Written By: Ben Cosgrove

Beheaded Chicken Lives Normally After Freak Decapitation by Ax

No, it’s not the latest eye-popping item from the Weekly World News. Instead, it’s an actual headline from the October 22, 1945, issue of LIFE magazine, from an article about … well, a headless chicken.

“Ever since Sept. 10,” LIFE breezily informed its readers, “a rangy Wyandotte rooster named Mike has been living a normal chicken’s life though he has no head.”

Mike, LIFE went on to say, “lost his head in the usual rooster way. Mrs. L.A. Olson, wife of a farmer in Fruita, Colo., 200 miles west of Denver, decided to have chicken for dinner. Mrs. Olson took Mike to the chopping block and axed off his head. Thereupon Mike got up and soon began to strut around…. What Mrs. Olson’s ax had done was to clip off most of the skull but leave intact one ear, the jugular vein and the base of the brain, which controls motor function.”

The rest is poultry history. Mike lived for 18 months after losing his head, finally succumbing at a motel in the Arizona desert in 1946 during one of his many appearances as a sideshow attraction in the American southwest.

Here, LIFE.com presents Mike’s unlikely story, as well as the utterly unsettling pictures by Bob Landry that ran (and some that never ran) in LIFE. Brace yourself. . . .

Mike The Headless Chicken

Mike The Headless Chicken

Bob Landry—Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Mike the headless chicken "dances" in 1945.

Mike the headless chicken “dances” in 1945.

Bob Landry—Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Mike the headless chicken stands atop a lawn mower in Fruita, Colorado, 1945.

Mike the headless chicken stands atop a lawn mower in Fruita, Colorado, 1945.

Bob Landry—Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Mike the headless chicken in his Colorado barnyard, with fellow chickens, 1945.

Mike the headless chicken in his Colorado barnyard, with fellow chickens, 1945.

Bob Landry—Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

A picture of the suitcase containing the tools for feeding Mike the headless chicken, including an eye dropper that was used to provide sustenance through the hole atop his torso where his head used to be.

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Bob Landry—Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Mike the headless chicken is fed through an eye dropper, directly into his esophagus, in 1945.

Mike the headless chicken is fed through an eye dropper, directly into his esophagus, in 1945.

Bob Landry—Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Hope Wade, a promoter who took Mike on the road and charged money for folks to take a look, holds Mike the headless chicken, Fruita, Colorado, 1945.

Hope Wade, a promoter who took Mike on the road and charged money for folks to take a look, holds Mike the headless chicken, Fruita, Colorado, 1945.

Bob Landry—Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Mike the headless chicken rests in the grass in 1945.

Mike the headless chicken rests in the grass in 1945.

Bob Landry—Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Promoter Hope Wade holds Mike the headless chicken's formerly useful noggin, as if attempting to reintroduce the bird to its lost self, in 1945. (Some reports, however, claim that the Olsons' cat ate Mike's head, and that another rooster's head stood in for Mike's during his brief brush with fame.)

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Bob Landry—Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

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