“Sean,” said Bunny, “do you have a way of testing an electrical outout?”
“Hmm … don't we have one of those outlet tester things? It looks like just a plug, but with a few LEDs on the back showing the status of the outlet. I thought we got one of those.”
“Let me look.” She then goes off for a few minutes, and returns with exactly what I described, still in the package. “This?”
We then grab a flashlight as the sun was setting, as the outlet in question was outside. I work my way to the outlet and lift the covers. The bottom outlet was a bit darker than the top one, so I decided to test the top one first. I plug in the device. “Nothing,” I said.
“Okay, now try the bottom one,” said Bunny.
I plug the tester into the bottom outlet. The air was filled with a loud buzzing sound as flames shot out of the outlet, engulfing the tester. Bunny and I were stunned for several seconds, not knowing exactly what to do. Fortunately, the flames died out and the sound stopped. I pulled the tester out of the outlet and we both went back inside.
“I wonder if this tester still works,” I said once we were inside.
“Sean, just look at it!”
I looked at it. the ground pin was slightly blacked at the base; the neutral pin was entirely black, and the hot pin was entirely black and partially melted. Looking at the directions on the package showed the “no lights' condition as “open hot”—the hot contact not connected. And item 3: Refer all indicated problems to a qualified electrician.
Although “flames shooting out of the outlet, destroying the receptical tester” isn't a listed issue, I'm guessing that's enough of a clue we should have the outlet looked at by a qualified electrician.