White Witch of Rose Hall

Back a few years ago, I was down in the Caribbean visiting Jamaica and I had the chance to check out Rose Hall. The house itself was built between 1778 and 1790 by a planter by the name of John Palmer. It wasn’t John Palmer who gave the house its legend. It was the wife of his grand-nephew, a woman named Annie Palmer.

Born Annie Mae Paterson, she was of mixed English and Irish descent. She moved with her missionary parents to Haiti when she was around ten years old. She was very short, only about 4’11”, but was known for her beauty and dark hair. When her parents died of yellow fever, Annie was adopted by her Haitian nanny, rumored to be a voodoo queen.

Rose Hall prior to restoration (photo by author)

In 1820, Annie consented to marry John Rose Palmer and became the mistress of Rose Hall, a sugar plantation of several thousand acres and about 2,000 slaves. Depending upon which legend you reference, Annie poisoned John due to physical abuse or after he caught her with her slave lover. Regardless, upon John’s death, Annie assumed control of the plantation.

She married twice more and each husband met an early death under mysterious circumstances. The bodies were never viewed because Annie claimed each husband died of a “mortal illness.” Supposedly she dispatched each husband simply because she was bored with them. She had slaves dispose of the bodies through an underground passageway that led to the beach. After disposing of a body, the slave or slaves in question would disappear.

In addition to killing her husbands, the legend of the White Witch also extends to abuse of slaves. The story goes that she would stand at the balcony on the second floor of the house and watch slaves be beaten or whipped to death. The slaves were terrified of her. On one occasion, a young slave girl attempted to poison Annie. The plot was discovered and the girl was killed, but Annie requested that her head be placed on a stick outside as a warning to all the other slaves.

Annie was known for riding her horse around in the dark of night, whipping any slave she found. Natives of Jamaica also believed she used her voodoo skills to create apparitions such as menacing animals. After years of abuse, Annie’s slaves banded together and smothered her in her bed one night. Although they burned her belongings, they were careful to not destroy Rose Hall out of a fear that Annie would return to haunt them.

Annie’s tomb (photo by author)

Annie was buried by the slaves from a neighboring plantation since her own servants still feared her even in death. Her tomb was marked with a white cross on all but one side. Apparently the slaves weren’t sure if Annie’s spirit was inside or outside the grave and they didn’t want to incur her wrath if she couldn’t get to her final resting place. After Annie’s death, the house was left vacant for several years because of its fearsome reputation. A couple eventually purchased the property with the intent to restore it to its former glory. As they were moving in the house, a servant fell to her death from the second story balcony that Annie once used to observe slaves being abused. The fall was considered strange since the balcony had a waist-high railing encircling it.

Rose Hall eventually fell into ruins. Then in the 1960’s the plantation was purchased and restored for visitors. To this day, tourists report strange happenings on visits to the property. Some photographs taken at the Hall and developed later show unexplained lights and the appearance of a face in the mirror in Annie’s bedroom. Other visitors report that upon developing their film, all the pictures taken in the house have a misty look, while those taken outside are clear. In fact, during our visit, hundreds of photos taken by tourists were displayed in the gift shop. When I returned home, I developed my film hoping for some strange results. Unfortunately, no such luck…

2 thoughts on “White Witch of Rose Hall

  1. The book “White Witch of Rosehall”
    tells the story of this house.
    ISBN-10: 0510199046
    ISBN-13: 978-0510199043

    I met a woman from Jamaica who stopped me in my tracks in a mall
    when I was carrying this book, she
    went into enormous detail to educate me on how incorrect the details of this book are to what really happened. The book is interesting, but this woman who
    told me a different story version her take on it was even more interesting. After you read it, email her for some detail on the characters it was quite amazing.



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