Philly’s 5 Creepiest Mascots

Welcome back, Gus! The lottery's infamous groundhog is in good, unsettling company.

We did it, guys. We resurrected Gus.

According to the Pennsylvania Lottery, it was popular demand that brought the state’s “second most famous groundhog” back just in time for the holidays.

“Gus went into semi-retirement in early 2012 after a nearly eight-year run as our instant game ad mascot,” said Lottery Executive Director Drew Svitko of the beloved critter in the only press release worth reading. “In the years since, we have continued to hear from players who told us how much they missed Gus and wanted him to return. Simply stated, Gus is a Pennsylvania Lottery institution.”

Damn straight he is, Drew. Damn straight.

Granted, not everyone is happy to see Gus return, which is understandable. (Wrong and heartless and unfeeling, but understandable.)

Because to be fair, there’s something unsettling about animatronic puppets, and something vaguely predatory about this particular one. A cross between the Caddy Shack gopher and a gremlin, Gus isn’t exactly cute, even by rodent standards. His manners are questionable, his catch phrase — “Keep on Scratchin!” — hints at fleas, and his work ethic, well, he’s still playing second fiddle to a groundhog that only works one day a year. Personally, I would do my best to avoid Gus at the holiday Christmas party.

But this, you see, is why Gus must return. We may not have the most charming mascots around these parts, but we know what we like, and what we like are creepy creatures that most other cities would sooner exterminate than hire. It’s kind of our thing, and it kind of suits us.

Here are our creepiest, ranked from “Think twice before petting” to “Good God, someone call animal control.”

5. The Hawk

The hawk, as they say, will never die. Still, it was hard not to notice how mangy St. Joe’s iconic mascot was looking as he held vigil over City Line Avenue during the Papal Visit. That whole continuous wing-flapping thing is only cute until the hawk looks like it could use a good meal — then, it’s a little threatening. (Incidentally, I met the human inside the hawk a few years back. He said the job was fun, but could get sticky and smelled kind of weird. So basically, it’s just like you remember St. Joe’s.)

Nov 28, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Saint Joseph's Hawks mascot. The Hawk, during the second half against the LSU Tigers at ESPN Wide World of Sports. LSU Tigers defeated the Saint Joseph's Hawks 82-65. Photo | Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

4. Swoop

How do you make a six-foot eagle even more terrifying? Give it a human torso. It’s not easy to be the scariest creature at the Linc, but Swoop has risen to the occasion.  

Photo | Jeff Fusco.

Photo | Jeff Fusco.

3. The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor

Even for an ostrich carrying a manic hot dog vendor around Reading, this guy looks depressed

2. The Phanatic

Good Morning America named the Phillie Phanatic the best mascot in baseball because he is. No question about that — our Galapagos import is a goddamn national treasure, and we’re lucky to call him our own. Those pelvis thrusts though.

1. Franklin

On the surface, the 76ers’ new mascot seems friendly. In fact, Franklin is a bit overly cute and cartoonish, if anything. But here’s what we must never forget: Somehow, this dopey Smurf dog took down Hip Hop, the rabbit of your nightmares. Maybe … maybe we give the new guy a little space.

An Action News cameraman films Tim McDermott, chief marketing and innovation officer for the Sixers, and new mascot Franklin as they prepare for a TV interview (Photo: Dan McQuade)

An Action News cameraman films Tim McDermott, chief marketing and innovation officer for the Sixers, and new mascot Franklin as they prepare for a TV interview (Photo: Dan McQuade)

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