Beloved Pennsylvania mummy 'Stoneman Willie' gets burial, real name | Inquirer News

Beloved Pennsylvania mummy ‘Stoneman Willie’ gets burial, real name

/ 07:42 AM October 08, 2023

Pennsylvania mummy "Stoneman Willie" gets burial and real name

The gravestone of James Murphy, a man who was accidentally mummified and known publicly by the name “Stoneman Willie,” is seen after he was publicly identified and buried after being on display at a local funeral home that has been his resting place for 128 years, in Reading, Pennsylvania, United States, October 7, 2023. REUTERS/Julio-Cesar Chavez

READING, Pennsylvania — A leather-skinned mummified man – a longtime curiosity lying in an open coffin in Reading, Pennsylvania and known only as “Stoneman Willie,” got two things on Saturday which he went without for 128 years – a burial and his real name.

Dressed in a period tuxedo, his generations-long public afterlife as the stuff of city lore and ghost stories ended when he was introduced to the world as James Murphy of New York at a funeral in Reading.


A group of funeral home employees and well-wishers, said in unison, “Rest in peace, James,” as they unveiled his tombstone, with his real name in small letters below large type reading, “Stoneman Willie.”


His send-off included a colorful procession with a motorcycle hearse carrying his casket.

READ: Pennsylvania mummy ‘Stoneman Willie’ to receive proper burial after 128 years

Murphy was of Irish descent, an alcoholic, and was in Reading at a firefighters’ convention when he died in the local jailhouse of kidney failure on November 19, 1895, said Kyle Blankenbiller, the director of the Theo C. Auman Inc. Funeral Home where Murphy’s remains had resided.

The once unidentified man was in jail accused of being a thief, and he was accidentally mummified by a mortician experimenting with new embalming techniques.

Pennsylvania mummy "Stoneman Willie" gets burial and real name

The body of “Stoneman Willie,” a jailed thief who died in a Pennsylvania prison in 1895 and was accidentally mummified by undertakers, lies on display at the local funeral home that has been his resting place for 128 years in Reading, Pennsylvania, United States, October 1, 2023. REUTERS/Kia Johnson

Because Murphy gave a fake name when arrested, local officials were unable to locate relatives, said local historian George Meiser.

“Weeks passed, months passed, years passed and no one claimed the remains,” Meiser said at the service.


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It took some historic sleuthing by local historians to unearth his real name through records from the prison, funeral home, and other documents to find the truth.

The funeral home was eventually granted permission by the state to keep the body instead of burying it to monitor the experimental embalming process.

He got his nickname Stoneman from his hard-as-stone leathery skin.

Pastor Robert Whitmire told the gatherers that to those who may have known him, “Stoneman Willie…at one time may have been a beloved friend and family member.”

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TAGS: mummy, United States

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