In the 1940s, a farmer from Colorado beheaded his chicken to prepare him for the cooking pot. But even with its head completely detached, the chicken refused to die.
That may have sounded like the premise of a horror movie, but this bizarre story actually happened in real life. Lloyd Olsen, the farmer who owned the headless chicken, went to sleep that fateful night thinking he had a meal ready for the next day. However, he was in for a huge surprise when he discovered that the chicken—whom Lloyd would later name Mike—was still alive and sleeping near his disembodied head.
Miracle Mike: The Beheaded Chicken Who Refused to Die
Word about the beheaded chicken, whom people started calling “Miracle Mike,” spread like wildfire around the town of Fruita in Colorado. Lloyd did all he could to keep Mike healthy, even going as far as carefully feeding the Wyandotte chicken with an eyedropper positioned directly to his esophagus.
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Soon enough, Miracle Mike was attracting curious visitors from around the state. There was a time when people began to think Mike was nothing but a hoax. To prove the skeptics wrong, Lloyd would sometimes take Mike to public markets. The sight of the beheaded chicken left many in a mix of awe and shock.
He might not have looked like it, but Lloyd was just as curious as the folks in town. He wanted to know how Mike was surviving without a head, so he took the chicken to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. There had been a long-running rumor that there was a department in the university that studied the removal of chicken heads. Sure enough, the professors were enthusiastic about studying Mike.
Turns out Mike wasn’t a zombie chicken after all. When Lloyd beheaded him, the ax missed the jugular vein and clot. This unintentional move prevented Mike from bleeding to death, allowing him full mobility and brain functions even without a head.
After the consultation with the University of Utah, Lloyd was offered a chance to travel on the road with Miracle Mike to perform in sideshows. Lloyd, a poor farmer, agreed to the prospect. He charged every spectator 25 cents and was believed to have earned as much as $4,000 a month at the height of Miracle Mike’s popularity. At that time, the money he earned was not only enough to sustain his family but also bought him luxurious items that he could only dream of in the past.
As the year went by, Lloyd’s new source of income afforded the farmer a new tractor, pickup truck, and hay baler. Mike was also immortalized in LIFE magazine, where he had an entire spread written about him.
Naturally, all the fame made other farmers jealous over Lloyd’s good fortune. In an act of sheer cruelty, they would tirelessly cut the heads of their chickens to “recreate” Miracle Mike. However, no one could get it right. Even Lloyd, who had been approached countless times to spill his secret, admitted that he didn’t know how he’d done it in the first place.
Mike’s death and legacy
In March 1947, 18 months since the decapitation, Lloyd and Mike stopped at a motel in Phoenix to sleep. Lloyd then heard a choking sound in the middle of the night and realized that it was his prized chicken. He searched frantically for the syringe that usually used to clear the chicken’s throat, but he couldn’t find it in time and Mike ended up choking to death.
In memory of his death, the town of Fruita constructed an old-metal statue in honor of the bird. The townspeople also have a special “Mike the Headless Chicken Day” held every third weekend of May. Activities include Pin the Head on the Chicken and 5K Run Like a Headless Chicken Race.