Rose Hall: historic mansion & legend of the white witch

Rose Hall Great house is one of the most well known places in Jamaica. Now if you think this is a story of my encounter with a spirit at Rose Hall, then think again. The first and only time I saw this stately Georgian style mansion frozen in time was when I was 15, during a trip along the north coast of the island. We toured around before arriving at our hotel. That was the first time I laid eyes on Rose Hall.

The most stunning thing about this building is it’s architecture. This Georgian mansion is elevated with sweeping sea views. It gives a very nice country villa type feeling. You will honestly love the presence of nature here as you make your way through the grounds. Until of course, you hear the many tales that are associated with the house.

Background of Rose Hall Great House

Long before the story of the white witch, lived a woman name Rosa Kelly, the first mistress of Rose Hall (whom it was named after). It was mostly a series of unfortunate loss for Rosa. Having being widowed not one, not two but three times. Now, before you go jumping to conclusions, Rosa didn’t kill any of her three husbands. The truth is far more tragic than we expect.

Her first Husband, Henry Fanning an Englishman died within months of their marriage in 1747. Henry, who bought 290 acre land where the great house would stand. She again married George Ash in 1750, who built a lavish house on the land. He, however, died two years into their marriage before the house was complete. Rosa was briefly married to the Honorable Norwood Witter, which was an unhappy yet brief marriage as he died in 1767.

That’s some tough luck for Rosa, losing a husband for the third time. But in her case, the fourth time was the charm. Rosa married John Palmer, owner of the neighboring Palmyra estate and widower with two sons in England. This marriage was both a happy and lasting one until Rosa died in 1797 leaving Rose Hall to her husband. After John Palmer died, ┬áboth Rose hall and Palmyra estates were left to his grandnephew whose name is also John, passed on by John’s son who never even visited Jamaica. It is John Palmer’s grandnephew who would go on the marry a girl named Annie Palmer better known as “the white witch”.

Legend of the white witch of Rose Hall

Let me start off by saying that I don’t believe in ghosts. I do believe in spirits of loved ones that move on to where they should be. The notion of haunting and encounters seemed more like our minds playing tricks on us. But I will say this, if there is in fact a thing called ghosts or as we call them in Jamaica “Duppy”, the last one I would want to see is Annie Palmer.

Annie Palmer is English girl who grew up in Haiti with her parents. After her parents died of yellow fever, Annie was raised by her black nanny who is believed to have taught Annie the dark arts of voodoo. Annie Palmer moved to Jamaica and married John Palmer (the grandnephew). Now, here is where the story takes a evil turn.

Legend has it that Annie Palmer was a sex hungry evil woman. Not only did she murdered not one, not two but all three of her husbands, she also killed her slave lovers. Her first husband John Palmer who inherited the estate, was believed to be poisoned. Her second husband was stabbed to death and to make sure he was truly dead, she poured hot oil in his ear. Last, but definitely not least, her third husband was strangled to death by Annie’s slave lover Takoo.

Annie had many slaved lovers but the dark thing about Annie was she loved watching them being tortured to death just as much as she enjoyed sleeping with them. It’s believed she had them killed to cover up her infidelity. But Takoo was said to be the most spirited. It’s believed that Takoo, who was a voodoo or as it’s called in Jamaica Obeah man, also taught Annie voodoo which she used on her husbands. This is how Annie Palmer was given the name “The white witch”.

The demise of the white witch and what follows

The legend of the white witch takes an interesting turn. You remember that slave Takoo I just mentioned? It was actually him who killed her. Annie tried to win the affection of an Englishman name Robert Rutherford but Robert fell in love with Takoo’s granddaughter. This is when Annie decided to put a curse on her, a mistake that would cost her dearly. Takoo and a group of slaves went up to Annie’s bedroom, where he decided to put an end to her once and for all.

The slaves buried her quickly, burnt her possessions as well as conducted voodoo rituals to keep her spirit from coming back. But the rituals weren’t correctly done. Which why her spirit is believed to be haunting Rose Hall to this very day.┬áSome say the legend of the white witch isn’t true, some claim it to be fictionalized. The only thing I can say is this, to this day Rose Hall Great House stunning estate and history continues to be one of the most fascinating in the island.

Whether the legends are true or false, absolutely no one can deny that it leaves a chilling feeling. How could someone be so cruel, blood thirsty and incredibly wicked? What really happened here all those years ago? These questions continue to allure those brave enough to stay even a moment on this lavish grounds. I can’t say if it’s true or not. But if it is, the last person at Rose Hall I would like to meet would be Annie Palmer whose forever immortalized as The white witch of Rose Hall.

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