Punxsutawney Phil

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Groundhog Day 2013 in Punxsutawney featuring Phil

Punxsutawney Phil is the name of a succession of groundhogs in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. On February 2 (Groundhog Day) each year, the town 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 with his "wife" Phyllis and "daughter" Phelicia from his temporary home on Gobbler's Knob, located in a rural area about 2 miles (3 km) east 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.

A select group, called the Inner Circle, takes care of Phil year-round and also plans the annual ceremony. Members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle are recognizable by their top hats and tuxedos. The Inner Circle decides whether Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow or not several days in advance of the actual ceremony; its criteria remain a trade secret.[2]

Punxsutawney Phil lore[edit]

Punxsutawney Phil is a groundhog who may or may not see its shadow.

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 the other groundhogs are impostors.[3] It is claimed that this one groundhog has lived to make weather prognostications since 1886, sustained by drinks of "groundhog punch" administered at the annual Groundhog Picnic in the summer.[3] In reality, the lifespan of a groundhog is roughly six years[4] and it is unknown how many groundhogs have actually played Phil.

According to the Groundhog Club, Phil, after making 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.[3]

The Groundhog Day celebration is rooted in a Celtic tradition that says that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on February 2, the Pagan holiday of Imbolc, winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says spring will come early.

The ties[clarification needed] in Pennsylvania may actually come from German tradition, in which clear skies on Candlemas Day, February 2, were said to herald cold weather ahead. In Germany, the tradition morphed into a myth that if the sun came out on Candlemas, a hedgehog would cast its shadow, predicting snow all the way into May. When German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania, they transferred the tradition onto local fauna, replacing hedgehogs with groundhogs.

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

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 philosophical comedy film Groundhog Day. The actual town 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.[5][6]
  • 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".[7][8] 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.[9] No such indictment was made against Ohio prediction groundhog Buckeye Chuck, who also failed to see his shadow.[10] 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".[11]
  • 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.[12]

Past predictions[edit]

Year Prediction
1887–1888 "Long winter"
1889 No record
1890 "Early spring"
1891–1897 No record
1898 "Long winter"
1899 No record
1900–1901 "Long winter"
1902 "Early spring"
1903–1933 "Long winter"
1934 "Early spring"
1935–1941 "Long winter"
1942 "War clouds have blacked out parts of the shadow."[13]
1943 No appearance
1944–1949 "Long winter"
1950 "Early spring"
1951–1969 "Long winter"
1970 "Early spring"
1971–1974 "Long winter"
1975 "Early spring"
1976–1982 "Long winter"
1983 "Early spring"
1984–1985 "Long winter"
1986 "Early spring"
1987 "Long winter"
1988 "Early spring"
1989 "Long winter"
1990 "Early spring"
1991–1994 "Long winter"
1995 "Early spring"
1996 "Long winter"
1997 "Early spring"
1998 "Long winter"
1999 "Early spring"
2000–2006 "Long winter"
2007 "Early spring"
2008–2010 "Long winter"
2011 "Early spring"
2012 "Long winter"
2013 "Early spring"
2014–2015 "Long winter"
2016 "Early spring"

Predictive accuracy[edit]

According to the Stormfax.com site,[14] as of 2016 Punxsutawney Phil has made 120 predictions, with an early spring (no shadow) predicted 18 times (15.0%). The site states (without evidence or corroborative references) that as of 2015 the predictions have proved correct 39% of the time. This is significantly worse than chance (p = 0.008)[clarification needed], and—if the accuracy figure is correct—suggests the traditional interpretation of Punxsutawney Phil's predictions should be reversed.


  1. ^ "Groundhog.org FAQ". Groundhog.org. Retrieved 2009-02-02. 
  2. ^ Punxsutawney Phil, Poor Richard make Groundhog Day predictions. The Evening Sun (Hanover, PA). Retrieved February 2, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c "Fun Facts". The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. Retrieved 3 February 2016. 
  4. ^ Marmota monax (Linnaeus); Woodchuck. Pick4.pick.uga.edu. Retrieved on 2014-06-10.
  5. ^ Pulling, Anne Frances (2001). Around Punxsutawney (Images of America). Arcadia Publishing. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-7385-0530-5. 
  6. ^ http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/342679 Stormfax Weather Almanac.
  7. ^ "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. 
  8. ^ "Prosecutor indicts groundhog for misrepresentation of early spring". WHIO-TV. March 21, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Simpson says Friday sun before Sunday snow". WHIO-TV. March 21, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Prediction groundhog faces 'death'". 3 News NZ. March 25, 2013. 
  11. ^ Mandak, Joe (March 25, 2013). "Pa. groundhog's handler taking blame for forecast". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  12. ^ Police want to take Punxsutawney Phil into custody, USA Today, February 11, 2015. Retrieved February 26, 2015.
  13. ^ The Punxsutawney Spirit http://punxsutawneyspirit.com/content/punxsutawney-phil-celebrates-125th-birthday.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ Stormfax.com Groundhog Day archive

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