On September 10, 1945, there was a farmer in Fruita, Colorado named Lloyd Olsen who experienced something unusual. Being a farmer, unsurprisingly, from time to time, Lloyd would lop off the head of a chicken, or in this case, a rooster. While the cliche about running around like a chicken with his head cut off is true, this particular poultry was still strutting his stuff the next day. So Lloyd decided to feed the bird, using an eyedropper full of ground-up grain and water, with “little bits of gravel down his throat to help the gizzard grind up the food.”
Mike could hang on high perches without falling, gurgle in a faux crowing style, even attempt to preen his non-existent head.
Sideshow promoter Hope Wade convinced Lloyd to put Miracle Mike on tour, and for a time, he made $4500 per month, from 25-cent viewings, good money even in these days. Mike even made it into LIFE magazine, a hugely popular US periodical in the day.
Guesstimates were that, sadly, Mike died in March 1947, eighteen months after the beheading, from choking on his mucus.
But the legacy of Mike the Headless Chicken lives on. On May 17, 1999, Fruita held its first Mike the Headless Chicken Day, complete with a 5K Run Like a Chicken race. You’ve missed the 2010 event in May, alas, but there’s always next year. Punchline of the festival theme song: “Why did the chicken cross the road? To try to find his head!”
Now here’s the weird part.
My wife and I have this friend named Kelly. Kelly used to have lots of parties we used to attend before parenthood. At these parties, we met this friend of hers named Steve Silverman. Steve was a high school science teacher who wrote a book, published in 2001, called Einstein’s Refrigerator and Other Stories from Flip Side Of History. Guess which story shows up as the very first in his book? If you guessed Einstein’s refrigerator, you would be wrong.
With the tape from CBS News and the chapter from Steve’s book, my wife put together lesson plans that her junior high students really
ate up enjoyed. Read Steve’s chapter about Mike the Headless Chicken here, and other information dubbed by Steve himself as useless here.