enough raw RF power to light the neon bulbs in town when he pointed the beam antenna in that direction. No aliens, just a rogue citizen band radio operator running a few thousand watts instead of the allocated 5-watts.

The lesson is to look for natural phenomenon before speculating on aliens or the supernatural. Science is often stranger than science fiction.

Comments
Has the FCC confiscated his equipment and issued him a fine yet? This looks like some easy money to help the government!
Glenn Little
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