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How to eavesdrop from a distance

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Another lesson from The Action Hero's Handbook, which this time is also pretty useful for your everyday nosey neighbor, jealous ex-lover, private eye or other such non-heroic profession. Let's get started!

1. Determine the topic of conversation beforehand.
Kind of a no-brainer, yeah, but it'll certainly help to know whether you're spying on drug dealers, contract killers or suburban moms gone wrong. In any case, knowing the topic will help limit the vocabulary used.

2. Position yourself in front of or to the side of the speaker
If you're better at tongue-reading, position yourself slightly to the side. If lips are your specialty, you'll want a frontal view.

3. Stay mobile
You may need to reposition yourself during the conversation as the speakers move their heads from side to side and shift their bodies. But be smart -- a Segway is great for mobility, but not so great as far as the whole "incognito" thing goes.

4. Read consonant sounds using the following basic criteria
"¢ P, B and M are formed with both lips together.
"¢ F and V are formed with the top teeth on the bottom lip.
"¢ Sh, Ch, J, Y and Zh are formed with the lips in a large pucker.
"¢ Th sends the tip of the tongue sticking out through the teeth.
"¢ S (C) and Z (X) are formed by the lips making a smile.
"¢ R is formed by the lips making a small pucker.
"¢ W is formed by the lips making a closed pucker.
"¢ K (hard C, Q), G (hard) and H are formed with an open (neutral) mouth and are never perceptible. Experience and context will help you discern them.
"¢ T, D, N and L are formed with the tip of the tongue moving up to the top of the mouth and then down (seldom perceptible -- again, context and practice help).

5. Multiply your exposures
Use a team of readers in multiple locations to get the whole story. Station the readers in various proximities to the speaker(s). Each reader will obtain a different part of the conversation. And if you fail, at least the speakers will feel weird, wondering why a roomful of people are all staring at them.

Of course, this is just the beginning. Eavesdropping is a learn-by-doing kind of activity, so get out there and start minding other people's business!

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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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