The Legend Of The White Witch Of Rose Hall

Rose Hall
Rose Hall

Annie Mae Patterson was born to an English mother and Irish father who moved to Haiti when they she was just 10 years old. Whilst in Haiti, Annie became interested in Voodoo and learned about it from her Haitian nanny. Her parents died of yellow fever whilst in Haiti and she was raised to adulthood by her nanny, becoming an expert at Voodoo as she grew. At the age of 18 her nanny died and she moved to Jamaica in search of a rich husband as a means to acquiring her fortune. She was said to be very beautiful and very petite (around 4 ‘ 11 ” tall). She met and married John Palmer, the owner of the Rose Hall estate which included the great house and a 7,000 acre sugar plantation with 2,000 slaves.

Annie Palmer
Annie Palmer

Only a matter of months in to their wedding Annie began to grow tired of her husband and started taking slave lovers to bed. One day John caught her with a lover and beat her with a crop. Annie took great exception to this and murdered him by poising his coffee, she then inherited Rose Hall for herself.

Annie inherited Rose Hall herself and began her reign of terror on the estate. She would regularly shout orders to her slaves from her balcony and would often torture or kill any slaves who displeased her and sometimes just to make an example of them. Annie took a string of slaves as lovers, however, none of these lasted for long as she murdered them as soon as she grew tired of them. She married twice more but both of these husbands died, presumed murdered by Annie who went on to inherit their wealth. The husbands were buried by slaves whom she had killed before they returned to the estate. Her cruel behaviour coupled with rumours of her Voodoo rituals earned her the name “The White Witch of Rose Hall”.

Annie Palmer's Room.
Annie Palmer’s Room.

Annie’s fatal mistake was to put a curse on the granddaughter of Takoo, the local obeah man. Annie was trying to win the love of an English book keeper named Robert Rutherford. However, Rutherford was in love with the Obeah man’s granddaughter, Millicent. Annie cursed Millicient with an “Old Hige” – a visit from a ghost whose presence causes the victim to slowly wither and die. Outraged by his granddaughters death, Takoo, accompanied by an army of angry slaves strangled and killed Annie.

The Tomb Of Annie Palmer.
The Tomb Of Annie Palmer.

She was immediately buried in a very deep hole on Rose Hall estate. The slaves on the estate also burned her possessions for fear that they were tainted by her spirit. A voodoo ritual was carried out when she was buried but it is said that this was not carried out correctly and her spirit still haunts Rose Hall to this day.

It is said that the subsequent owners of the Rose Hall estate suffered early and tragic deaths, leading to the estate being unoccupied for over 130 years. Locals have reported seeing a shadowy figure in a green velvet habit riding a black horse across the estate. There are also tales of screams and hurried footprints being heard in the empty great house.

Rose Hall Great House Interior.
Rose Hall Great House Interior.

The Facts About Rose Hall:

Rose Hall before reconstruction.
Rose Hall before reconstruction.

The true story of Rose Hall begins long before Annie Palmer was even born. Rose Hall’s first mistress was Rosa Palmer (nee Kelly), a daughter of Irish immigrants living in Jamaica. In 1746 Henry Fanning, an Englishman, was anticipating marriage to Rosa so he purchased a 290 acre plot of land in St. James Parish on which to build their married home. The two were married in 1747 but Fanning died within months of the marriage.

Rosa married again in 1750 to George Ash, a landowner in St. James. Ash spent £30,000 building a marvelous home on the land with ornately carved mahogany doors, floors and staircases. The estate was named Rose Hall in Rosa’s honour. Sadly for the couple Ash did not survive long after the property was completed and died in 1752.

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The following year Rosa entered a brief and unhappy marriage with the Hon. Norwood Witter, a widower from Westmoreland. Witter died in 1767, leaving Rosa a widow for the third time.

Rosa finally found happiness and a lasting marriage the following year when she married the Custos of St. James, John Palmer who owned the neighbouring Palmyra estate. Palmer was a widower with two sons living in England. The two were happily married until Rosa died in 1790, leaving Rose Hall to John Palmer in her will. As a tribute to his wife, Palmer commissioned renowned artist John Bacon to carve a memorial to her in the St. James parish church. John Palmer later died in 1797, leaving Rose Hall and Palmyra in trust for his sons in England. They never visited Jamaica or had children by the time they died (the last one died in 1818) so the estates passed on to Palmer’s grand nephew John (or possibly James) Palmer.

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John Palmer moved to Jamaica to take charge of Rose Hall and soon married Annie Patterson (the lady who became the subject of the White Witch of Rose Hall legend). Little is known about the lives of Annie and John but all evidence points to then being a happily married couple and model citizens. John Palmer died in 1827, his death was widely reported in Jamaica but there has been no recorded suggestion of foul play. There is evidence to suggest that Annie Palmer vacated Rose Hall by 1830 and died in Bonavista near Anchovy in 1846.

Rose Hall at Night.
Rose Hall at Night.

The basis for most of the White Witch legend seems to come from H.G. de Lisser’s 1928 novel “The White Witch of Rose Hall”. This was a popular novel telling the gripping story of an Annie Palmer that lived a very different life to that indicated by the records available from the time.

The ground plan of Rose Hall.
The ground plan of Rose Hall.

Rose Hall Great House Day Tour:

Opening Days & Time: Daily from 9:15am to 5:15pm

Adult Price: $20 USD

Child Price: $10 USD for ages 4-11 years old

Rose Hall Great House Night Tour:

Opening Days & Time: Daily from 6:30pm to 9:00pm

Adult Price: $20 USD

Child Price: $10 USD for ages 4-11 years old

Recommended Age:

All ages are welcome, however, the night tour may be a little too scary for young children.

What to bring:

-A Camera

-An extra pair of underwear 😉

Address:

Rose Hall, Montego Bay/Jamaica

Rose_Hall