For 128 years, an accidental mummy named “Stoneman Willie,” who was initially an alcoholic pickpocket, has been a unique fixture at a Pennsylvania funeral home. The mummy was inadvertently created by a mortician experimenting with a novel embalming technique.
On November 19, 1895, an unidentified man succumbed to kidney disease while incarcerated in a Reading jail. Undertaker Theodore Auman, in an attempt to preserve the body, utilized arterial embalming, leading to an unexpectedly successful mummification process.
“Stoneman Willie,” a local legend, has rested at Auman’s Funeral Home for over a century.
Who Was “Stoneman Willie”?
“Stoneman Willie” was a local jail inmate who passed away from kidney failure on November 19, 1895, and became unintentionally mummified due to a mortician’s experimental embalming techniques. His true identity remains a mystery as he provided a false name when jailed for pickpocketing over a century ago.When Will “Stoneman Willie” Be Laid to Rest?After 128 years on display, the embalmed body of this 19th-century thief will finally find its resting place in Reading, Pennsylvania, this coming Saturday, October 7. The funeral will include final rites before a procession to the nearby Forest Hills Memorial Park for burial.
What Is the Condition of the Mummy?
“Stoneman Willie,” one of the United States’ oldest mummies, lies in a casket dressed in a tuxedo, complete with a bow tie and a red belt across his sunken chest. His hair, teeth, and nails remain intact, and his skin has taken on the appearance of dark, aged leather.
Why Did Willie Conceal His Identity Even on His Deathbed?
“Stoneman Willie” maintained a false identity, using the name James Penn, even when apprehended while hiding under a bed at a boarding house with stolen items. His true identity remained a mystery for many years, as local authorities were unable to locate any relatives. It appears that he chose not to reveal his true identity even on his deathbed to spare his family from embarrassment. No one came forward to claim his body after his passing.
The Reading funeral home had sought permission from the state to retain “Stoneman Willie’s” mummified remains for research purposes, given the experimental embalming process.
However, Auman’s Funeral Home claims to have uncovered “Stoneman Willie’s” identity through historical records and intends to reveal it during his upcoming burial this week.
Until now, little was known about the deceased except for his Irish heritage, ties to New York State, and the fact that he had a mustache and suffered from alcoholism, passing away at the age of 37.
Reading will pay tribute to the man who has been a part of its cultural heritage for decades leading up to his funeral. The city’s 275th anniversary featured a parade on Sunday, including a motorbike hearse carrying “Stoneman Willie’s” casket.
This week, locals will have the opportunity to pay their respects as “Stoneman Willie” is displayed at Auman’s Funeral Home.
When Will His True Identity Be Revealed?
“Stoneman Willie” will take his final journey through Reading on Saturday, dressed in a tuxedo befitting the attire of a gentleman from 1895. Following this, he will be laid to rest in a nearby cemetery, where his true name will finally be engraved on his tombstone.