W is for Weird

I need to tell you about Mike the Headless Chicken. Then I’ll tell you something REALLY weird.

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!”

I first became aware of Mike when I watched the October 8, 2000 episode of CBS Sunday Morning, not long after the show aired. Subsequently, I came across a PBS documentary and even a film about Mike.

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.

ABC Wednesday

0 thoughts on “W is for Weird”

  1. I do remember reading about that years ago! What a hoot! I know a number of people who run around as though they didn’t have a head, but I don’t think they’re nearly as clever as old Mike who really didn’t have a head!! Fun post for the day, Roger! Have a great week!



  2. Your “W” definitely takes home the prize, I am impressed beyond measure! *salutes with drumstick held high in the air* Three cheers for Mr. Green!

    And I’d give anything to be able to say I was from a place called Fruita. I think it suits me. LOL!


  3. Wow! quite a story you got there, Very interesting, now I know the answer “Why did the chicken cross the road”. 😀
    Thanks for this wonderful article.:)


  4. I will discretely write that your post is the best I’ve read in the last 2 days and yes much better than mine. That story is “incroyable” and so interesting. My husband does act headless from time to time but I manage to screw it back on for a while….Thanks for sharing.



  5. There are really no words to describe my reaction to (the first part of) this story! And, I’m curious…WHAT did you steal from me? I’ve been Wondering that all Week.


  6. My left brain thinks hey crazy and interesting and the right brain thinks, Aaw poor chicken. I would have said sad but is that felt in the heart or the brain.


  7. I’ve never heard about it in my life!! How weird indeed, Roger! Oh it gives me the creeps! My little witch will love to learn about it, lol!

    Great W post.

    Kisses from Nydia.


  8. You had me from the opening line. Not being from your neck of the woods, I’d never heard of Mike. What a great story. If we lived closer, my husband would run that 5K for sure.


  9. What a wonderful example of weird. Truly weird. And, a well spun tale told by you! It is perplexing as to HOW a chicken could live so long with command center (its brain).
    Simply riveting and fascinating!
    Sorry to be so late…Tues and Weds got away from me!


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