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Hack Work

Neil Zurcher chases headless chickens so you don't have to.


On New Year's Eve 1946, John Marrison set out to behead dinner -- a tasty White Rock rooster. The blow successfully separated the chicken's head from its neck, and after flopping around a bit, the bird lay still. When Marrison's wife returned a short time later to pluck the fowl, she found it -- headless and running around the basement.

The tale is one of the many recounted in the new book Ohio Oddities: A Guide to the Curious Attractions in the Buckeye State, by One-Tank Trip maven Neil Zurcher. In it, Zurcher offers a glimpse of some of the more bizarre discoveries he's unearthed over his past two decades of travel reporting for Cleveland TV.

There's the doctor in Lima who collects objects swallowed by local residents, the mortuary museum/bed & breakfast in East Liverpool (which, along with private baths, boasts an embalming exhibit and Pretty Boy Floyd death mask), and one of Zurcher's favorites, the famed Headless Chicken of Ashtabula, which created quite a stir among the locals.

Many inhabitants believed it would be most humane to go ahead and dispatch the chicken. Marrison, however, felt differently. "He was of the mind that, if the bird wanted to live that bad, he didn't have the right to take its life," Zurcher says. "So he was doing everything he could to keep it alive." A local vet assured Marrison that his new fowl friend was not in any pain. So a hole was cut in the top of its neck to give it food and water. Marrison dutifully fed his headless chicken until one night, 39 days after its beheading, it expired -- this time for good.

"He did not eat the chicken, by the way," Zurcher laughs. "In fact, he told me he has never eaten chicken at home since."

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