“Have you seen the cool grave?” my friend Laura said to me on Monday night. “I always park by it.” I hadn’t been to this movie theater that is near Rutgers before and knew nothing about what she was referring to. There was a grave in the parking lot? I assumed she meant it was off to the side like many other old gravestones that are developed around.
Needless to say, I was curious and followed her to the back parking lot and saw Mary Ellis’ grave in front of me.
When Ellis died in 1827, she was buried on her family property that overlooks the Raritan River. Now her grave sits in the middle of the parking lot of the Loews Theater in New Brunswick.
Ellis moved to New Brunswick in 1790s. She is said to have fallen in love with a sea captain who down the Raritan and out to sea, promising her that they would wed when he returned. Every day she would ride to the banks of the river and wait for his returning ship. Eventually she purchased a piece of land that overlooked the river where she would continue to wait for the sea captain’s return until her death. (Cue the Wuthering Heights theme music.)
Overtime the property has turned over to several owners. For about twenty years it was the site of the Route 1 Flea Market. It wasn’t until the movie theater was built that the grave received the new retaining wall and this sort of idyllic setting
There is an odd significance about Ellis’ grave. She died more than 60 years before Thomas Edison and the Lumiere brothers screened their first films. Two completely different eras are just feet apart from one another.
This grave is also at the center of another piece of New Jersey folklore. The 1972 song “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass is said to be inspired by Ellis’ grave.