Homer's home? It's here

"Simpsons" at center of animated debate.

Posted: July 08, 2007

The folks at 20th Century Fox are holding a contest to finally resolve a mystery that has perplexed TV viewers for nearly two decades:

Where does Homer Simpson live?

In Springfield. Right. But which one? About 55 are scattered from Maine to California.

More puzzling: Why is Fox wasting its time?

We know the Simpsons' hometown is near water, far enough north to get snow, close to a nuclear power plant. Mrs. Van Houten, Milhouse's mom, mentions Mechanicsburg, and Barney, the town drunk, has been a lecturer at Villanova University. Or at least he thinks he has.

Is this ringing any bells?

The clincher came this spring when Marge's sister, Selma Bouvier, who works for the town's Department of Motor Vehicles, was told of a looming crisis: "The new traffic cones are held up in Harrisburg."

Did we mention that Pennsylvania has nine towns called Springfield, three of them nearby? And that the one in Delaware County has a joint called Moe's? Moe's Grille, motto: "When there's no place else to go!"

One of the investors is a genuine Simpson - Bob Simpson. Moe's even has Duf's Beer on tap, as close as you'll get to tasting a "real" Duff.

"We're both Simpsons fans, my partner and I," said co-owner Chris Hagner.

Somehow this overwhelming evidence wasn't good enough for Fox.

The entertainment giant is searching for the Springfield with the most "Simpson spirit," and plans to award the winner the premiere of The Simpsons Movie, due in theaters July 27.

Unfortunately, there's no need for local Springfieldians to rush out and rent tuxedos, because none of the 14 contenders is ours. Not the one in Montgomery or Bucks or Delaware County, or in Bradford, Erie, Fayette, Huntingdon, Mercer or York.


It turns out the Springfields in places like Massachusetts and Ohio outfoxed us: They asked to be considered.

Donald Berger Jr., township manager of Springfield, Montgomery County, said the idea of entering the contest never came up.

But, surely, hundreds of outraged constituents have phoned to complain.


A few?


Maybe one?

"No," Berger said. Besides, he noted, his leafy suburb lacks the requisite dump.

Springfield, Vt., is touting its Simpsonian similarities, which include a bowling alley, a prison, and a nuclear plant. In Springfield, Ill., people swear the guy who runs their plant looks like Mr. Burns.

These burgs understand the value of a movie premiere, both in dollars - visitors stay at hotels, eat in restaurants, rent cars, hold parties - and in publicity.

"It's the kind of press that money can't buy," said Sharon Pinkenson, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office.

The competing Springfields make their cases in short films posted on the USA Today Web site (available via http://go.philly.com/springfield). (Warning: The download is verrrrry slow.) The winner, chosen in an online vote that ends tomorrow night, will be named by midweek.

How many Springfields are there? Counts differ, but there are at least 55, including two in New Jersey. That doesn't include the Springfields in Europe and Africa. Or Rick, Dusty and Buffalo.

Why is the Simpsons' hometown called Springfield? Series cocreator Matt Groening says he chose the name simply because it's common.

That hasn't stopped people from trying to identify the "true" Springfield, or prevented the show's writers from egging them on.

In one episode, when Homer tries to locate Springfield on a map, he points to Chicago. Lisa corrects him, but just as she fingers the locale, Bart steps into the frame and blocks the view.

And in a trailer for The Simpsons Movie, Bart and Ned Flanders climb to a mountaintop where, a voice-over promises, "a secret will be revealed."

"You can see the four states that border Springfield," Flanders says. "Ohio, Nevada, Maine and Kentucky."

What do fans think? On one Web site, voters named Kentucky as the most likely state, Pennsylvania as the second most likely.

"I've come to the conclusion that Springfield is Harrisburg," said Brian Jones of South Philadelphia. "Whenever the Simpsons go on road trips, they're a short drive from the border of several states, like Harrisburg."

Jones points out that on the show, Capital City is a two-hour drive from Springfield, just as Harrisburg is two hours from Philadelphia. And the Capital City Goofball - the mascot of the Capital City Capitals, Springfield's major-league baseball team - looks a lot like the Phillie Phanatic.

Claire Daniels of Springfield, Delaware County, said no one would ever confuse the Simpsons' town with her peaceful community.

"One of the things I like about Springfield," she said, "is there's a wholesomeness."

Definitely the wrong Springfield.

Both towns have a Springfield Mall. But only the Simpsons' features Family Jewels, Donner's Party Supplies, and the Creamatorium, an ice cream shop.

Sam Hughes, who helps run the authoritative Simpsons Web site (www.snpp.com), devotes his scholarship to the Simpsons' hometown. Hughes has compiled dozens of hints that point toward, or away, from various locations.

For instance, the TV town has a Route 401 - the Michael Jackson Expressway, formerly the Dalai Lama Expressway. The real U.S. 401 runs through the Carolinas.

Clues are pursued by fans so intrepid they make the "Paul is dead" sleuths of the 1960s look like amateurs. For instance, Hughes writes, in the "Simpson and Delilah" episode, there's a glimpse of Homer's Social Security number. It begins with 568, a prefix commonly issued in California. A shot of his driver's license shows zip code 49007 - that's Kalamazoo, Mich.

In "Behind the Laughter," a takeoff on the VH1 series Behind the Music, Springfield seemed to be definitively located in Kentucky.

It's clear there are states where Springfield is not. Marge once shouted, "Go back to New Jersey!", so the Garden State is out. And the clan has traveled to Delaware, eliminating the First State.

In "Treehouse of Horror IV," the Simpsons travel to Pennsylvania, which would nix the Keystone State. But this is a Halloween special, which doesn't really count.

Plus, there's good evidence that Springfield is in Pennsylvania. Homer's boyhood dream was to eat the world's biggest hoagie - not grinder, sub or hero. The Amish make cameos. The 1976 Flyers turn up, too.

What does Hughes think? Efforts to reach him were unsuccessful, but on the Web he concludes that the TV Springfield is not modeled on a specific town or located in a particular state.

No state has a capital city called "Capital City," Hughes notes, and no state has a motto of "Not just another state."

Not just another state? Definitely Pennsylvania.

Clues and frustration for Springfield sleuths at

Contact staff writer Jeff Gammage at 610-313-8110 or jgammage@phillynews.com.

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