After 128 years, Stoneman Willie mummy will be buried in Reading, Pennsylvania

The body of a suspected thief who was accidentally mummified by an experimental undertaker and kept in a funeral parlor for 128 years is finally to be buried.

“Stoneman Willie” – Posthumously known as “Stoneman Willie” because he refused to reveal his real name while ill, he died in November 1895 died, and his remains have since been preserved in the same funeral home in Reading, Pennsylvania. On Saturday, his body will receive final rites and be transported by procession to nearby Forest Hills Memorial Park for burial.

The body will be dressed in a tuxedo “in keeping with the attire in which a gentleman was buried in 1895,” according to the funeral home. Funeral home owners have spent years trying to ensure the mummies are properly buried.

According to local historian George M. Meiser XI, the body was preserved shortly after death by Theodor Auman, a mortician who was experimenting with innovations at the time Arterial embalming. In the late 19th century, when the technology was relatively new, bodies were often stored on ice until burial.

“There was no recipe, so he made his own,” Messer said in a phone interview Tuesday, referring to Orman’s gangster methods. “It was an experiment and apparently he overdosed on formalin,” a chemical liquid used in the embalming process. “It was a little intense and it scared him a little bit.”

According to Messer, no one claimed the body, so Orman kept it to judge the effectiveness of his experimental techniques in preserving the body.

Answer? This works very well.

Stoneman Willie’s body even outlived Allman in the funeral parlor, where it developed into a local cult treasure.

“We don’t call him the mummy. We call him our friend Willie,” funeral director Kyle Blankenbiller of Theo C. Auman Funeral Home told Reuters. “He’s just become such an icon, not just a legend in Reading’s past but a legend now.”

Embalming techniques have preserved the body remarkably well – although Messer said the body’s skin has darkened considerably since he first visited it in the 1950s.

In 1896, a newspaper report described Stoneman Wiley as “white as wax.” Today, mummies take on a grittier hue.

Willy’s true identity has also been shrouded in mystery for more than a century. The 37-year-old man with a mustache was charged with theft when he died and had previously been accused of being drunk, but he refused to reveal his true identity to avoid bringing shame on his family, local newspapers reported.

According to Messer, the body belonged to an accused thief who gave the false name James Penn when he was arrested for theft in West Reading, Pennsylvania, in October 1895.

A news report published in the Reading Times that month stated that the “accused Philadelphia swindler” was found under his bed at a local boarding house with a gold watch, razors and “a small sum of money” and was later arrested. Sent to jail—no. Which belongs to him.

The following month, the 37-year-old died of severe delirium after battling “gastritis” and his condition worsened into “acute uremia”. He refused to reveal his identity until the end on behalf of his family and local media. . the report said. According to Messer, he likely died from severe alcoholism.

“Towards the end of his life, he was asked about his relatives. He said his name was not James Penn, but declined to give his correct name,” the Philadelphia Times reported on November 21, 1895. “He said he was a single man, born in Ireland: his relatives lived in New York State. “He refused to name the place, saying he did not want to bring shame on them. “

Messer, who will speak at Saturday’s funeral, said the closing of the casket would mark the end of Stoneman Wiley’s 128-year wait. “After all these years, the vigil is finally over,” he said.

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