Punxsutawney Phil

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Punxsutawney Phil on February 2, 2018

Punxsutawney Phil is a groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. On February 2 (Groundhog Day) each year, the borough of Punxsutawney celebrates the legendary groundhog with a festive atmosphere of music and food. During the ceremony, which begins well before the winter sunrise, Phil emerges from his temporary home on Gobbler's Knob, located in a rural area about 2 miles (3 km) southeast of town. According to the tradition, if Phil sees his shadow and returns to his hole, he has predicted six more weeks of winter-like weather. If Phil does not see his shadow, he has predicted an "early spring."[1] The date of Phil's prognostication is known as Groundhog Day in the United States and Canada, and has been celebrated since 1887. Punxsutawney Phil became an international celebrity thanks to the 1993 movie Groundhog Day.

The people are recognizable from their top hats and tuxedos. The Vice President of the Inner Circle prepares two scrolls in advance of the actual ceremony, one proclaiming six more weeks of winter and one proclaiming an early spring. At daybreak on February 2, Punxsutawney Phil awakens from his burrow on Gobbler's Knob, is helped to the top of the stump by his handlers, and explains to the President of the Inner Circle, in a language known as "Groundhogese", whether he has seen his shadow. The President of the Inner Circle, the only person able to understand Groundhogese through his possession of an ancient acacia wood cane, then interprets Phil's message, and directs the Vice President to read the proper scroll to the anxiously anticipating crowd gathered on Gobbler's Knob and the masses of "phaithphil phollowers" tuned in to live broadcasts around the world.

The Inner Circle scripts the Groundhog Day ceremonies in advance, with the Inner Circle deciding beforehand whether Phil will see his shadow. The Inner Circle maintains kayfabe throughout the year, never acknowledging the ruse, and keeps its criteria for whether spring will arrive early a trade secret.[2] The Stormfax Almanac has made note of the weather conditions on each Groundhog Day since 1999; the almanac has recorded 12 incidents in a 20-year span in which the Inner Circle said the groundhog saw his shadow while the sky was cloudy or there was rain or snow coming down, and one case, said the groundhog did not see his shadow despite sunshine.[3]

Punxsutawney Phil canon[edit]

The practices and lore of Punxsutawney Phil's predictions are predicated on a light-hearted suspension of disbelief by those involved. According to the lore, there is only one Phil, and all other groundhogs are impostors.[4] It is claimed that this one groundhog has lived to make weather prognostications since 1886, sustained by drinks of "groundhog punch" or "elixir of life" administered at the annual Groundhog Picnic in the fall.[4] The lifespan of a groundhog in the wild is roughly six years.[5]

According to the Groundhog Club, Phil, after the prediction, speaks to the club president in Groundhogese, which only the current president can understand, and then his prediction is translated for the entire world.[4]

The Groundhog Day celebration is rooted in a Celtic and Germanic tradition that says that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on February 2, the pagan holiday of Imbolc (known among Christians as Candlemas), winter and cold weather will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says, spring will come early. In Germany, the tradition evolved into a myth that if the sun came out on Candlemas, a hedgehog would cast its shadow, predicting snow all the way into May.[6] When German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania, they transferred the tradition onto local fauna, replacing hedgehogs with groundhogs. Several other towns in the region hold similar Groundhog Day events.

Each year two scrolls are prepared by the vice president of the Inner Circle: One says early spring and the other says six more weeks of winter. These scrolls are placed during the ceremony on the stump and after Phil is awakened by the crowd, Phil communicates in Groundhogese to the President, who is then directed by Phil to the proper scroll and forecast.

Phil first received his name in 1961. The origins of the name are unclear, but speculation suggests that it may have been indirectly named after Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.[7]

In media and popular culture[edit]

