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), 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." 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[update], Phil has two co-handlers, Ben Hughes and John Griffiths.
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.
Punxsutawney Phil lore
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. 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
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. The movie was likely the biggest factor in Phil and the town's current popularity.
Phil was also the main attraction on an episode of the MTV series Viva La Bam. The episode was titled "Groundhog Day" and it aired on April 10, 2005. In the episode, street skater Bam Margera held a special race in honor of Punxsutawney Phil.
Until 2009, Ty Inc. annually released a "Punxsutawney Phil" Beanie Baby to celebrate Groundhog Day. The toy is shown consistently wearing a top hat and bow tie in order to appear as a member of the Inner Circle. Three varieties are known to exist. The first is a consumer model with a black bow-tie (some have black or purple capes as well), which is available nationwide. A second, with a red bow-tie, is sold in a few stores in Punxsutawney itself, including at the Chamber of Commerce (both the red- and the black-tie versions benefit the Groundhog Club Inner Circle of Punxsutawney). The third version, with a silver bow-tie, is sold directly through the Ty Store online shop, raising funds for the Clearfield-Jefferson Red Cross. The "Punxsutawney Phil" Beanie Baby for 2009 (with a red bow-tie) was the last in the series; it was available only at the Punxsutawney Souvenir Shop.
In 2010, a new text service was started to announce Phil's predictions. Mobile phone users could text the word "Groundhog" to the number 247365. The service is no longer active.
From 2004-2012, the Pennsylvania Lottery used an animatronic groundhog called "Gus", who billed himself in television commercials as the "second-most-famous groundhog in Pennsylvania" (as an unspoken nod to Phil) as their mascot for their instant scratch-off games.
A tetraploid cultivated variety of daylily named "Punxsutawney Phil" was registered with the American Hemerocallis Society in 2003.
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, a Unclassified Felony, and against the peace and dignity of the State Of Ohio." On that day, temperatures within the region approached a record low for the high temperature of the day, with snow having fallen, and temperatures predicted to remain below seasonal averages for at least the next several days. No such indictment was made against Ohio prediction groundhog Buckeye Chuck, who also failed to see his shadow. 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."
"War clouds have blacked out parts of the shadow."
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.