Scandalous Prognostication


phil-2The groundhog has spoken.

For those living in North America, and anyone who visits for that matter, February 2nd marks an important day in the proliferation of prognostication. Never mind the Farmer’s Almanac, each 2nd of February, Americans and Canadians predicate their annual battle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, on the predictions of a rodent.

This year’s outcome is indecisive.  A split decision, dividing a continent.

With foreseeable backlash, scandal and media frenzy inevitable, one can only hope the global outcry and ensuing protests remain peaceful.

For those unfamiliar, the science behind Groundhog Day is sound. Each February 2nd, the groundhog awakens from hibernation and emerges to inspect its surroundings.  If the rodent sees its shadow (which in layman’s terms means the sun is shining) the animal returns to its burrow for a further 6 weeks of hibernation.  Conversely, if no shadow is seen (cloudy with a chance of golf balls), spring is imminent.

Who can argue with science?

This year, in Pennsylvania, perhaps the most famous of all prognosticators, star of film and television, Punxsutawney Phil made his appearance.  And to the dismay of many, Phil saw his shadow and abruptly returned to his lair.   Six more weeks of winter.

In Ontario, Wiarton Willy made his debut in style, tantalizing his fans by proudly declaring that spring was on its way.

And in eastern Canada, the relative newcomer to the category of furry celebrities, Shubenacadie Sam, concurred with his Ontario cousin, declaring winter to be over.

2 to 1.

So who’s right?

Before we make a decision, let’s delve a little deeper, turn over a rock or two, and uncover the seedier side of prognostication, warts and all.

Punxsutawney Phil is not without a scandalous past.  Aside from the usual non-flattering Tabloid exposé one can expect of a Hollywood celebrity, one of the more contentious issues surrounding Phil is the claim that he is in fact the original rodent from the very first Groundhog Day event in 1886.

You heard that right.

Despite the fact that the average groundhog’s lifespan is 7 years, folklore claims Phil has been kept alive for 131 years by ingesting a special groundhog elixir, fed to him once a year during the annual festivities.  Remarkable when you think about it.  And while skeptics challenge the science behind the claim, festival organizers remain adamant Punxsutawney Phil is the original specimen.  Asked if perhaps the state of Florida and Ponce de Leon may have played a role in these extraordinary circumstances, Pennsylvania’s official spokesperson had no comment.

Wiarton Willy’s prognosticative success rate is said to be 90%.  Nothing short of astounding.  According to some, this extraordinary statistic is due in part to Wiarton Ontario being situated on the 45th parallel, exactly halfway between the Equator and the North Pole.  A metaphysical hotspot, so to speak.  Add to this the fact that Willie is an albino, an extremely rare marmot, the mysticism and folklore surrounding his abilities are legend.

However Willie is not without his demons.

groundhog_day-wiarton-willie-2The original Wiarton Willie lived to an impressive age of 22 years.  Unfortunately, he died in 1999, two days before the big event in February.  Unable to find a suitable replacement in time for the festival, organizers were left with few options.  Ultimately, they decided to display a dead Willie, complete with coffin, tiny tuxedo, coins on his eyes, and a carrot between his paws.

The outrage was instantaneous.

And it only got worse.

Shortly thereafter an unknown source leaked information that blew the proverbial lid off the entire sordid affair.  It turned out that the actual (dead) Willie was too decomposed to be put on display, so festival organizers substituted his corpse with that of a poorly stuffed replica, a taxidermy school reject.  The saga grew even more ghastly when it was later discovered that before his (un)timely death, Willie, in a fit of rodent rage, attacked and killed both his albino understudies.  Apparently, unbeknownst to his caregivers, Willie was an aging Diva, willing to do anything to protect his career.

You can’t make this shit up.

Nova Scotia’s groundhog situation is a bit different.  Their famous furry resident lives in a local Wildlife Park, and is not formally enticed out of his burrow on February 2nd for festivities, as are his counterparts. Onlookers merely attend and wait him out.  While there is no scandal that we know of surrounding Shubenacadie Sam, it is interesting to note that he is the star of his own rodent-reality show.  Yes, Sam’s daily adventures can be viewed 24/7 via live webcam coverage.

Which begs the question – is there a hidden agenda here?  Is Sam perhaps secretly auditioning for a shot at Groundhog Day 2 – The Sequel, right under the nose of a hibernating Punxsutawney Phil?


Regardless of motive, along with Sam’s Internet fame, stardom comes with perks, including a fulltime human caregiver, and breakfast served up fresh every morning –yogurt and melon.  Not bad for an east coast marmot.

Is it a coincidence that Shubenacadie Sam just happened to choose the response his adoring fans wished for?  Might we consider preferential treatment a form of ‘inducement’? 

