Of all the botched beheadings in history, perhaps none are as impressive as Mike the Headless Chicken, mostly because he lived another year and a half without most of his head. Mike's origin story began when the wife of a Colorado farmer named Lloyd Olsen asked him to go out in the yard and kill a chicken for her because this was 1945, and that was just how you made dinner. When Olsen decapitated the chicken, however, he somehow missed its jugular vein and most of its brain stem, leaving the chicken perfectly capable of walking clumsily, attempting to peck for food, crowing gurglily, and generally making everyone in his vicinity wish that they, too, no longer had eyes or ears.
Having apparently made his last normal decision, Olsen put the chicken in a box on the porch, and after checking on it the next day "to see what had happened" and finding the bird still alive, he made it his pet. Unlike most headless chickens, who only appear to be alive after their heads have been cut off because of involuntary reflexes, the newly christened Mike appeared perfectly healthy. Olsen fed him milk and water through a dropper, and on his excursions into town to sell his properly butchered chickens, he bet people beer that he had a headless chicken. Someone alerted the media, probably to ask, "Is this legal? This can't be legal, can it?" but it backfired after a spread in Life Magazine made Mike and Olsen famous.
They took their show on the road with other head-based acts like a "two-headed baby," which made Olsen more than $50,000 a month in today's money.
For all we know, Mike was blessed by some very sick god and could have lived for hundreds of years had he not shot for the moon and attempted to eat a kernel of corn. Maybe? It's not clear how the kernel ended up in Mike's throat, but by chance, his family discovered that night that they had left the syringes they used to clear such objects from his airway behind at the sideshow. Mike tragically choked to death in a Phoenix hotel, which is pretty high up there on the lists of deaths best avoided, but Olsen told everyone he sold the chicken. It wasn't until he was practically on his deathbed that Olsen revealed to his great-grandson how Mike died, but even then, he refused to admit what he did with the chicken. That means he ate it, right? He definitely ate that chicken.
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