Rose Hall is a prominent limestone Great House nestled in the lush hillside of St. James, Jamaica, majestically overlooking the beautiful Caribbean Sea. Dating back to 1770, this picturesque 400-acre former sugar cane plantation was the setting for some ominous happenings and is now a popular tourist attraction for visitors to the island.
Also known affectionately as the calendar house, Rose Hall was originally comprised of 365 windows, 52 doors, and 12 bedrooms, and 7,000 acres when in full operation.
The legend of the White Witch of Jamaica starts when Annie Palmer was married in 1820 to the then Rose Hose owner, John Palmer. Annie had moved to Haiti with her family as a child and carried the stigma of being a voodoo queen when she moved to Rose Hall. Not even 5’ tall, unfortunately, Annie took her new position of power a little too seriously and ruled the slaves to no avail.
Annie kept troublesome slaves in the damp and dark dungeon (now the first stop on the Rose Hall Plantation tour) and generally treated them with no regard for their welfare. She continued to expand her practice in voodoo in order to maintain control over the 2,000 plantation slaves; fear was a definite factor that she utilized on a regular basis.
Annie apparently conducted frequent human sacrifices – especially of babies – whose bones would hold special black magic powers. Every morning Annie would stand at her bedroom balcony administering torture instructions to the slaves quivering in fear below. She even used bear traps to keep her slaves within the plantation property lines; she was cruel in more ways than one but always retained power over Rose Hall.
As a standard practice with many plantation wives, Annie, too had her share of love affairs with these same slaves and used the secret passageways within Rose Hall that led to her bedroom chamber. If Annie became bored with a slave or dissatisfied in any way, she simply had them killed. In fact, it may be true that she would even kill the slaves herself.
The story of the White Witch of Jamaica culminates with the gruesome murders of her three husbands for much the same reasons, whom are said to buried underneath the swaying palms at the edge of the plantation near the sea. Her horrifying reign came to an end when, according to legend, Annie was murdered by one of her former slave lovers.
But even after her death, the terrified slaves believed Annie would continue to rule from her grave. She was buried below her bedroom balcony just behind Rose Hall in a specially designed tomb so she could not escape. A powerful voodoo ritual was performed to ensure her spirit could not return to the land of the living.
However, the legend states that the ritual was not fully finished which still allows the ghost of Annie Palmer to appear in the house and walk round the plantation today. Some visitors have even seen Annie riding her favorite horse at night as she searches the grounds for runaway slaves. Annie has also frequently been seen in her bedroom while other ghostly presences throughout Rose Hall include crying babies, music, and even the appearance of blood stains.
Photo Credits: Rose Hall Great House and Annie Palmer’s Tomb by Connie Motz