A mummified man who has been lying in an open coffin in Reading, Pennsylvania, for 128 years has finally been given a burial after being identified as James Murphy, a New Yorker of Irish descent.
Known only as "Stoneman Willie", the man was an alleged thief who died in a local jail in 1895 and was taken to the Theo C. Auman Funeral Home after no one claimed the body.
Undertakers at the funeral home accidentally mummified the body and it has remained on display there ever since.
"Fast-forward 128 years and he's still here," funeral home director Kyle Blankenbiller told AFP ahead of the burial on Saturday.
Blackenbiller revealed that researchers are almost certain that Stoneman Willie was James Murphy, a New Yorker of Irish descent who was in Reading for a firefighters' convention when he died of kidney failure in the local jailhouse on November 19, 1895.
A known alcoholic, Murphy was arrested on October 1, 1895, for public drunkenness before being arrested again on October 7 for burglarizing the Morris Brown Boarding House.
On Saturday, Murphy was interred at Reading's Forest Hills Memorial Park cemetery.
Dressed in a fitting 19th-century tuxedo, Stoneman Willie was named as James Murphy during Saturday's funeral service following a colorful procession that saw his coffin transported via motorcycle-drawn hearse.
Both Stoneman Willie and James Murphy are etched on his black tombstone, although his real name is only in small print at the bottom of the tombstone.
A large informational bronze plaque detailing his story will be installed at the gravesite in the future.
Stoneman Willie had been the subject of fascination for thousands of visitors, becoming a fixture of Reading's history.
Locals, researchers, and schoolchildren on class trips were among those to visit his remains at the Theo C. Auman Funeral Home.
However, Blackenbiller said he had now received a well-deserved send-off, adding that he had been "gawked at enough".
Blackenbiller said Saturday's burial was the "reverent, respectful thing to do".
Michael Klein, a local resident who was captivated by the Stoneman Willie story, was among those to attend Saturday's burial and told the AFP that he was fascinated by the "mystery of who this guy really was".
"Everyone comes to America to live the American dream. Nobody comes to die in a prison unknown," Klein said.
Blackenbiller said Murphy's real name was known to the original Theo Auman, director of the funeral home in 1895. The name was passed down within the funeral home over the past 128 years, but it was only recently that research confirmed his identity.
Blackenbiller said the embalming process was an emerging science when Murphy died, with Auman experimenting with a new formula.
"The intensity of the concoction that he used" caused Murphy's mummification, Blackenbiller said.
According to his cellmate, Murphy adopted the fictitious name James Penn because he did not want to shame his wealthy father.