Humans Can Lick, Too

An ancient tale derived from the Bible is the basis for an urban legend

A prowler peers in the window
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The urban legend known as "Humans Can Lick, Too!" goes something like this: 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 everyone should lock all their doors and windows to keep herself safe. 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 be able to get in through that one small window.

The Plot Thickens

So that night she went to bed as usual. She knew everything was OK because when she put down her hand, he dog licked it. But later in the night, she heard a drip, drip, drip. She put her hand down and the dog licked it. Figuring everything was OK, she went downstairs to check out the tap. But the tap wasn't dripping. So she went to bed again. And everything was OK.

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 were the words: "Humans can lick, too!" And behind her in the mirror, she saw the murderer.

Example No. 2

Years ago, versions of the following internet chain letter began circulating: Once there was a beautiful young girl who lived near a small town called Farmersburg. Her parents had to go to town for a while, so they left their daughter home alone, but she was protected by her dog, a very large collie.

The girl's parents told her to lock all the windows and doors after they had left. And at about 8 p.m, her parents went to town. 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 her best, the girl finally got the window shut, but it would not lock. So she left the window shut but unlocked and headed back upstairs. Just to make sure that no one could get in, she put the deadbolt 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 midnight, the girl snuggled up with the dog and fell asleep.

Woken by a Dripping Sound

But at one point in the night, she suddenly woke up. She turned and looked at the clock: It was 2:30 a.m. 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. 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 a.m., she woke up hearing a dripping sound. 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.

Morning Arrives

At 6:52 a.m., 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 because 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 had 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."

Analysis: A Hoax With Biblical Origins

The tale is a version of the handwriting-on-the-wall urban legends such as Welcome to the World of AIDS and Aren't You Glad You Didn't Turn on the Light?

The trope derives from a Bible story (in the 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.

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." 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: "I'm coming to see you. I had my chance once before, but I didn't take it. Not only dogs can lick."