Miniature replica at MRRV, Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh
  • Phil and the town of Punxsutawney were portrayed in the 1993 film Groundhog Day. The actual town used to portray Punxsutawney in the film is Woodstock, Illinois.
  • In 1995, Phil flew to Chicago for a guest appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, which aired on Groundhog Day, February 2, 1995.[8]
  • A 2002 episode of Stanley titled "Searching for Spring" featured Punxsutawney Phil.
  • Phil was the main attraction in "Groundhog Day", the April 10, 2005, episode of the MTV series Viva La Bam. In the episode, street skater Bam Margera holds a downhill race in honor of Punxsutawney Phil at Bear Creek Mountain Resort, Pennsylvania.
  • In March 2013, a Butler County, Ohio prosecutor named Michael Gmoser made international headlines after issuing an indictment against the groundhog by e-mail calling for the death penalty for "misrepresentation of early spring, an Unclassified Felony, and against the peace and dignity of the State of Ohio".[9][10] On that day, the maximum temperature of the day within the region was close to a record low, with snow having fallen, and temperatures were predicted to remain below seasonal averages for at least the next several days.[11] No such indictment was made against Ohio prediction groundhog Buckeye Chuck, who also failed to see his shadow.[12] The prosecutor later stated that he would consider a pardon because Phil's handler (Bill Deeley, president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle) was taking the blame for the mistake, "because he failed to correctly interpret Phil's 'groundhog-ese'". Deeley noted that the indictment had "generated more publicity than a $10,000 ad campaign."[13]
  • On February 11, 2015, the Merrimack Police Department in New Hampshire issued an arrest warrant for Punxsutawney Phil for having failed to disclose the extreme amounts of snow that would ensue after Groundhog Day.[14]
  • In 2016, Punxsutawney Phil was again a character in Groundhog Day, the Broadway musical version of the 1993 movie. In the musical the groundhog takes on a more mythical incorporation, as if it is more involved in the main character's predicament.
  • On March 21, 2018, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office in Pennsylvania issued an arrest warrant for Punxsutawney Phil for deception, citing that winter was only supposed to last six more weeks, which would have ended on March 16. The county suffered a snowstorm on the second day of spring.[15]

Past predictions[edit]

Punxsutawney Phil's predictions[16]
1887 1888 1889
1890 1891 1892 1893 1894 1895 1896 1897 1898 1899
1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909
1910 1911 1912 1913 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919
1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929
1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939
1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949
1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979
1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
  "Long winter" (102)
  "Early spring" (20)
  "War clouds have blacked out parts of the shadow." (1)
  No appearance (1)
  No record (9)

Predictive accuracy[edit]

The Inner Circle, in keeping with kayfabe, claims a 100% accuracy rate, and an approximately 80% accuracy rate in recorded predictions (claiming in turn that whenever the prediction is wrong, the person in charge of translating the message must have made a mistake in his interpretation). Impartial estimates place the groundhog's accuracy between 35% and 40%.[17][18]


  1. ^ "Groundhog.org FAQ". Groundhog.org. Retrieved 2009-02-02.
  2. ^ "Punxsutawney Phil, Poor Richard make Groundhog Day predictions". The Evening Sun. Hanover, PA. February 2, 2015. Archived from the original on February 2, 2015. Retrieved February 2, 2015. Despite the German legend, Phil's handlers don't wait to see if he sees his shadow – as he likely would not have on such an overcast day. Instead, the Inner Circle decide on the forecast ahead of time (...)
  3. ^ Stormfax. "Groundhog Day History from Stormfax®". www.stormfax.com. Retrieved 2016-02-18.
  4. ^ a b c "Fun Facts". The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  5. ^ Marmota monax (Linnaeus); Woodchuck Archived 2013-07-28 at the Wayback Machine. Pick4.pick.uga.edu. Retrieved on 2014-06-10.
  6. ^ "Groundhog Day, Hedgehogs and Candlemas". www.bellaonline.com. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  7. ^ Lucas Reilly and Austin Thompson (February 1, 2019). Why is Punxsutawney's Groundhog Called Phil? Mental Floss. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  8. ^ Pulling, Anne Frances (2001). Around Punxsutawney (Images of America). Arcadia Publishing. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-7385-0530-5.
  9. ^ "Punxsutawny Phil sentenced to DEATH: Ohio court indicts famous groundhog with misrepresentation of Spring after cold weather continues". Daily Mail. March 21, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  10. ^ "Prosecutor indicts groundhog for misrepresentation of early spring". WHIO-TV. March 21, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  11. ^ "Simpson says Friday sun before Sunday snow". WHIO-TV. March 21, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  12. ^ "Prediction groundhog faces 'death'". 3 News NZ. March 25, 2013.
  13. ^ Mandak, Joe (March 25, 2013). "Pa. groundhog's handler taking blame for forecast". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  14. ^ Police want to take Punxsutawney Phil into custody, USA Today, February 11, 2015. Retrieved February 26, 2015.
  15. ^ Earl, Jennifer. "Punxsutawney Phil 'wanted' by Pennsylvania police for deception". Fox News.
  16. ^ "Groundhog Day". Stormfax Weather Almanac. Retrieved February 14, 2016.
  17. ^ "Groundhog Forecasters versus the U.S. Temperature Record". NOAA National Climatic Data Center. Retrieved January 31, 2013.
  18. ^ Groundhog Day forecasts and climate history. National Centers for Environmental Prediction (February 2, 2019). Retrieved February 2, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°56′10″N 78°57′14″W / 40.93611°N 78.95389°W / 40.93611; -78.95389