Sad news on Groundhog Day - Wiarton Willie is dead

This is Groundhog Day, when myth holds that certain groundhogs will pop out of their hole, check their shadow and determine how much longer winter will last. But in Ontario, there was a bizarre twist in the story of Wiarton Willie.

Organizers say Willie died on Sunday night, but they decided to keep the news quiet until Tuesday. According to Wiarton Willie's official website, Willie "..asked only that we withhold this information until February 2nd so that it would not spoil the festivities which he loved so dearly."

Apparently, Willie gave his prediction a bit early. In his will, organizers say he predicted an early spring. They now say they are searching for Willie's son in the hope that he will assume his father's predicting duties.

Punxsutawney Phil, the weather rodent of choice in Pennsylvania, did not see his shadow this morning. According to folklore in that area, that also means spring is right around the corner.

There were 20,000 people on hand for the annual event.

If the groundhog sees his shadow, he calls for six more weeks of hard winter. If he doesn't, he predicts an early spring.

According to the keepers of Punxsutawney Phil -- the groundhog behind the large, older festival in Pennsylvania -- Groundhog Day is based on this Scottish couplet:

If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year.

In the early 1880s, some residents of Punxsutawney decided to celebrate Candlemas Day by going to the woods in search of a groundhog.