You would need a loopback device and associated software. Or a multimeter and the required knowledge of USB electronics and how to troubleshoot electrical faults. However, if the drives worked for a period of time a short is less likely. An intermittent fault, maybe.
Check your "burnt out" devices on another computer.
Definately stop using that port and the one beside it. If you have a desktop you may have an option for attaching USB pots to the front of the PC. Look at the motherboard specs, if it supports the connection of an additional USB bracket then get one. If all you have is the ones on the back of the PC then get an extention cable.
If on another machine the USB detects, but reports itself as a 0MB device (or on your existing machine for that matter) then there is a HP USB boot utility that will work with most manufacturers USB memory devices. Just google it. It can be used to recover the USB drive. Usually a quick format will do the trick.