Cat in the Stax: The Lore and Scandals of Groundhog Day
By Ethan Shea
It’s Groundhog Day, and as residents of Pennsylvania, we should all rejoice, as this holiday originated in our state with the one and only Punxsutawney Phil. According to local lore, there really is only one Punxsutawney Phil, and there has never been another. In fact, the original Phil has been making annual weather predictions since 1886. Despite the average lifespan of groundhogs being only three years on average, Phil is currently over 135 years old.
Phil’s secret to longevity is the “elixir of life,” a secret drink he enjoys every summer at the Groundhog Picnic. Each serving of this magic drink grants Phil another seven years of life.
By the time this blog is published, Phil will have already made his weather prediction. However, there are other groundhogs throughout the country who take to the stage every Groundhog Day. My personal favorite (aside from Phil, of course) is Staten Island Chuck, who is formally known as Charles G. Hogg. Chuck has been New York City’s official groundhog meteorologist since 1981, and in spite of his relatively young career in the meteorology industry compared to Phil, he is no stranger to controversy.
In 2009, Chuck bit former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg during the Groundhog Day ceremony, and as a result, Chuck was secretly replaced by his granddaughter Charlotte for future festivities. Moreover, during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first Groundhog Day ceremony, he dropped Charlotte! One week later, Charlotte passed away, and the Staten Island Zoo did not announce her death until several months later.
There has been lots of controversy surrounding whether de Blasio inadvertently killed Charlotte. Some even believe the Staten Island Zoo attempted to hide her death, but since the event, the zookeepers have confirmed they do not believe the fall was the cause of Charlotte’s death.
Some other famous groundhogs worth knowing are Buckeye Chuck of Ohio, Chuckles XI of Connecticut, Chattanooga Chuck of Tennessee, and Pierre C. Shadeaux of Louisiana.
Hopefully no more scandals about today’s holiday are revealed in the future, and all the nation’s groundhogs continue to perform their sacred duties in peace.
If you’d like to take part in today’s festivities from the comfort of your home, consider picking up the classic movie Groundhog Day, which is available here at Falvey on DVD or through streaming. Happy Groundhog Day everyone!
Ethan Shea is a first-year English Graduate student and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.
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