(UnitedHeadlines.com) – After being on display in a Reading, Pennsylvania, funeral home for 128 years, the mummified man known only as Stoneman Willie will receive a proper burial.
After being arrested for picking pockets, the unidentified man died from kidney failure on Nov. 19, 1895, in a local jail. Stoneman Willie’s real identity remained unknown for so many years because he gave authorities a fake name when he was arrested and, therefore local officials were unable to locate any relatives. All that anyone knew about the man was that he had Irish roots.
The funeral home embalmed the man to ensure there was enough time for his family to find him. The funeral home’s original owner, T.C. Auman, who had been experimenting with new embalming techniques, accidentally mummified the man, according to Auman’s Funeral Home Funeral Director Kyle Blankenbiller. In order to monitor the experimental embalming process, the funeral home had petitioned the state of Pennsylvania for permission to keep the body at the funeral home instead of burying it.
Since 1895, Stoneman Willie has been displayed in a coffin at Auman’s Funeral Home dressed in a suit and a bow tie, with a red sash across his chest. Though his skin has a leathery appearance, his teeth and hair remain intact.
Blankenbiller stated that since his death, funeral home workers had continued researching the man’s identity. Blankenbiller added that T.C. Auman referred to the man by a name, and research has proven that he was right. The funeral home identified Stoneman Willie as being James Murphy through historical records. Murphy, who was in Reading in October 1895 for a state convention of firefighters, was laid to rest in October.
According to Blankenbiller, Stoneman Willie was never referred to as a mummy but rather “as our friend Willie.” Blankenbiller said Willie has “become such an icon” and a “storied part” of Reading’s past and present.
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