Stone Willie Is Still Stoned

Reading, PA (UPI) - A mortician here says that he has a mummified body perfectly preserved for 76 years.

"Stone Willie," embalmed Nov. 21, 1895, two days after he died in the Berks County Prison, is still on display at the Theodore C. Auman Funeral Parlor in Reading, Pa.

The body thus predates the embalmed corpse of "Bill" Baily of Waterloo, N.Y., by four years. The body of George Baily, an itinerant workman, was buried Friday in Waterloo. For 72 years, four months and seven days, Baily lay in a barn behind a Waterloo funeral home, demonstrating the preservative power of arterial emblaming.

News of the Baily burial prompted the Auman family to announce their possession of an even more impressive demonstration of the emblamer's art.

Pajama-clad Wiilie lies on a bier in the basement of the funeral home.

The Auman family said Willie's preservation is the result of an experiment conducted by the late Theodore C. Auman, founder of the funeral home. They said the bearded Auman was browsing through a Philadelphia bookstore in the autumn of 1895 when he came across a dust-covered German medical tome.

The musty volume, according to the family history, contained a chemical formula for preserving meat, in which the elder Auman saw possibilities for his own trade. (In that era, morticians still placed bodies on ice before the wake).

Willie, a petty thief and alcoholic who also went by the alias of James Penn, passed away. The body was unclaimed and Old Theodore had an opportunity to experiment with his untried formula.

Family lore has it that the undertaker, stooped over the corpse in the depths of the house, concocted too powerful a mixture on his initial experiment and exploded Willie's cellular tissue, leaving him perfectly preserved in a mummified state.

The Aumans said that can see no reason why Willie, who was 37 when he died, should be dispatched to the dark, dank soil. The fresh air doesn't seem to have bothered him after 113 years above ground.1


An article from 1895 provides what little was known of the unknown man at the time:


An inmate of the Berks County Prison, who gave his name as James Penn, of Philadelphia, a burglar, died at that institution Tuesday night. When the end was near he was asked about his relatives. He said that his name was not James Penn, but refused to give his correct name. He said he was a single man, and was born in Ireland; that his relatives resided in New York State. He refused to name the place, saying he didn't want them disgraced. He was 37 years old.2

  • 1. Beaver County Times, 8/2/1971
  • 2. The Times (Philadelphia), 11/23/1895