11 Punxsutawney Phil Facts for Groundhog Day

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Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, which (about 40% of the time) means six more weeks of winter. Here's a closer look at the rodent we trust for weather prognostication.

1. Punxsutawney Phil has been in charge of telling us how long winter will wear on (and, conversely, when spring will finally bloom) since 1886, 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). Yes, that means that Phil is a sprightly 124 years old and, no, there are no other Phils. There’s just the one. No, really.

2. 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. 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.

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4. The Inner Circle currently has 15 members, 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 Kunkel, 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. 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. …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. 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. Punxsutawney Phil was apparently named after King Phillip. Before that naming took place, he was called “Br'er Groundhog,” which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

9. 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.

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10. 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 sixty weeks of winter. (But not even Punxsutawney Phil can plunge the world into over a year of winter, desire for booze aside.)

11. Phil’s batting average for his predictions isn’t exactly the greatest: A record of his findings shows that his shadow-based predictions have only been right 39 percent of the time.

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February 2, 2014 - 8:00am
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