(RepublicanView.org) – The mummified body of a man that has been on display for 128 years has received a proper burial, as of October. Known as “Stoneman Willie,” the body was exhibited at a funeral home in Reading, Pennsylvania, but was buried in a nearby cemetery when his identity was finally revealed. His name was James Murphy, and he died from alcoholism-related kidney failure at a jailhouse in Reading in 1895.
Murphy was in jail accused of theft, and following his death, he was “accidentally” mummified, reportedly by a funeral home experimenting with what was then the latest embalming technology. Local officials could not find any relatives at the time, and according to Reuters, local historian George Meiser says, “Weeks passed, months passed, years passed, and no one claimed the remains.” The funeral home successfully appealed to state officials to keep the body unburied in order to observe the effect of the embalming.
Buried in a tuxedo with a red sash, Stoneman Willie’s funeral attracted visitors from across Reading. According to The Guardian, Kyle Blankenbiller, director of the Theo C Auman funeral home, said, “We don’t refer to him as a mummy. We refer to him as our friend Willie. He has just become such an icon…”
His near-unblemished body was a mysterious sight for the 128 years that Willie lay on display. His teeth and hair were intact, and he developed dark marble-like skin, prompting the name Stoneman. Blankenbiller said modern embalming would produce different results, and the process has entirely changed.
Historical records suggest that he arrived in Reading in 1895 for a firefighter convention, and police arrested him when he burglarized a boarding house. Jailed at Berks County Prison, he gave a false name upon his arrest, which according to legend, was an attempt to protect his father’s reputation.
At the funeral, Mr. Meiser said, “The time has come to lay Willie to rest in a respectable manner and at an appropriate location.”
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