Fueled By Death Cast Ep. 163 - Groundhog Day REINCARNATED

Death Wish employees in front of Punxsutawney Phil's home







Welcome to the first-ever REINCARNATED episode of Fueled By Death Cast. I will be giving new listeners a look back at earlier episodes in the reincarnated series, and fans of the show since the beginning can relive some of the best bits of previous podcasts! 
This week is all about Groundhog Day because, without fail, the holiday is celebrated every year on February 2nd. In 2017, my cohost D-Man and myself, Mike Brown, and John Swedish ventured down to Punxsutawney PA to see the holiday festivities up close. We talked with some of the inner circle and reminisced about the cult classic movie starring Bill Murray.
Plus - hear the origins of the holiday as D-Man and I break down Groundhog Day celebrations around the world.


Mike Brown: Hi, this is Mike Brown, owner of Death Wish Coffee Company. Welcome to Fueled By Death Cast.

Announcer: Death Wish coffee presents Fueled By Death Cast, the world's strongest podcast with your hosts, the incredible Jeff, and the amazing D-man.

Jeff: Okay. Campers, rise and shine, and don't forget your booties because it's cold out there today.

Dustin: It's cold out there every day. What is this? Miami beach?

Jeff: Not hardly. And you know, you can expect hazardous travel later today with that, you know, that blizzard thing,

Dustin: That blizzard thing. That blizzard thing. Oh well, here's the report. The national weather service is calling for a big blizzard thing.

Jeff: Yeah, they are. But you know, there's another reason why today's especially exciting.

Dustin: Especially cold.

Jeff: Especially cold. Okay. But the big question on everybody's lips.

Dustin: On their chapped lips.

Jeff: On their chapped lips. Right? Do you think Phil is going to come out and see his shadow?

Dustin: Punxsutawney Phil.

Jeff: That's right, wood chuckers. It's Groundhog Day.

Dustin: Groundhog Day.

Jeff: Don't touch that radio dial. You're in the right place. This is the newest episode of Fueled By Death Cast, episode 163, or season four episode seven. And this is the first time we're trying this. This is going to be a Fueled By Death Cast re-incarnated episode.

Jeff: As we approach the most famous rodent-based February holiday, Groundhog Day. I thought it would be fun to revisit some past episodes here on Fueled By Death Cast, especially if you just happened to discover this podcast.

Jeff: Way back in 2017, my cohost at the time, D-man and myself, went down to Punxsutawney, and experienced Groundhog Day, and all of the festivities first hand. And I'm going to replay some of the fun from that episode, along with last year's in-depth look that Dustin and I did, at the history of Groundhog day, how it started and what it means to popular culture today.

Jeff: So sit tight, tune in, and have some fun reliving all of our Groundhog day episodes together. And I do want to say as always, for being a fan of Fueled By Death Cast, you still get a super secret discount code. Go on over to deathwishcoffee.com, type in discount of Jeff and get 12% off your order today and tomorrow and every day for being a fan of everything we do here at Fueled By Death Cast.

Jeff: So let's get back to the first ever Fueled By Death Cast re-incarnated episode.

Jeff: Groundhog day. We all know that this exists, thanks to the movie. But it exists. Why? Why does it exist? So in our vein of, when we're on the roast, and we're learning about holidays, especially rodent holidays that are silly.

Dustin: Silly ones, yeah.

Jeff: I figured why not go down into it? So it derives from the Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day, sees a shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat into its den and winter will persist for six more weeks. Where if it doesn't see a shadow because it's cloudy, spring will arrive early.

Dustin: Is that actually the case?

Jeff: That is actually the case.

Dustin: If it sees its shadow, it's like, "All right, we're good."

Jeff: No, if it sees its shadow, winter for six more weeks.

Dustin: Okay, and-

Jeff: If it doesn't see its shadow-

Dustin: It's like, "It's cool to come out now."?

Jeff: Yes.

Dustin: And they actually do this?

Jeff: They actually do this.

Dustin: That's weird.

Jeff: It's super weird. So while the tradition remains popular, studies have found no consistent correlation between the groundhog seeing its shadow and the arrival of winter or spring.

