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I have three outlets in a room that are not on the same circuit as the rest of the outlets in two rooms. I have most of the circuits in the house mapped and identified on two breaker panels. The circuits for that most of that floor (the second story) are on the sub-panel.

But - two of the three outlets I'm having trouble with that are on the same wall are on a breaker on the main panel, and I was able to find the circuit and shut them off. However, the third outlet is a real problem. I used a circuit finder, that led to the wrong breaker. I tried flipping breakers with a radio on and it turned off for one of the breakers on the main and one on the sub-panels independently. But even when the outlet didn't "work" (the radio turned off), the wires still showed live.

In a fit of desperation, I put on a glove and cut the wire with a wire stripper. Little puff of smoke, some lights turned off, and one of the breakers flipped. But the wires are still live! Why? What can I do? The wire goes into a wall and I can't follow it to the breaker. Help!

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    You're saying a breaker tripped when you cut the wire, but the wire is still hot? – Steven Jul 7 '15 at 2:07
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Certainly sounds like you have a wire/outlet that is connected to two different circuits, given your symptoms.

First - when dealing with something whacky like this, just shut off the main breaker if you need to, say, cut it. If it's still hot with the main off, you have some really interesting wiring going on. And if, for some reason that should never really occur, you have a need to cut romex live, use insulated handle wirecutters and only cut one side at a time, then cut the ground wire last from the neutral side, rather than shorting out the wires in the cable with the cutters. That was not a very good or safe approach to the problem (you could have just left the thing alone until it was sorted out - cutting it does not seem to have helped in any way, and I don't see any way it WOULD help.)

Second, see what happens if you turn off BOTH the "breaker on the main" and the "breaker on the subpanel" that you identified as being associated with it. NOW is it dead?

Then, go looking for where someone connected the two circuits together. Or, call an electrician to have a look - the life you save may be your own.

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I would double check how you are using your circuit finder. I use circuit finders all the time. They can be quite sensitive and can register on multiple breakers at the same time. That might explain why it led you to the wrong breaker.

What I do to scan the panel is first I drag the finder across all the breakers. If it beeps on multiple ones, I try again except I pull the finder 1/2 inch away and rescan. If it beeps again multiple times, I scan again at a further distance, like 1 inch. At times, I've had to hold the finder about 1-1/2 inches away from the breakers just to isolate it down to one.

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