Punxsutawney Phil

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Groundhog Day 2005 in Punxsutawney featuring Phil

Punxsutawney Phil Sowerby is a groundhog resident of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. On February 2 (Groundhog Day) of each year, the town of Punxsutawney celebrates the beloved groundhog with a festive atmosphere of music and food. During the ceremony, which begins well before the winter sunrise (which occurs at 7:27 AM Eastern Standard Time on February 2 in Punxsutawney),[1] Phil emerges from his temporary home on Gobbler's Knob, located in a rural area about 2 miles (3.2 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."[2] The date of Phil's prognostication is known as Groundhog Day in the United States and Canada. He is considered to be the world's most famous prognosticating rodent. During the rest of the year, Phil lives in the town library with his "wife" Phyllis.

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. As of 2011, Phil has two co-handlers, Ben Hughes and John Griffiths.[3]

Groundhog lifespans[edit]

Zoological data suggest that groundhogs have an average lifespan of ten years in captivity and six years in the wild, with a maximum lifespan of 14 years in captivity documented.[4]

Punxsutawney Phil lore[edit]

Punxsutawney Phil fans say that there is only one Phil (all the other groundhog weathermen are impostors), and that he has made weather prognostications for over 123 years as of 2013. They say that every summer, Phil is given a sip of the mysterious Groundhog Elixir, which magically lengthens his life for seven years. This is done by Inner Circle members.[5] 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.

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

The ties in Pennsylvania may actually come from Germans, when clear skies on Candlemas Day (Feb. 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.

In media and popular culture[edit]

Miniature replica at MRRV, Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh

Past predictions[edit]

1887–1888"Long winter"
1889No record
1890"Early spring"
1891–1897No record
1898"Long winter"
1899No 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."[14]
1943No appearance (World War II)
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"

Of these 116 predictions on record so far, Punxsutawney Phil has predicted an "early spring" 16 times (13.8%). As to his accuracy, according to the StormFax Weather Almanac and records kept since 1887, Phil's predictions have been correct 39% of the time.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ SunriseSunset.com chart for Punxsutawney, PA February 2013 Retrieved 2013-02-02
  2. ^ "Groundhog.org FAQ". Groundhog.org. Retrieved 2009-02-02. 
  3. ^ "Groundhog Day: Inner Circle". Groundhog.org. Retrieved 2012-02-02. 
  4. ^ Light, Jessica E. Marmota monax, woodchuck. Animal Diversity Web.
  5. ^ "Groundhog Day: FAQ". Groundhog.org. Retrieved 2012-02-02. 
  6. ^ Pulling, Anne Frances (2001). Around Punxsutawney (Images of America). Arcadia Publishing. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-7385-0530-5. 
  7. ^ a b [1] Stormfax Weather Almanac.
  8. ^ "Daylily 'Punxsutawney Phil'". AHS Online Cultivar Database. American Hemerocallis Society. Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  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". Associated Press. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  14. ^ The Punxsutawney Spirit. February 2, 1942. 

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