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Punxsutawney Phil ‘Phorecast’

*TBN special investigation uncovers “groundhog graft”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses advanced climate monitoring devices, such as Doppler radar, satellite imaging, advanced computerized barometers, hygrometers, and anemometers, to not only forecast the weather from day to day but also to analyze data for long-term forecasting in regard to, for example, the length and severity of a given winter.

Then again, there’s a groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, that’s usually more accurate. And he was at it again earlier this week (Feb. 2nd, to be exact). Reports are that if he sees his shadow on a given Feb. 2, there will be six more weeks of winter.

And while most people just take this at face value, being the type of journalist I am, I decided to do an in-depth, investigative piece on this whole thing.

The Groundhog Day Celebration was first recorded in 1886 at Gobbler’s Knob, just outside of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. And Phil has “… reportedly seen his shadow 106 times, and not seen it only 20 times.” Not to be a killjoy, but… This would leave any self-respecting journalist, worth his salt, with, again: a few questions. Number one: Can a groundhog live to be 124 years old? And number two: How, exactly, does anyone know the groundhog sees its shadow, or not? I mean, what does it excitedly say? “Oh look, there’s my shadow!”

I needed eye witnesses. But try as I might, I couldn’t find any in Bluffton.

However, I was informed that a group from Ada had gone to Gobbler’s Knob for a recent Groundhog’s Day. In fact, some of the group go every year to Punxsutawney (pop. 5,778 + Phil). “Groundhog groupies!”

One of the group members is Ada High School math teacher Josh Klein. He said on that recent trip, the group had gotten to Punxsutawney the night of Feb. 1. They had gotten a motel room (which wasn’t easy), and arose at (Are you ready for this?) 3:30 a.m.! They got dressed, drove to a Punxsutawney shopping plaza parking lot, and were then picked up in a school bus. (The kids get the day off from school there this day.)

They were then driven up to Gobbler’s Knob. Josh said there were already a good number of people atop Gobbler’s Knob when they arrived at 5:15, some had even stayed in tents overnight. There was a stage with music. “Phil Phireworks” followed.

And then Phil himself, or rather itself, emerged. He emerges every year at 6:42 a.m. on the dot, or rather on the knob. If he sees his shadow, well, as mentioned earlier, it means it’s six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, it means it’s cloudy. LOL.

But seriously…

Josh, being a math teacher and an analytical type in general, wasn’t so sure about all this. This, incidentally, had been Josh’s first trip with the group.

He told me that he had been doing some checking, and the average lifespan of a groundhog, whether it’s a groundhog-shadow-seer or not, is 12 years – sans, of course, coming across a groundhog predator prior to the end of those 12 years.

When Josh broached this with one of the Punxsutawneyites, he was told that this Phil is given “…a secret potion that makes him live forever.”


Josh’s second question, as was mine as you recall, was: “How, exactly, does Phil communicate that he has, indeed, seen his shadow, or not?”

Easy, Josh was told.

The president of the Punxsutawney “Inner Circle” (think: “Groundhog Illuminati”) is able to not only speak but actually understand the language of Groundhogese (okay, not a word according to my spell check) — through his/her possession of an ancient acacia wood cane.

Uh… well, okay maybe.

Bottom line, said Josh, is that “Phil’s faithful followers” (not to mention the Punxsutawney Chamber of Commerce): BELIEVE!

While many (including myself) ‘believed’ that Phil lived in that hole in a tree on Gobbler’s Knob year-round – Spoiler Alert! – he and his wife Phyllis (I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP!) actually live the other 364 days in a pretty tricked out, temperature-controlled, big glass terrarium at the Town Hall. It’s called: “Phil’s Burrow.”

Josh & Co. from Ada saw this on the town tour after the event.

Josh, who was wearing a groundhog

ceremonial black top hat (“Yeah, I thought it was pretty silly until I saw everyone else wearing these things too,” he smiled), said Punxsutawney is literally “…all things groundhog.”

Josh said that like Lexington, Kentucky has “painted horse” sculptures on many downtown corners, and Cincinnati has “flying pigs,” Punxsutawney has BIG groundhog sculptures on practically every downtown corner. (*There’s even a “Golden Groundhog” on the Town Square!) And you can’t go into a downtown shop without coming across A LOT of Phil souvenirs.

And if all THAT isn’t enough, there is even a beer at the “Punxsutawney Pub” with the name “Punxsutawney Philsner.”

Which, apparently, many in Punxsutawney are drinking, oh, a LITTLE too much of!