Punxsutawney Phil

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Punxsutawney Phil in 2018
Punxsutawney Phil on February 2, 2018

Punxsutawney Phil is the name of 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.

A select group, called the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle, takes care of Phil year-round and plans the annual ceremony. Members of the Inner Circle are recognizable by 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 "phaithful phollowers" tuned in to live broadcasts around the world.

The Inner Circle scripts the Groundhog Day ceremonies in advance, with the decision on whether Phil will see his shadow made beforehand. The Inner Circle maintains kayfabe throughout the year, never acknowledging the ruse, and its criteria for whether spring will arrive early is 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 groundhog was claimed to have seen his shadow while the sky was cloudy or there was rain or snow coming down, and one case in which the groundhog did not see his shadow despite sunshine.[3]

Punxsutawney Phil lore[edit]

Punxsutawney Phil is a groundhog who may or may not see his 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 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] In this respect, Punxsutawney Phil is unique; 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.

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 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.[7]
  • 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".[8][9] 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.[10] No such indictment was made against Ohio prediction groundhog Buckeye Chuck, who also failed to see his shadow.[11] 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."[12]
  • 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.[13]
  • In 2016, Punxsutawney Phil was again a character in Groundhog Day, the Broadway musical version of the Groundhog Day 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.[14]

Past predictions[edit]

Past predictions (130 total)

  Long winter - 103 (79.23%)
  Early spring - 18 (13.85%)
  No record - 9 (6.92%)
Year Prediction[15]
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."[16]
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"
2017-2018 "Long winter"

Predictive accuracy[edit]

As of 2018, Punxsutawney Phil has made 132 predictions, with an early spring (no shadow) predicted 18 times (13.63%). 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).

Most estimates of the groundhog's accuracy have given results somewhere between 35% and 40%.[17]

Residence[edit]

Phil resides in a special enclosure at the town library.

References[edit]

  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. ^ Pulling, Anne Frances (2001). Around Punxsutawney (Images of America). Arcadia Publishing. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-7385-0530-5.
  8. ^ "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.
  9. ^ "Prosecutor indicts groundhog for misrepresentation of early spring". WHIO-TV. March 21, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  10. ^ "Simpson says Friday sun before Sunday snow". WHIO-TV. March 21, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  11. ^ "Prediction groundhog faces 'death'". 3 News NZ. March 25, 2013.
  12. ^ Mandak, Joe (March 25, 2013). "Pa. groundhog's handler taking blame for forecast". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  13. ^ Police want to take Punxsutawney Phil into custody, USA Today, February 11, 2015. Retrieved February 26, 2015.
  14. ^ Earl, Jennifer. "Punxsutawney Phil 'wanted' by Pennsylvania police for deception". Fox News.
  15. ^ "Groundhog Day". Stormfax Weather Almanac. Retrieved February 14, 2016.
  16. ^ "Punxsutawney Phil celebrates 125th birthday". The Punxsutawney Spirit.
  17. ^ "Groundhog Forecasters versus the U.S. Temperature Record". NOAA National Climatic Data Center. Retrieved January 31, 2013.

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