The Strange but True case of Mike the Headless Zombie Chicken - Mystery Files
A True Horror Story
I can remember as a child being horrified and fascinated by tales of farmyard chickens having their heads chopped off by the farmer, in readiness for a Sunday dinner, and hearing that the now headless chicken's body would continue to run around the yard for a couple of seconds until it ran out of blood.
I had always suspected that such tales of horror were merely concocted by adults in order to entertain children with macabre tales of slightly comical horror.
I was flabbergasted to discover as an adult that such tales were actually true - A decapitated chicken can indeed run around for some seconds without the benefit of it's head.
The Zombie Chicken
But how long do you think a decapitated chicken could survive and walk about?
How about a year and a half? Yes, you read that correctly - A year and a half! I am going to tell you the true story of a zombie chicken who had it's head cut off, and not only did the chicken survive, but it also acquired fame and a stage career to boot!
The young Wyandotte rooster who was to achieve fame as "Mike the Headless Wonder" began life as an ordinary farmyard chicken in Fruita, Colorado, USA. The date was September 10th 1945. The war had just ended, and although Mike had come through the conflict without a scratch, his days were nevertheless numbered.
The farmer Lloyd Olsen, was having a friend over for dinner. The friend was partial to chicken, and especially chicken neck. The farmer strode into his yard and selected the sacrifice for the forthcoming dinner - it was Mike.
The chicken was to be dispatched with an axe and the farmer, in defference to his guests gastronomic peccadilloes tried to leave as much neck as possible by chopping very close to the skull. The axe fell, and Mike's headless body scurried off into the farmyard - he was left for dead.
The next morning, the farmer came to collect the body for cooking, but was astonished to find mike sleeping with the other chickens, his head (or at least it's neck) tucked under it's wing. On "Awakening", mike continued to strut about the yard, attempting to groom and scratching and foraging for food in the dirt.
In his attempt to leave maximum neck on the bird, his executioner had left a fragment of brain-stem attached to it's spine, and this was enough to allow the chicken to continue, sans head, in the manner to which it had become accustomed. The Zombie Chicken was born.
Mike the Zombie Chicken finds Fame and Fortune.
His astonished owner abandoned all thoughts of dispatching the Zombie bird and instead, did his best to keep him going. Feeding is very difficult when you have no head, so the farmer fed Mike with an eye-dropper, dripping the sustenance into the orifice in the birds neck.
When word first travelled about the "Headless Wonder Chicken" there were suspicions that it might be a hoax. This prompted Lloyd Olsen to take the bird to Salt lake City where it's authenticity was established by the University of Utah.
Mike grew big and strong, putting on weight until he reached eight pounds. Word spread quickly about the Zombie bird, and people flocked to see the "Headless Wonder Chicken" and were happy to pay 25 cents a pop to see the phenomenon.
Zombie Bird Mike became an entertainment sensation and embarked on a tour of the USA. He became such a hot property that he was insured for the sum of $10,000.
The Sad Final Demise of the Zombie Chicken
Although Mike had coped well with having no head, the fact that his neck was topped only with a fleshy orifice, unguarded by beak or tongue, open to the air - and infection, took it's toll.
The bird was, unsurprisingly, prone to choking, and this was usually remedied by his owners clearing the passage by means of an eye-dropper. However, one night the encrustation and inflammation on the neck made the opening impossible to find.
And so Mike, The Zombie Chicken, eighteen months after his decapitation, finally slipped away, leaving behind the legend of "Mike. The Headless Wonder Chicken"
Zombie Chicken - The Post Mortem
After Mikes demise, a Post Mortem examination (Autopsy) was carried out on the bird. It found that the Axe blow had missed the carotid artery, and the rest of the wound quickly clotted preventing Mike from bleeding to death.
Although his head had been removed, a large portion of brain stem (and one ear) remained. Because the brain stem controls basic functions such as heart beat, breathing, reflex-actions etc. this allowed the chicken to continue in the way he did.
Mike the chicken continues to be celebrated in his hometown of Fruita, Colorado, where they hold an annual "Mike the headless chicken" day on every third weekend of May. The festivities consist of games, events and music.
Mike the Zombie chicken may be gone - But he is not forgotten.
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