2 Mysteries In This 1938 Cape Cod: 1 Marked Solved, 1 Still Unsolved. Any Ideas?

Welcome to the 804th Metamorphosis Monday! Buying a 1938 Cape Cod has been an interesting, intriguing, and sometimes challenging experience. Some days are days are challenging, and some days are filled with mystery and intrigue. In a recent post, I shared a mystery electrical switch that I discovered in an unusual spot in the master bedroom. If you look closely at this picture of the room when the home was listed for sale over two years ago, the mystery switch is visible on the wall just behind and to the left of the blue chair.


Here’s a photo I took of the mystery switch after the recent owners had moved out and I was just starting to move a few things into the home. Sooo many questions! Why is there a switch this low on the wall alongside the window seat in the master bedroom? What does it operate? Why does it have a red mark (looks almost like a piece of tape) across the top and a black one across the bottom? In my quest to rid the rooms in this house of all its unattractive, no-longer-in-use wiring, I had an electrician remove the mystery switch and the surrounding wiring.


Eventually, this room will be painted, but for now, the wall looks like this.


Each time I remove something, its ghost remains behind. lol This shadow is all that’s left of a random beige, plastic plate that once held something, what—I’m not sure. Whatever used to be there was long gone and only the plastic plate remained. It feels so good to get rid of stuff like this, but it means I need to get busy and choose a paint color since I’d love to get some of the rooms repainted before officially moving in.


But back to our mystery switch….when the electrician removed it, he told me that the wires inside had been cut and were no longer connected to anything.


A few days later, I opened the door to the coat closet that’s here in the entrance. I had never opened that door before, seems like every day I find a new closet or hidey-hole.

Beautiful Wood Door with Cute Window


Here’s what I found inside: another mystery switch with the same red and black markings! And what in the world used to hang here on the wall below the switch?


I looked up and saw this large horn-looking thing that says EPC’S Mini Siren. Ohhh, maybe the two mystery switches, the one in the bedroom and the one here in the entry closet, were part of an ancient security system.


The next time I chatted with Katie, (she owned this home a few years back) she confirmed that this was where a previous security system had been installed. Can you just imagine how that system must have looked to take up this much wall space?! The current security panel for the home is a modern, state-of-the-art system, and its control panel is about 1/5th the size. Electronics have thankfully shrunk down a lot over the years. I can see why they were hidden away in closets back in the day. I wonder how these mystery switches worked?


Maybe when turning in for the night, the homeowner would flip the switch upward toward the red mark, thus activating the system. (Red for active!) Once awake, maybe flipping the switch downward toward the black mark, deactivated it again. What do you think?


I still need to find what the dark gray box at the bottom of the picture is for/does.


More Mysteries: After sleeping in the house for a few days, I ran into another random mystery: Floodlights that can’t be turned off. I took this photo for a landscaper who asked to see some overgrown shrubs that I wanted removed. In this photo, notice the floodlight above the windows.  After being in the house for a few days, I discovered these floodlights were always on at night. Having them on all night long seemed like a big waste of electricity, so I went on an all-out search for the switch that would turn those off. After trying every switch that I could find in the house, I finally gave up and texted the previous owner. He had told me to text him if I had any questions about anything.

Overgrown Bushes and Floodlight that never goes off_wm


Here’s a screenshot of our text…

Text, Floodlight


There’s a part of me that will be a little sad when all the mysteries are solved. Buying an 86-year-old house has been such an interesting journey. Something tells me there will be plenty of additional surprises in the future.

Looking forward to all the wonderful Before and Afters linked for this week’s Met Monday! Pssst: Did you know Between Naps On The Porch is on Instagram? You’ll find me on Instagram here: Between Naps On The Porch. Like to know when a new blog post is up? Subscribe for email updates (it’s free) and your e-mail will never be shared. Subscribe for free post updates here: Subscribe.

