Jonathan Reed and his wife, Mary, were so passionately in love that when Mary died, Jonathan laid her to rest in a mausoleum in the Evergreens Cemetery, Brooklyn. In this mausoleum, which Jonathan transformed into a living parlor, he spent every last waking moment with her until his own death twelve years later.
When Mary died in 1893, she was initially buried in her father’s vault where Jonathan spent almost all of his time. That was until Mary’s father forbid him from visiting, stating he was spending far too much time there. When Mary’s father died, Jonathan moved Mary’s body to a mausoleum in the Evergreens Cemetery. He had purchased a mausoleum with a peaceful setting, situated in the grove near the shore of the lake. At the time, it was said to be one of the most remarkable tombs ever constructed.1 Jonathan placed an empty casket for himself alongside Mary’s casket, which he always kept topped up with fresh flowers.
Jonathan decorated the mausoleum with furniture, paintings, and even an unfinished knitting Mary had started before her death. He installed a wood burner for some needed heat in the harsh New York winters. He even ate his meals inside the mausoleum and spoke to Mary like she was still alive. Before Mary’s death, the couple had a pet parrot. Following her death, the parrot accompanied Jonathan to the mausoleum. It was his home from home. Over the forthcoming years, he spent every waking moment, sitting beside his wife’s casket until the cemetery closed up for the night. “It’s all the home I want. I only want to be by her side,” he said.2 Then when their pet parrot died, Jonathan had it stuffed so it could continue to stay by their side on its perch in the mausoleum. Inscribed above the mausoleum were the words: “Let those who seek knowledge pass by this tomb, but those who fain would learn the secret of life in death descend.”3
Over the years, thousands of people would come to visit Jonathan in his mausoleum. Monks even travelled all the way from Tibet to visit him and see if the tales of a love so deep were true. In the first year, it was estimated that around 7,000 people visited the mausoleum just to see Jonathan and Mary. In an interview, Jonathan said: “My wife was a remarkable woman and our lives were blended into one. When she died, I had no ambition but to cherish her memory. My only pleasure is to sit here with all that is left of her.”
While Mary was still alive, she and Jonathan were avid travellers. They travelled across the world and Jonathan bought many of these mementos to the mausoleum: stones, vases, ornaments and photographs were among the vast collection.
The couple had been married for thirty-five years and while on her death bed, Jonathan had promised Mary that he would never leave her side until the day he died and he truly kept his promise. “She was beautiful in all things. Lovely, loving and lovable. She was my inspiration and guide,” he said.4 Up until Mary’s death, Jonathan had been a staunch agnostic. However, following her death and after spending much time at the mausoleum, he contemplated and prayed that after his death, he would be with Mary once again. “As to the future, all I ask for, all I pray for is to let me go to where she is,” he said. “I want only after death to be placed as she is. I do not ask to be taken to perpetual glory and perpetual bliss. I pray, ‘take me home to my wife.’”
Twelve years after Mary’s death, Jonathan passed away. He was found unresponsive on the floor of the mausoleum. He begged the passer-by who found him to not separate him from his wife. Nevertheless, he was transported to his niece’s home in Valley Falls, New York, before being taken to a hospital in Troy where he passed away. He was buried in the casket alongside Mary in their mausoleum.
- The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 23 March, 2905 – “Jonathan Reed Stricken in Tomb where he Lived”
- The Boston Globe, 6 August, 1897 – “Hermit of the Tomb Resumes his Home Life in Evergreen Cemetery”
- Sedalia Weekly Democrat, 21 September, 1905 – “Hermit Was Aged”
- Jackson Daily News, 21 October, 1903 – “Strange, Pathetic Story”