Rose Hall, Montego Bay

Regarded as one of the main attractions in Montego Bay at the north western tip of the island of Jamaica, Rose Hall is more famous for being the place of horror and enigma than just being a normal  historical house of people from history. I first heard of the infamous house was when I was young. “Scariest Places on Earth” every Wednesday night hosted by Linda Blair was one hell of a show. Me and my siblings would  barely miss any of its episodes. Rose Hall became the most memorable thing featured in the show because it was a perfect, horror/romantic story. Against the backdrop of colonial Jamaica, where the White folks owns the plantations while the Black were slaves and maltreated lived the mistress of Rose Hall.

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The signage

She killed 3 of her husbands and had countless affairs with slaves, she is also practice voodoo that is why she is more known as “The White Witch.” These were just some of the facts stated on the show which hooked us and remained in our memories. I always dreamt that one day I will be able to visit that place, but it was far from my priority. But fate led me to the island of Jamaica where the White Witch used to dwell.

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Rose Hall

Rose Hall Great House is located in the outskirts of Montego Bay, and it has its own area named after the house. From downtown you can take the cab which carries 3 more people and it will cost you only $100 Jamaican. The only problem is they drop you off at the gate and it will be a long walk to get to the house once you enter the gates. In a beautiful cloudy day it can be a nice walk, but during my visit it was a hot sunny day. I endure the long walk and I think it is worth it cause I got to save $40 U.S. for I heard that is what cabs charge for a personal drive from the downtown to the entrance of the house. The tour guides are pretty nice and they will give you a detailed information about Annie Palmer and Rose Hall.

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The Main entrance and dance hall

“The namesake of Rose Hall was Rosa Palmer (nee Kelly) who was married four times. “In 1747 she married Henry Fanning who died several months into 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 honor. Sadly for the couple Ash did not survive long after the property was completed and died in 1752.”  She would be married 2 more times before she found happiness with John Palmer who owned the neighboring Palmyra Estate.

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Receiving room where they conduct business and a portrait of Rosa Palmer

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 John Palmer who owned the neighbouring Palmyra estate. 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 from a previous marriage 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.

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 in 1846.

The Legend of the White Witch

According to Jamaica Travel Culture this is the story of Annie Palmer.

“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.

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Annie’s sitting room with Montego Bay.

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.

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Portrait of Annie Palmer in her room

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’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.

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Annie Palmer’s grave
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The 4th room where no one died yet.

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.”

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The balcony overlooking the courtyard where Annie used to watch while her slaves got flogged. Also, it is believed where the maid of the subsequent owner of the house fell to her death.

The Ballad of Annie Palmer

The legend have been a theme of American singer Johnny Cash’s song, “The Ballad of Annie Palmer.”

Here is the link to the song : Johnny Cash – The Ballad of Annie Palmer

On the island of Jamaica
Quite a long long time ago
At rose hall plantation
Where the ocean breezes blow
Lived a girl named Annie Palmer
The mistress of the place
And the slaves all lived in fear
To see a frown on Annie’s face

 Wheres your husband Annie
Where’s number two and three
Are they sleeping beneath the palms
Beside the Caribbean sea
At night I hear you riding
And I hear your lovers call
And I still can feel your presence
Around the great house at rose hall

     Well if you should ever go to see the great house at rose hall
There’s expensive chairs and china
And great paintings on the wall
They’ll show you any sitting room
And the whipping post outside
But they won’t let you see the room
Where Annie’s husbands

Wheres your husband Annie
Where’s number two and three
Are they sleeping beneath the palms
Beside the Caribbean Sea
At night I hear you riding
And I hear your lovers call
And I still can feel your presence
Around the great house at rose hall

The tour of the great house is very refreshing and informative at the same time. You will know a lot of great things during the colonial days of Jamaica and even the tour guides wear traditional folk attire. You will see the whole house and even the dungeon where it is converted as a bar. There you can drink a cold coconut drink in a husk while a man play songs in his guitar.

On that same area in the dungeon there is a room dedicated to the Rawlins family who bought the property in the 1960s and restored Rose Hall to its former glory. Aside from that there is also a collection of pictures taken by tourists who send it back to show proof of an entity and apparitions.

In the end some say 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.

Thanks for the awesome tour Mishka!

http://www.jamaicatravelandculture.com/destinations/st_james/rose-hall/annie-palmer.htm

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Say Cheez!
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