Metamorphosis Monday: Metamorphosis Monday is a party that’s all about Before and Afters. Please link up your Before and After projects like DIY projects, room makeovers, craft projects even recipes. Please do not link up Table Settings, save those for our Tablescape Thursday party on Thursday. If you are participating in Met Monday, you’ll need to link your post to the party using the “permalink” to your MM post and not your general blog address. To get your permalink, click on the name of your post, then copy and paste the address that shows in the address bar at the top of your blog, into the “url” box for InLinkz when prompted.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

*If a post is sponsored or a product was provided at no charge, it will be stated in post. Some links may be affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases. *

 Never miss a Between Naps on the Porch post! 

*Subscribe to have updates delivered to your Inbox. 


  1. Houses are challenging in so many ways for sure! I’m sure you’ll get it all figured out as you make this house your own. Good luck!

  2. Our 130 year old house has a switch low on the wall in a bedroom we use as a den. It’s for the furnace and is placed so it can be turned on or off by someone in bed. Happily, the people who sold us the house passed this information on to us. Now your post reminds me I should mark it for future owners.

  3. I just love going on this journey with you!

  4. When you return to OH, check to see if any neighbors have similar looking floodlights and, as you make friends, ask where to switch might be. Or ask around if they know anything about your floodlights. Did earlier versions just not have an on/off capability?

    • These must be wired in somehow. I like the suggestion of replacing the bulbs with LEDs that don’t use a lot of power since they seem to only come on at night.

  5. You could replace the lightbulbs in those floodlights with bulbs that have a built in photocell light detector so the lights will only turn on when it’s dark, and turn off automatically when it’s daylight. Those bulbs work well and it would give you at least a temporary solution.

    • Thanks, Joyce! I think that may be what’s in there now because they seem to only be on at night. I can’t believe they’ve been working this long!

  6. SharonFromMichigan says

    So intriguing! I can totally see those switches belonging to an ancient (ahem, vintage) security system 🙂 As for the floodlights, I bet someone just tapped into a circuit to install them & didn’t know how to install a switch. If you like the idea of having a floodlight there for security, there are special lightbulbs my husband gets on Amazon that have a dusk/dawn feature built right into the filament of the bulbs. We put them into our new porch lights because I didn’t want the old adapters screwed into the socket as it made the light bulbs hang down too low. They are LED too which makes them easy on the electric bill. The previous homeowner’s comment cracks me up. It kind of reminds me of the movie “Christmas Vacation” when Clark Griswold couldn’t figure out why the outside twinkle lights won’t turn on 😉

    • I bet you’re right. There has def been some DIY electrical done that I’ve had to have corrected. These seem to only come on at dark so I guess they have that built in, or maybe it’s the bulbs themselves. I agree about adapters, don’t like that look.
      lol I have my own Christmas Vacation situation here every day! 😉

  7. Mel Sudick says

    We bought an 18 year old house late last year and are still trying to figure out some of the wiring, switches, and blank electrical plates scattered around. It’s not just really old houses 🙂

  8. SO fun! I love to find out the history of houses and imagine how the previous owners lived in them. Good luck with the floodlights, and thanks so much for the party – Happy Monday!

  9. When we bought our 60 year old home a few years ago it was loaded with panels, a defunct intercom room to room and various switches that went nowhere. The previous owner was a retired prison warden that went all out for security. What a mess to get all of it out and we still couldn’t remove things because we were keeping some classic wallpaper; we had to use new panels to just cover things up. Found out that John Gotti had put out a hit on him, so the owner was rightfully vigilant. Oh, I forgot to mention the outdoor cameras that looked like space ships. haha!