Dustin: Weird. You mean this rodent isn't predicting the weather? That's so strange. I wouldn't have thought that was the case at all.

Jeff: This is first reported as news of Groundhog Day observance in 1886, in the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper, of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where they actually wrote in the paper up to the time of going to press, the beast has not seen its shadow.

Jeff: I did find out though, that it was not an official holiday until the following year in 1887, when townspeople in Punxsutawney went to the now famous Gobblers Knob, and which is the most unfortunate name-

Dustin: Was it named Gobblers Knob?

Jeff: [crosstalk 00:04:54] It really was. It really was because a knob is a type of hilly, the area. And the guy's name was literally like John Gobbler or whatever.

Dustin: Oh my God.

Jeff: So like that's why they named it that. But I mean, yeah, it's definitely-

Dustin: The guy's name was Knob Gobbler.

Jeff: Yeah, it's definitely an unfortunate name.

Dustin: Or fortunate, depending-

Jeff: The largest Groundhog Day celebration in anywhere is in Punxsutawney. It has had crowds up to 40,000 people at one time. The average draw usually is around like it was around 2,000 people or so until the movie in 1993. And then it ballooned into about 10,000 to 40,000 people.

Dustin: And I mean they do like hours of dancing and fireworks.

Jeff: It's insanity. But Punxsutawney's not the only place that does this. Which Punxsutawney is the famous place. There is a Groundhog celebration in New York City. The Groundhog's name is Dunkirk Dave. Yeah. I'm sorry, the groundhog in New York city is Staten Island Chuck. I'm sorry about that. Dunkirk Dave is a groundhog in Western New York.

Dustin: You'd think you would have called him Staten Island Stan or something.

Jeff: I know, right. The funny thing about the one in Western New York is he is a stuffed groundhog that they do this with.

Dustin: Like it was alive once, and now it's-

Jeff: Yes, it's a taxidermy one.

Dustin: Wow.

Jeff: They also do that in Washington, DC. The Dupont Circle, Groundhog Day group. They have an event every Groundhog Day in Washington DC, where Potomac Phil comes out, the taxidermy groundhog, to look for his shadow. Although because it's Washington DC, they have a nice little spin on it, and if it sees its shadow it means there's going to be six more months of political gridlock.

Dustin: This is so weird, Jeff.

Jeff: Because everything's in political-

Dustin: I'm so weirded out by all this.

Jeff: In French Canada, Fred La Marmotte has been the representative forecaster for the Providence of Quebec since 2009. Which is pretty crazy, because a lot of the areas around there still celebrate the ancient tradition of Candlemas-

Dustin: I don't know what that is.

Jeff: They have weather-predicting beasts centered around this ancient holiday.

Dustin: You mean more than just a groundhog?

Jeff: It's usually the bear.

Dustin: Oh.

Jeff: Yeah. In 2017, Groundhog Day was scheduled to be observed at zoos in Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia. And just a little bit on Candlemas, Candlemas is a primarily Catholic festival, but also German Protestant. It's a folk religion that is linked with literally weather prediction around animals, bears and foxes predominantly. But then when they started to die out, especially in Siberia, they moved to smaller rodents.

Dustin: How are we going to tell whether with all the animals there? I don't know. Pick a different fucking animal, dude.

Jeff: So throughout the years in Punxsutawney, at least, the inner circle has come out every single year to preside over the festivities, and whether or not Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not. There has been by, so says by National Geographic, he has a 28% accuracy rating.

Dustin: Wow. Wow, that's worse than flipping a coin.

Jeff: Yeah. The movie came out in 1993. And again, that not only made the holiday much more celebrated, but it made the town much more celebrated.

Jeff: So speaking of that pop culture sensation, that movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray. When we were down there in 2017, not only did Dustin and myself dress up as dueling Bill Murray's and fearless leader, Mike Brown was Ned Ryerson from the movie as well. We sat down and we broke down the science behind what it would really mean to be stuck in a daily loop, like Bill Murray's character from that movie.

Announcer: Science.

Jeff: So real quick, science-wise, Groundhog Day has been in effect since the 1800's, when it came over here from Germany. And also, it is a beloved movie starring Bill Murray.

