Convivialities: Punxsutawney Phil from Gobbler’s Knob

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Undated vintage postcard.

Happy Groundhog Day! On this lighthearted day, I felt compelled to do a short post about Punxsutawney Phil since he lives here in Pennsylvania and is a bit of a legend.

Punxsutawney is located 84 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, PA. Phil lives in a “stump” in a rural area about 2 miles southeast of town known as Gobbler’s Knob. He lives there with his  “wife” Phyllis and “daughter” Phelicia. First, from a women’s history standpoint, I’m disappointed that even I didn’t know of the existence of Phyllis and Phelicia until today when I was doing some background research. They really need to get their act together out there in Gobbler’s Knob and give these women the recognition they deserve!

Second, you’ll notice the seeming misspelling of Phelicia’s name. Pennsylvanians love replacing the “F” sound with “Ph,” I’m assuming in reference to Philadelphia. Hence why the baseball team is the Philadelphia Philles and their mascot is the Philly Phanatic. Though we didn’t totally commit and go with calling our hockey team the Phlyers….

Photo of Phil from 2017 with his stump and some Inner Circle members, one of whom is reading the scroll with this year’s prediction.

Anywho, almost every year since 1886 an elite group called the Inner Circle plan a ceremony for Phil to forecast the coming weather; either an early spring or 6 more weeks of winter. Every year the Vice President of the Inner Circle prepares two scrolls. One contains the early spring prediction and the other has the 6 more weeks of winter prediction. These scrolls are placed on Phil’s stump and after he is woken up from his winter hibernation by the crowd, he communicates his prediction in Groundhogese to the President – who is the only person able to interpret Groundhogese. Under Phil’s direction, the President then picks the scroll with Phil’s forecast.

Though always a local celebrity, Phil didn’t become famous nationally until the release of 1993’s movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray.

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