Usually the term “walking dead” conjures a picture of horrible rambling zombies, but for a brief time in the 1940s, America’s imagination was captured by a different kind of walking dead—Miracle Mike, the headless chicken.

Mike the chicken belonged to Lloyd Olsen, a farmer in Fruita, Colorado. Beheading chickens one evening in preparation for a trip to market the next day, Lloyd noticed one of the flock didn’t behave quite as expected—namely, it continued to walk around after his would-be demise; Miracle Mike was born, or reborn as it was?

Did you know?

  1. Chickens have very little brain in the top of their heads. Their cerebellum and brain stem (responsible for most bodily functions) are located in the upper neck.
  2. Due to a lucky strike of the hatchet, Mike’s jugular wasn’t hit, and he was left with most of his brain stem and one ear intact.
  3. An incredibly fortunate blood clot in his neck meant that Mike didn’t bleed to death.
  4. After Mike survived a day, Lloyd learned to feed him with an eye-dropper, putting food and water straight into his esophagus.
  5. Mike’s throat was cleared of mucus and blockages with a syringe.
  6. Unsurprisingly, word of Miracle Mike got out. He made the papers, and then was invited to join the sideshow circuit.
  7. It is estimated that, at the height of his fame, Mike earned an incredible $4,500 per month ($48,300 in today’s dollars).
  8. Surpassing all expectations, Mike survived for an unbelievable 18 months after losing his head.
  9. Sadly, one night while on tour in 1947, Mike choked to death in a motel—the Olsens had forgotten the syringe that would have saved him at the sideshow.
  10. Miracle Mike’s legacy lives on in the annual Headless Chicken Festival in Fruita – celebrating one chicken’s amazing will to live.