Ohio Oddities: A Guide to the Curious Attractions of the Buckeye State

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9781886228498: Ohio Oddities: A Guide to the Curious Attractions of the Buckeye State

Ohio—a bland and ordinary Midwestern state, right? Ha! You must never get off the highway. The Buckeye State has no shortage of strange, silly, goofy, quirky, eccentric, and just plain weird people, places, and things—if you know where to look.

And no one has looked in more places for Ohio’s oddities than Neil Zurcher, the popular Fox8 TV travel reporter who makes his living on the road seeking out unusual destinations. This book collects the most remarkable things he’s found in and about the Buckeye State, including:

Mysteries. Like the “bottomless” Blue Hole of Castalia and Ashtabula’s famed Headless Chicken—who lived without a noggin for 38 days.

Big things. Like the World’s Largest . . . Crystal Ball . . . Gathering of Twins . . . Easter Basket . . . Cuckoo Clock . . .

Peculiar claims to fame. Like the “Oldest concrete road in America,” the “World’s fastest pumpkin carver.”

Strange collections. Like the Objects Swallowed by Citizens of Lima; the nation’s only vacuum cleaner museum; and the world’s largest collection of popcorn poppers and peanut roasters.

Notable citizens. Like Balto the Wonder dog, cheesemaking firewalker Komar the Magnificent, and Buckeye Chuck, the weather rodent.

And the just-hard-to-explain. Like the Wellington ATM shaped like a Victorian horse and buggy or Ohio’s strange attachment to the bathtub from the U.S.S. Maine.

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About the Author:

Neil Zurcher has reported on unusual travel destinations for Fox8 TV for more than 20 years. His popular “One Tank Trip” reports are the longest-running local travel segment on television. He also writes regularly for AAA Ohio Motorist magazine and is the author of three other books: Neil Zurcher’s Favorite One Tank Trips, More of Neil Zurcher’s One Tank Trips, and One Tank Trips Road Food. All have been local bestsellers. Zurcher received the Distinguished Service award from the Society of Professional Journalism and the “Silver Circle” award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Former govenor of Ohio George Voinovich called him “One of the most respected and knowledgeable travel writers in the state.”

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

NORTHWEST OHIO The Headless Chicken Ashtabula

A little over a half-century ago, a chicken in Ashtabula, entered the record books and probably caused more than a few nightmares.

On New Year’s Eve, 1946, John and Helen Marrison were preparing to celebrate with a nice chicken dinner. Back in those days, at least in Ashtabula, when you wanted chicken for dinner you didn’t head for the freezer. You picked up your ax and headed to the chicken coop. John did just that, selecting an especially active White Rock rooster that had probably awakened him too early one too many times. As he had done countless times before, John grabbed the rooster by the legs and laid its neck against an old railroad tie.

Knowing that his wife was rather partial to cooked chicken necks (she considered them a delicacy), John aimed high with his impromptu guillotine. He had grown up on a farm and had dispatched hundreds of chickens, and there didn’t seem to be anything unusual about this job; the head parted from the body as expected, and the bird flopped around a bit and then went still.

John was now overdue for work at the gasoline station, so he pushed the lifeless bird into a bucket and carried it down to his basement, leaving the messy plucking job to his wife.

But when Helen Marrison later went to prepare the bird, the bucket was empty. Then she saw it—a headles s chicken running in circles around her basement! For some people an incident like this would be nightmarish, but Helen Marrison was made of sterner stuff. She just picked up the phone and called her husband. John assured her this was probably just a delayed muscle reaction and that the bird would soon lie down permanently, and she would then be able to get it ready for the cooking pot.

But when John came home that evening and went into the basement, there was the rooster still walking around! The sight of the headless rooster, alive and kicking, kind of dulled John and Helen’s appetite for fresh chicken. So they then decided to try and help the rooster continue his battle to live. John put some spider webs into the still-seeping wound where the head used to be to help stop the bleeding, and he placed the bird in a box.

Over the next few days, neighbors heard about the strange event and began tramping through John and Helen’s house to see the headless wonder. Then the media caught on. The local paper, the Ashtabula Star Beacon, ran a front-page story on January 2 reporting that the rooster was “as perky as can be” and “strutting around the living room.” The rush was on. Reporters from Cleveland and even national papers started to descend on Ashtabula, stopping at the police station for directions to the home of the headless walking chicken.

That was when Mrs. L. B. Butler of the Ashtabula Humane Society got into the act. Mrs. Butler arrived at the Marrison home with two sheriff’s deputies in tow, demanding that John immediately dispose of the rooster in a humane manner.

John refused. He reasoned the rooster really wanted to live and didn’t seem to be in any pain, and in fact was acting almost normal. Instead of dispatching the bird, he took it to Doctor Whitwood, a Jefferson veterinarian. The doctor performed some minor surgery on the bird’s neck so that more food and water could be fed directly into its crop, along with a little gravel to help digestion. When he came out of the operating room, he said it was his opinion that because the brain—located in the head—is what tells us if we are in pain, the rooster must not be feeling any ill effects. The Humane Society backed off and left the matter to be argued in the newspapers over the next few weeks. Some readers urged the bird be saved; others argued that the rooster must be hurting and should be put to sleep.

While all this was going on, John Marrison said the rooster seemed content. He fed it every day, using a spring from an old corset and an apple peeler to force the food into the bird’s digestive system.

But then in February, while feeding the bird, John accidentally disturbed the scab over the place where the head used to be, and despite John’s continued efforts, the bird began to weaken. It died, for real this time, a day later, on February 7, 1947.

By now John had really grown attached to the bird, so he sent it to a taxidermist to be mounted. He kept it for many years in his garage. John was never again able to kill a chicken. But he did admit that he sometimes would order chicken in a restaurant.

Copyright © Neil Zurcher. All rights reserved. This text may not be reproduced in any form or manner without written permission of Gray & Company, Publishers.

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