The Licked Hand

This is an urban legend that I’ve known for a few years, having heard it somewhere in school. This has always been my go-to scary story if ever a situation required some chills, being easy to tell and extremely unnerving to most people.

The story begins with a young girl home alone for the first time, her parents believing she is safe with the family dog to protect her. They tell her to lock all the doors and windows in the house, which she does. All except for the window in the basement, which refuses to close properly. Having tried her best, she goes to bed with it still unlocked. The dog curls up next to her bed that night and she feels better knowing it is there.

Sometime in the night, the young girl is woken by a dripping sound coming from the bathroom. Too afraid to go investigate, she reached her hand down past the edge of the bed to let the dog lick it. Reassured that the dog was still there protecting her, she went back to sleep.

Later still, she woke up again to hear the sound of dripping. Again she reached down and felt the dog lick her hand, and she was able to go back to sleep. This time she slept until morning.

She wakes up in the morning and the dripping sound is still coming from the bathroom, but since it was no longer dark and she knew her parents would be back soon she wasn’t afraid of it.

The girl got out of bed to get a drink of water from the bathroom, where she found her dog hanging dead in the shower, blood dripping from its body onto the tiles below. On the shower mirror, written in blood, were the words “Humans can lick too”.

This story is also sometimes known as “The Doggy Lick” and “Humans Can Lick Too”.

Differences in versions:

  • The main character is an elderly woman with bad eyesight or a woman who lives alone.
  • The message is written on the walls of the bathroom or the floor of the bedroom.
  • The dog is mutilated, gutted, skinned, or has its throat cut.
  • The girl may hear of an escaped serial killer from a nearby prison, or an escaped mental patient on the radio.
  • The girl may check the kitchen for the source of the dripping before going back to bed, or she may get up in the middle of the night to investigate the bathroom, rather than waiting until morning
  • After being unable to lock the window in the basement, she deadbolts the door to the basement.
  • Sometimes the story is specifically stated as being set in a small town south of Farmersburg.
  • Specific times include parents leaving at 5pm, the girl going to bed at midnight, waking up initially at 2.30am, then again at 3.45am, and finally getting up in the morning at 6.52am.
  • Her parents may return and speak to her about how the night was, then when she mentions the dog keeping her calm they reveal that the dog was actually locked in the basement or outside, which brings into question what had kept her company all night.
  • Sometimes the killer is later found in the house by the parents, hiding in the basement, the girl’s closet, or under the girl’s bed.

While it’s difficult to confirm the origin of an urban legend like this, due to the many versions circulating for such a long time, we know that this story is at least nearly 150 years old since a version of it can be found as far back to 1871. While the story is significantly varied, the theme of it is undoubtedly similar and was likely adapted over time to become more frightening and thus more entertaining.

11th August 1871 – Dearman Birchall, in a diary entry: “[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.”

1919 – The Diary of Mr Poynter – M. R. James. A young man wakes up in his chair wondering where his dog was. He reached down to feel a surface of hair, but it did not respond like his dog normally would, it just remained still and silent. The man looked over the arm of the chair to see not his dog, just a mass of hair, which rose up as he watched. It resembled a human in shape but there were no recognizable features, only hair. The Young man quickly fled in fear and shut the door to the next room behind him.

1980 – “Bedtime for Sam” – David Martin Brown. Tells a story of a young boy, 10 years old, being left alone for a few hours while his parents visited his sick grandmother. The boy, Sam, was left there because he had the chicken pox and so could not go with him. His mother told him to reach down and let the dog lick his hand whenever he felt afraid. Just as he was about to drift off, he thought he heard a noise and got scared, so he reached down and let the dog lick his hand and he felt better. Then as he was drifting off again, he heard a loud noise in the bathroom. He let the dog lick his hand again, and then went to investigate. In the bathroom he saw the dog on the floor, bleeding and twitching as it died, and on the mirror, written in blood, were the words “Humans can lick too!”.

As with all popular legends, every time the story was told and retold it changed a little, thus accounting for the many variations, and as with most legends it’s true origins will always be up for debate. But since it’s conception, versions of this story has been referenced in many different places, from films like Campfire Tales and Urban Legends: The Final Cut to TV shows like SupernaturalThe L Word and even Made In Chelsea. But the most popular way for tales like this to spread is word of mouth. Not being limited to a particular area, this story can be found all over the world. Some of you will have heard this story, or a version of it, at school or sleepovers at a young age, but still a lot of people will have never come into contact with it at all, having not spoken to that one kid who heard it from their older brother, who heard it from a friend, who heard it from their weird uncle, who heard it from his new girlfriend, who swears it happened to her friend’s sister’s ex’s step-cousin twice removed.

Featured Photo by Conner Baker on Unsplash

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