Originally Posted by MJS
I'll bet that loose wire was the neutral or grounded (not ground) conductor. That left the electricity looking for another path back to the transformer. The shield on the cable was it.
Yep think that is it.
In principle it should not matter what 'polarity' there is in the socket/plug ... neither side should be connected to anything you could touch. In principle. Some people wire 'earths' to the 'center' or 'neutral' depending what place your in. That is not safe unless wired correctly - I'd not trust it unless I checked it myself.
Best practice is to have a separate 'earth' connection that goes to anything you can touch. And goes to 'earth' - metal pipes into the soil or bars driven into the soil.
Good Luck with the house wiring. I've seen lead covered ceramic insulated wiring in use ... removed on sight! Probably 1920 vintage? The house also had lead plumbing pipes for water ...
.. it was ok, they were for the cistern (from the overhead flushing tank) not the drinking water.
-------------- Don't trust that cable guy who said "reverse negative polarity" !