11 Punxsutawney Phil Facts for Groundhog Day
Punxsutawney Phil is getting ready to make his Groundhog Day prediction about how much winter we've got left. Here's a closer look at the rodent we trust for weather prognostication.
1. He has been around since 1887.
Punxsutawney Phil has been in charge of telling us how long winter will wear on (and, conversely, when spring will finally bloom) since 1887, all based on whether or not he sees his shadow on the morning of February 2nd (if he sees his shadow, we're in for six more weeks of winter, if he doesn't, spring will come early). There are no other Phils. There's just the one. No, really.
2. It's "groundhog punch" that keeps him so young.
Phil stays so young by way of a magical "Groundhog Punch" that he's fed every summer at the annual Groundhog Picnic (just a sip) that apparently extends his life for another seven years. So even if Phil misses out on six annual sips, he's still good to go with his weather reporting and newsmaking for the time being. That's some magical punch—the kind that foresees potential snags for nearly a full decade.
3. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's inner circle is responsible for Phil.
Phil obviously can't get his elixir without a little help, which is where the so-called "Inner Circle" comes into play. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle doesn't just hold fast to Phil's meds and administer them to their beloved groundhog; they also take care of Phil for the entire year, plan each year's big ceremony in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and sport some truly styling top hats and tuxedos at each ceremony.
4. There are 15 members of the Inner Circle.
The Inner Circle currently has 15 members (16 if you count Phil himself), including President Bill Deeley, who has been in the circle since 1986. The members all have individual nicknames that vaguely tie into their careers (Tom Dunkel, the so-called "Shingle Shaker," is a roofing contractor) or weather phenomena (there's an "Iceman," a "Big Chill," and even a "Thunder Conductor").
5. Phil lives in the town library.
When Phil is not busy predicting the weather at Gobbler's Knob, a rural area about two miles outside of Punxsutawney proper, he lives in the town library.
6. He has a wife, Phyllis.
Phil lives in that library with his wife, Phyllis. Yes, Punxsutawney Phil has his own little groundhog wife, and her name is Phyllis. It's almost too adorable to be believed.
7. He's a jetsetter.
Despite enjoying life in the library and doing other groundhog-appropriate things, Phil has done his fair share of traveling over the course of his career. In recent years, he has met big celebrities and public figures like Oprah and President Ronald Reagan.
8. He was reportedly named after "King Phillip."
For many years, the groundhog from Punxsutawney was called "Br'er Groundhog," which doesn't quite have the same ring to it. The official Groundhog Club site says that he was named after "King Phillip," but odds are that the actual namesake was the UK's Prince Philip. In 1953, Punxsutawney buried a pair of groundhogs they'd named Elizabeth and Philip, after the newly crowned English queen and her husband. Punxsutawney's famed groundhog was first officially named Phil a few years later in 1961, and records suggest it was a holdover name from the earlier Philip.
9. He speaks groundhogese.
Phil speaks a special language—it's called Groundhogese—which is what he uses to communicate his shadow-finding to the Inner Circle President, who then announces it to the world.
10. He was fiercely anti-Prohibition.
Phil apparently likes more than just his Groundhog Punch: The groundhog quite memorably announced during Prohibition that, if he were kept from drinking the hard stuff, there would be 60 weeks of winter. (But not even Punxsutawney Phil can plunge the world into over a year of winter, desire for booze aside.)
11. His predictions are always correct—just sometimes they're misinterpreted.
Phil's batting average for weather predictions isn't exactly the greatest: A record of his findings shows that his shadow-based predictions have only been right about 64.4 percent of the time. (Most recently, he saw his shadow in 2017 and 2018, but both years had record high temperatures for February.) But don't blame Phil!
"Unfortunately, there have been years where the president has misinterpreted what Phil said," retired handler Ron Ploucha told PennLive. "Because Phil's never wrong. Phil's prediction is 100 percent correct, and we blame the variants on the president's interpretation of Phil's prediction."
A version of this article first appeared in 2014.