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Superfluous Brain

Article #50 • Written by Jason Bellows

It really happened. On 10-Sep-1945 Mike (who wasn't named "Mike" at the time) was going to be dinner. Such is the fate of roosters like him. Lloyd Olsen was sent that fateful morning to find a chicken for dinner. He wanted to please his mother-in-law, and thus aimed his killing stroke to leave her the most neck as possible--yes, there are people who like to eat chicken necks. He took careful aim, and decapitated the five-and-a-half-month-old fowl. Like all birds who lose their head, Mike went out of his mind. That's expected.

The unexpected was that he stuck it out. He tried to peck for food, he tried to preen, but it didn't work so well without the beak. Lloyd left him be for a while, and the next morning went out to find Mike (still not named "Mike" yet) with his stub stuck under a wing, and still not dead, Lloyd figured he couldn't kill a guy so dead set on living.

And live, he did.

Mike was packed up and moved to the University of Utah, who documented in no uncertain terms that this chicken was indeed both headless and animate. He was fed grain and water through a dropper, and in the eighteen months that he lived without a noggin, he gained near six pounds, so his inability to feed himself didn't slow him. He was featured in Time and Life magazines, and was described as being "as happy as any other chicken".

Mike passed on in a sadly mundane fashion, choking to death on a bit of food. Dead, but not forgotten, every May the city of Fruita, Colorado holds a festival in his honor, and they say, right on the website, "Attending this fun, family event is a NO BRAINER!"

Sorry the humor isn't more cerebral.

Article written by Jason Bellows, published on 13 November 2005. Jason is a contributing editor for DamnInteresting.com.

Article design and artwork by Alan Bellows. Edited by Alan Bellows.
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12 Comments
MeasureMan
Posted 15 November 2005 at 06:08 pm

And from the attic comes another top story for the belfries big wig. A story so cerebral that the pumpkin shaped skull of my noggin could hardly noodle over the facts. This old cranium’s think tank must have been leaking gray matter from its dream box.


white_matter
Posted 24 December 2005 at 04:02 am

...Mike passed on in a sadly mundane fashion, choking to death on a bit of food...

Damn interns.


Dementia
Posted 26 March 2006 at 01:14 pm

Hmm... Maybe the reason he just wouldn't die is that Mike was the reincarnation of Rasputin.


fadain
Posted 26 May 2006 at 03:46 pm

Dementia said: "Hmm… Maybe the reason he just wouldn't die is that Mike was the reincarnation of Rasputin."

You are reading a heck lot of articles here these days.


James
Posted 07 December 2006 at 03:37 pm

one word.........HOGWASH!!!!!


Bungle
Posted 27 January 2008 at 12:31 am

I recall a lesson from my Psychology studies in high school; not sure if this is the same story (how many headless chicken stories can there be? :P) but from what I remember it was found that the head wasn't removed correctly, leaving a small part of the brain intactish... This resulted in Mike being able to function more or less normally. As I say, I may be thinking of a different story, but Damn Interesting as always.


Cloudshadow
Posted 26 February 2008 at 01:51 pm

How did he choke without a head?


lizdini
Posted 11 March 2008 at 08:59 pm

Cloudshadow said: "How did he choke without a head?"

You choke in your throat, not your mouth. Mike had a throat, so he could (and seemingly did) choke.


DanThinksDances&femaleGspot
Posted 17 September 2008 at 09:06 pm

Enter your reply text here. Ok

Choking the chicken. I mean the chicken chocked.

MeasureMan said: "And from the attic comes another top story for the belfries big wig. A story so cerebral that the pumpkin shaped skull of my noggin could hardly noodle over the facts. This old cranium’s think tank must have been leaking gray matter from its dream box."

Well said.

fadain said: "You are reading a heck lot of articles here these days."

Hell yea!


Erik B.
Posted 18 September 2008 at 01:42 pm

A pack of damned lies!


Radiatidon
Posted 18 September 2008 at 03:02 pm

James said: "one word………HOGWASH!!!!!"

Erik B. said: "A pack of damned lies!"

As bogus as this may sound, it is well documented. There was a write-up about Mike in various magazines and papers, most notably Life and Time magazines. He is also listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.

At the University of Utah they determined Mike was a consequence of various factors combining at the right time. As in the case of “Nearly Headless Nick” (Reference “Harry Potter”) the axe had not completely removed the head with the single chop. Doing such, it missed the jugular vein keeping the cock from spewing vital blood, as most decapitated chickens will. This allowed a clot to form in the vein so that when the minute bit of tissue finally tore loose, the vein was sealed. Next was the location of the cut, high upon the neck, thus leaving most of the bird’s brain stem and a solitary ear. Because of the primitive nature of a fowl’s nervous system most of the reflex actions are controlled by the brain stem, which was ample enough processing power to keep what remained of Mike alive.

From the University of Utah, Mike hit the road. He visited various cities across the US including Los Angeles, Atlantic City, and New York where the curious and skeptical paid 25 cents to see the Headless Wonder Chicken. Spectators could gaze upon the very mobile headless bird with the head watching lifelessly, displayed in a jar nearby.

Mike was such a media hit that they insured him for $10,000.00. Not a bad bit of change for a KFC wannabe, not quite dead fowl in Post World War II America.

Unfortunately Mike joined his head in lifeless rapture when the Olsens stopped for the night at a remote motel in Arizona and Mike started to choke. They searched frantically for the eyedropper used both to feed and clear out his open esophagus, but to no avail. One could assume they considered the Heimlich Maneuver but decided against it. After all it would be 29 years later when Dr. Henry Heimlich published the correct procedure in a paper. Until then, most people reported a foul taste when trying the procedure incorrectly. (Okay, bad joke, sorry) Mike passed away while they checked the front desk for a possible substitute.

While returning from one of these road trips the Olsens stopped at a motel in the Arizona desert. In the middle of the night Mike began to choke. Unable to find the eyedropper used to clear Mike's open esophagus Miracle Mike passed on. Appeared in life magazine

Go here to view a segment about Mike from the TV show “Ripley’s Believe it or Not”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATz3AdbjyRI

The Don


MacAvity
Posted 13 December 2009 at 11:16 am

Has anybody ever tried to replicate the Miracle Headless Chicken? I mean, why haven't a bunch of strong-stomached scientists just gone to a chicken slaughter house and systematically chopped heads off chickens until they got one that stayed alive?


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