Dustin: So what were they doing in Germany? They were just wrestling Groundhogs, and-

Jeff: No, it was actually a badger, I believe, and they ate him after he predicted the weather.

Dustin: That's pretty savage.

Jeff: Yeah. But what's cool science-wise, is someone took the time to figure out exactly how long Bill Murray was stuck in the movie Groundhog Day, reliving the same day over and over again.

Dustin: Right. Because he relives it so many times. He knows everybody's move. He knows everybody's back story. He knows that, he masters the piano. He masters chainsaw carving on ice. I mean, how long does that take? You have to master everything. That's like 10,000 hours. So figure it out from there. So somebody actually broke it down.

Jeff: Somebody broke it down. Actually from a site called obsessed with film. They said that their quote is 12,403 days. That's 33 years, 358 days he was stuck in a time loop.

Dustin: Wait, how many? How many years?

Jeff: That is 33 years.

Dustin: That's not too bad.

Jeff: That's a lot to spend on a single day.

Dustin: I think I would have gone at least like 50 years before I started trying to kill myself.

Jeff: Right. And the reason why they're dealing with this is if you've seen the movie, one of the adages is that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something.

Dustin: Yeah.

Jeff: So obviously he became an expert at chainsaw ice sculpting, carving.

Dustin: Yeah, there's a name for that, I'm sure.

Jeff: Right. And, he also learned to play the piano incredibly well. He learned French, even though they didn't say that he became an expert at it. They broke all of that down and added in all the days that he was there. We saw him die a couple times putting a toaster in his bathtub. Going over a cliff with the groundhog. But he also said he was stabbed, and shot, and poisoned, and all those that didn't happen.

Dustin: Yeah, burned, and yeah-

Jeff: So they added up all those days together and got that number. And I think that's a pretty crazy scientific fake fact for Groundhog Day.

Dustin: Do you ever think he got morbidly curious and just kind of got bored, and just started finding creative ways to kill himself?

Jeff: I mean, if you're stuck in the same day for 33 years, yes, definitely.

Announcer: Wake the cup up.

Jeff: In 2017, Dustin and myself did go down to Punxsutawney, along with Mike Brown and John Swedish of Death Wish Coffee. But I wanted to just tell you how absolutely insane it is. We showed up the day before, and this town probably boasts maybe a thousand people live there, maybe.

Dustin: Yeah. You got to think at this point, you're in the Midwest.

Jeff: Yeah.

Dustin: It's, "No way, we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto." It's very like all the towns around Punxsutawney are like weird Amish-

Jeff: Amish. We went through a half hour of horse and horse drawn carriages.

Dustin: Yeah.

Jeff: Like before we made it to Punxsutawney. and you make it to Punxsutawney and there's a big sign that says the weather capital of the world, which is wrong. But I mean a big groundhog on the sign and everything. And they go hard for this because again, a town of barely a thousand residents is now hosting upwards of tens of thousands of people.

Dustin: I mean they have a car wash that's like the Phil's Carwash. Every single business has a groundhog somewhere on their door, or their window, or in their name. And there's groundhogs all over the town. And that's all they have.

Jeff: It's insanity. So we went and that night we went to like the main bar in town.

Dustin: Oh my God.

Jeff: If you're a fan of the bill Murray movie, one of the things he learns for being stuck in the movie for so long, is he learns how to play the piano, and they had two guys dueling piano at this bar playing all the songs from the movie, which was great. Mike Brown himself, dressed up as Ned Ryerson.

Dustin: You have a picture of that, right?

Jeff: I'll put that picture up in here.

Dustin: Okay, good.

Jeff: You and I dressed up as dueling Bill Murrays.

Dustin: Right, because what else would you do?

Jeff: Because Why not? And we actually got to talk to some of the inner circle. Now these are the guys with the top hats that preside over all of this. We talked to, and I forgot their names until I re listened to the episode, the chief health man who had inherited this position from his father who had held it for 49 years. The thunder conductor, right?

Dustin: [crosstalk 00:13:25] The thunder conductor, I remember that dude.

Jeff: The thunder conductor was the guy who gets up, and gets the crowd animated and gets going.

Dustin: He was funny.

Jeff: And the ozone. We met the ozone, which I still don't even know what the ozone did, but he was a really nice dude.