  10. At our c.1971 lake cottage, we have outdoor floodlights that are “dusk to dawn”. It took us 3 years to find their power source serendipitously. My husband was investigating an unusual cover plate, low on the front of the house. Eventually, he uncovered a buried & unplugged extension cord that extended across our yard & ended just outside our shed. He of course threw it away, but did some more sleuthing in & around the shed, only to find another (indoor) extension cord, plugged inside the shed & run up a huge tree over to the pole & the mounted lights! We marveled that the house had never burned to the ground. Now, 5 years later, we need to have a new expanded circuit box, so we can microwave & make toast simultaneously!! The adventures of owning a not-to-code home are not for the faint of heart!

  11. One easy change on the bulbs would be to replace with some Philips smart LED bulbs off Amazon that can be controlled by Alexa or just the Philips APP for off and on;

    Or simply replace with LED bulbs that draw very little power when ‘On’

    We enclosed a screen porch into inside livable space and have a few odd light switch placements, one’s I don’t want used by family members or guests, I added a switch cover that fits over the light toggle, that has helped as well;

  12. Susan replace those lights that focus on the driveway with motion detection sensors so they only come on when there is something or someone there. There is usually an ability to decide how long they stay on after activation.

  13. Carmelee Thorpe says

    I live in a home built in 1927. We are the second owners and we have lived in it for 50
    Years. Many renovations over the years. I hope when the time comes to sell that the new owners will ‘love’ its quirkiness as much as you love the ones in your new home.

  14. We have a porch light that comes on at dusk and goes off at daylight. Maybe that’s what your floodlights are since they go off during the day?
    Yes there are a lot of quirks in this old house but interesting I say. lol Good luck in getting them all repaired, those that can be, such as that system in the coat closet.

  15. Margaret says

    I’m really enjoying your adventures in the Dollhouse! Technology does change over the years – faster in the last decade than decades ago. Our 1970’s home had an intercom system wired to each bedroom. It’s also wired for telephone and cable TV everywhere. None of this is necessary anymore. The intercom system has since been removed and the holes in the walls have been covered with sheetrock repairs. But the phone and TV cable connections in the walls still remain. Someday, some youngster will have a mystery to solve here, too LOL.

  16. Kathy Parathyras says

    Hi Susan, My husband put up a light fixture that goes on at dusk and off in the daytime. It runs on batteries, so there is no wiring. Maybe that is what you have.

  17. Wow! The mysteries of wiring! We’re redoing a house from 1982 and my dear husband decided everything should be able to be controlled by cellphone. Unfortunately, he set it up to be controlled by HIS cellphone. You can imagine the conversation we had about that decision.

    I’m enjoying your adventure and can’t wait to see what happens next!

  18. Teresa M. says

    LOL – Nancy Drew. It is possible there is no switch for that outdoor light and they only used the breaker box. Enjoy sleuthing. You love solving puzzles so that is a good thing. Can’t wait to see tour of your new digs after you settle in Ohio.

  19. I too, am enjoying your new/old home adventures, Susan! we have some electrical quirks in our 39 year old home (wow, did not realize it has been that long! I should make notes of those for any future owners.

  20. I didn’t take time to read all of the comments left …but… I had an outdoor light installed and it comes on at dusk and goes off at dawn but a new circuit box had to be installed in the garage for it to work so perhaps you have two circuit boxes and one might be for those lights only. I am sure a electrician will figure it out for you. good luck

  21. I suspect the small gray box in the closet is a phone box, which was tied into the alarm system. Just a wild guess. I hope your electrician can find where the flood lights turn off and on. I am enjoying your doll house posts. I know your mind must be going a mile a minute with TO DO lists.

  22. I am so in love with your new home. What a treasure!
    I’m thinking the box in the closet is an old phone line. Had them in my 30 yr old house. MY best bet is to change the spot lights out for motion lights.
    Enjoying your happiness.

  23. Oh, this brought back some lovely memories – my last house before my current one was also a 1938 Cape Cod! It was much smaller than yours, but it was so well built and had lots of neat little touches one doesn’t find in houses today. It, too, had had some DIY rewiring, as well as a little of what I like to call “remuddling!” (A/k/a DIY by none-too-skilled non-professionals!) But it was a great house.

