Mummified Man Will Finally Receive Burial After 128 Years on Display

Stoneman Willie, a 128-year-old mummy from Reading, P.A.InternationalIndiaAfricaMary Manley“He weighs nothing,” said the funeral home director. “He’s that petrified.”Stoneman Willie, a mummified petty thief whose body had undergone an experimental embalming process, will finally be put to rest after being on display in an open coffin in Reading, Pennsylvania, for the last 128 years.Willie’s body will also be buried alongside its original name: James Murphy, a New Yorker who was of Irish descent.In 1895, Murphy, who is believed to have been 37-years-old at the time, had been arrested once for public drunkenness and then a week later for burglarizing a boarding house. He then died in jail from kidney failure just a month after his arrest. When no one had claimed his body he was taken to the Theo C. Auman Funeral Home.”Fast-forward 128 years and he’s still here,” Theo C. Auman Funeral Home director Kyle Blankenbiller said ahead of the burial.Shortly after his death in 1895, his body was embalmed by a mortician who was experimenting with a new technique he had found in a German medical journal on how to preserve meat.Testing showed the mortician used high levels of formalin, cyanide and arsenic. After appealing to state authorities, the funeral home was allowed to keep his body in order to monitor any rates of decomposition.Following the embalming process, Murphy’s body “became hard as wood,” Blankenbiller said of the mummy who wound up dressed in a tuxedo from the 1890s.“He weighs nothing,” he added. “He’s that petrified.”Murphy’s burial had been put on hold after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. But before the funeral home could bury him, they also had to do some detective work in order to figure out his true identity, which had sat behind the mask of a macabre roadside attraction in Reading for 128 years.“He’s been gawked at enough,” said Blankenbiller. “We don’t refer to him as a mummy. We refer to him as our friend Willie. He has just become such an icon, such a storied part of not only Reading’s past but certainly its present.”“As much as we’re sad about it, we really feel we honored him in the way that he deserved after all of this time.”Strangely enough, some residents of Reading do view Murphy as a symbol of their town and its history, despite the fact the corpse belonged to a New Yorker.“It sounds silly but it’s something you can share with your parents and grandparents, and it’s something they shared with their grandparents and parents,” said Alexa Freyman, 32. “It’s morbid, but it was something that brought us together and gave us some sort of reference historically to who we were and what happened here then.”Murphy was finally laid to rest in his tuxedo, as well as a bow tie and red sash. He was buried beneath a tombstone engraved with both of his names: the one given to him when he was alive, and the one given to him in death.


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