Jon Johnston: Okay. My name is Jon Johnston. My inner circle name is Chief Healthman.

Dustin: That is so cool. So what does that entail for you being in, as an inner circle member?

Jon Johnston: Well, as far as the Chief Healthman part of it goes, it's an honorary title. I basically inherited it from my father. He was in the club for 49 years. When he retired, after about three years, I got into the club. They anointed me the new Chief Healthman. I have absolutely nothing to do with the health of Punxsutawney Phil though.

Jeff: Well that's good. That's good. So you've been doing this for a very long time. I got to ask, is it the same groundhog? Is the groundhog hundreds and hundreds of years old?

Dustin: Jeff, it's not immortal. It's not an immortal groundhog. That's not how it works.

Jon Johnston: Punxy Phil is immortal. He is.

Jeff: There it is. You heard that.

Jon Johnston: He's not only immortal, but he is infallible. Every year we have a picnic. In that picnic, we have a ceremony where Punxy Phil drinks the elixir of life, a secret formula known only to the handlers of Punxsutawney Phil. It's passed down from handler to handler. With every sip of the elixir, he gets seven more years of life. Punxy Phil is at least 131 years old.

Jeff: Wow. That's incredible. So what is your favorite thing, as a member of the inner circle, you get to see it all and do it all. What is your favorite thing about Groundhog Day?

Jon Johnston: Well, you guys just pulled me out of this place for this interview.

Jeff: What is this place again?

Jon Johnston: Well, this place is called The Burrow, and it was actually started by one of the guys in the inner circle.

Jeff: Oh.

Jon Johnston: So, but right now it is jam packed full of people having a great time in the middle of winter and you know, really where else are you going to do that?

Dustin: Not back home.

Jon Johnston: Except in Punxsutawney, right?

Jeff: Yeah.

Dustin: Yeah.

Jon Johnston: So you come in, you stay up all night in the middle of the night, you're up on the knob in the middle of the woods, standing in mud and snow with thousands of other screaming people, and they're all having a blast. That's, that's the fun part about Groundhog Day.

Jeff: Yeah. Well we're here. This is our first time ever down here where we're dressed as dueling Bill Murray's where we're doing our best and we're having the best time. And you know, I just got to say thank you so much for coming on the podcast, and talking to us for a minute.

Jeff: And I got to ask, what fuels you to keep doing this every year? You said you've been doing it for for that many years. What keeps you going? What gets you excited every year to come back and be part of the inner circle?

Jon Johnston: Well, the thing that I really love about it is seeing the people, new people. Guys like you coming up here. I met somebody, a couple from San Francisco tonight. The one guy was an ex, was a Marine, he helped build the Shanksville Memorial.

Jeff: Wow.

Jon Johnston: Yeah. And just people who put this on their bucket list, and come around, and just experience it and have a great time. That's why I do it.

Jeff: That's the best, putting awesome stuff out into the world. Well, again, thank you so much for taking time out, and let's get back to the party.

Jon Johnston: Absolutely.

Dustin: Yeah, thank you Jon Johnson. Thank you very much brother.

Jeff: Can you please tell us your name and your inner circle name?

Dave Gigliotti: Dave Gigliotti. The Thunder Conductor.

Jeff: And that's probably the coolest name ever, right Dustin?

Dustin: Yeah. What makes you the Thunder Conductor?

Dave Gigliotti: Well, the president of the Groundhog Clubs give you your name when you're initiated in. And my job coming in, they knew what they wanted me to do, they wanted to put me on stage and entertain the crowd. So I conduct the thunder, which is the thunder being the crowd noise, so.

Dustin: Has there ever been a Thunder Conductor before you?

Dave Gigliotti: There have been others on stage that entertain the crowd, but none as the Thunder Conductor.

Jeff: That's the best. So how long have you been the Thunder Conductor?

Dave Gigliotti: This will be my 10th Groundhog day.

Dustin: Wow, that's crazy.

Jeff: Wow, that is really cool. So what fuels you, as the Thunder Conductor, to do it every year and come back out, and get that crowd riled?

