I have been living in my house for 8 years now, and there has always been a mystery switch and outlet (both located on the same wall). My wife has rearranged the room, and now we will need to use the mystery switch and outlet.

The switch is wired and has power, but it does not go to anything. In order to determine which circuit it was on, I removed the switch and wired an outlet to it. I plugged a ground fault detector and it read Hot/Grnd Reversed. So I did what anyone else would do (i think) and switched the wires around. Same reading.

So I found a junction box in the basement, where I thought I would have found where my issue was or where the switch is wired to. NOPE. Here I found a white wire colored black attached to a black wire, so I change them around thinking this was my issue - nope same reading. There are 8 wires going into the junction box, so I undid all the wires and put them all back together (trying to find the wire for the switch) no luck.

The light switch in the room where the junction box is trips my breaker (the lights turn on when the light switch is off and trips the breaker when I switch the lights on) - yes this switch is wired to that junction box. I checked to see if I may have swapped a wire in the junction box but all neutrals are together as well as all the hots. Why is this happening?

Sorry for this being so long. I am looking forward to any insight or assistance you can provide.

  • 4
    Most likely one of those 'neutrals' is actually a hot that hasn't been reidentified by marking the ends. Second, always take pictures before disconnecting wires. Third, we'll most likely need pictures to help. And last, is it possible that the mystery switch controlled the mystery outlet?
    – TFK
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 23:52

2 Answers 2


Not all white wires are "neutrals", and not all "neutrals" are white. Some white wires are in fact used as "hots", especially those that are marked with black tape/marker/paint, and/or connected to single pole snap switches.

You should put everything back the way you found it, and contact a local licensed Electrician. Better yet, just shut off the breaker and call the Electrician. You can explain to them what you did.

This advice may sound harsh, but it sounds like you don't know much about electrical wiring. If you'd like to learn, take a course at the local college, or read some books. Messing with wires in your home, is not the way to learn the basics.

  • 3
    Ditto on ceasing the random activity and calling in a professional that knows what they are doing. The experimentation being done by the original poster is unsafe and could be dangerous to life and limb.
    – Michael Karas
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 0:28
  • I once owned an old house where a mediocre plumber had done his own electric. I paid an electrician for HOURS of staring at the ceiling, interspersed with him telling me to cut a hole HERE-where we'd find a buried box. Fixing wiring that's done wrong in some weird way is really difficult. You need to know not only how to do it right, but be able to figure out what someone else did wrong, and know several ways to make it right to pick the easiest/best.
    – VWFeature
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 2:09

The first answer is a good one but if you think you put everything back together as it was, check the recepticle to make sure there is nothing shorting out in there or better yet, just change it with a new one. The white wire colored black should most likely be connected to a black wire and if it's connected with the whites you have a dead short, disconnect it and try your switch, if the beaker doesn't pop it's telling this is connected wrong. Just a thought.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.