Rose Hall is a beautiful 1770’s Georgian great house in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It was once home to the White Witch of Rose Hall, who many believe still haunt the grounds today. Tales of murder, hauntings and voodoo rituals make Rose Hall a popular tourist destination. Though many believe the story of the White Witch to be entirely fictitious, it still fascinates both tourists and locals alike.
Annie Palmer or the White Witch of Rose Hall was a cruel English plantation owner in Jamaica. Raised in Haiti, Annie was taught black magic by her nanny, a voodoo priestess, after her parent’s untimely deaths. Annie would take her knowledge of dark magic with her when she left for Jamaica, after her nanny died under strange circumstances.
Soon after Annie arrived in Jamaica she met John Palmer, owner of the Rose Hall estate. Many believe that Annie cast a spell on John Palmer, making him fall in love and marry her. Soon after the wedding Annie grew bored with her husband and began taking slave lovers. When John caught his wife with one of her many slave lovers he beat her bloody. The next day John was dead.
The slaves believed that Annie put poison in John’s morning coffee. Now the mistress of Rose Hall, Annie became cruel, torturing slaves and practising voodoo magic. Annie would sadistically torture her slaves and kill anyone who displeased her. The basement was refurbished to enable her to torture slaves so their cries for mercy wouldn’t be heard by passers-by. At night the babies of slaves were sacrificed and their bones harvested for black magic. Soon the slaves on the estate began calling her the White Witch of Rose Hall.
Annie went on to marry two more times. The second husband was stabbed to death in his sleep and hot oil was poured over his body to ensure his death. The third was killed by strangulation, with the help of one of her slave lovers, Takoo.
The White Witch met her demise when she fell in love with a new man, who she hoped would be her fourth husband. He showed no interest in Annie. Instead, he was in love with another woman, Takoo’s granddaughter. Angry that the man she loved did not return her affections, Annie cast a spell causing Takoo’s granddaughter to wither and die. In revenge, Takoo who was also a practitioner of voodoo, killed Annie in her sleep.
Annie was buried outside the great house. The slaves performed a ritual to prevent the White Witch from rising again. However, the ritual was not completed and Annie’s spirit was free to roam the plantation.
This legend of the White Witch could not be further from the truth.
So What Really Happened?
Rose Hall’s first mistress Rosa married John Palmer, the owner of the Palmyra estate nearby. After Rosa died John commissioned a sculpture in her honour at St. James church Montego Bay. After John Palmer died the estate went to his grand-nephew, John Rose Palmer.
In 1820 John Rose Palmer married Annie Mary Paterson. Annie was not born in Haiti, nor was she trained by a voodoo priestess. John and Annie’s marriage seemed relatively peaceful and the records show that they kept no slaves at all.
There is also no evidence to suggest that Annie murdered her husband. John Rose Palmer died in 1827 of natural causes. After her husband’s death, Annie was left with mountains of debt from the estate and had no real claim to the estate as she had no children. Annie died in 1846 of natural causes.
How Did This Innocent Story Turn Into The Horrifying Urban Legend It Is Today?
In 1929 Herbert George Lisser’s book ‘The White Witch of Rose Hall’ traded fact for fiction. Annie Palmer’s uneventful life became a tale of horror, murder and dark magic. The book was easy for the public to believe, as the memory of slavery was still fresh in Jamaica. An evil, murderous, plantation-owning witch was an easy story to digest. And thus, the legend was born.