Dave Gigliotti: Oh you feed off the crowd. But I mean, you do it because of Punxsutawney Phil, perpetuating the legend. And Phil has his moment in the spotlight. But so many faithful followers come out from so many places, so far away, and they get onto the knob at three o'clock, at two o'clock and in Phil doesn't come out till 7:15, 7:30.

Jeff: Right.

Dave Gigliotti: So what are you going to do with them? So you get out there, and you just keep them awake. You keep them alive, and you just pump them up. And they pump you right back up. I mean, just looking at those people standing in the freezing cold in the middle of winter, in the middle of the woods to watch a groundhog. It's not about anything other than just having a good time with other people that are having a good time, that are with other people that are having a good time. And there's just passionate about that.

Dave Gigliotti: It's just about living life in the moment, being there all together, all at once with nothing else. All the distractions, all the rest of everything in your life, everything in your days, it's nonexistent at that point in time. And you'll see it. If you get to the knob, and you see what happens up there, that is my expression of what happens, is those people express themselves so fully in the moment that they forget about all the shit that bogs them down that's bad and they only think good. And to be part of that, it just pumps me up that much more to make it happen.

Jeff: So we heard that Punxsutawney Phil is in fact immortal. He's been alive and he keeps on drinking his elixir. Can you give us the secret ingredient to his elixir?

Dave Gigliotti: That of course I could not do. That is a secret. It doesn't work on humans anyway. We've tried looking at some of our inner circle members, The Big Windmaker, The Big Flake Maker back of past. You see them, no chance. Humans tried it, doesn't work.

Patrick O.: Butch Philliber is actually 27 years old. It worked like a Benjamin Button on him, because he accidentally drank it one time.

Jeff: We have another inner circle member right here. Would you mind saying your name and your inner circle name on record?

Patrick O.: I am Patrick Osikowicz, The O-Zone, inner circle member of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

Jeff: Wow, you guys are legend.

Dustin: So wait, wait, wait. What makes you The O-Zone?

Patrick O.: Well my name is Patrick Osikowicz. Everybody calls me Pat O. So my weather name could be nothing else, other than The O-Zone.

Jeff: So you're the newest member?

Patrick O.: I am.

Jeff: Is this your first year or?

Patrick O.: No, this is my second Groundhog Day.

Jeff: Incredible. So what fuels you to keep coming back and doing this as The O-Zone in-

Patrick O.: [crosstalk 00:20:15] It's the spectacle. It's the weirdos like you guys that keeps everybody coming back. It's not us. It's Phil's faithful followers that bring the crowd in.

Jeff: Wow. Wow. Thank you guys so much for being on Fueled By Death Cast. And we cannot wait for all the festivities that happen in only a few hours, few short hours, Groundhog Day.

Dave Gigliotti: And you know what we could find out this year, 2017?

Jeff: What's that?

Dave Gigliotti: We could find out if Death Wish Coffee can make the Thunder Conductor more fun.

Announcer: Welcome back to the show.

AJ Dereume: Oh, I know I'm the Rainmaker because, well I had my dad's name bequeathed to me. He was in the inner circle, and he made it rain every time we went on vacation. That's how I got the name.

Jeff: So for the record, tell us your actual name, and then tell us your inner circle name.

AJ Dereume: Well my actual name is AJ Dereume, and my inner circle name is Rainmaker.

Jeff: So how long have you been a part of the inner circle?

AJ Dereume: This is my eighth year, I believe. Something like that.

Dustin: Wow.

Jeff: Incredible. So what fuels you to keep coming back, and bringing it for Groundhog Day? To do what you do with Groundhog Day?

AJ Dereume: Well it's just fun. It's just fun, fun, fun, fun, fun. I mean, we were at the knob till midnight last night. Back up there at quarter of five this morning.

Jeff: Wow.

AJ Dereume: And I won't go to bed till quarter till 5:00 PM tomorrow.

Jeff: Because we're going up there early in the morning, and we're all going to be-

AJ Dereume: I'm leaving here and going there. I'll be there by two.

Jeff: That's incredible. We heard a rumor that the groundhog is actually immortal, and he drinks in elixir every year to stay immortal. We got to know, what's in that elixir?

AJ Dereume: Well, and it's not that he's immortal. The elixir gives him seven more years of, we say longevity.

Jeff: We did hear that.

