What do you call a 92-year-old calf with two heads, six legs and two tails?
That’s no riddle.
It’s a contest. And at the first-ever Two-Headed Calf Festival this Friday, November 3rd, the winning names will be chosen.
One for each head.
The event, held in St. Petersburg, Florida, is being organized by the St. Petersburg Museum of History, which has had the nameless calf in its collection since 1925.
More than a hundred entries have already been submitted. “We’re hoping the names reflect the city and its weirdness,” the museum’s Executive Director, Rui Farias, told Weird Historian.
The curious creature was born just north of the city on a ranch in Safety Harbor. It reportedly survived six weeks—well beyond the typical few days most two-headed calves live. The owner took it to a taxidermist and then donated the preserved animal to the museum.
It’s been in and out of displays ever since, remaining a fixture in the museum for nearly a hundred years. Most recently the calf was part of its “Alligators and Oddities” exhibit and now rests alongside an Egyptian mummy—when it’s not out on the town, that is. Farias and the calf have been making the rounds at local breweries to build excitement for the festival. The two heads have turned many others in the process.
“It’s a huge selfie magnet, that’s for sure,” Farias said. “It took me forty or fifty minutes to walk five blocks downtown.”
The idea for the festival hit Farias after he saw a flyer for Frozen Dead Guy Days during a recent trip to Nederland, Colorado. The three-day event celebrates the discovery of a cryonically preserved corpse in 1994. Festivities include coffin races and frozen t-shirt contests.
Farias realized his museum could hold a similar event to honor its own weird claim to fame. “One of our missions here is not just to collect and preserve items, but to tell the stories of these items,” he explained. “We don’t want it to be like a boring class, we want people to have a good time and had a perfect opportunity to do this with the two-headed calf.”
The upcoming festival has generated excitement far beyond the local area. After details about the event were posted online, Farias received a call from a man who wished to donate a recent purchase from an auction of carnival items: a two-headed chicken.
The bizarre bird is a fitting addition to the museum’s collection, which has its roots in the unusual. “When the museum started 95 years ago it was like a museum of oddities, like Ripley’s,” Farias said. “As it moved toward becoming a historical museum, some of those things, like shrunken heads, went away.”
Oddities, in fact, aren’t just a part of the museum’s history. They’re ingrained in the history of St. Petersburg and Florida. “Our growth is based on advertising,” Farias explained. “When you look at the history, people did all sorts of strange things to sell land. It was common for people selling real estate to have roadside carnivals and circuses to attract people.”
Sometimes it went well beyond carnivals. A 1920s developer in Miami built a hotel, but its view from the porch was obstructed by an Indian burial mound, preventing guests from seeing the beach. So the developer had it excavated and enticed visitors with a free skull giveaway.
The museum’s mummy has its own peculiar origins, dating back to 1924 when it arrived on ship that pulled into St. Petersburg needing repairs. The captain couldn’t afford the fee, so he traded the mummy and its sarcophagus as payment. It was donated to the museum shortly after. “For us, in St. Pete, this cool weird stuff is part of our history.”
In addition to the naming of the calf, the festival will feature live alligators (one-headed), mermaids, sideshow performers, and appropriately, the unveiling of the new two-headed chicken.
Like the calf, the chicken has no names. “That will be next,” Farias said.
UPDATE: The winning name(s): Half n’ Half. The reveal of the two-chicken is below.