Humans Can Lick, Too

An Urban Legend

A prowler peers in the window
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Also known as "The Licked Hand," "The Dog's Lick," "People Can Lick, Too," "Not Only Dogs Can Lick," etc.

Example #1
As told by U.K. reader Kirsty H....

Once there was a nice old lady who had a lovely little dog. One day, the old lady heard on the radio that a crazy murderer had escaped from jail and that she should lock all her doors and windows. So she locked every door and window in the house except one tiny one to let some air in. She thought that a murderer would never get in through there.

So that night she went to bed as usual. She knew everything was okay because when she put down her hand the dog licked it. But later in the night she heard a drip, drip, drip. She put her hand down and the dog licked it and everything was okay, so she went downstairs to check out the tap. But the tap wasn't dripping. So she went to bed again. And everything was okay. She woke up again later in the night, though, so she thought the dripping sound must be coming from the shower. She went into the bathroom, and there was her dog, dead, hanging in the shower, dripping with blood, all its intestines hanging out.

Written on the mirror was: "Humans can lick, too!" And behind her in the mirror, she saw the murderer.

Example #2
Viral text circulating online as of May 2001...

Subj: DON'T DELETE THIS!!! (it scared the crap outta me)

Once there was a a beautiful young girl who lived in a small town just south of Farmersburg. Her parents had to go to town for a while, so they left their daughter home alone, but protected by her dog, which was a very large collie. The parents told the girl to lock all the windows and doors after they had left. And at about 8:00pm the parents went to town. So doing what she was told the girl shut and locked every window and every door. But there was one window in the basement that would not close completely.

Trying as best as she could she finally got the window shut, but it would not lock. So she left the window, and went back upstairs. But just to make sure that no one could get in, she put the dead-bolt lock on the basement door.

Then she sat down had some dinner and decided to go to sleep for the night. Settling down to sleep at about 12:00 she snuggled up with the dog and fell asleep.

But at one point, she suddenly woke up. She turned and looked at the was 2:30. She snuggled down again wondering what had woken her.....when she heard a noise. It was a dripping sound. She thought that she had left the water running, and now it was dripping into the drain of her sink. So thinking it was no big deal she decided to go back to sleep.

But she felt nervous so she reached her hand over the edge of her bed, and let the dog lick her hand for reassurance that he would protect her. Again at about 3:45 she woke up hearing dripping. She was slightly angry now but went back to sleep anyway. Again she reached down and let the dog lick her hand. Then she fell back to sleep.

At 6:52 the girl decided that she had had enough...she got up just in time to see her parents were pulling up to the house. "Good,"she thought. "Now somebody can fix the sink...'cause I know I didn't leave it running." She walked to the bathroom and there was the collie dog, skinned and hung up on the curtain rod. The noise she heard was its blood dripping into a puddle on the floor. The girl screamed and ran to her bedroom to get a weapon, in case someone was still in the house.....and there on the floor, next to her bed she saw a small note, written in blood, saying: HUMANS CAN LICK TOO, MY BEAUTIFUL.

Now it is time for you to lock all the windows and doors. This letter is the only chain letter that is true. This did happen many years ago, and the man who killed the dog was never caught. If you delete this letter you will suffer the same fate as the girl in the story did, years after the dog was killed. She was raped and killed in the same town and same house as the dog. Do not dismiss this letter, because if you do, a horrible thing will become of you, everyone will soon know your name. But only because it will be the headline of your local newspaper for a long time. It will read... Small Town Murder On The Loose! You can not chance your luck on a chain letter so serious as this. Give up your chance to send this letter to 23 people and you will be giving up your chance to live. You were warned. I hope that I will not see any murder stories in the papers anytime soon. And now I bid you a good day. And one more thing... you only have 23 minutes... sorry.

Analysis: "Humans Can Lick, Too" is another handwriting-on-the-wall tale in the same vein as "Aren't You Glad You Didn't Turn on the Light?" and "Welcome to the World of AIDS."

The trope derives from a Bible story (book of Daniel) in which a feast thrown by the pagan Babylonian King Belshazzar is interrupted by the specter of a disembodied hand scrawling a cryptic message on the wall.

As ultimately interpreted by the prophet Daniel, the message conveys God's judgment, predicting the downfall of Belshazzar and his entire kingdom. To "read the handwriting on the wall" is to foresee one's own impending doom — an apt and chilling metaphor.

Note that the chain letter format (second variant above) does little to enhance the impact of the story; in point of fact, the directive to "pass this along or die" undermines the narrative by transporting it to some fantasy realm where murderous madmen are capable of stalking their victims via forwarded email. That aside, the email retelling follows a tried-and-true formula, and works.

Variants of "Humans Can Lick, Too" were being collected by folklorists as long ago as the late 1960s. Indeed, the chain-letter version appears to have been cribbed from a 1967 oral transcription published in Ronald L. Baker's Hoosier Folk Legends (Indiana University Press, 1982). As in the later variant, the events were said to have taken place near a small town called Farmersburg, though there were two female protagonists instead of one, and the note left by the murdering madman read as follows:

"I'm coming to see you. I had my chance once before, but I didn't take it.

Not only dogs can lick."

This is the very definition of a cautionary tale.