  24. Susan,
    WOW! Floodlights on for 2 whole years!!!! Interesting!!
    Thanks so much for hosting!! I really appreciate the time and effort that goes into it along with visiting all the links!!
    Debbie-Dabble Blog

  25. Susan, around 1980 I had floodlights installed with on at dusk, off at dawn pink bulbs. The electrician told us to use pink. I don’t remember where the switch was. Garage near the panel ?I leave my lights on and the bulbs last much longer. A retired Westinghouse employee said that is true.
    In your office, what is the round thing on the wall on the right side of the desk ? Where are the computer wires going from the new desk ? Across the floor ?
    Looking at your bedroom and the wavy partitions in the ceiling and side wall, if you removed them and squared the room, you would have more space. Are you attached to the curved look ?
    It is soon hot and humid here, Ohio sounds nice.
    How us the work going in Georgia ?

    • The round thing is the thermostat for the room. That room was added in the 50s and has its own AC/Furnace.
      The wires will go through the two holes in the top of the desk and down where they will plug into a surge protector. The one wire to the surge protector will run off to to right side of the desk and will plug into an outlet off on that side. Then I’ll always access the desk/desk chair via the other side of the desk. I don’t think they can be squared off because in a Cape Cod house, the upstairs takes the place of an attic, so that’s the shape of the roof.
      It’s going okay here, I just got back a few days ago and the painters are almost done outside. I have plumbers coming tomorrow.

  26. Hello! Sign up for the NextDoor app in your new neighborhood and ask some of your questions. Even if none of your immediate neighbors have some of the same features, others a few blocks away might have some helpful knowledge or insight! The NextDoor in my area is mostly useless complaints but every now and then there’s a useful nugget or two of info.

    Regarding the floodlights, use your cell phone or binoculars to see if you can find a brand name for the bulbs, maybe they can be replaced with light- or motion-sensitive bulbs. I seem to recall that you generally don’t care for things attached to / hanging from your home, but with a driveway running alongside the house & garage in the rear, having the floodlights seems a good idea!

  27. Theresa Wurtz says

    I have a feeling those switches were “panic buttons” to the old security system. Our 1954 home didn’t have a bona fide security system but it did have two switches like that….one in the master bedroom and one by the front door……with a large bell on the outside of the house that sounded the alarm. I used it once in all the time we lived there.

  28. That’s exactly what I was thinking. The switches are for you to flip manually if you hear an intruder.

  29. Darla Keim says

    Hi Susan, thank you for sharing all the adventures with your dollhouse. It’s wonderful you will be close to your son and his family.

    This is a random question from this post…how do you get the background of text messages to be a photo? That detail is impressive!

    • Thanks, Darla! I have an Android phone, a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and with Samsung phones (and maybe other Android phones?) you can purchase different themes for your phone. I have purchased quite a few over the years including themes for various holidays, seasons, nature, etc…. That particular theme is a beach theme that I happen to have on my phone at the moment.
      Once you purchase a theme (they are inexpensive, just a couple of dollars) you own it forever and can use it whenever you wish. It only takes a few seconds to change the theme to something different…super easy to do. When you purchase a theme from the theme store, after you download it onto your phone, it gives you different images/backgrounds for your lock screen and main screen, text message screen, and keypad, etc… Some of the themes have an animation for the lock screen and the main screen, which I really love. They usually includes birds flying or something really cute or fun. I must have15-20 themes that I’ve purchased over the years and I love to change them on my phone throughout the year.

    • Oh, forgot to add, to share that text, I just waved my hand over the screen which is how you take a screen capture on a Samsung Galaxy. Then I emailed the screen capture to myself from my phone. So it’s just a screen capture. I love how easy it is to capture a screen capture on a Samsung Galaxy phone!

  30. The box below the switch in the closet is a loud ringer. They were for land li;ne phones .

I'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment!


Send this to a friend