Own some amazing pieces of sideshow history from the collection of sword swallower Johnny Fox.
Miracle Mike the Headless Chicken survived the axe and lived for 18 months without a head, eventually dying only because he choked on his dinner.
“Miracle” Mike the chicken with his displaced head
Mike the Chicken (April 1945 – March 1947) was owned by farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita, Colorado. Mike became a legend on September 10, 1945, when Lloyd’s wife sent the farmer out to the barnyard to get dinner. Lloyd selected a tasty-looking chicken and brought the axe down on its neck, chopping its head clean off.
But, to his surprise, the now headless chicken did not die.
Without a head, it was still able to balance on a perch and walk clumsily. It even attempted to preen and crow, though it obviously couldn’t do either without a head.
The chicken survived his execution, so Olsen decided to pardon him.
He named him Mike and began caring for him, feeding him a mixture of milk and water with an eyedropper.
Once he got used to new and unusual center of mass, Mike could easily get himself to the highest perches without falling.
His crowing, though, was less impressive and consisted of a gurgling sound made in his throat.
Mike also spent his time preening and attempting to peck for food with his neck.
Mike began touring with sideshows, and was photographed for both Time and Life magazines. He was on display to the public for the admission price of twenty-five cents. At the height of his popularity, he was earning $4,500 a month.
His success resulted in a wave of copycat chicken beheadings, but no other headless chicken ever lived more than a day or two.
Sadly, Mike’s tour de force came to end when tragedy struck in March, 1947.
The Olsens were staying at a motel in Phoenix while traveling home from the latest tour, when Mike started choking in the middle of the night.
To their horror, the Olsens realized the feeding and cleaning syringes used to keep Mike’s throat clear had been inadvertently left at the sideshow the day before.
They were unable to save him.
After living for 18 months without a head, Mike the Headless Chicken only finally succumbed to death because he couldn’t swallow.
How did Mike survive without a head?
After his death, it was determined that the axe had missed Mike’s carotid artery, and a clot had prevented the chicken from bleeding to death. Although his head was severed, most of his brain stem and one ear were left on his body.
Since basic functions such as breathing and heart-rate, as well as most of a chicken’s reflex actions, are controlled by the brain stem, Mike was able to remain quite healthy in his new life as the famous headless chicken.