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Reading, Pennsylvania: Grave of Stoneman Willie

Stoneman Willie (real name: James Murphy) was embalmed in 1895 and remained on display in a Reading funeral home until he was buried with much hoopla on October 7, 2023. His black tombstone is engraved with both of his names.

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Stone Willie - Funeral Home Dead Guy

As a child, I remember seeing Stone Willie in the basement of the funeral home at 3rd and Penn. The story I was told by my great-great grandmother was that Stone Willie had an affair with a woman that was not permissible at the time. He was taken to the hills of Reading (City Park, before it was City Park) and hanged (lynched).

When you saw him in person at the funeral home, he was hard as marble or bronze. His complexion was bronze. It was said that they had to cut his nails and hair because they continued to grow. What I never understood is why did they change his pajamas according to the seasons?

About 10-15 years later I saw on the news that the funeral home moved his body. My boyfriend at the time thought I was crazy when I use to talk about it. My kids thought I was crazy or telling them a lie. The person who wrote the tip about Stone Willie knew a lot! Did we grow up together?

[Scotty, 02/20/2005]
Stone Willie's "got rights"; no longer on display

... DNA testing might help the still unclaimed Stone Willy, a 100+-year old petrified man at a funeral home in Reading, PA....

[06/27/1999] Complete News Story

Stone Willie - Unclaimed Corpse

I grew up in Reading, and live still very close by and I can verify that this "attraction" exists. He resides in the basement of the Theodore C. Auman Funeral Home on Penn Street which is the main street in the town. I don't know how I first found out about him but I remember it was a macho thing to go see him when I was a kid, and I'd take friends there who didn't know about him to watch their reaction. The funeral home doesn't advertise his existence in any way but always seemed very obliging in taking me down to see him when I asked. This was in the 60s and 70s and they even had a little brochure made up explaining his history. He just lays down in the basement on a slab with a blanket over him. The chemicals they used turned him hard as a rock and made his skin a kind of mahogany color.

I don't know how far back he dates to, but as I remember the story, he was arrested for drunkeness and put in the old jail that used to exist in the city park at the top of Penn Street. Somewhere along the line, he apparently hanged himself and no one ever came forward to claim the body. Mr. Auman was experimenting with embalming fluids at the time & so claimed the body to try out the formula. Apparently it worked, because he's got to be 80-100 years old at this point, maybe older.

[Todd Moyer, 02/19/1999]
Stone Willie - Unclaimed Corpse

I have not seen this personally, though I have friends who "swear" this is true. In a funeral home in Reading, PA, there is supposedly a petrified man. The story has it that he was a vagrant who was delivered there upon his death; they used a new embalming fluid and they either used it incorrectly or it was not a good product. The result was that Willie turned into stone, so to speak. Local legend has it that you may go to the funeral home (when no funerals are in progress) and view Willy, whom they've kept around as sort of a mascot.

[M. Wareman, 08/21/1998]

If true, Willie joins the exclusive club of petrified vagrants kept as funeral home mascots. "Speedy" and "Spaghetti" are two others - though they have both been given proper burials within the last decade.

Grave of Stoneman Willie

Forest Hills Memorial Park

Address:
390 W. Neversink Rd, Reading, PA
Directions:
Forest Hills Memorial Park. Southeast edge of the city. From US-422 BUS turn south (no stoplight) onto W. Neversink Rd and drive one mile to the cemetery, on the right. Ask for directions at the office to the grave.
Phone:
610-779-2550
Save to My Sights

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In the region:
Grave of Paderewski's Heart, Doylestown, PA - 37 mi.

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