It’s a quiet night in a quaint, suburban neighborhood and an elderly lady and her dog have just settled down for an evening of reading and relaxation. She’s got a cup of tea and a blanket and, before she realizes it, she’s drifting off into peaceful slumber, petting her dog.
Shortly after midnight, the woman awakes to a strange noise. It sounds as if a tap somewhere in the house is dripping. She rises from bed and heads downstairs to the kitchen to check the faucet. She ensures that both taps are off and makes her way back to bed. As she slides beneath the covers, she reaches her hand down the side of the bed to check on her faithful dog. The dog licks her hand and the woman falls back to sleep once more.
A short time later, the woman awakes again to the same dripping sound. This time, she checks the upstairs bathroom. She inspects the faucet, but it’s not dripping. She turns to check the shower and, upon pulling back the shower curtain she is horrified to find her faithful dog, hanging by its neck, its intestines hanging out. Blood is dripping from the entrails into the drain. On the wall, there is a message in blood.
“Human’s can lick, too!”
The woman turns to look into the face of the murderer.
According to Snopes.com(http://www.snopes.com/horrors/madmen/lighton.asp), even the legends circulating today have roots that run deep. The “licked hand” shows up in a diary entry penned in England in August of 1871 by a man named Dearman Birchall. Birchall writes,
“Croquet party . . . [One of the guests] told of a clergyman who was aroused in the middle of the night by his wife who said ‘John, dear, I am sure there is a robber under the bed, I hear him moving. Do get up and see.’ John replied, ‘Oh its only the Newfoundland dog. I just put my hand out and he licked it’. Next morning all the jewellery and many other effects had disappeared.”
This urban legend also dates back to 1919. In a story titled, “The Diary of Mr. Poynter” by M. R. James, a young man reclines while reading and absently strokes (what he believes to be) his dog. Spoiler: his dog is already dead.
In some incarnations, the elderly woman is replaced by a nubile young girl. In some instances, she’s a co-ed. The story is often told to those in college, particularly freshmen. In others, she’s a preteen. The appearance of the message scrawled in blood varies as well. The text is found on the floor in the bathroom or on the mirror above the sink. The woman then sees the image of her soon-to-be murderer reflected behind her. The fate of the dog also changes. Sometimes it’s just hanged, occasionally the dog is found completely skinned, as is the case in the above incarnation of this tale, the dog is completely disemboweled. Depending on the storyteller, there are cases in which the woman does not even leave her bed the first time as she is frightened by the strange noise. She simply reaches her hand down to be comforted by the dog who, at this point in the tale, is already dead.
The story of the licking madman can also be traced to a chain letter that circulated on the internet several years ago. The story is basically the same, but with a few variations. According to the chain letter version, the story is set in a town called Farmersburg. The name conjures an image you might find on the front of a butter tub, bright sunshine, lush green fields, and quiet, tight knit neighborhoods. The setting is also a perfect storm. People feel safe in their routines, in familiar surroundings and, as the chain letter illustrates, that sense of safety is not realistic.
A young girl is left at home while her parents head out for an overnight trip. She is told to lock every window and door, and does so with the exception of a window in the basement that will close, but won’t lock. She locks the basement door to be safe, and snuggles up with the dog to go to sleep. At some point during the night, the girl wakes with a start. It sounds like a tap somewhere in the house is dripping, so she ignores it and tries to go back to sleep, reaching for her dog on the floor. When the dog licks her hand, she feels safe and drifts back to sleep. In the morning, the girl awakes to find the dog missing. She heads to the kitchen to check the tap and sees her parents pulling down the driveway through the window. She heads upstairs to the bathroom to take a shower and finds the family dog skinned and hanging from the shower rod. The dog’s blood is dripping into a growing puddle on the floor. The girl quickly runs to her bedroom in search of a weapon, just in case the culprit is still in the house, but she comes upon a message scrawled on a piece of paper on the floor by her bed. It’s written in blood. “Humans can lick too, beautiful.”
Whether you’ve heard the story around a campfire or you received the chain letter in your email, it’s likely that you’re already familiar with this urban legend. It’s quite popular and often used to strike fear into the hearts of children who insist on being mature enough to be left alone at home. As the story illustrates, bad things happen to those who ignore their personal safety and lull themselves into a false sense of security. Often, the darkest things happen to those who live in the “safest” places.
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