Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A chicken with its head cut off

Mike the headless chicken was a wonder of the age in 1946 and 1947, after Lloyd Olsen of Fruita, Colorado, cut off his head. Rooster Mike continued to live, and with some help, thrive, for 18 months after being decapitated.

My mom used to warn me about acting like "a chicken with its head cut off." As a child I saw it happen to a neighbor's chicken, which my friend's dad decapitated. It ran around the yard spouting blood until it finally dropped dead, impressing me greatly. I only remembered vaguely the story of Mike until seeing this story in the October 22, 1945 issue of Life magazine.

Mr. Olsen, according to the article, cut off most of Mike's skull but left intact one ear, the jugular vein and the base of the brain, which controls motor functions. He was originally exhibited in my home town of Salt Lake City, Utah, where he was taken so the University of Utah could verify he wasn't a hoax. Mike lived on until March of 1947, being fed by an eyedropper. According to Wikipedia Mike died in a Phoenix motel.

As is human nature, according to Wikipedia, people tried to imitate what happened to Mike with other chickens, but none of them lived more than a day or two. Mike was a big money earner in his time. The Olsens toured with their headless rooster, charging 25¢ to see Mike, and made a pile. At one point Mike brought in about $4500 a month. In the mid-1940s that had today's purchasing power of about $50,000. Very impressive, and that's not chicken feed.


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