Is this a scandal in the making?

You tell me.

Any way you look at it, whatever your take on animal prognostication, remember this;  even the best meteorologist will predict a 50% chance of rain, and still get it wrong.

So who’s to say?

Until next time,



45 thoughts on “Scandalous Prognostication

  1. Pingback: learnaswegrow74
  2. Wow, you really did a lot of research on these super stars eh? Thanks for all the fun facts, now I want to watch Ground Hog Day again, it’s been awhile. I don’t think I’ll be watch the live hog cam however, sounds a bit slow for my taste.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I actually pulled this one together quite quickly, thanks to Wikipedia (although I do double check any facts I borrow from that site). I remember seeing Groundhog Day at the theatre on its original release, but haven’t seen it since. I am a huge Murray fan, but GD wasn’t a big hit for me. Anyhow, cheers for commenting, much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was reading. I chuckled. Toddler asked what was funny. I said I’m reading. Later, I chuckled again. I wish I could explain to her. 🙂 Love it, Mike. Always a terrific read from you. Thank you. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Anne! I wasn’t able to locate a photo of poor dead Willy in his tuxedo, probably for the best though. So glad you enjoyed the post. In no time at all you and your little one will be laughing at the same things and you’ll wonder where the time went. Enjoy! Cheers, thanks for commenting, always a pleasure to read.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Mike- it seemed like you uncovered quite a bit while you researched your blog. I didn’t know that there may be a little Hollywood backstabbing going on in the rodent community. Who knew that Phil could lose out on Groundhog 2 to an upstart? You are so correct when you say this is an exact science for predicting how long winter will linger. It doesn’t seem archaic. Not in the least. Clever post, my friend.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, both Canadian rodents have been wooing Bill Murray. Considering his movie career took off with Meatballs, filmed in northern Ontario, and the fact that he was bitten twice during the filming of Groundhog Day by the American marmot, they figure they have a great shot. Cheers Susan, always a pleasure to hear from you!

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Can one apply for the job of Prognosticating Ground Hog? The job would be a great fit for me. I’d only have to put in an appearance once a year, be pampered the rest of the time. Gosh, I could really get a lot of writing done; knock off that memoir and maybe even a few other books. I’d just push the manuscripts out the burrow and the attentive minions would do the rest. A good fit indeed.
    A tip of the Bailey’s to you, Mike.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. VERY clever post, Mike – chuckled my way through it. Love your word-craft even more than your info.

    Cincinnati, however, needs no rodent seer to indicate whether winter will linger. It WILL — until *at least* late March. True in the few years I have lived here, anyway – as the rest of the world is already inching its way toward summer. Why should this year be any different?
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m sure we’ll still get hit with a major dumping of snow before all’s said and done, we’ve had it easy so far. I can recall the odd April snowstorm, but hopefully not this year. I guess I shouldn’t complain, friends were at our place in Florida last week to do some golfing, they had a frost delay one morning it was so cold.
      Thanks so much for your kind words and comment Madelyn, always appreciated!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Nothing we can do about the weather but comment upon it in any case. (unless we’re prepared to move, lol)

        Winter weather in Florida always seems colder, I believe – not only because it frustrates our expectations, but also because homes etc. aren’t really built for it.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Funny post Mike. I chuckled through out the read. I’m impressed with all of your ground hog knowledge.
    I can totally picture Nova Scotia residents sipping coffee while politely standing around a ground hog den waiting for hours for the animal to come out or not.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Stacey! I agree with you on Nova Scotians, if it was Toronto, they’d be using a loud hailer, or poking it with a hockey stick (I live 30 minutes from the Big Smoke so I can say that). Cape Bretoner especially, would be hushing one another while they waited. Cheers and thanks again for visiting!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Thanks, Mike, for an entertaining read. Made me smile. I was also impressed with your research. Another example of informative, imaginative writing from you. Good job. I predict this one dies well-whether more winter or into spring is irrelevant. She smiles again thinking of the tuxedo clad corpse.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Hailing originally from England I have always looked at the concept of groundhog day with some amusement. Living now in Canada I see groundhog day as very amusing. I mean even billion dollar AI computers, cannot predict the weather, what chance that poor animal?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, and considering Nova Scotia is supposed to get hammered today, some areas as much as 30-40 cm, I hear Shubenacadie Sam has been put in the witness protection program. Cheers Peter, I appreciate the visit and comment!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Our East Coast has been hammered over the past 2-3 days. I think they averaged between 2 – 3 feet in most places, power outages the works. And their groundhog said an early Spring. Yikes. I’m with you, I’m ready for Spring. Cheers!


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