Punxsutawney Phil: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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Official groundhog handler Bill Deeley holds Punxsutawney Phil on February 2, 2006 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Every February 2, people gather at Gobbler’s Knob, a wooded knoll just outside of Punxsutawney to watch Punxsutawney Phil look for his shadow. If he sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter. If he does not see his shadow, it means spring is just around the corner. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Today is Groundhog Day 2015 and everyone is waiting for the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club resident psychic rodent’s forecast.

Punxsutawney Phil has been the resident prognosticator for the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club since its inception in 1887. Before that, there weren’t any official groundhog gatherings but there were Groundhog Days. Nobody is for certain when the first Groundhog Day happened in America, but the ideas of it came from German immigrants.

Find out all the history of Punxsutawney Phil here.



1. The Idea Came From German Immigrants

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Groundhog handler John Griffiths holds Punxsutawney Phil after he saw his shadow predicting 6 more weeks of winter during 126th annual Groundhog Day festivities on February 2, 2012 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Before its association with groundhogs, German immigrants brought with them the traditions of Imbolc to Pennsylvania. “Imbolc” was the seasonal turning point in the Celtic calendar. Imbolc was celebrated on February 1, and the main way to celebrate Imbolc was with weather prognostication. Prognostication is “the action of foretelling or prophesying future events.”

Ancient Celts weather prognosticated with badgers or a sacred bear. Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks or marmots, are native only to North America.

This tradition remained after the christianization of the German regions, but why German-Americans later settled on groundhogs to carry on the tradition in the New World is unknown.


2. The Inner Circle Takes Care of Punxsutawney Phil

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Groundhog handler John Griffiths holds Punxsutawney Phil after he saw his shadow predicting six more weeks of winter during 128th annual Groundhog Day festivities on February 2, 2014 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Since the first modern Groundhog Day was hosted by Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, a group of men called the Inner Circle has been charged with taking care of the precious rodent.

The Inner Circle can be identified at Groundhog Club events by their tuxedos and top hats. John Griffiths, pictured above, is the official groundhog handler.

The group claims that there’s only ever been one Punxsutawney Phil and that he’s actually immortal thanks to a secret formula. However, groundhogs typically only live six years.

The Groundhog Club also claims that Punxsutawney Phil has always been known as Punxsutawney Phil, but that isn’t true, either.

One more funny lie: Punxsutawney Phil allegedly whispers his weather prediction to the Groundhog Club president in “groundhogese.”


3. He Used to be Called Punxsutawney Pete

Before 1952, Punxsutawney Pete was the big groundhog on campus. His downfall came in 1952 when a newbie journalist named William A. Swartworth from the Pittsburgh bureau of the Associated Press accidentally reported his name wrong. He was bored with writing the story and decided to mix things up. The mistake wasn’t noticed until too late and the name ended up sticking.


4. He Doesn’t Have the Best Prediction Record

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Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t have the best track record with correct weather predictions on this big day.

According to Storm Fax, Punxsutawney Phil has made 118 prognostications of an early spring (no shadow) 17 times (14%). As of 2014, his correction has been right about 39% of the time.


5. Punxsutawney Phil Will Prognosticate at 8 AM

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(Getty)

Punxsutawney Phil will prognosticated at around 7:30 AM today.

According to the Groundhog Club website:

Forecasts abound on the Internet,
But I, Punxsutawney Phil, am still your best bet
Yes a shadow I see, so you can start to Twitter,
Hash tag: six more weeks of winter!