Dustin: Yep.

AJ Dereume: I mean eventually, I mean, I'm sure that whatever number that has gotten to at this point. This year had like four sips. So four times seven, add that up and whatever. He's going to be around for a while.

Jeff: Awesome.

AJ Dereume: As far as ingredients go, the only ones that know that are the handlers.

Announcer: Welcome back to the show.

Jeff: Finally, on this first ever edition of a reincarnated episode, I want you all to experience the pandemonium that was that early morning on February 2nd, at Gobbler's Knob in 2017, as they brought the Groundhog out and decided if there was going to be more winter, or if it was going to be an early spring. We recorded it all as we were standing there with thousands of people, and it was an experience that I'll never forget. And thanks so much for coming down memory lane, and trying out this brand new reincarnated episode with me and Dustin.

Dave Gigliotti: I need your help. I'd like to be able to tell my children and grandchildren that on February 2nd, 2017, I stood at Gobbler's Knob with the inner circle and Punxsutawney Phil, and screamed at the top of my lungs, happy Groundhog Day. Are you with me?

Crowd: Yes. Yeah.

Dave Gigliotti: All right. Raise your hands in the air and scream with me. Happy Groundhog Day.

Crowd: Happy Groundhog Day.

Jeff: The weather is about to be predicted.

Dave Gigliotti: Okay, so everybody [crosstalk 00:23:40]

Dustin: I'm cold. I'm hung over. But we're here, Jeff. We're here in the midst of this ritual.

Jeff: We are.

Dustin: Oh man, Phil.

Crowd: Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil.

Speaker 11: God damn gofer, come out of your hole.

Dave Gigliotti: I see him.

Jeff: Waiting to see. Does he see his shadow?

Dustin: Oh shit. He's dead.

Dave Gigliotti: I see teeth.

Dustin: Oh no, he's not dead yet.

Dave Gigliotti: Come on boy. We need something.

Jeff: Oh no. D-man, you might be right.

Dave Gigliotti: He's feeling [inaudible 00:24:25] Phil. Phil is feisty.

Jeff: Feisty Phil.

Dave Gigliotti: Ladies and gentlemen, Punxsutawney Phil.

Crowd: [inaudible 00:24:38]

Jeff: Oh, there he is in all of his rodent glory.

Dustin: Is it, is it moving?

Jeff: I think it's alive. Yes. He breathed. I saw him.

Dave Gigliotti: Okay, this is-

Dustin: Oh, he just shat.

Jeff: He pooped.

Dustin: He's losing him.

Dave Gigliotti: It don't look good guys.

Dustin: Uh-oh.

Jeff: Uh-oh.

Speaker 11: Wow.

Dave Gigliotti: Okay big guy, come on. Look at me. Phil, Phil.

Jeff: They're screaming at the rodent. Hoping to get a response.

Dustin: This is more like an interrogation.

Jeff: No response yet. We might have to wait until next year for the weather report.

Dave Gigliotti: Ladies and gentlemen, he has made his prediction.

Jeff: Oh, here it comes.

Dustin: The moment we've all been waiting for.

Speaker 13: Five, four, three.

Dave Gigliotti: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye.

Jeff: Hear ye.

Dave Gigliotti: Now, this second day of February, 2017, the 131st annual trek of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, before one of the largest crowds in the history of Groundhog Day.

Crowd: [inaudible].

Dave Gigliotti: Punxsutawney Phil, the seer of seers, prognosticator of all prognosticators was awakened from his burrow to the cheers of his thousands of faithful followers.

Crowd: [inaudible]

Speaker 8: In groundhog ease, he directed the president, and the inner circle his prediction scroll, which reads at Gobbler's Knob on Groundhog Day, we celebrate a worldwide holiday. It's mighty cold weather you've been braving. Is it winter, or is it summer you're craving? Since we've been up all night and starting to tottle, I Punxy Phil shall not dawdle. My faithful followers, I clearly see a perfect, clear shadow of me. Six more weeks of winter.

Crowd: [inaudible 00:26:57].

Jeff: More winter. We're so sorry to report to all of you, but there is more winter on the way. How do you feel D-man?

Dustin: Shitty.

Jeff: Yeah, me too.